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700th anniversary of the birth of Sergius of Radonezh

July 18, 2014, Sergiyev Posad

Vladimir Putin took part in events celebrating the 700th anniversary of the birth of St Sergius of Radonezh.

The President and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill addressed pilgrims and guests at the celebrations.

Together with the Patriarch, Mr Putin visited the Trinity St Sergius Monastery’s Assumption Cathedral, the Trinity Cathedral, built on the burial site of St Sergius, and saw the monastic cell in which the saint lived.

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Vladimir Putin: Your Holiness, friends,

Today, our country is celebrating the 700th anniversary of the birth of St Sergius of Radonezh, one of the greatest figures in Russian monastic life, custodian of our spiritual heritage and founder of the Trinity St Sergius Monastery. 

His was a truly destiny-changing role in our country’s history. “Russia’s builder and teacher” – this is how the people summed up in such simple fullness the lofty mission that Sergius of Radonezh took upon himself. His wise and solid words as a mentor and guide were a spiritual pillar and support during a difficult time of foreign invasion and internal discord. It was then that he spoke his prophetic words: “Our salvation lies in love and unity”. This appeal, filled with unshakeable faith, helped to unite Russia’s lands and stamped itself forever on our people’s soul and in our historical memory.

St Sergius’ influence and greatness have had an impact on many generations and different eras. He inspired a patriotic, national and moral resurgence and helped to strengthen the Orthodox Church and build monasteries, which were not just spiritual centres but also real fortresses guarding the country. The Trinity St Sergius Monastery holds a special place among these monasteries and is deservedly considered the bedrock of Orthodoxy, a pure source of faith and a storehouse of our country’s cultural treasures.

It is important that other revered places associated with Sergius of Radonezh are also being restored today. They are gaining a new life thanks to the donations of numerous people who keep in their memories this great saint and his spiritual achievements. 

It has been seven centuries now that Sergius of Radonezh has filled us with admiration and inspiration, brought wisdom and light to our hearts and minds, and opened the road to faith and to the affirmation of goodness and love.

Sergius of Radonezh’ legacy provides the key to understanding Russia and to learning more about its foundations and its historical traditions of unity and consolidation.

It is this unity, truth and justice, and our age-old values that are the strength of Russia and its great past, present and future. 

Happy holiday!

Patriarch Kirill: Mr Putin,

Archbishops, fathers, brothers, sisters,

I would like to warmly welcome you, Your Excellency, here to this space in and around the Monastery on a day when our people celebrate the 700th anniversary since the birth of St Sergius of Radonezh and express words of gratitude for the support that you yourself and the government you represent have given to the historical restoration of the Monastery. Nothing like it has happened in 700 years. This national spiritual and cultural shrine in our country has been thoroughly restored. And today, the Monastery hasfully ensured a long-term, secure existence in terms of preserving priceless treasures belonging to our people.

In your remarks, you quoted the words conveyed to us by Epiphanius the Wise, who wrote about the life of St Sergius: “Our salvation lies in love and unity.” This is probably the core of the message St Sergius delivered to his people, who were divided at the time.

Many internecine principalities were feuding with one another and could not find a common language. They could never agree on the details and as a result, they lost the ability to resist the external enemy and, as we know, in a sense, wrecked Russia, driving it into 250 years of rule under foreign powers.

“Our salvation lies in love and unity.” But what is unity? Elsewhere, when conveying St Sergius’ words, Epiphanius talks about consensus. Consensus means an agreement of thoughts and, of course, actions, subordinate to a common thought, one common idea. And what, then, of human freedom to express any thoughts and hold any beliefs? How can St Sergius’ precept that we can only get by with unity, consensus and love coexist with modern society’s message, insisting on the need for different points of view?

After all, it is surprising to see what modern man is struggling with today: how to apply unity and contradiction. This was long-ago decided and peacefully resolved in the Church’s history. Long ago, in the 3rd century, Vincent of Lerins, the great father of the Church, said: “In the essential unity, in the debatable freedom, and love in all [in necessariis unitatem, in non-necesariis libertatem, in utriusque charitatem].” That was the kind of consensus St Sergius proposed to his people. And we know that indeed, this is what happened. When we freely view our choice as secondary, while submitting ourselves first and foremost to the idea that unites everyone, this allows for harmonious human life and the vitality of society.

What is most important for us today? Our people, our Fatherland, historical Russia – these are the most important elementswe must treasure and pass on to future generations. And in all of this, we must be unanimous and guard our unity: our spiritual unity, and our other, human unity which is expressed by many ways and means today. And where differences in opinion end, that is where you find love – unity and love. There it is, the deep national idea that is expressed in the category of Christian thought.

And we believe that the Fatherland is currently in a spiritual upswing, that all the lessons taught by St Sergius are being implemented in modern categories of thought and action.

I would like to express gratitude to you, Mr Putin, for demonstrating the very consensus that exists in our society today through your thoughts and your actions. It is very important for the leader of the nation to know how to express the common thoughts and ideas that unite people.

I pray that Russia is understood by those who do not understand it. I pray that everyone understands that Russia does not pose any military danger, nor any other danger to people. “Salvation through unity and love” – we address this call by St Sergius to the entire Russian world, as well as the entire world overall and to all humankind. And I pray that our Fatherland remains capable of carrying out this precept of a great Russian saint.

I want to once again sincerely thank you, Mr Putin, and bring you the sincere gratitude for participating in this event. We understand it is not so easy to do what you are doing after flying halfway across the world. I once had this experience and I know how hard it is. Let the Lord give you strength, physically and spiritually, and let our Fatherland remain in peace, love and consensus. And when I say “Fatherland,” I mean all of historical Rus and believe that by the grace of God, we will overcome all the internecine feuds and discord in the lands of historical Rus.

I congratulate you on this holiday!

July 18, 2014, Sergiyev Posad