Day of Holy Trinity

Blessed by His Holiness on the Day of Holy Trinity in Sergiev Posad

Holy Trinity is one of the major religious and popular festivals in Russia. On this festive and holy occasion, I provided a tour to Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra for my British clients, Christine and Hugh. It is difficult to explain our emotions and sense of excitement during this tour because we just happened to be located exactly at the hub of the festivities during the celebration of this great holiday and religious event. But to understand the majesty of this day and the place, it is helpful to learn at least some of the background history.

The Holy Trinity of St. Sergius Lavra (the monastery subordinate only to His Holiness) was founded by one of the most revered and venerable saints in Russia, St. Sergius of the 14th century. Tatars and Mongols ruled over the Russian nations and lands, so it was a time of harsh living conditions. In 1380, Prince Dmitry Donskoy of Moscow came to seek St. Sergius' blessing before leading his army for the Orthodox faith and for the liberation of his native land. After his visit to St. Sergius, Prince Dmitry was victorious over the army of Tatars led by Khan Mamai on the Kulikovo field. This was the first major Russian victory against the Tatars. After that, all Moscow princes became the patrons of the Trinity monastery. During the struggle against the Tatars at the end of the 14th century (1390s), disaster struck and the wooden monastery was burnt by the Tatars at the time of the death of its founder, St. Sergius. The wooden church of St. Sergius had been built entirely by hand by St. Sergius and now it had been totally destroyed. Later, at the beginning of the 15th century in 1422, St. Sergius was canonized by the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church. On the site of the former church of Holy Trinity a new monastery was rebuilt from stone. The monastery has a long and famous history throughout the centuries and has also played an important role in the life of the Orthodox church and the state. Our princes and tsars frequently visited this region and monastery. Ivan IV (the Terrible) built the great Assumption Cathedral. Alexey Michailovich built a grand palace in the baroque style here and his son Peter the Great erected a refectory with the church of St. Sergius and a library. Then Catherine the Great built the highest bell tower in Russia (about 88 meters or 264 feet). After the Communist revolution in 1917 until the beginning of the Great Patriotic War in 1941, this monastery was attacked by the Bolsheviks who wanted to build a completely atheistic sate. The monastery was closed as a religious house and the icons, bells and many treasures of the church were destroyed or disappeared. The building was then used as a club or as a local hospital or accommodation for the homeless. These dark times ended at the beginning of WWII and the monastery was reopened again to become the official residence of His Holiness in 1991 at the end of the Soviet Union. So now you can understand the reason why they called the Holy Trinity St. Sergius monastery a Russian Vatican and why thousands of pilgrims and tourists visit here every year to this shrine of pride and inspiration to the people of all of Russia. Its location inside the circle of Russian medieval towns founded in the 12th - 14th centuries, the Golden Ring of Russia, is also a very special area.

According to the old traditions, the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia visits the world famous Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra (Troitse-Sergieva Lavra) where he serves a festive liturgy and a special vespers that is chanted only once a year precisely on the Holy Trinity Day, the major celebration in the monastery.

The Russian St. Sergius prayed to the Virgin Mary and the Holy Trinity after the death of his parents. Together with his older brother, they decided to leave for the desert where they built a cell and a small wooden church which they dedicated to the life-giving Trinity. This was located in a clearing surrounded by thick forest on a low hill and was the founding of the monastery. The day of Holy Trinity is now one of Russia's most important religious celebrations and festival. According to the Orthodox Church, the feast of the Pentecost is the event in the annual liturgical calendar and commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit to the apostles. As it is written in the New Testament, this event happened during a religous celebration by the apostles.

"And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them: And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with diverse tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak."

Trinity day is marked as the birthday of the Christian Church by the Eastern Orthodox religion.
As tradition dictates, church buildings are decorated at this time with birch tree branches and hundreds of flowers of the region during this celebration. True believers decorate the churches in a similar manner to that of the area around Mount Sinai and are meant to evoke images of Moses receiving the covenant from our Lord.

So, on this commemoration of the history of the monastery, we visited this holy place and booked a tour from a local tourist office. We arrived just before the end of the liturgy given by the Patriarch Kirrill (elected Patriarch by the Synod in January 27, 2009) in the Assumption cathedral (built in the 16th century by Ivan the IV). Hundreds of people were waiting at the end of the liturgy to meet the Patriarch. It was such an exciting moment that we asked our local guide to wait a few minutes to be able to see His Holiness and to take photos. I remember that Chrissie told me that she was in Rome several times and did not have an opportunity to see the Pope, but now we had a chance to see the Russian Pope and it was a superb addition to this tour. After waiting about half an hour, our patience was repaid a hundredfold: we saw him, I took great pictures and we were lucky to receive a blessing from him when he addressed the people with a speech and his best wishes. After this we finished our tour around the cathedrals and took more pictures. We would always remember how our souls were singing with excitement at this moment.

After the tour inside the monastery, we stopped to buy some small Russian handmade souvenirs and then had dinner in a local restaurant called Dachnava Zhizn (Dacha's Life). We drove back to Moscow to finish our sightseeing itinerary that I had preplanned. The excitement of the day plus our memories of the previous day's visit to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour kept us very animated for the rest of the evening. At the cathedral, we had seen the holiday service in the main and biggest cathedral in Russia. It was richly decorated with the birch tree branches and all the archbishops and priests were also dressed in robes that were bright green in color to match the color of the leaves.

I hope that the imagery of this text and in photo-album Holy Trinity Day Sergiev Posad can leave you with a picture of what we experienced.

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About Me in Short

Arthur Lookyanov

My name's Arthur Lookyanov, I'm a private tour guide, personal driver and photographer in Moscow, Russia. I work in my business and run my website Moscow-Driver.com from 2002. Read more about me and my services, check out testimonials of my former business and travel clients from all over the World, hit me up on Twitter or other social websites. I hope that you will like my photos as well.

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