Saint Savva the Sanctified

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

by Saint John Chrysostom

"It seems to me that if one were to say that prayers are like nerves to the soul, he would speak truly. For, I think, that as the nerves hold together the body and enable it to run, to stand, to live and to be a similar manner the holy prayers make the souls competent, able to stand together, and to run the race of piety with great facility.

Should you deprive yourself from prayer, it would be the same as if you removed a fish from the water; for as the water is life to the fish, so is prayer to you. Through prayer, as if through water, one may ascend and go beyond the heavens to be in the nearness of God.

For who is it that does not know that the light of the sun, the stars and the moon, the temperate seasons, the great variety of foods, wealth, life and a myriad of good things are granted by God similarly to all people, because of His love for mankind, which He has for us? If God then is so merciful and gives rest each day to those who do not even petition or ask, how many more good things are they likely to enjoy who occupy their whole life in prayers and supplications to God?".


The Magnificat Hymns to the Holy Trinity our God

It is truly right and proper to praise the Supremely Divine Trinity, the Unoriginate Father and Creator of all, the Co-Unoriginate Logos (Word), begotten Eternally of the Father before the ages and without change, and the Holy Spirit, Who proceeds Eternally from the Father.


It is truly right and proper to Glorify You, O God the Logos (Word); the One before Whom the Cherubim stand in awe with fear and trembling, the One Whom the Powers of Heaven glorify. In fearful adoration, let us also praise and glorify Christ, the Giver of Life, Who Rose from the tomb on the third day. Amen.


On December 5th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the supplications of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers, and every righteous spirit made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint Savvas the Sanctified; St. Nicetius, bishop of Trier (Gaul); St. Philotheos of Karyes Skete, Mt. Athos and St. Nektarios of Bitol (Serbia); Saints Gratus and Nonnos, monks; Saint Gurias, Archbishop of Kazan; Commemoration of Saint Cosmas of Vatopedi and the monks of Karyes, Mt. Athos; Holy Martyrs Diogenes and Avercius; Holy Martyr Anastasius; Saint Carion and his son Zacharias of Egypt; Saint Savvas the New of the island of Kalymnos in Greece.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Monks, Holy Archbishops, Holy Ascetics, Holy Fathers, O Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

SAINT SAVVAS THE SANCTIFIED. (The life of Saint Savvas the Sanctified as is written by Saint Nikolai Velemirovich). The unknown village of Mutalaska, in the Province of Cappadocia, became famous through this great luminary of the Orthodox Church. Savva was born there of his parents John and Sophia. At the age of eight, he left the home of his parents and was tonsured a monk in a nearby monastic community called Flavian's. After ten years, he moved to the monasteries of Palestine and remained longest in the Monastery of Saint Efthymius the Great (January 20) and Theoctistos.

The clairvoyant Efthymius prophesied of Savva that he would become a famous monk and a teacher of monks and that he would establish a Lavra greater than all the Lavras of that time. After the death of St. Efthymius, Savva withdrew to the desert, where he lived for five years as a hermit in a cave shown to him by an Angel of God.

Afterward, when he had been perfected in the Monastic life, he began by Divine Providence to gather around him many who were desirous of the spiritual life. Soon, such a large number gathered that St. Savva had to build a church and many cells (kellia). Some Armenians also came to him, and for them he provided a cave where they would be able to celebrate services in the Armenian language. When his father died, his aged mother Sophia came to him, and he tonsured her a nun. He gave her a cell (kelli) located at a distance from his monastery, where she lived a life of asceticism until her death.

This Holy Father endured many assaults from all sides: from those who were close to him, from heretics, and from demons. But he triumphed over them all: those close to him, by kindness and indulgence; the heretics, by his unwavering confession of the Orthodox Faith; the demons, by the sign of the Cross and calling upon God for help. He had a particularly great struggle with demons on Mount Castellium, where he established his second monastery.

In all, Saint Savva established seven monasteries. He and St. Theodosius the Great, his neighbor, are considered to be the greatest lights and pillars of Orthodoxy in the East. They corrected emperors and patriarchs in matters of Faith, and to everyone they served as an example of saintly humility and the miraculous power of God. After a toilsome and very fruitful life, Saint Savva entered into rest in the year 532 A.D., at the age of ninety-four. Among his many wondrous and good works, let it at least be mentioned that he was the first to complete the Order of Service for use in monasteries, now known as the Jerusalem Typikon.


A man may be great in some skill, as a statesman or a military leader, but no one among men is greater than a man who is great in faith, hope and love. How great Saint Savva the Sanctified was in faith and hope in God is best shown by the following incident:

One day, the steward of the monastery came to Saint Savva and informed him that the following Saturday and Sunday he would be unable to strike the semandron, according to tradition, to summon the brethren to the communal service and meal because there was not a trace of flour in the monastery nor anything at all to eat or drink. For this same reason, even the Divine Liturgy was not possible. The Saint replied without hesitation: "I shall not cancel the Divine Liturgy because of the lack of flour; faithful is He Who Commanded us not to be concerned about bodily things, and Mighty is He to feed us in time of hunger." And he placed all his hope in God.

In this extremity, he was prepared to send some of the ecclesiastical vessels or vestments to be sold in the city so that neither the Divine services nor the brother's customary meal would be omitted. However, before Saturday some men, moved by Divine Providence, brought thirty mules laden with wheat, wine and oil to the monastery. "What do you say now, Brother?" Saint Savva asked the steward. "Shall we not strike the semandron and assemble the fathers?" The steward was ashamed because of his lack of faith and begged the Egoumenos (Abbot) for forgiveness.

(December 5th)

Venerable Savva, chief of monks, Spiritual commander of Christ's heroes, Was glorified by fasting, vigils and meekness, By prayer and faith and blessed mercy. You taught the monks to not be concerned with bread; You sought neither precedence nor rank of any kind. Most rarely did you taste of oil and wine. You kept all the services at the appointed time. "Let the services be a joy and not a heavy burden," Saint Savva told the monks, and he showed this to all by his example. Like a wise gardener, he enclosed the garden, And carefully planted many young men. The young men grew and brought forth fruit: A regiment of monks, to the glory of Savva. Fifteen hundred years have passed, Yet Savva's spiritual garden still blooms: One thousand monks, a hundred thousand, Have been raised up by Savva's community up to now. Saint Savva, glorious recluse, O God-pleaser, pray for us also.

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Fourth Tone

With the rivers of your tears, you have made the barren desert fertile. Through sighs of sorrow from deep within you, your labors have borne fruit a hundred-fold. By your miracles you have become a light, shining upon the world. O Savvas, our Holy Father, pray to Christ our God, to save our souls.

Kontakion. Plagal of the Fourth Tone

O blessed Savvas, thou wast offered from thine infancy through thy great virtue as a pure and spotless sacrifice unto God, Who ere thy birth, verily foreknew thee; wherefore thou wast an adornment of the righteous Saints, an all-praised founder of cities in the wilderness. Hence I cry to thee:Rejoice, O Father of great renown.

The Pateritsa (Staff) of Saint Savvas the Sancitifed
by John Sanidopoulos

When Saint Savvas the Sanctified was near his end (6th century), he told his monks to watch for one day in the distant future when an Archbishop, a man of God bearing the same name, would come from a far-off Western land. The monks were to give this man Saint Savvas' Pateritsa (pastoral staff) and an icon of the Panagia (All-Holy Mother of God). They would know it was the right man when at the moment of his paying veneration to the tomb the tied up staff will fall to the ground. Two hundred years later, Saint John of Damascus added his own wonderworking icon of the Panagia Tricherousa (Three Hands) to this inheritance.

When Saint Savva of Serbia visited the monastery of his namesake some 700 years later after Saint Savvas' death, the monks had still maintained the prophesy of their founder, and now found its fulfillment in Saint Savva of Serbia. While he was paying veneration to the Saint's tomb, the staff fell down. The miracle repeated the next day, and all doubts of the monks were gone. They knew for sure then that the Serbian St. Savva was the one they have been waiting for. This is how the much-revered icon of the Panagia of Three Hands (through which the miracle of the restoration of Saint John of Damascus' hand was accomplished), as well as the pateritsa, came to reside at the Serbian Hilandari Monastery on Mt. Athos.

Today in Karyes there is a Cell (Kelli) which belongs to Hilandari Monastery that goes by the name Pateritsa. The ebony staff, made from the tusks of an elephant, is within a cabinet of the North aisle of the Chapel of the Transfiguration.


Saint Savvas the Sanctified during his lifetime told his disciples that his incorrupt body would be removed from his monastery and later would rest in the Lavra, which he founded. He said this return of his relics would come before the end of the world. This prophesy was fulfilled when the holy relics of Saint Savvas were stolen by the Latin Crusaders of the First Crusade (1096-1099 A.D.) together with many other relics and brought to Venice, Italy where he was enshrined in a church dedicated to Saint Anthony. Nearly nine centuries later his holy relics were returned to Israel.

On October 1965 the holy relics of Saint Savvas were returned by Pope Paul VI to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The reception was made, at the direction of Patriarch Venedictos of Jerusalem, by Bishop Vasilios of Jerusalem.

Fr. Seraphim, the Egoumenos (Abbot) of Saint Savvas Lavra, explains as follows:

"The Pope did not give us the holy relics because he loved us, but because he (Saint Savvas) would constantly appear to him (Pope John XXIII) and would bother him to have his relics returned to his monastery. When the Pope died he did not take the wishes of the Saint into account, so he appeared again to his successor (Pope Paul VI). Even in the church where his holy relics were treasured in a glass coffin, he would hit the glass and cause trouble, frightening the guards and the Latin monks."

When the holy relics finally arrived in Jerusalem it was first brought to the Church of the Resurrection for many days. Here the women could venerate the holy relics prior to being brought permanently to the all-male monastic Lavra of Saint Savvas. Father Seraphim tells of a certain miracle at this time in Jerusalem. An Orthodox nun who was waiting to venerate the holy relics had doubts over whether or not the Latin's had indeed given the authentic relics to the Orthodox. It was then that she saw the head of Saint Savvas lift and turn to her, then it returned again in its place. Her joy removed all doubts.

Please note: The term lavra is a name given to large, rich monasteries of importance that enjoy special privileges and are cultural centers in the regions they occupy. Lavra is type of monastery consisting of a cluster of cells (kellia) or caves for hermits, with a church and sometimes a refectory at the center, the term in Greek initially meant a narrow lane or an alley in a city.

The Lavra of Saint Savvas the Sanctified (+532 A.D.), known as Mar Saba, is one of the most ancient continuously functioning monasteries in the Christian world.


The blessing of the Lord and His mercy may come upon you, through His Divine grace and philanthropy, now and for ever and from all ages to all ages. Amen.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George