The Life of the Venerable Savvas the Sanctified

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


The Venerable Savvas the Sanctified was a Palestinian monastic who is credited with composing the first monastic rule of Church services, the so-called "Jerusalem Typikon". He was a staunch opponent of the heretical Monophysites and Origenist movements. His feast day is on December 5th.

He was born in Mutalaska, near Caesarea in Cappadocia of pious Christian parents, John and Sophia, during the year 439 A.D. His father was a military commander. Traveling to Alexandria on military matters, his wife went with him, but they left their five-year-old son in the care of an uncle. When the boy reached eight years of age, he entered the monastery of Saint Flavian located nearby. The gifted child quickly learned to read and became an expert on the Holy Scripture. In vain did his parents urge Saint Savvas to return to the world and enter into marriage.

When he was seventeen years old he received monastic tonsure, and attained such perfection in fasting and prayer that he was given the gift of wonderworking (performing miracles). In 456 A.D., after spending ten years at the monastery of Saint Flavian, he traveled to Jerusalem, and from there to the monastery of Saint Efthymius the Great (+ January 20th). But Saint Efthymius sent Saint Savvas to Abba (Father) Theoctistus, the head of the nearby monastery that practiced a strict cenobitic rule. Saint Savvas lived in obedience at this monastery until the age of thirty.

After the death of the Elder Theoctistus, his successor blessed Saint Savvas to seclude himself in a cave. On Saturdays, however, he left his hermitage and came to the monastery, where he participated in divine services and ate with the fathers. After a certain time Saint Savvas received permission not to leave his hermitage at all, and he struggled in the cave for five years.

Saint Efthymius attentively directed the life of the young monk, and seeing his spiritual maturity, he began to take him to the Rouba wilderness with him. They set out on January 14th, and remained there until Palm Sunday. Saint Efthymius called Saint Savvas a child-elder, and encouraged him to grow in the monastic virtues.

When Saint Efthymius fell asleep in the lord (+473), Saint Savvas withdrew from the Lavra (the main Monastery) and moved to a cave near the monastery of Saint Gerasimos of Jordan (March 4th). In 478 A.D., he moved to a cave on the cliffs of the Kedron Gorge southeast of Jerusalem. His hermitage formed the foundation of the monastery later named after him (Lavra Mar Sava) and known in ancient sources as the Great Lavra. After several years, disciples began to gather around Saint Savvas, seeking the monastic life. As the number of monks increased, the Lavra came into being. When a pillar of fire appeared before Saint Savvas as he was walking, he found a spacious cave in the form of a church.

In 491 A.D. Patriarch Salustius of Jerusalem ordained him a priest. In 494, the Patriarch named Saint Savvas the Archimandrite of all the Monasteries in Palestine.

Saint Savvas found several other monasteries including the New Lavra, the Lavra Heptastomos. Many miracles took place through the prayers of Saint Savvas: at the Lavra: a spring of water welled up, during a time of drought, there was abundant rain, and there were also healings of the sick and the demoniacs. Saint Savvas composed the first Monastic Rule of Church services, the so-called "Jerusalem Typikon", that became accepted by all the Palestine Monasteries. Saint Savvas died in his Lavra on December 5th, 532 A.D. and is buried in a tomb in the courtyard between two ancient churches in the midst of the remnant of the Great Lavra Mar Sava Monastery. His holy relics had been taken to Italy in the 12th century by Crusaders, but were returned to the Monastery by Pope Paul VI in 1965 in a goodwill gesture toward the Orthodox Church.

Saint Savvas championed the Orthodox cause against the Monophysites and Origenist movements of his day, personally calling upon the roman emperor in Constantinople, Anastasios 1st in 511 A.D. and Justinian in 531 A.D., to influence them in opposing the heretical movements. Saint Savva endured many attacks from those close to him, from heretics and from demons. But he overcame them all in these ways: those close to him he won over by his goodness and forbearance, the heretics by an unshakeable confession of the Orthodox faith, and the demons with the sign of the Cross and the invocation of God's aid. He had a particularly severe battle with the demons on the mountain of Castellium, where he founded the second of the seven monasteries. He and his neighbor, Theodosius the Great, are considered to be the greatest lights and pillars of Orthodoxy in the East. Kings and Patriarchs were brought to the right Faith by them, and these holy and wonderful men, strong in the power of God, served each and every man as an example of humility.

Saint Savvas the Sanctified fell asleep in the Lord in 532 A.D. at the age of 94, after a life of great labor and great reward.




The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.


Glory Be To GOD For All Things!


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

+Father George