My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
ON DECEMBER FIFTH OUR HOLY ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH COMMEMORATES THE FEAST OF OUR HOLY FATHER SAVA THE SANCTIFIED
The unknown village of Mutalaska, in the Province of Cappadocia, became famous through this great light of the Orthodox Church, for Saint Sava was born there. He left the home of his parents, John and Sophia, at the age of eight and became a monk in a nearby Monastery called "Flavian's." After ten years, he moved to the Monasteries of Palestine, staying longest in the Monastery of Saint Euthymius the Great (January 20th) and Theoctistus. Euthymius, who had the gift of discernment, foretold that he would be a famous monk and leader of monks, and that he would found a Monastery that would be greater than any other of that day. After Saint Euthymius's death, Sava went into the desert, where he lived for five years as a hermit in a cave which an Angel of God showed him. After that, when he had become a perfect monk, he began by divine Providence to gather round him many desirous of the spiritual life. They very quickly grew in number, so that Sava had to build both a church and many cells. Some Armenians also came to him, and he set aside a cave for them, and they celebrated the services there in their own language. When his father died, his aged mother Sophia came to him and he made her a nun and gave her a cell away from the Monastery, where she lived in asceticism till her death. This Holy Father 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 his 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 Sava entered into rest in 532 A.D. at the age of 94, after a life of great labor and great reward. Among all his other great and good works, let this be remembered above all: that he compiled the first Order of Service for use in Monasteries, now known as the Jerusalem Typikon.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn in Plagal Fourth Mode
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 Savas, our Holy Father, pray to Christ our God, to save our souls.
Kontakion Hymn in Plagal Fourth Mode
O blessed Savvas, thou was offered from thine infancy through thy great virtue as a pure and spotless sacrifice unto God, Who ere they birth, verily foreknew thee; wherefore thou wast as 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.
A man may be great in some skill, as a statesman or a military leader, but no-one amongst men is greater than the man great in faith, hope and love. The greatness of the faith and hope in God held by Saint Sava the Sanctified is best shown by the following incident: One day the Monastery treasurer came to Sava and said he would not be able to sound the semantron the following Saturday and Sunday to summon the brethren for the common service and meal, because there was not a trace of flour in the Monastery, nor anything at all to eat or drink. For the same reason, even the Divine Liturgy was impossible. The Saint replied without hesitation: 'I shall not cancel the Liturgy because of a lack of flour. He Who commanded us not to be concerned for bodily things is faithful to His word, and is able to sustain us in a time of hunger.' And he placed all his trust in God. In this extremity, he was prepared to send some of the church vessels and vestments to be sold in the city, so that the divine services might not be foregone, nor the brothers' customary meal. But, before Saturday dawned, some men moved by divine Providence, brought thirty mules laden with wheat, wine and oil to the Monastery. 'What do you say now, m brother?', Sava asked the treasurer. Shall we not strike the semantron and gather the fathers?' The treasurer was ashamed of his lack of faith, and begged the Egoumenos (Abbot's) forgiveness. Saint Sava's biographer called him 'severe with demons, but mild with men'. Some monks rebelled against Saint Sava, and were driven from the Monastery by order of Patriarch Elias. They built themselves huts on the bed of the Tekoa river, and lived there in dire straits without the bare necessities of life. Hearing that they were starving, Saint Sava loaded mules with flour and took them to them himself. Seeing that they had no church, he built them one. At first the monks received him with hatred, but afterwards they returned his love with love, and repented of their former evil towards him.
(Please note: Semantron - a long piece of wood, shaped for resonance, which is truck rapidly with a mallet. It became widely used in place of a church bell under Turkish rule, when Christians were forbidden to ring church bells.)
A SPIRITUAL TEST FOR SAINT JOHN OF DAMASCUS
Obedience, coupled with humility, is the basis of the spiritual life and the foundation of salvation--and the foundation also of the whole edifice of the Church of God. The great John of Damascus (also, Damascene), great in every virtue, left as a monk a deep impression on the history of the Church by his extraordinary example of obedience and humility. His elder (geronda) and spiritual father, wishing to test him, one day handed him some woven baskets and told him to take them into Damascus and sell them there. The elder laid down a very high price for the baskets, thinking that they would not sell at such a price and would have to be brought back. Saint John had, then, firstly to undertake a very long journey; secondly, to enter as a poor monk the city where he had earlier been the man next to the Caliph; thirdly, to ask an absurdly high price for the baskets; and fourthly, should the baskets not be sold, he had to endure the long journey there and back for nothing. The geronda (elder) wished, in this way, to test the obedience, the humility and the patience of his famous disciple. Saint John silently prostrated before the elder and, without a word, took up the baskets and set out. When he came to Damascus, he stood in the market-place and waited for customers. When he told interested passers-by the price of his goods, they began to laugh and mock him as a lunatic. He stood there the whole day, exposed to mockery and ridicule, but God, Who sees all things, did not abandon His patient servant. A passing citizen happened to glance at John, and, although John was wearing a monk's poor habit and his face was shrunken and pale from fasting, the man recognized him as the former nobleman and first Minister of the Caliph, in whose service he also had been. Saint John also recognized him, but they began to deal as strangers. Even though Saint John told him the ridiculously high price of the baskets, the man bought them and paid the price without comment, mindful of the good deeds that Saint John the Damascene had once done for him. Then holy John returned singing triumphantly to the Monastery, and brought joy to his geronda (elder).
(Source: The Prologue from Ochrid)
DIVINE SERVICE OF MATINS (ORTHROS)
Saint Nektarios Chapel at 9:00 a.m.
GREAT VESPERS FOR THE FEAST-DAY OF SAINT NICHOLAS AT 7:00 p.m. Saint Andrew
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
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!"-- Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God