December 5, 2013

Saint Savvas the Sanctified as a Model for our Lives

St. Savvas the Sanctified (Feast Day - December 5)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Savvas came from saint-bearing Cappadocia and lived during the reign of Emperor Justinian in the sixth century. The son of pious parents, from a young age he loved the spiritual life and excelled in prayer and asceticism. At the age of sixteen he went to Jerusalem, to the Monastery of Euthymius the Great, who sent him to the Monastery of the venerable Theoktistos because he was still beardless. There he progressed in the spiritual life and became a father and shepherd of many monks in the desert. He was abstinent to such an extent that some foods he never tasted in his life. Indeed, as an infant he would never breastfeed on Wednesdays and Fridays. He was "perfected in peace" at the age of 94.

You were called moderate, guileless, meek, simple and quiet, O Father, above other men, and while material you were shown to be a most worthy immaterial house of God, mercifully imparting unto us the gifts given to you by Him. (Matins for Dec. 5th, Praises)

In this troparion the sacred hymnographer managed, in a few words, to outline the sublime personality of the venerable Savvas the Sanctified, who, among others, was arrayed with the great gift of simplicity, which is why he calls him simple. He lived in the blessed state of simplicity, which is the true wealth of the soul.

The word simplicity means "sincerity". The simple man is sincere, direct and candid. He is a good "Israelite in whom there is no guile", to use the words of Christ directed to Saint Nathaniel. The simple man is like God, who is simple. Besides, God created man "in His image and according to His likeness". The first-formed in Paradise, due to their inner purity, had a living communion with God and the powers of their soul were consolidated and operated according to nature. 

Here we should note that the soul of man is tripartite. It has three powers, namely the intellectual, the desiring and the incensive. When a person is spiritually healthy, then these powers operate according to their nature and not "contrary to one another" (αντίκεινται αλλήλαις), but there is unity and agreement among them. When these powers, due to an impassioned and sinful life, operate against nature, then a person thinks other things, desires other things, says others things and does other things. Then, instead of their anger being directed against evil, against the devil and against sin, it turns against their fellow man with known, and in certain instances, with tragic results. In this situation a person is spiritually ill, living a spiritual schizophrenia. And if they are not guided by a spiritual father and do not struggle for healing, then they become a source of anomalies in the familial and societal environment. The enslavement of the passions literally disorganizes man, shreds him and makes him complex.

The way of healing for man is to return to a state of simplicity, which is done by his organic integration into the entire atmosphere and life of the Church. The Orthodox Church, because it retains unadulterated the uncovered truth, heals man, sanctifies him, integrates him, and from complexity it makes him simple. With obedience "in freedom and love" to the Church, and generally with the life and state of being according to Christ, a person in time is purified of the passions, their nous is illumined, and the powers of their soul are consolidated and operate naturally. They acquire the virtue of discernment and can distinguish between that which is created and that which is uncreated, that which is good and that which is evil, that which is true and that which is false, and they also acquire the blessed virtue of simplicity and "become truly sincere". There ceases to exist an estrangement between our thoughts, our words and our actions.

Those who are purified of their passions and are sanctified are simple, frugal, sincere, affable, full of love and goodness, and are true leaders in all aspects of their daily life. When they write, speak, chant or paint icons, their words, chanting and works have a wondrous simplicity, but at the same time an astounding liveliness and immediacy. Everything false and pretentious is foreign to them. They do not offend anyone, they do not provoke, instead they welcome, console and support. And because they know from experience the power of chanting and praying with "simplicity of heart", they exhort us also to pray and to "praise the Master in simplicity of heart" because in this way they will "destroy and put a stop to the machinations of the devil" (Philokalia, vol. 1).

Simplicity, directness and sincerity, unfortunately, are perceived by many as naivety and stupidity. Quite the contrary, since today, in our altogether dull and insincere age, cunningness has grown to be dangerous. Proof of this is that "the majority believe willingly the myths, while truth appears to them more impossible than falsehood", as Papadiamantis would say.

Fortunately there are people today who are simple, guileless, sincere, harmless, quiet and sanctified. They are the true consolation of God's people.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΟΣΙΟΣ ΣΑΒΒΑΣ Ο ΗΓΙΑΣΜΕΝΟΣ", December 2002. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.