February 3, 2015

Saint Savvas the Spiritual Father of Ioannina (+ 1505)

St. Savvas the Spiritual Father (Feast Day - February 3)

Saint Savvas was of noble birth and lived in the fifteenth and early sixteenth century, though his place of origin is unknown. From a young age he came to love poverty in imitation of Christ, and he spent his whole life as a humble and poor hermit, living in asceticism at the Sacred Monastery of the Honorable Forerunner on the island of Ioannina. There he contested against evil spirits and transformed his passions, in imitation of his patron Saint Savvas the Sanctified. He never owned a new coat or a second pair of shoes because, whenever he saw someone penniless or sick, he would be eager to give them his clothing and his food.

The venerable hermit became known to everyone in the region for his virtue and holiness, so that crowds of people came to him and he became their spiritual guide. He was the spiritual father of Saints Nektarios and Theophanes, the founders of the Monastery of Barlaam at Meteora (May 17). "The foundation stone of the spiritual life is humility," he would often say to them, in a phrase which summarized his teaching. In the ten years they lived beside him, they testified to having never known him lose his temper, judge others or have the remembrance of wrongs, for his soul overflowed with humility.

His life of asceticism was very strict. Every evening he would get up an hour after sunset and begin his all night vigil, which took him to the seventh hour. He ate only after the ninth hour, never eating meat, fish or cheese, and never in his life did he pour a drop of oil on to his meager food.

When Saint Savvas was about to deliver his soul to the Lord, he asked Saints Nektarios and Theophanes to communicate from the Divine Mysteries, and then he sent his disciples to read the Midnight service while he rested. The following day, they found him lying on his bed, clad in his monastic habit, his hands crossed and his countenance expressing immense peace. A beautiful fragrance also gushed forth from his honorable relic. The day was April 9, 1505.

News of his repose quickly spread, and clergy and laity gathered before his relic to venerate it for the final time. Many even requested a portion of his clothing to have it as a blessing and source of sanctification. By this many people found healing and miracles took place, thus God glorified His servant because His servant glorified God.

The Venerable one was buried at the Monastery of the Honorable Forerunner on the island of Ioannina. The Monastery of the Transfiguration of Christ, or Great Meteoron, has a portion of his relics, as well as Roussanou Monastery at Meteora, which reverentially keeps the sacred relic of his foot. His memory is kept on February 3rd every year because April 9th often falls during Great Lent.