December 5, 2016

Synaxarion of Saint Savvas the Sanctified

On the fifth of this month [December], we commemorate our Venerable Father Savvas the Sanctified.


Of old your soul was joined to God from behind,
Now Savvas you stand before Him.
On the fifth Savvas was admitted into the divinely sweet chambers.

This Saint lived during the reign of the great Justinian (527-565), and was from the land of Cappadocia from the village known as Moutalaski. He was the son of pious parents named John and Sophia. Immediately therefore from the beginning of his life, he ran to the monastic citizenship, and he entered the Monastery known as Flavian.

The renowned one had such self-control from a young age, that once when he saw an apple in the garden, and he desired to eat it, he only took it in his hands and said: "Beautiful to the eye and good for food is this fruit which will bring me death." He then threw the apple to the ground, and trampled it with his feet. From that time he set a boundary and made a decision for himself, to never eat an apple for the rest of his life. And once the Saint having entered a burning furnace, he emerged unharmed, without the fire even touching his garments.

When he was sixteen years of age, the Saint went with the great Euthymios, and he was sent to the Coenobium of Saint Theoktistos, since he was beardless. There the divine Savvas occupied himself and received much benefit from all the brethren, for he imitated each of their virtues and their divinely-loved conduct. For this reason the great Euthymios called him Child-elder.*

After a sufficient number of years had passed, Euthymios would take him with him when he would go into quietude during the time of Great Lent. As he increased in age, so did he increase in virtue, so that he received from the Lord the grace to work miracles, and by this the thrice-blessed one performed many wonders. In barren places he would bring forth water by his prayers. To many monks he became a professor and abbot. And twice he was sent as an ambassador to Constantinople, and approached the emperors of that time, namely Anastasios I (491-518), and later Justinian, on behalf of the Patriarchs of Jerusalem at that time for necessary matters. Having arrived at the pinnacle of his age in Christ, and having become ninety-four years of age, he departed to the Lord.**


* According to Theodoret of Cyrus in his Ecclesiastical History, the name Savvas is Syrian for a venerable elder, or abba.

** In 584 the relic of Saint Savvas was found to be incorrupt when his tomb was opened for Abbot Kassianos to be buried. Initially his relic was kept in his Monastery, but during the Arabic raids it was transferred to Constantinople.

As for how his relic arrived in Venice, there survive two traditions. According to the first, in 1026 the furture Doge of Venice Pietro Barbolano (1026-1031) transferred it from Constantinople to Venice when Tribunio Menio was Doge of Venice (982-1026). At that time it was placed in the Church of Saint Anthony.

According to the second tradition the relic never went to Constantinople, but it was kept at Saint John of Acre, and it was brought from there to Genoa by people from Genoa in 1257. From there Venetians were able to bring it to their city.

The presence of the relic of Saint Savvas in Venice is confirmed by the testimony of the Sabbaite Monk Sophronios to Metropolitan Macarius of Russia in 1547.

In 1965, at the instigation of Patriarch Benediktos, the Pope of Rome allowed the relic to return to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and it is now kept in his Monastery.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
Sanctified from youth, O venerable Savvas, thou wast a summit of righteousness equal to the Angels. Thou didst lead a heavenly life, and guide thy flock to godliness by word and deed. And they cry to thee with faith: Glory to Him Who has strengthened thee; glory to Him Who has crowned thee; glory to Him Who through thee works healings for all.

Kontakion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Thou wast offered to God from childhood as a blameless sacrifice, as one dedicated to Him before birth, O blessed Savvas, thou adornment of the venerables and blessed dweller in the desert. Wherefore I cry to thee: Rejoice.