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April 2, 2017

Saint Savvas the New of Kalymnos (1862-1948)

St. Savvas the New of Kalymnos (Feast Day - Fifth Sunday of Great Lent)


You contended with the saints of old Savvas,
And are glorified with them by your numerous miracles.

Our Holy Father Savvas the New of Kalymnos was born in 1862 in Herakleitsa (Ganos-Chora of the Avdir territory is also mentioned) of Eastern Thrace, to poor parents, his father Constantine being a peddler and his mother was named Smaragda. He was an only child and upon his baptism he was given the name Basil. From a young age he was faithful and pious, as well as a strong supporter of the monastic life. After finishing the compulsory lessons and preserving himself pure from every sin, he did not continue his studies in high school, either because his father did not have the ability or because Basil himself was not willing to be further educated. After that, his parents opened a small shop. Basil, at the age of twelve, discovered every day that the profession he was following was not suitable for him. He, therefore, had to cut the connection he created with this materialistic world and move on to the “sea” of God’s grace. He desired to dedicate his life exclusively to Christ. His mother, as soon as she was informed about his desire, assured him that “if you do that, I will die”.

At the tender age of twelve, he faced this great dilemma. His attraction towards God was powerful, just like his internal calling. The "Go away and save yourself" dominated, and so, one historical and glorious day, he put the key of the shop under a rock and went down to the harbor to make his decision come true. Like a deer, he departed for the fragrant Garden of the Panagia, Mount Athos. (According to others, based on stories, he first went to Jerusalem). There he settled in Saint Anna's Skete, where he lived as a monastic life for twelve years (six years according to others) and practiced the arts of Iconography and Ecclesiastical Music.

After praying he decided to go to Jerusalem. He first passed by his birth town and visited his parents, where he was recognized by a mark on his forehead from his youth. The temptation manifested again when his mother tried to stop him from leaving. With the help of a rich couple he left for the Holy Land. The year 1887 is referred to in a document of the head secretary of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem as his arrival time in Jerusalem. After his pilgrimage to the Holy Sites, he entered the historic Monastery of Saint George Chozeba and became a novice there.

After three years of living a virtuous and holy life at this Monastery he became a monk in 1890, and took the name Savvas. Armed with divine grace and fortified with the angelic armor of the monastic schema, he was sent by the Abbot of Saint Anna's Skete of Mount Athos, under the guidance of Archbishop Anthimos, to study iconography. After three years he returned to the Monastery of Saint George Chozeba, and in 1902 was ordained a deacon and, one year later, was ordained to the holy priesthood by Archbishop Nikodemos from Diocaesarea. For one year (1906) he was the priest of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, where he met Chrysostomos Papadopoulos, his future university professor and Archbishop of Athens and All Greece.

Chrysostomos Papadopoulos as the Archbishop of Athens, when referring to Saint Savvas, before he reposed and his holiness was certified, said to his friend Gerasimos Zervos from Kalymnos: “Gerasimos, keep in mind, Father Savvas is a holy man.” In 1907 he returned to the Monastery of Saint George Chozeba and he devoted himself to his intense spiritual exercise regarding the holy task of iconography.

His desert dwelling in Jordan from 1907–1916 consisted of two cells which he reached by ascending up a rope ladder. This isolation was necessary for successful inner concentration and noetic prayer and he made great spiritual progress there. Due to the irregularities caused by the raids of the Arabs in the Holy Land, and health reasons, Savvas was forced to leave. In 1916, after almost twenty-six years of living in the Holy Land, he returned to Greece.

Being in Greece he searched for a new place to lead an ascetic life. During the year of his arrival, it seems that he visited the island of Patmos where he lived in the Hermitage of Grava and later at the Monastery of Saint John (It was then that he painted the icons of the Monastery. One of the icons he painted was of the Baptism of Christ, which is found at the Church of Megali Panagia. This is verified by the inscription: “In the month of December in 1914 this icon was painted by the hand of the iconographer, Hieromonk Savvas the Chosebite.” He painted the icon of the Annunciation of the Theotokos for the Church of the Annunciation in Kambos. At the Hermitage of Apollo he painted the Three Hierarchs and both Makarios of Egypt and of Alexandria.). After staying there for two years, he went to Mount Athos. From there he visited Athens to buy iconography materials. During that period and until he went to Aegina it seems that he visited the deserted island Parabola, then the Monastery of Phaneromeni, then Salamina and finally the island of Hydra.

In Athens he met the acolyte of Saint Nektarios, who informed him that Saint Nektarios was looking for him. Based on this fact, it is assumed that the two saints had met before. Therefore, he went from Athens to Aegina in 1919, where he was with Saint Nektarios until he reposed. There he served as a priest in the Convent of the Holy Trinity. He taught the nuns iconography and ecclesiastical music. Upon the repose of Saint Nektarios in 1920, Savvas performed the funeral and enclosed himself in a cell for forty days where he lived in strict prayer and fasting, and emerged holding an icon of Saint Nektarios he had painted, which was the first icon of the Saint to exist. His life after Saint Nektarios contributed greatly to the further spiritual progress of the Saint. He became acquainted with the strict ascetic life of Saint Nektarios, the struggle of a simple man, as well as his undeniable grace, his renowned humbleness and his simplicity. He witnessed his repose, which confirmed God’s favor towards him with the obvious signs of the Holy Myrrh and the fragrance, but also his miraculous grace.

In Aegina he remained until the year 1926. He departed for Athens, because a lot of people were coming to the Monastery and the noise disturbed him. In Athens he met the influential wealthy Kalymnian Gerasimos Zervos, who offered him accommodation and finally convinced him to go to Kalymnos.

In the same year (1926) he arrived in Kalymnos, where after some searching and wandering he resided at the Convent of All Saints. At this Convent, of which he happens to be a founder, the graceful and perceptive monk Father Hierotheos Kourounis had lived an ascetic life. This magnificent minister of God, before his repose, when comforting the nuns said: “After a while my superior will come here.” And indeed, his words became true. Father Savvas, right after his settlement in the Monastery of All Saints, built, with the help of Gerasimos Zervos, the cells of the upper floor and began an intense spiritual life. He made icons, conducted the Divine Services, confessed, taught by his example, and helped the widows, the orphans and the poor. He lived in a humble, ascetic and sacrificial way, so that his angelic example was to be remembered with tears and emotion by those who met him. They would always remember his grace during the various hardships of their lives. Being willing when he was alive, even more willing is he after his repose.

He was lenient and merciful regarding the sins of others, though he would not put up with blasphemy and condemnation. These two disturbed him the most. His strict ascetic life gave his body a beautiful fragrance, as well as his illness. This fragrance came also from his tomb during his exhumation. As every human being that is a child of God, Savvas also suffered from an illness. He suffered from his prostate and a serious stomach disease. He had a surgery for his prostate and was cured. When he was told to go to Athens and be treated for the stomach disease, his answer was: “This, my child, will save me, as I did nothing else. This is the good thing that will take me to Paradise. God is great.” Father Savvas loved all people and strived for their repentance and their return to God. His love was sincere and pure. He wasn't interested in money. He never possessed any money. Anything he earned from his iconography and the holy services he gave away to the poor, the widows and the orphans. His life was a continuous state of holy obedience. The fact that he agreed to eat rooster meat, when he was seriously ill, during the strict fast of the fifteen days of August (at Mount Athos, at the order of his elder), was indicative of that. This blessed man, for every spiritual problem received information from above and so he was walking on a safe path. He had many temptations and ruined many of the devil’s traps. One day, specifically on Clean Monday, the devil locked him in his cell for three days so as not to conduct the holy services. He was grace-filled and blessed by the Lord. He was gentle, forgiving, honest, obedient and compassionate.

He was an angel on earth and a human in heaven. Thus he fulfilled his days on earth, and on 7 April 1948, he offered his holy soul to the Lord. Towards the end of his life, Saint Savvas remained in a state of intense prayer and holy contrition. For three days he did not receive anyone. He was at the stage of leaving this world. He gave his last advice and asked for the love and obedience of God. When he was at the point of death, taking his last breath, suddenly he received strength, brought his blessed small hands together and clapped them repeatedly saying his last holy words: "The Lord! The Lord! The Lord!" It was the certification of his journey after death. At that time, only few nuns were around his holy person. Upon closing his eyes, one of the nuns saw the soul of the Saint ascending in a golden cloud towards heaven. The heavens recognized his coming and celebrated. This way the earth offered to heaven this holy figure and heaven accepted this offer.

After three years of his death, Saint Savvas miraculously appeared to the nuns ordering them to exhume him, as the side of his head was getting wet being buried with his head at the base of a water deposit. Initially the Metropolitan refused this, but on the tenth anniversary of his death the translation of his holy relic took place on 7 April 1958, presided by Metropolitan Isidore of Kalymnos, who was being tormented by the Saint in his dreams until the exhumation took place, with a great crowd in attendance. A dark cloud with a divine scent enveloped the area, and news of this event spread everywhere. His whole body was incorrupt and intact apart from a small section on his skull where a patch of his skin deteriorated because of the water leaking on him. His relic was transferred to the Chapel of Saint Savvas the Sanctified.

Our Holy Father Savvas the New was officially canonized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate on 19 February 1992. Because the day of his repose often falls during Great Lent or Holy Week, his feast was transferred to the Fifth Sunday of Great Lent in order to be properly celebrated with a Great Vespers, Litany and Divine Liturgy.

Let us faithful praise Holy Savvas, the glory and protector of Kalymnos, and peer of the Holy Ascetics of old; for he has been glorified resplendently as a servant of Christ, with the gift of working miracles, and he bestows upon all God's grace and mercy.

Today the island of the Kalymnians celebrates your holy memory with a rejoicing heart; for it possesses as truly God-given wealth, your sacred body that has been glorified by God, O Father Savvas, approaching which they receive health of both soul and body.

Rejoice, thou new star of the Church, the offspring of Thrace and the beauty of Kalymnos, O God-inspired Savvas, fellow citizen of angels and equal of all the saints.