May 23, 2018

Holy Martyr Michael the Sabbaite

St. Michael the Sabbaite (Feast Day - May 23 and July 29)

The Venerable Monk Michael lived in the ninth century, and came from the city of Edessa in Mesopotamia. The son of Christian parents, after their death he distributed his inheritance to those in need, then went to Jerusalem to venerate the Holy Places. The Holy Land at that time was under Muslim rule.

Michael remained in Palestine and settled in the Lavra of Saint Savvas. There he became a disciple of Saint Theodore (July 9), who was also from Edessa, and who spent his time both in the monastery and living as an anchorite in the Judean desert. The two made baskets of reeds together as a way to support their monastic life. Periodically Michael would take the baskets to the marketplace of Jerusalem to sell them.

One day while at the marketplace, the eunuch of the Muslim Queen Seida, seeing that the baskets were both fine and well-made, took him along to the Queen, who was visiting the city with her husband King al-Ma'mun (813-833) in order to witness certain miracles reported at the Holy Sepulchre. The young handsome monk caught the fancy of the Queen, who tried to lead him into the sin of adultery, but her intent proved to be in vain. By order of the enraged Seida they beat the monk with rods, and then accused him of being an enemy of Islam.

Having interrogated the monk, the emperor began to urge him to accept the Muslim faith, but Michael answered, “I implore you, either send me back to the monastery to my instructor, or be baptized in our Christian faith, or cut off my head, and then I shall go to Christ my God.” A debate ensued as to which faith is the true one, Christianity or Islam, and when Michael had the clear upper hand in the debate due to his intelligence, all the Saracens began to cry out to the King: "You are magnifying the Christians, you are destroying the Saracens; either kill the monk or we Saracens will be unmasked." Among the things Michael said were: "Muhammad is neither an apostle nor a prophet, but a deceiver and the forerunner of the antichrist."

The emperor gave the Saint a cup with deadly poison, which Michael drank and remained unharmed, according to the promise of the Lord (Mk. 16:18). After this the emperor gave orders to cut off his head. The death of the martyr occurred in Jerusalem, but the monks of the Monastery of Saint Savvas took the body of the Saint to their Lavra and buried it there with reverence. At the beginning of the twelfth century the relics of the holy martyr were seen there by Daniel, the abbot of the Kiev Caves Monastery, while on pilgrimage to the Holy Land.