December 4, 2017

St. Sabbas the Sanctified, Patriarch of Monks

St. Sabbas

The feast of Saint Sabbas (or Savvas) the Sanctified of Jerusalem is celebrated on December 5th in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. He was born in Cappadocia during the reign of Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. The son of devout parents, from a young age he excelled in the spiritual life, prayer and asceticism. At sixteen, he traveled to Jerusalem, to the Monastery of Euthymius the Great, who sent him to the Monastery of the venerable Theoctistus. Here, he advanced in holiness becoming a mentor and shepherd of many desert monks.

He was later blessed to seclude himself in a cave. On Saturdays, he would leave his hermitage and come to the monastery, where he participated in the divine services and broke bread with the brethren. In due course, Sabbas received permission not to leave his hermitage at all, and he endured in the cave for five years. After several years, disciples began to gather around him desiring the monastic life. As the number of monks increased, a lavra (a type of monastery) sprang up. By Divine Providence, when a pillar of fire appeared before Sabbas as he was walking on one occasion, he found a large cave in the form of a church.

He fasted in penitence to such an extent that some foods he never tasted in his life. Tradition holds that as an infant, Sabbas never breastfed on Wednesdays and Fridays. He would found several more monasteries, most notably the one called Mar Saba. The Martyrology records: "At Mutala in Cappadocia the holy abbot Sabbas; in Palestine he gave the shining example of a holy life. Untiringly he labored in defense of the faith against those opposing the Council of Chalcedon."

He died in 532, "perfected in peace", at the age of 94. The famous monastery he built in Jerusalem bears his name. When the Arabs later conquered the Holy City, the monks fled to Rome, where they established a new monastery and introduced the veneration of Saint Sabbas. In the Eastern Church, St. Sabbas ranks high in devotion; he is known by the titles, "God-bearer, the Saint, Citizen of the Holy City, Star of the Desert, Patriarch of Monks." Many miracles are credited to him.

Prayer to St. Sabbas the Sanctified of Jerusalem

O wondrous and laudable Saint of God, venerable Father Sabbas! We celebrate your memory and great boldness before God. Intercede for us before the Lord. Ask from the King of kings that He continue to show great mercy to sinners; that He bestow the spirit of right faith upon us, the spirit of knowledge and love, the spirit of peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, that He deliver us from troubles and temptations, sending down upon us all those things that are useful unto the salvation of our souls. St. Sabbas, help us to live in imitation of Christ. Amen.

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