Our Holy Father Sabbas the Sanctified

Celebrated December 5

He was born of wealthy parents in Cappadocia in 437. His father was an army officer and Sabbas was left in the care of his family. Dissension in the family prompted him to flee when nine years old to a monastery nearby his home at the foot of Mount Argaeus.

He stayed there until he was eighteen and then moved to live a life of asceticism in the Palestinian desert. He attached himself to an old fellow-Cappadocian who lived there as a monk by the name of Elpidius.

His piety was so great and his age so young that he was moved to the cenobitic monastery of St. Euthymius under the care of Theoctistus. He took care of the monastery’s donkeys until he was thirty years old.

Then, in 469, he was allowed to move to a hermitage nearby where he spent the next five years. He lived there in solitude, returning to the monastery only on weekends for Church services and to gather new palm branches for his weekday labours of handicraft by which he supported himself. He also was allowed to accompany the great founder of the monastery, St. Euthymius, when he went out to spend Great Lent in the desert.

After Euthymius died in 473, Sabbas withdrew further away to the Dead Sea area. There, after several years and inspired by a vision from God, he established a hermitage there for himself in the Cedron gorge in 478 and spent five years in solitude and prayer.

After much spiritual preparation, he decided to form his own monastic community, allowing other hermits to join him and soon seventy monks clustered around him. He used a large double-cave (built, it seemed, by God Himself). For his growing community, which soon numbered one hundred and fifty, the local Patriarch blessed his efforts and allowed the cave to be used as a church and ordained Sabbas as a priest to serve it.

There were Egyptians and Armenians in his community and Sabbas had them celebrate their offices and liturgies in their own vernacular languages.

As his fame grew, the Patriarch gave Sabbas leadership over all the hermits of Palestine, even as he gave his neighbour and friend Theodosius leadership over all the cenobitic communal monasteries in Palestine.

During the Monophysite controversy, Sabbas (with Theodosius) upheld the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451.

Sabbas died in peace, a true father of Palestinian monasticism, in 532 at the age of 94.

Apolytikion of Sabbas (Sava), Archbishop of Serbia in the Third Tone

Thou wast a guide of the way that leadeth to life, and a first prelate and teacher; for thou wast the first to enlighten thy fatherland, O Saint Sabbas, having given it rebirth in the Holy Spirit. Thou didst plant thy sanctified children like olive trees in the spiritual Paradise. Wherefore, as we honour thee as an equal of the Apostles and holy hierarchs, we implore thee; Pray to Christ God to grant us great mercy.

Kontakion of Sabbas (Sava), Archbishop of Serbia in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone

The Church of thy people glorifieth thee as her first great prelate and a companion of the Apostles, O Saint. But since thou hast boldness with Christ God, by thy prayers save us from all harm that we may cry to thee: Rejoice, O divinely-wise Father Sabbas.

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