(Welcome to our Saint of the Day series! Each weekday, we present you with an excerpt from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints series, published by Holy Cross Orthodox Press.Today's saint, Savvas, comes from Volume 4 of the series.)
A certain way to avoid the glare of publicity, to never achieve a status that earns acclaim, to virtually assure complete obscurity, is to enter a monastery and shut yourself off from the outside world. While this is not the purpose for becoming a monk, nevertheless the conditions for recognition remain the same, and for a man to become famous while cloistered in a monastery is a tribute not only to the man, but to the noble purpose to which he is committed. Unnumbered thousands of God-fearing men and women have sequestered themselves in monasteries throughout the world, unheralded and unsung, but now and then one of their number stands out with special contribution to the Christian cause that gives him a renown he had not sought but richly deserves.
One such monk who eventually became a saint was a man named Savvas, who in his lifetime of service to Christ was accorded respect and tribute from not only his fellow monks but from the Christian community as well. He served with such distinction that he was given the title of St. Savvas “the Consecrated” in recognition of the deep respect with which he was regarded. Born in the sixth century, when Christianity was so frail that its existence seemed doomed, Savvas became one of the monks to whom the Christian could look for spiritual uplifting and for support so vital to his cause. A remarkable scholar and profoundly religious figure, he had carved a reputation as a spiritual leader by the time he was twenty-one and stood out as one of Christianity’s most prominent monastic personalities, conditioned to adversity and dedicated to the word of Christ in an eminent degree.
Having served with the highest honors at a monastery in Cappadocia for several years, he was summoned to the holy city of Jerusalem by St. Theoktistos to serve with another of the greatest monks of the day, St. Euthymios. This holy partnership proved itself virtually invincible in the crusade against intolerance, ignorance and superstition. For Savvas it was to become a period of sixty-five years of unceasing effort on behalf of man and God. He founded many monasteries in Palestine and instituted the regimen for monasticism, which though severe by some standards, nevertheless was instrumental in producing the hardy breed of monks who were needed in the face of the open hostility toward Christianity. The structure of the Christian world would have been considerably eroded by the sinister forces about had it not been for the dedication and courage of the monks of that day.
Savvas was called upon by many of the greatest religious minds to discourse on matters of dogma, and it was he together with other leading figures of the time that staved off the heresies that lurked everywhere, seeking the Achilles heel of the Christian in vain. A master theologian, he was in the vanguard of those who protected the Church in the hour of its most severe trial, right up to the moment of his death at the age of eighty-five, in about the year 540. He was laid to rest within the confines of the monastery of Jerusalem.
After the conquest of the Holy Land by the Muslim leader Saladin, it seemed hardly likely that anyone would recover the precious relics which the fleeing Christians had to leave behind, but in the Crusades that ensued the remains of St. Savvas were recovered and taken to the city of Venice and there enshrined in a cathedral. There they remained until October 10, 1965, at which time St. Savvas was returned, at the direction of Pope Paul VI, to the proper burial place at the monastery in Jerusalem.
The ceremonial acceptance was made by Bishop Vasilios of Jerusalem, who had gone to Venice at the direction of Patriarch Benediktos of Jerusalem.Having served the Christian community for a lifetime, St. Savvas may, in being returned to the Holy City by the Church of Rome, be the instrument in death for bringing together the Eastern and Western branches of the Christian faith which have been apart since 1054 but who are now finding means, such as with the remains of St. Savvas, of bridging the longstanding gap that has separated them.
Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from Wikimedia.