Orthodox America

  Saint Sava

St. Sava, wonderworker and enlightener of the Serbs, was born in 1169, the son of the prince Stephen Nemanya. He was a pious child who naturally shrank from all those empty longings which weaken soul and body. It was not in vain that he was given in holy baptism the name Rastko, which is "to grow good in the Lord."

When he came of age, his parents desired that he should marry. But such was not the inclination of the youth nor was it the will of God. It happened at, that time that some monks from the Holy Mountain of Athos came to beg alms. Questioning them concerning their way of life, Rastko was at once inspired to follow them on the monastic path. Fearing his desire might meet with his parents' opposition, the young aspirant asked their blessing to go into the mountains to hunt. Secretly he joined the company of monks and together they made haste for the Holy Mountain where, at his fervent request, he was tonsured a monk and received the name Sava. And his parents, being pious people, could not be sorrowful when they heard what was the good and all-perfect will of God.

The young monk settled in the monastery of Vatopedi, in vigils, fastings, and perfect obedience. His parents sent him no little gold and all manner of fine things for the monastery, whereby they became its greatest benefactors. So great was his joy there on the Holy Mountain that St. Sava wrote to his father: "Lay aside all those things of little moment, take to yourself the way of meekness and follow me, that together we may live in the desert doing the will of God." St. Sava's elder brother Stephen was now autocrat of the Serbian land; his father became a monk with the name of Simeon and, following his son's persuasion, came to settle with him in the monastery of Vatopedi. Together they received permission to rebuild the monastery of Chilandar, which lay in ruins. Not sparing any care or expense, they built the monastery as a fitting place for the worship of God and a sure refuge for the sons of their fatherland.

     Not many years later his father reposed in peace; in his memory St. Sava gave great alms to the poor and to the monasteries of the Holy Mountain. And the holy Simeon was glorified of the Lord, for from his body there gushed forth an abundance of myrrh, healing the sick and confirming his place with the saints of God.

     At this time, great troubles befell the Serbian land. At the fervent request of his brother Stephen, St. Sava returned to his homeland, taking with him the holy remains of his father which were laid, as he had requested, in the monastery of Studenitsa. Like an apostle, St. Sava then traveled throughout his fatherland, teaching the people the divine dogmas of the Orthodox Faith, building. churches, and bringing the singing and services into order according to the practice of Mt. Athos. Through his divine mediation, peace was restored and from this time the Serbian state began to grow in power.

     His heart, however, longed for the desert, and he returned to his monastery Chilandar. But even there he continued to work on behalf of his fatherland. Feeling that the time had come that Serbia no longer be ecclesiastically dependent upon Constantinople, St. Sava requested that one of his brethren be chosen as archbishop for Serbia and that in the future the Serbian bishops themselves elect their archbishop. The Emperor agreed, but insisted that St. Sava himself be consecrated as first archbishop. And this was done to the great joy of the Serbian people who greeted him with great honor on his return to Serbia.

    In 1222 St. Sava persuaded the people to honor their autocrat with the crown of kingship. He himself performed the Liturgy during which he consecrated, anointed and crowned his brother Stephen with the cry, "bong life to the first-crowned King of Serbia!" The next day the Saint also served Liturgy, expounding the whole of the Gospel and exhorting the King and nobles to publicly recite the Creed and make an oath of obedience to the Canons of the Seven Holy Ecumenical Councils and local synods, which they did..

     Two years passed and King Stephen fell ill unto death. He called his brother to come and tonsure him a monk, but while St. Sava delayed, the King died. Stricken with remorse at not having fulfilled his brother’s last request, St. Sava prayed earnestly that the soul might return to the body. He made the sign of the Cross over the King who arose as if from a dream. Straightway he was made monk with the name Simon and, blessing his son Radoslav with authority to rule, he gave up his spirit to the Lord.

    Now St. Sava journeyed to the Holy Land, venerating the tomb of Christ and other holy places. Coming to the Monastery of St. Sava the Blessed, he received the staff of that saint according to his instructions which had been passed down, that when so ever there should come from the West someone bearing the same name and the founder of a people, it should be given to him.

    After traveling to many other holy places of the East, St. Sava went to Constantinople and from thence to Bulgaria, where he celebrated the feast of the Holy Epiphany for the King who was his kinsman. There he fell ill and, perceiving his end was near, the ailing Saint prepared himself with prayer, received t he Holy Sacrament, and departed to his Lord with the grateful words, "Glory be to God for all His goodness ." He was buried on the l4th of January, 1236, in the royal monastery of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste. Later the body was moved to the Serbian monastery of Mileshe, where it rested peacefully for 350 years until it was burnt by the Turks who hoped in this way to wipe out the memory of the just. But the glory of a Saint of God is not in relics alone, but is held firmly in the hearts of men. And so; the nameof St. Sava of Serbia reaches also to us. Wondrous is God in His Saints !