Commemorated on April 15
The Holy Martyr
Sava, by descent a Goth, lived during the IV Century. During these times
bishop Wulfil preached Christianity among the Goths, and among the many
baptised was also Saint Sava.
Having become a
Christian, Sava led a virtuous life, devout, peaceful, temperate, plain, quiet
(but indeed he had to be quiet with idol-worshippers), he shunned women, all
his days he spent in prayer, while often he sang in church and concerned
himself over its welfare. And he boldly preached Christianity.
The Gothic princes
and judges, under the influence of the pagan priests, began a persecution
against the Christians and began to demand that they taste of idol-offered
meat. Many of the pagans, to safeguard the lives of their friends and kinsfolk
who had accepted Christianity, substituted for them just ordinary meat in place
of the idol-offerings. Certain of the Christians did agree to such a ruse, but
Saint Sava refused and declared, that Christians ought openly to confess their
faith. After this the inhabitants of the village, where Saint Sava lived, threw
him out, but then asked him to return. When the persecution of Christians had
intensified, the fellow villagers of Saint Sava decided to go to the judge and
offer up an oath, that among them there were no Christians. Saint Sava
thereupon in a loud voice declared: "Swear not for me, since I am a
Christian". The inhabitants then went and gave an oath, that in their
settlement was only one Christian. By order of the judge they brought Saint
Sava to him. But the judge, seeing his poverty, decided that he could neither
help nor hurt anyone, and so he set him free.
persecution continued. Soon one of the Gothic military commanders, by the name
of Atharid, descended upon the village at the time of the feast of Holy Pascha.
Saint Sava had gotten ready to greet the Great Feast with bishop Guthik, but
along the way an Angel returned him to his own village. Presbyter Sapsal had at
this time returned there from Greece. Soldiers arrested the priest Sapsal and
Saint Sava, whom they did not allow even to get dressed. The priest they
conveyed on a cart, but Saint Sava unclad they led behind the cart through the
thorns, and they beat at him with canes and switches. The Lord unseen preserved
the martyr, such that in the morning when they reached the city, Saint Sava
said to his oppressors: "Look ye on my body, see whether there be any
traces of the thorns or of your blows?" The soldiers were astonished,
seeing the martyr healthy and unharmed, without the slightest trace of the
torments endured. Then they stretched out Saint Sava on the axles of a cart and
they beat at him the whole day. During the night a certain pious woman got up
to prepare the food for the household, and seeing the tied-up martyr, she set
him free. He began to help her with the housework. During the day, by order of
Atharid, they suspended Saint Sava from the cross-bean lintel of the house.
They placed idol-offering meat beneathe both him and the priest and offered to
set them free, if they should taste of it. The priest Sapsal replied: "We
should the sooner agree, that Atharid crucify us, than that we taste of meat
defiled by devils". Saint Sava asked: "Who hath sent this food?"
"Master Atharid", – answered the servant. "There be only one
Master, – God, Who is in Heaven", – pronounced the martyr. In anger one
of the servants powerfully struck Saint Sava in the chest with a spear.
Everyone thought, that the martyr was dead, but the saint did not feel any sort
of pain and said to the one who had struck him: "Thine blow was for me no
stronger, than if thou hadst struck me with soft wool".
Atharid gave orders
to put Saint Sava to death. They left the priest Sapsal tied up, and Saint Sava
they led to the River Mussova to drown him. Along the way the saint joyfully
gave thanks to God, that He had granted him to suffer for the confession of His
The servants during
this while discussed among them: "Why should we not set free this man
guiltless of anything? Atharid would not learn of this, that we had freed
him". Saint Sava heard them and cried out: "Do what is commanded of
ye! For I do see Angels coming with glory to take up mine soul!" They then
threw the martyr into the river, having tied to his neck a large beam of wood.
Saint Sava suffered
on 12 April in the year 372, when he was 38 years of age. The executioners
dragged out the body of the martyr and threw it on shore, but Christians later
hid it. And still later one of the Skythe leaders, the Christian Junius Saran,
conveyed the relics of Saint Sava to Cappadocia, where they were reverently
received by Saint Basil the Great (Comm. 1 January).
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.