Commemorated on December 3 and January 19
The Monk Savva of
Storozhevsk and Zvenigorodsk in his early youth left the world, accepting
tonsure under the Monk Sergei of Radonezh, for whom he was one of the first
disciples and co-ascetics.
The Monk Savva loved
the quiet life, he shunned conversing with people and he lived in constant
toil, in lamentation over the poverty of his soul and remembrance of the
judgement of God. The Monk Savva was a model of simplicity and humility, and he
attained to such a depth of spiritual wisdom, that "in the monastery of
the Monk Sergei he was a spiritual confessor to all the brethren, a venerable
starets-elder and exceedingly learned". When GreatPrince Dimitrii Donskoy,
in gratitude for the victory over Mamai, built the monastery of the
Uspenie-Dormition of the Mother of God at the River Dubenka, Savva became its
hegumen, with the blessing of the Monk Sergei. Preserving the simple manner of
his ascetic lifestyle, he ate food only of plants, wore coarse clothing and
slept on the ground.
In 1392 the brethren
of the Sergiev Lavra, with the departure of its hegumen Nikon into the
wilderness, besought the Monk Savva to accept being hegumen at the monastery. Here
he "did well shepherd the flock entrusted him, such as he could and such
as the prayers of his spiritual father Blessed Sergei did aid him".
Tradition imputes to his time as hegumen the finding of a spring of water
beyond the Lavra walls.
A godson of the Monk
Sergei, prince Yurii Dimitrievich Zvenigorodsky, regarded the Monk Savva with
great love and esteem. He chose the Monk Savva as his spiritual father and
besought him to come and bestow blessing upon all his household. The monk had
hoped to return to his monastery, but the prince prevailed upon him to remain
and set in place a new monastery, "in his fatherland, near Zvenigorod,
where the place was called Storozh". Striving after the solitary and
silent life, the Monk Savva accepted the offer of the Zvenigorod prince Yurii
Dimitrievich, and with tears before an icon of the Mother of God he besought
Her protection for the wilderness place. On the Storozhevsk heights, where
formerly was encamped a sentinel, guarding Moscow from enemies, he set up a small
wooden church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God, and not far off
from it made a small cell for himself. And here in the year 1399 the monk
established a monastery, fondly accepting all that were come for the life of
solitude. The monk toiled much at the building up of his monastery. He himself
dug out a well below the hill, from which on his shoulders he carried his own
water; he encircled the monastery with a wooden palisade, and above it in an
hollow he dug out for himself a cell for a life of solitude.
In 1399 the Monk
Savva blessed his spiritual son, prince Yurii, to go off on a military
campaign, and he predicted victory over the enemy. Through the prayers of the
holy elder, the forces of the prince were granted a speedy victory. Through the
efforts of the Monk Savva, a stone church of the Nativity of the Most Holy
Mother of God was also built.
Saint Savva died at
an advanced age on 3 December 1406.
Veneration of the
monk by the local people began immediately at his death. The miraculous
curative power, issuing from the grave of the monk, and his numerous
appearances, convinced everyone that Hegumen Savva "is in truth an
unsetting star-radiance of the Divine light, by the shining forth of his
miracles illumining all". In a letter of 1539 the Monk Savva is called a
wonderworker. Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich had particular esteem for him,
repeatedly going on foot to venerate at the monastery of the Monk Savva.
Tradition has preserved for us a remarkable account, of how the Monk Savva had
saved him from a ferocious bear.
The Life of the Monk
Savva, compiled in the XVI Century, relates how at the end of the XV Century
(years 1480-1490), the saint appeared to the Savvinsk monastery hegumen
Dionysii and said to him: "Dionysii! Wake up and write my face upon an
icon". To the question of Dionysii, as to whom he was, came the reply:
"I am Savva, the founder of this place". An old starets-elder of the
monastery named Avvakum, having in his youth seen the Monk Savva, described the
outward appearance of the saint. And it was precisely such as the saint
appeared to the hegumen Dionysii, who fulfilled the command and wrote the icon
of the Monk Savva.
The feastday of the
Monk Savva was established in the year 1547 at a Moscow Sobor-Council. On 19
January 1652 the incorrupt relics of the saint were uncovered.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.