The Holy Martyr Sava
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.
Meanwhile the 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 Holy Name.
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.