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December 5th (XII -18)

Icon of the saint of the day.

Icon of Monk Sava the Sanctified

Monk Sava the Sanctified (+ 532). Sainted Gurii, Archbishop of Kazan (+ 1563). Martyr Anastasias. Egyptian Monks Karion and Zachariah (IV). Martyr Avercius. Monks Nektarios (+ 1500) and Philotheos of Athos. Athonite MonkMartyrs (XIII).

The Monk Sava the Sanctified was born in the V Century at Cappadocia of pious Christian parents, named John and Sophia. His father was a military-commander. Journeying off to Alexandria on service related matters, his wife went with him, but their five year old son they left in the care of an uncle. When the boy reached eight years of age, he entered the monastery of Saint Flavian situated nearby. The gifted child quickly learned to read and became well studied in Holy Scripture. And in vain then did his parents urge Saint Sava to return to the world and enter into marriage.

At 17 years of age he accepted monastic tonsure and so prospered in fasting and prayer, that he was bestown the gift of wonderworking. Having spent ten years at the monastery of Saint Flavian, the monk set off to Jerusalem, and from there to the monastery of the Monk Euthymios the Great (Comm. 20 January). But the Monk Euthymios sent off Saint Sava to abba Theoktistos, the head of a nearby monastery with a strict common-life monastic rule. The Monk Sava dwelt at this monastery as an obedient until age 30.

After the death of the monastic-elder Theoktistos, his successor gave blessing to the Monk Sava to seclude himself within a cave: on Saturdays however the monk left his hermitage and came to the monastery, where he participated in Divine-services and partook of food. And after a certain while they gave permission to the monk not to leave his hermitage at all, and Saint Sava asceticised within the cave over the course of 5 years.

The Monk Euthymios attentively oversaw the life of the young monk, and seeing how he had matured spiritually, he began to take him along with him to the Ruv wilderness (at the Dead Sea).They went out on 14 January and remained there until Palm Sunday. The Monk Euthymios called Saint Sava a child-elder and took care to encourage in him growth in the utmost monastic virtues.

When the Monk Euthymios expired to the Lord (+ 473), Saint Sava withdrew from the Laura-monastery and resettled in a cave near the monastery of the Monk Gerasimos of Jordan (+ 475, Comm. 4 March). After several years disciples began to gather to the Monk Sava -- all searching for monastic life. There thus arose the Great Laura-monastery. Through a command from above (in a pillar of fire) the monks built a church in the cave.

The Monk Sava founded several more monasteries. Many a miracle was manifest through the prayers of the Monk Sava: amidst the Laura spouted forth a spring of water, during a time of drought it rained in abundance, and there likewise occurred healings of the sick and the demoniac. The Monk Sava composed the first monastic-rule of church services, the so-called "Jerusalem Rule", accepted by all the Palestine monasteries. The saint reposed peacefully to God in the year 532.

Sainted Gurii, Archbishop of Kazan, (in the world named Grigorii Grigor'evich Rugotin), was the first archbishop of the Kazan diocese, established in 1555. He was born in the town of Radonezh outside Moscow into the family of a courtier. His parents were not wealthy, and so from his early years he had to serve prince Ivan Pen'kov as steward of his estates. From the time of his youth, Grigorii was pious, humble and gentle. He did not wish to enter into marriage. But slandered before the prince of improprieties with his wife, Grigorii was locked up in an underground dungeon. This undermined his health, but it also intensified and deepened his religious sensitivity. In prison, the prisoner wrote a small booklet for teaching children to read and write. The proceeds from his alphabet-book he gave off to the needy.

Released from prison, Grigorii accepted tonsure with the name Gurii at the Iosifo-Volokolamsk monastery, known for its strict monastic rule. In 1543 he was chosen by the brethren as hegumen of this monastery and he administered it for almost 9 years, and then he resigned as hegumen and lived for two years as a simple monk. Before becoming bishop, Saint Gurii for one year directed the Trinity Selizharov monastery in Tver diocese. He was chosen by lot to the Kazan cathedra-seat. Assisted by Saint Varsonophii (+ 1576, Comm. 11 April)Saint Gurii collaborated much in missionary activity. In his eight years as bishop there, four monasteries were organised, and the Blagoveschensk-Annunciation cathedral church and ten more city churches were built.

In 1561 the saint fell grievously ill. On feastdays they carried him into the church, and here he either sat or lay, not having the strength to walk or even stand. Shortly before his death (+ 5 December 1563)he accepted the great schema under Saint Varsonophii, and he was buried in the Spaso-Preobrazhensk (Saviour Transfiguration) monastery. On 4 October 1595, the incorrupt relics of Sainted-hierarchs Gurii and Varsonophii were uncovered. The Kazan metropolitan, Sainted Ermogen (the future Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus', + 1613, Comm 12 May), was present at this uncovering of relics, and he described this event in the lives of these saints. On 20 June 1613, the relics of Sainted Gurii were transferred from the Saviour-Transfiguration monastery to the Annunciation cathedral church. At present the relics rest at a cemetery church named for the holy Nobleborn Princes Theodore (Feodor) of Muromsk and his sons David and Konstantin, situated in the city of Kazan.

The Monastics Karion and his son Zachariah: The Monk Karion lived in one of the Egyptian skete-monasteries during the IV Century. He left behind in the world his wife and two children. When a famine chanced to strike Egypt, the wife of the Monk Karion brought the children to the skete-monastery and complained of the poverty and difficulties of life. The saint took his son, but the daughter remained with the mother. He raised his son Saint Zachariah at the skete, and everyone knew that this was his son. But when the lad grew up, the monastery brethren began to grumble. The father and the son thereupon went off into the Thebaid. But there also came the grumbling monks. Then Saint Zachariah went into a fetid lake, immersing himself in the water up to his nostrils and he stayed in it for an hour. His face and his body was covered with welts, like a leper literally, such that even his own father hardly recognised him. But when the Monk Zachariah partook Communion, the holy Presbyter Isidor had a revelation about him and said: ""Child, on Sunday last thou didst commune like a man, but now it be like an angel". After the death of his father, the Monk Zachariah began to asceticise together with the Monk Moses the Black (Comm. 28 August). "What mustneeds I do, to be saved?" -- asked the Monk Moses. Hearing this, the Monk Zachariah fell to his knees and said: "Thou askest this of me, father?" "Believe me, my child, Zachariah, -- the Monk Moses continued, -- I saw, how the Holy Spirit did come down upon thee, and only because of this I asked thee". The Monk Zachariah thereupon took from his head the kukol'-covering, he set it at his feet, and having set it aright, he said: "If a man be not tonsured thus, he cannot be a monk". Before his end the Monk Moses asked him: "What seest thou, brother?" "Should this not be better left unsaid, father?" -- answered the Monk Zachariah. "Yes, child, be silent", -- agreed the Monk Moses the Black. When the soul of the Monk Zachariah parted from its body, holy Abba Isidor, lifting his gaze towards the heavens, said: "Happy art thou, Zachariah my child, for unto thee art opened the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven". The Monk Zachariah died towards the end of the IV Century and was buried at a skete?monastery.

The Monk Nektarios was raised by his father, who had accepted monasticism at the monastery of the holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian in Bitolia (Bulgaria). He himself accepted tonsure on Holy Mount Athos, and did his obedience under experienced spiritual guides -- the Monk Philotheos and the spiritual-elder Dionysios. Like Job, the monk experienced being struck down by exceptional bodily afflictions, and he peacefully gave up his soul to the Lord on 5 December 1500. Uncovered four years later, the holy relics of the saint exuded a wondrous fragrance.

The Monk Philotheos of Kareia (XV Century) asceticised on Athos in the Kareia monastery cell of Iagaros. He was the spiritual father of the Monk Nektarios. For his high purity of life, he was granted the gift of perspicacity.

The Kareian Holy MonkMartyrs accepted a martyr's death from the papists, who were come with fire and sword onto Holy Mount Athos during the reign of the Byzantine emperor Michael Paleologos (1259-1282), an apostate from Orthodoxy. Bursting in upon the Kareia monastery, the Latins burnt and devastated the Protatos [the Athos governing assembly], "leaving no one alive". The Monk Protos, who had denounced the Latinising rationalising as heresy, was after much torture hung up afront the Protatos at the place called Khalkhos, and those hidden in caves around Kareia were cut down with swords.

© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos

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