Saint Sabbas (Sava), Archbishop of Serbia
With their father now gone, Sabba’s brothers, Vukan and Stefan, were at strife over the throne, and because of their discord, the Serbian State, as well as the Orthodox faith, was gravely threatened with extinction.
In 1204 AD, St Sabbas was compelled to return to Serbia with his father’s relics that he might restore peace between his two brothers, who were struggling over the rule of the kingdom. St Sabbas then entered the Monastery of Studenitza, the endowment of Nemanja, and with the grace of their father’s relics and the mediations of St Sabbas, healed the division between his brothers.
Following this, he was appointed Superior of the Monastery of Studenitza, instructing and training many of the monks to become Serbian priests and teachers, and in addition, assisting his brother Stefan, in affairs of state, counselling him wisely at all times.
Realising the necessity for the Serbs to have their own Archbishops and Bishops and an independent Church, St Sabbas, in accord with his brother, King Stefan, departed for the city of Nicea (Asia Minor), where lived the Emperor and Ecumenical Patriarch. After persuading the Emperor in Constantinople and the Ecumenical Patriarch to grant autocephaly to the Serbian Church, the Saint against his will was ordained first Archbishop of his native land in 1219 AD, where he laboured diligently to establish the Orthodox Faith.
Upon his return to Serbia, St Sabbas, in agreement with his brother Stefan, divided the Serbian land into Bishoprics and appointed Bishops. For himself he chose as his seat the Monastery of Zitcha.
In 1221 AD at Monastery of Zitcha, St Sabbas with great solemnity crowned his brother Stephen first King of Serbia. Thus, the coronation of the first king of Serbia, Stefan, the First-Crowned, took place in an Orthodox Church, by a Serbian Archbishop. St Sabbas worked especially toward the enlightenment of the Serbian people. Numerous churches and monasteries were erected everywhere, throughout the state. Monasteries in that time served as schools, in which the Serbian youth were taught to read and write. Following completion of their learning, they were appointed priests and teachers.
In 1234 AD, foreseeing by divine grace his coming departure to the Lord, he resigned the Archiepiscopal throne, named his disciple Arsenios as his successor, and made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Mount Sinai; while returning through Bulgaria as guest of his friend, the Bulgarian Emperor. Celebrating the Divine service of Theophany, on a chilly day, caught cold, became ill and died on January 14 in the year of 1235 AD.
The Bulgarian Emperor insisted that the body of St Sabbas remain in Bulgaria. Consequently, the Serbian king, Vladislav, nephew of St Sabbas, with great difficulty succeeded in claiming the body of his uncle and interring it in Serbian soil at the Monastery of Mileshevo, an endowment of St Sabbas.
To the Serbs, the grave of St Sabbas was most sacred. During the time of Turkish dominance, the Serbs came from all sides to his grave, offering prayers to God, and seeking consolation in their suffering, and strength in their hope for liberation. Realising to what extent the Serbs revered their saint, the Turks disinterred the body of the Saint from Mileshevo, taking it to Belgrade at a place called Vrachar, where on a pyre, his body was burned to ashes, in the year of 1594 AD.
In burning the body of St Sabbas, the Turks believed that the people would forget entirely their great benefactor and enlightener, even that his name would be forgotten, but that was not the case.
Albeit centuries have passed since the cremation of his remains, there does not exist today, a Serb who is not familiar with his name, nor is there a Serbian school existing which fails to venerate him every year.
Due to his meritorious and holy life, and being a national hero of Serbia and an invincible bulwark strengthening the Orthodox Faith, the Moslem Turks burned his incorrupt relics in the year 1594 AD. The Church celebrates him as their greatest saint and enlightener.
Dismissal Hymn of the Feast (First Tone)
When You, O Lord, was baptized in the Jordan, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest! For the voice of the Father bares witness to You, and called You His beloved Son. And the Spirit, in the form of a dove, confirmed the truthfulness of His word. O Christ our God, Who has revealed Yourself and have enlightened the world, glory to You.
Dismissal Hymn of the Saint (Third Tone)
You were a guide of the way that leads to life, and a first prelate and teacher; you were the first to enlighten your fatherland, O St Sabbas, having given it rebirth in the Holy Spirit. You planted your sanctified children like olive trees in the spiritual Paradise. Wherefore, as we honour you as an equal of the Apostles and Holy Hierarchs, we implore you to pray to Christ God to grant us great mercy.
Kontakionof the Feast (Fourth Tone)
Today You have appeared to the universe, and Your light, O Sovereign Lord, has shone on us, who with understanding praise and chant, “You have come and revealed Yourself, O Light Unapproachable!”.
Kontakion of the Saint (Plagal of Fourth Tone)
The Church of your people glorified you as her first great prelate and a companion of the Apostles, O Saint, but since you have boldness with Christ God, by your prayers save us from all harm, that we may cry to you “Rejoice, O divinely wise Father Sabbas”.
The Holy Fathers Slain at Sinai and Raitho
As for the holy Martyrs of Sinai and Raithu, those of Sinai contested during the reign of Diocletian, about the year 296; those of Raithu were slain about the middle of the fifth century. On both occasions, the perpetrators of these massacres were a barbarian tribe called Blemmyes, from the parts of Arabia and Egypt.
Because of the Apodosis of the Feast of Holy Theophany also on the 14th of January, the liturgical services to the Holy Fathers slain at Sinai and Raitho are transferred to January 13th.
Apolytikion of Holy Fathers Slain at Sinai and Raitho in the Fourth Tone
O God of our Fathers, ever dealing with us according to Thy gentleness: take not Thy mercy from us, but by their entreaties guide our life in peace.
Kontakion of Holy Fathers Slain at Sinai and Raitho in the Second Tone
Ye fled from the world’s * confusion and wild turbulence * and passed over to * a state of great tranquility, * crowned with blood of martyrdom and the pains of valiant ascetic deeds. * Hence, ye dwell together with all * the Martyrs and righteous Fathers in the heights.
The Holy Virgin Nina of Georgia
The holy virgin Nina was from Cappadocia. According to some, her father Zabulon was a friend of the holy Great Martyr George, whose father was a Cappadocian. The conversion of Georgia by Saint Nina is reported in the Church histories of Rufinus, Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret: Rufinus, writing less than a hundred years after Saint Nina, said that he heard the history in Jerusalem from a Georgian Prince named Bacurius. Saint Nina was taken captive by the Georgians (whom the Greek accounts call Iberians), and while in captivity she lived a very devout life of sobriety and virtue, praying unceasingly night and day; this drew the attention of the Georgians, and to all who asked her about her way of life, she preached the dispensation of Christ. When she healed by her prayer a certain woman’s sick child, whom no one else had been able to help, the report of her came to the ears of the Queen of Georgia, who was herself gravely afflicted with an incurable malady. She asked that the captive women be brought to her, but Saint Nina declined out of modesty, so the Queen commanded them to carry her to Nina. Saint Nina healed her immediately, and the Queen returned home in joy. When she extolled Nina and her faith to the king, he gave her no heed, although she mentioned it to him often. But while hunting in the forest, he was shrouded with an impenetrable darkness in which he lost his way, became separated from his men, and fell into despair; he made a vow that if Christ should deliver him, he would worship him alone. The light of day straightway shone again, and the king fulfilled his vow. He and the Queen were instructed in the Faith by Saint Nina, and they with the whole Georgian nation became Christ’s. The King also sent an embassy to Saint Constantine the Great, informing him of their conversion, and requesting that priests be sent to Georgia. Saint Nina reposed in peace in about the year 335. The above-mentioned Church historians speak of her without calling her Nina. She is celebrated in the Roman Martyrology on December 15 under the name Christina.
Because of the Apodosis of the Feast of Holy Theophany also on the 14th of January, the liturgical services to Saint Nina are transferred to January 13th.
Apolytikion of Nina of Georgia in the Fourth Tone
O handmaid of the Word of God, who in preaching hast equaled the first-called Apostle Andrew, and hast emulated the other Apostles; O enlightener of Iberia and reed-pipe of the Holy Spirit, holy Nina, equal to the Apostles: Pray to Christ God to save our souls.
Kontakion of Nina of Georgia in the Second Tone
O come ye all today and let us sing praise to the chosen one of Christ, the equal of the Apostles, the preacher of God’s word, the wise bearer of good tidings, who hath brought the people of Kartalina to the path of life and truth; she is the disciple of the Mother of God, our zealous intercessor and unwearying guardian, the most praised Nina.
Leavetaking of the Theophany of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ
Apolytikion of Apodosis of Epiphany in the First Tone
Lord, when You were baptized in the Jordan, the veneration of the Trinity was revealed. For the voice of the Father gave witness to You, calling You Beloved, and the Spirit, in the guise of a dove, confirmed the certainty of His words. Glory to You, Christ our God, who appeared and enlightened the world.
We Also Celebrate Today:
- Agnes the Virgin-martyr
- Plato the Hieromartyr, Bishop of Tallini and all Estonia, and the Priest Martyrs
- Michael and Nicholas