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Saints

Commemorated on January 14th

Saint Sabbas, Archbishop of Serbia.

Christ

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.

In1204 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)

The Original Melody

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".