Lives of all saints commemorated on December 5


Venerable Sava the Sanctified

Saint Sava the Sanctified was born in the fifth century at Cappadocia of pious Christian parents, John and Sophia. His father was a military commander. Journeying to Alexandria on military matters, his wife went with him, but they left their five-year-old son in the care of an uncle. When the boy reached eight years of age, he entered the monastery of St Flavian located nearby. The gifted child quickly learned to read and became an expert on the Holy Scriptures. In vain did his parents urge St Sava to return to the world and enter into marriage.

When he was seventeen years old he received monastic tonsure, and attained such perfection in fasting and prayer that he was given the gift of wonderworking. After spending ten years at the monastery of St Flavian, he went to Jerusalem, and from there to the monastery of St Euthymius the Great (January 20). But St Euthymius sent St Sava to Abba Theoctistus, the head of a nearby monastery with a strict cenobitic rule. St Sava lived in obedience at this monastery until the age of thirty.

After the death of the Elder Theoctistus, his successor blessed St Sava to seclude himself in a cave. On Saturdays, however, he left his hermitage and came to the monastery, where he participated in divine services and ate with the brethren. After a certain time St Sava received permission not to leave his hermitage at all, and he struggled in the cave for five years.

St Euthymius attentively directed the life of the young monk, and seeing his spiritual maturity, he began to take him to the Rouba wilderness with him. They set out on January 14, and remained there until Palm Sunday. St Euthymius called St Sava a child-elder, and encouraged him to grow in the monastic virtues.

When St Euthymius fell asleep in the Lord (+ 473), St Sava withdrew from the Lavra and moved to a cave near the monastery of St Gerasimus of Jordan (March 4). After several years, disciples began to gather around St Sava, seeking the monastic life. As the number of monks increased, a lavra sprang up. When a pillar of fire appeared before St Sava as he was walking, he found a spacious cave in the form of a church.

St Sava founded several more monasteries. Many miracles took place through the prayers of St Sava: at the Lavra a spring of water welled up, during a time of drought there was abundant rain, and there were also healings of the sick and the demoniacs. St Sava composed the first monastic Rule of church services, the so-called “Jerusalem Typikon”, accepted by all the Palestine monasteries. The saint surrendered his soul to God in the year 532.


St Gurias the Archbishop of Kazan

Saint Gurias, Archbishop of Kazan, (in the world Gregory 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 Penkov as steward of his estates.

From his youth, Gregory was pious, humble and gentle, and he preserved his chastity. Accused of improprieties with the prince’s wife, Gregory was locked up in an underground dungeon for two years. This undermined his health, but it also intensified and deepened his religious fervor. In prison, he wrote a small booklet to teach children how to read and write. He donated the proceeds from his primer to the needy.

Released from prison, Gregory was tonsured with the name Gurias at the St Joseph of Volokolamsk monastery, known for its strict monastic rule. In 1543, he was chosen by the brethren as igumen of this monastery. He administered it for almost nine years, and then he resigned as igumen and lived for two years as a simple monk.

Before becoming bishop, St Gurias directed the Trinity Selizharov monastery in Tver diocese for one year. He was chosen by lot to the See of Kazan. Assisted by St Barsanuphius (April 11), St Gurias devoted himself to missionary activity. In his eight years as bishop there, four monasteries were organized, and the Annunciation cathedral church and ten more city churches were built.

In 1561 the saint fell grievously ill and could no longer perform the divine services himself. On feastdays they carried him into the church, and he either sat or lay down, since he did not have the strength to walk or even stand.

Shortly before his death (1563), he received the great schema from St Barsanuphius, and he was buried in the Savior-Transfiguration monastery. On October 4, 1595, the incorrupt relics of the holy hierarchs Gurias and Barsanuphius were uncovered. St Hermogenes, Metropolitan of Kazan (May 12), was present at the uncovering of their relics, and he described this event in the lives of these saints.

On June 20, 1613, the relics of St Gurias were transferred from the Savior-Transfiguration monastery to the Annunciation cathedral church. At present, the relics rest in Kazan in a cemetery church named for the holy Princes Theodore of Murom and his sons David and Constantine (May 21).


Martyr Anastasius the Fuller of Salona in Dalmatia

The Martyr Anastasius the Fuller lived at Salona in Dalmatia during the third century. He was arrested and brought to trial because of his missionary activity in Salona. St Anastasius, boldly and with out fear, confessed Christ as the true God and Creator of all. He even painted a cross on his door during the persecution of Diocletian (284-311).

St Anastasius was sentenced to death by the decision of the court, and the pagans tied a stone around his neck and threw his body into the sea. A righteous Christian, the rich matron Ascalopia, found the body of St Anastasius and reverently buried him in her estate church. The relics of the holy martyr were glorified by many miracles.

St Anastasius the Fuller is also commemorated on October 25.


Venerable Karion (Cyrion) and his son in Egypt

Saints Karion and his son Zachariah: St Karion lived in Scetis in Egypt during the fourth century. He became a monk and left his wife and two children behind in the world. When a famine struck Egypt, ‘St Karion’s wife brought the children to the monastery and complained of their poverty and difficulties. The saint took his son, and the daughter remained with the mother.

He raised his son at the skete, and everyone knew that Zachariah was his son. When the lad grew up, the brethren began to grumble. The father and his son then went into the Thebaid, but complaints about them arose there, too. Then St Zachariah went to Lake Nitria, immersing himself in the foul-smelling water up to his nostrils and he stayed there for an hour. His face and his body were covered with welts, and he looked like a leper. Even his own father hardly recognized him.

The next time St Zachariah came for Holy Communion, it was revealed to the St Isidore the Presbyter what Zachariah had done. The holy priest said to him, “Child, last Sunday you communed as a man, but now you receive as an angel.”

After the death of his father, St Zachariah began to struggle together with St Moses the Black (August 28). “What must I do, to be saved?” asked St Moses. Hearing this, St Zachariah fell to his knees and said: “Why do you ask this of me, Father?”

“Believe me, my child, Zachariah,” St Moses continued, “I saw the Holy Spirit come down upon you, and that is why I ask you.”

St Zachariah then took the koukoulion (cowl) from his head, trampling it under his feet. After putting it on again he said, “If a man is not willing to be treated this way, he cannot be a monk.”

St Moses asked Zacharias just before his death, “What do you see, brother?”

“Isn’t it better if I keep silent, Father?” St Zachariah replied.

“Yes, child, remain silent”, agreed St Moses.

When the soul of St Zachariah was leaving his body, Abba Isidore lifted his gaze toward the heavens and said, “Rejoice, Zachariah my child, for the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven are opened to you.”

St Zachariah died towards the end of the fourth century and was buried in Skete with the Fathers.


Venerable Zachariah of Egypt

Saint Zachariah was the son of St Karion. St Karion lived in Scetis in Egypt during the fourth century. He became a monk and left his wife and two children behind in the world. When a famine struck Egypt, ‘St Karion’s wife brought the children to the monastery and complained of their poverty and difficulties. The saint took his son, and the daughter remained with the mother.

He raised his son at the skete, and everyone knew that Zachariah was his son. When the lad grew up, the brethren began to grumble. The father and his son then went into the Thebaid, but complaints about them arose there, too. Then St Zachariah went to Lake Nitria, immersing himself in the foul-smelling water up to his nostrils and he stayed there for an hour. His face and his body were covered with welts, and he looked like a leper. Even his own father hardly recognized him.

The next time St Zachariah came for Holy Communion, it was revealed to the St Isidore the Presbyter what Zachariah had done. The holy priest said to him, “Child, last Sunday you communed as a man, but now you receive as an angel.”

After the death of his father, St Zachariah began to struggle together with St Moses the Black (August 28). “What must I do, to be saved?” asked St Moses. Hearing this, St Zachariah fell to his knees and said: “Why do you ask this of me, Father?”

“Believe me, my child, Zachariah,” St Moses continued, “I saw the Holy Spirit come down upon you, and that is why I ask you.”

St Zachariah then took the koukoulion (cowl) from his head, trampling it under his feet. After putting it on again he said, “If a man is not willing to be treated this way, he cannot be a monk.”

St Moses asked Zacharias just before his death, “What do you see, brother?”

“Isn’t it better if I keep silent, Father?” St Zachariah replied.

“Yes, child, remain silent”, agreed St Moses.

When the soul of St Zachariah was leaving his body, Abba Isidore lifted his gaze toward the heavens and said, “Rejoice, Zachariah my child, for the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven are opened to you.”

St Zachariah died towards the end of the fourth century and was buried in Skete with the Fathers.


Venerable Nectarius of Bitolya and Mt Athos

Saint Nectarius of Mount Athos was raised by his father, who became a monk at the monastery of the holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian in Bitolia (Bulgaria). He himself was tonsured on Mount Athos, and performed his obedience under experienced spiritual guides, St Philotheus and the Elder Dionysius. Like Job, the monk experienced exceptional bodily afflictions, and he peacefully gave up his soul to the Lord on December 5, 1500. The holy relics of the saint were uncovered four years later, exuding a wondrous fragrance.


Venerable Philotheus of Karyes of Mt Athos

Saint Philotheus of Karyes lived an ascetic life on Athos in the cell of Iagari near Karyes. He was the Spiritual Father of St Nectarius. Because of the purity of his life, he was granted the gift of clairvoyance.


Monastic Martyrs of Karyes

The Holy Monastic Martyrs of Karyes were martyred by the Latins who came with fire and sword onto Mount Athos during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Michael Paleologos (1259-1282), an apostate from Orthodoxy.

Bursting in upon the Karyes monastery, the Latins burned and devastated the Church of the Protaton [the only basilica on the Holy Mountain, built in 965], “leaving no one alive.” The Protos of the Holy Mountain, who had denounced the Latin rationalising as heresy, was after much torture hanged before the Protaton at the place called Chalkhos. Those hidden in caves around Karyes were cut down with swords. See October 10.


St Crispina

Saint Crispina lived at Thacora (Tagora) in Africa, and was arrested for professing Christianity. The proconsul Annius Anullinus presided at her trial at Theveste (or Tebessa) in December of 304.

Anullinus asked her if she was aware that she was required by law to offer sacrifice to the gods for the welfare of the emperors Diocletian and Maximian. She said that she did not know of this decree, and that her Christian faith would not allow her to offer sacrifice to false gods.

“Turn away from this superstition,” Anullinus said, “and submit to the sacred rites of the Roman gods.”

St Crispina replied that she knew no other god but the God worshiped by Christians. The proconsul threatened her with torture, and the saint said that she would gladly endure this for the sake of Christ.

Anullinus told her to stop being stubborn and to obey the edict. Crispina answered, “I will obey the edict given me by my Lord Jesus Christ.”

The proconsul repeated his threat of torture, saying that she would be forced to obey the edict. He also pointed out that the entire province of Africa had offered sacrifice, but St Crispina remained firm in her faith, saying that she would never offer sacrifice to demons.

Enraged that she would not accept the pagan gods, Anullinus said that she would be forced to bow before the idols and to offer incense. The courageous woman retorted that she would never do so as long as she lived.

Then the proconsul sought to persuade her that it would not be a sacrilege to offer sacrifice to the gods as required by law. She said, “May those gods, who have not made heaven and earth, perish.”

Anullinus urged Crispina to respect the Roman religion, but she said, “I have told you again and again that I am ready to endure any tortures rather than worship the idols which are the work of men’s hands.”

Anullinus told her that she spoke blasphemy and was not acting in a way which would ensure her safety. He then tried to humiliate her by ordering her head to be shaved. The holy martyr replied, “If I were not seeking my own well-being, I would not be on trial before you now. Let your gods speak, then I shall believe.”

The proconsul told her she could either live a long life, or die in agony before being beheaded. St Crispina told him, “I would thank my God if I obtained this. I would gladly lose my head for the Lord’s sake, for I refuse to offer sacrifice to those ridiculous deaf and dumb statues.”

Anullinus lost patience with her and ordered that the minutes of the trial be read back before he pronounced sentence. “Since Crispina persists in her superstition and refuses to offer sacrifice to the gods in accordance with our law, I order her to be executed by the sword.”

St Crispina said, “Thanks be to God, Who has deigned to free me from your hands.” She made the Sign of the Cross and stretched forth her neck to the executioner.

St Crispina was beheaded on December 5, 304 in accordance with the fourth edict of Diocletian. St Augustine mentions her in Sermons 286 and 354.