Martyr Sabbas the Goth of Wallachia

The Holy Martyr Sabbas, a Goth, lived during the fourth century. At this time the Arian bishop Wulfilas preached Christianity among the Goths, and Saint Sabbas was among those who were baptized.

Saint Sabbas led a virtuous life, devout, peaceful, temperate, simple, and quiet. He avoided women, and spent all his days in prayer. He often sang in church and devoted himself to its welfare, boldly preaching Christianity.

The Gothic princes and judges, under the influence of the pagan priests, began a persecution against the Christians and demanded that they eat meat offered to idols. Many of the pagans, to save the lives of their friends and relatives who had accepted Christianity, gave them ordinary meat instead of meat offered to idols.

Some Christians agreed to such a ruse, but Saint Sabbas refused and declared that Christians ought to confess their faith without dissimulation. After this, Saint Sabbas was driven out by those who lived in his village, but they later asked him to return. When the persecution of Christians had intensified, the fellow villagers of Saint Sabbas decided to go to the judge and swear that there were no Christians among them. Saint Sabbas declared, “Do not swear for me, because I am a Christian.”

The inhabitants then swore that there was only one Christian in their village. On the judge’s orders, Saint Sabbas was brought to him. The judge, seeing his poverty, decided that he could neither help nor harm anyone, so he set him free.

Meanwhile, the persecution continued. Soon, Atharid, one of the Gothic military commanders, descended on the village during the Feast of Holy Pascha. Saint Sabbas was preparing to greet the Great Feast with Bishop Guthik, but along the way an angel returned him to his own village. The priest Sapsal had recently arrived there from Greece. Soldiers arrested Sapsal and Saint Sabbas, whom they did not even allow to get dressed.

The priest rode on a cart, but Saint Sabbas had to walk naked behind the cart through the thorns, and they beat him with rods and switches. The Lord preserved the martyr, so that in the morning when they reached the city, Saint Sabbas said to his oppressors, “Look at my body, and see whether there are any traces of the thorns or of your blows.”

The soldiers were astonished, seeing the martyr healthy and unharmed, without the slightest trace of injury. Then they stretched Saint Sabbas on the axles of a cart, and they beat him the whole day. During the night, a certain pious woman got up to prepare food for the household, and seeing the martyr, she set him free. He began to help her with the housework.

During the day, by Atharid’s order, they suspended Saint Sabbas from the lintel of the house. They placed meat offered to idols before him and the priest, offering to set them free if they ate it. The priest Sapsal replied, “We would prefer that Atharid crucify us, than to eat meat defiled by devils.”

Saint Sabbas asked, “Who has sent this food?”

“Master Atharid,” the servant replied.

“There is only one Master, God, Who is in Heaven,” said the martyr. In anger one of the servants struck Saint Sava in the chest with a spear. Everyone thought that the martyr was dead, but the saint did not feel any pain. He said to the one who had struck him, “Your blow felt as if you had struck me with soft wool.”

Atharid gave orders to put Saint Sabbas to death. They left the priest Sapsal tied up, and led Saint Sabbas to the River Mussova to drown him. Along the way the saint gave thanks to God for allowing him to suffer for His Holy Name.

During all this the servants said, “Why shouldn’t we free this innocent man? Atharid will not find out if we free him.” Saint Sabbas heard them and cried out, “Do as you are commanded! For I see angels coming with glory to receive my soul!” Then they threw the martyr into the river, after they tied a large beam of wood to his neck.

Saint Sabbas suffered on April 12, 372, when he was thirty-eight years old. The executioners recovered the body of the martyr and threw it on shore, but Christians later hid it. Still later, one of the Scythian leaders, the Christian Junius Saran, brought the relics of Saint Sabbas to Cappadocia, where they were reverently received by Saint Basil the Great (January 1).

On June 20, 1992, the Romanian Orthodox Church glorified the Holy Martyr Sabbas of Buzău. This was the third canonization in its history, following those in 1517 and 1955-56.

The Romanian Orthodox Church has established the annual Feast Day of Saint Sabbas as April 12th. His Feast Day is on April 15 according to Slavic usage, but on April 18 in Greek practice.