Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Holy martyr Sabbas the Goth (12 April 372)

St. Sabbas the Goth suffered the martyrdom for Christ in the east Carpathian Dacia, being drowned in Buzău river on 12 April 372, from the order of Atharid, a leader of the non-christianized Goths.
Information about his life and passion on theactual homeland of the Romanians were kept in his act of martyrdom, composed as a letter of the Gothic Church from north-Danubian Dacia to the church in Cappadocia, as an answer to the request of  St. Basil (379) made to Iunius Soranus, the “most brilliant governor (dux) of Scythia Minor”, a relative of Basil who was a Christian, for sending these relics in Caesarea.
Adăugaţi o legendă
The relics of St. Sabbas the Goth were accompanied by the text of his holy martyrdom, probably composed in Greek by St. Bretanion, the bishop of Tomis. This letter is also a document about the spread of the Christianity in the Carpathian Dacia among the Dacians, Romans and Goths, in the second half of the fourth century, bearing the long title: “The Church of God who lives in Gothia to the Church of God from Cappadocia and to all the communities of the Holy Universal Church”. St. Basil the Great also thanks in two letters to his fellow friend, Archbishop of Thessalonica Ascholius because he took care of sending the relics of St. Sabbas the GothtoCaesarea (Epistolae no. 164 and 165 in Migne, PG vol 32, cols. 633-641).
The Martyrical Acts of St. Sabbas the Goth are important to confirm the existence of the Christianity northern from Danube since the fourth century. This speaks not only about the existence of sporadic Christian missionaries, but also about an organized Church in villages and cities, with bishops, priests and simple believers, who led its life in connection with the Churches in the Roman provinces from the southern Danubian Region and the Church in Asia Minor.

The life and martyrdom of Saint Sabbas

St. Sabbas apparently was born in 334. The Martyrical Act shows that he was “got by birth and lived in Gothia”, being a Christian, living in virtue since his childhood, reaching the adut age in purity. ,
Already child, he used to sing psalms in the village church, where served as priest Sansalas. Sabbas was a peaceful and modest young man living in virginity and loving the prayer.
At one point the Goths have started a persecution against the Christians, forcing them to eat from the meats offered to the idols. Some non-Christians wanted to escape their Christian relatives from death and gave them to eat publically un-sacrificed meat, thus tricking the persecutors. St. Sabbas opposed this action, and because of that his fellow villagers chased him from the village. After a while he came back.
Adăugaţi o legendă
During the second persecution, some villagers wanted to swear that there’s no Christian in their village. But St. Sabbas opposed, saying: “For me swear no one, because I am Christian”. Then he stood voluntarily in front of the persecutor, who saw him and his poor clothes, and because of that he said: “Such a man can neither be useful nor hurt”. During this persecution, Sansalas the priest fled from Gothia in Romania, (that was at that time the name of the Roman Empire).
Later ith has been started a third persecution, in 372. St. Sabbas wanted at that time to celebrate the Easter into the city, together with the Gothian priest Guththicas. But on the way Sabbas had a vision and saw a tall and light-faced man, who ordered him to return to Sansalas, who in the meantime returned to celebrate the Easter together with his community.
Thus St. Sabbas turned back and found Sansalas in the village, so they celebrated Easter together. But the third night after the Easter, it came in their village Atharid, the son of a local governor called Rothesteu, with a band of robbers and arrested them. Sansalas was put in a cart, but St. Sabbas, naked, was carried by feet through the recently burned valleys, being strongly whipped. The next day the persecuted laid him on the ground and bound his hands on an axle, and his legs on another one. They beat him and nearly all night. After the servants went to sleep, a host-woman who had woke up to prepare food for the “guests” untied him, but he, instead to escape, helped the woman with her work.
Finding out what happened, Atharid commanded to hang the saint of a beam of the house, which shows that people here were certainly Dacians or Romans, because the Goths were living in tents. After this, the servants of Atharid brought food from the gods’ sacrifices and forced Sabbas and Sansalas to eat from these, but they refused. Atharid full of anger ordered the execution of Saint Sabbas. Letting Sansala bound Sthere, the servants took Sabbas to the Mousaios river (today Buzău) in order to drown him there. At one point, the wanted to release him, but St. Sabbas told: “Why do not accomplish what you were commanded to do? Here are those who came to receive me, in front of us, standing in glory” (the angels).
Then they immersed him in water, put a timber over his neck and pushed him into deeper. St. Sabbas died as a martyr being 38 years old, in the Saturday after Easter, the day before the Ides of April, i.e. on  April 12, 372, during the reign of the emperors Valentinianus (372-392, in the West)  and Valens ( 364-378, in the East).
His unharmed body was taken and buried by the faithful Christians. Then, after the persistence of Iunius Soranus, governor of Scythia Minor, (the actual region of Dobrogea, situated between Danube and Black sea), the holy relics were taken and sent to Cappadocia, and were deposited in a church in Caesarea, where St. Basil the Great (+ 379) was bishop.
The Martyrdom of Saint Sabbas tells nothing about what happened further with Sansalas the priest.

Veneration of St. Sabbas

Basil asked for his relics in 374, just 12 years after his death, which shows the saint’s high worship, which spread very quickly. The Synaxarion of the Church from Constantinople mentions the martyrdom of St. Sabbas the Goth on 17 April. In this version, Saint Sabbas was burned on the roof of a house, during the persecution of Athanaric, the chief the Goths and he was not drowned in the river Buzău, as shows his Martyrical Act. Bibliotheca graeca hagiographica mentions St. Sabbas the Goth on April 12, 15 and 17. The Greek synaxaries from the Minologion (The liturgical book consisting in the daily services) celebrate St. Sabbas on April 18, and this date appears also in the Romanian Minologion, while the Slavic Churches celebrate him on April 15. On June 20, 1992, the Romanian Orthodox Church officially stated in the national calendar “the saints from other nations who have preached and were martyred in our country”, among which is also the Holy Martyr Sabbas from Buzău, called “the Goth”, celebrated since then on April 12.
 In the West, the Roman Catholic Calendar commemorates St. Sabbas on April 28.

The hymn of the saint

Today the Church of the right-believer Romanians spiritually celebrates and joyfully sings: Come ye, the martyr-lovers, and celebrate the yearly Feast of St. Martyr Sabbas’ struggles! Because these aroused by God’s will among us and wonderfully flourished, and he brought a rich crop to his Master, through his martyrdom. And now he is incessantly praying in the Heavens, for our souls to be saved!
St. Sava Cathedral in Buzău

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