The story of a saint who became a luminary of monasticism

Saint Sabbas, a praiseworthy citizen of the desert

December 18, 2021

Saint Sabbas

He is one of the most esteemed abbots of Palestine. His works and practices lay the foundation of monasticism in the Eastern Church. He was a magnet for countless believers. His pious life and righteousness made him worthy of the gift of miracle-working.

A brilliantly educated man, he utilized his talent to defend the true faith from the false teachings on the nature of Christ and the interpretation of the Scripture. His Jerusalem Typicon became the rule of church worship at monasteries.

After a troubled childhood, he finally found an abode in a monastery. Tonsured at age seventeen, he quickly became an example of virtue and piety. Aiming to grow further in Christ, he sought to ascetise as a hermit. A well-known ascetic, Saint Euthymius, accepted him as his disciple but considered him too young to live as a hermit. He blessed him to reside in a monastery, where he worked by day and prayed by night. It was not until he reached the age of thirty that his spiritual father allowed him to retreat to a cave for five days in a week. There, he spent his time in prayer and engaged in physical work.

After the repose of his teacher, he left for a remote desert cave near Jericho. He went in and out of it by rope, ate wild herbs, and walked long distances to get water. At times, some men brought him food and wished to join the saint to live in solitude. Over his objections, his following quickly grew to 150. They built a church and huts around it, forming a monastery now known as the Laura of Saint Sabbas the Sanctified.

The monastery has played a decisive role in the history of Christian monasticism, giving rise to the established rules of monastic life and the tradition of Christian scholarship, of which Saint John Damascene was among its most prominent examples. In the Middle Ages, it hosted the school of the Holy Sepulchre Brotherhood that raised multiple outstanding Christian priests and scholars. All of these successes were made possible through the prayers and intercession of Saint Sabbas.

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