21 February 2009

'A Flower of Spiritual Regeneration'—St Sava II of Serbia

On this day, 8 February according to the Church’s calendar, we celebrate the memory of our Holy and God-bearing Father, Sava II (1200-1271), Archbishop of Serbia, the nephew of the original St Sava of Serbia. St Sava II, born Predislav, was the son of the Holy King Stephen II Nemanjić, the First-Crowned, brother of St Sava the Elder. According to Fr Daniel Rogich’s Life, he ‘was surrounded by the great leaders and ascetics of the Serbian Orthodox Church, namely, his uncle Sava and the monks of Hilandar Monastery [Mt Athos] who often came to visit the Royal Court of Serbia’. Thus, it took no one by surprise when he ‘decided, at age 20, to leave the Royal Court in order to join the ranks of the pious ascetics and monastics on the Holy Mountain at the Serbian spiritual garden of Orthodoxy, Hilandar Monastery’ (Fr Daniel Rogich, Serbian Patericon: Saints of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Vol. I: January-April [Platina, CA: St Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1994], pp. 165-6).

St Sava II joined Hilandar on 13 February 1220, and was soon tonsured a monk. Slavko Todorovich calls him an ‘authentic Chilandarian’ (The Chilandarians: Serbian Monks on the Green Mountain [Boulder: East European Monographs, 1989], p. 56). There, at the ‘Serbian Lavra’ this son of a king spent thirty years learning humility and obedience, performing the lowest tasks. According to Fr Rogich:

By his ascetical exercises—especially his reading of the teachings of the early Fathers and Ascetics of the Church—and by his participation in the liturgical/sacramental life of the Monastery, Sava was able to place himself in the spiritual position necessary to acquire the Holy Spirit, Who transformed him into a flower of spiritual regeneration. (p. 168)

No other outward events mark the life of St Sava II until 1250, when, at the age of 50, he received a blessing to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Returning three years later, he was told that he had been elected Bishop of Zahumlje (in Herzegovina), and was thus consecrated ‘at age 53, after many years of ascetic struggle in the Lord’ (Fr Rogich, p. 168).

Like his famous uncle before him, St Sava II truly shone in the episcopal ministry. According to Fr Rogich, his ‘pious life always preceded him, as he pastored and led more by example than by words’ (p. 168). He laboured for 13 years, caring for his flock by preaching, teaching, erecting churches, counseling the secular authorities, and establishing a school system. Todorovich gives us a glimpse of how difficult it must have been for him in Zahumlje:

There, Sava served in a double capacity: in addition to being the emissary of Archbishop Arsenije, he was the confidant of his brother, the King [Uroš I]. The Bishop was exposed to considerable pressures. On one side, he had to deal with assertive Papal missionaries in the area; on the other, there were those solidly entrenched Bosnian Bogomils. (p. 57)

But St Sava discharged his duty faithfully. He was so beloved that in 1266, St Sava was unanimously chosen the third Archbishop of Serbia, in which ministry he served the Church for five years before finally reposing in the Lord at the age of 71. Fr Rogich quotes from the Saint’s 14th-c. Life by Archbishop Daniel II—‘As everyone must give account for his talents, Holy Father Sava II can be assured of eternal glory as he unfailingly served his flock of Christ with all the gifts and talents God imparted to him’ (Fr Rogich, p. 169). Here is the lovely 'Hymn of Praise' for the Saint by St Nicholas (Velimirović) in the Prologue:


Predislav stared,
The young Predislav wept,
The Queen Mother asked him,
Where does your gaze roam?
At what are you looking, Predislav?
At Saint Sava, the face of my uncle.
King Stefan, to his son, said:
To marry you off my sweet son,
Time flows and, I am aging,
Whom do you love? Tell me the name!
And Predislav, to his father, listens
And about a wife, does not want to hear.
Predislav fashions himself as a monk
With the words of Christ, he is satisfied
And, Sava the Second, he was called,
Shedding tears and then speaks:
Saint Sava, place me
On the true Evangelical path!
The King and Queen died
And also Patriarch Arsenius,
The Church remained a widow
From honors, Sava hides
Upon him descended dual honors:
He was a bishop and also a saint.

Here are the texts of the Troparion and Kontakion in Serbian, from this site, and in English, from Fr Rogich’s book, pp. 164 and 173 respectively:

Тропар, гл. 4: Уздизање вере и образ кротости, и као дрво усред раја светим делима твојим свет си просветио, због тога ка часним моштима твојим са љубављу прилазимо, целивамо их и верно ти појемо: Буди у помоћи онима који у песмама величају свету и светлу успомену твоју, милостиви светитељу, оче Саво, и молимо те да се молиш Христу Богу да спасе душе наше.

Troparion, Tone 4: As guide of the faith and example of humility, and like a plant in the midst of Paradise, thou didst enlighten the world with thy venerable deeds, O Holy Father Sava, therefore, we lovingly venerate thy relics in thy tomb, and sing piously: come to the aid of those who praise thy holy and God-bearing memory, O Blessed Holy Father Sava; we beg thee to pray for the salvation of our souls.

Кондак, гл. 8: Као сапрестолник архијереја и изврсни поштовалац светитеља си био, светитељу Саво. Сачувај домовину, породицу, град овај и народ који те поштује са вером, и славним твојим моштима се поклања, да ти велегласно кличемо: Радуј се, Саво Богомудри!

Kontakion, Tone 8: Thou didst hold the throne of hierarch, O Holy Father Sava, and as thou wast a stronghold of the saints, thou didst protect thy homeland, habitation, city, and the people who piously honored and venerated thy precious relics; therefore, let us hymn thee in unison: Rejoice, O Sava, endowed with divine wisdom!

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