Feast of St. Sava I (January 14)   Leave a comment

St. Sava I and Relatives

Above:  The Family Tree of St. Sava I

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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SAINT SAVA I (1169/1174-JANUARY 14, 1235/1236)

Founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church and First Archbishop of Serbs

A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989) lists our saint as “Sava, Founder and first Archbishop of the Serbian Church.”  I have listed him as St. Sava I, for his nephew, the third Archbishop of Serbs, was St. Sava II.

St. Sava

Above:  St. Sava I

Image in the Public Domain

St. Sava I came from Serbian royalty.  His father was Stephen I, founder of the Nemanja Dynasty (1166-1371) and Grand Prince of Serbia from 1166 to 1196.  Our saint’s mother was Anna, a noblewoman of uncertain origin.  According to one tradition her father was the Byzantine Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes (reigned 1067-1071), but chronological realities make that parentage impossible.  Our saint’s given name was Rastislav, or Rastko for short.  Prince Rastislav, the youngest of three sons, entered monastic life at Mt. Athos against his parents’ wishes at age 18 and took the name Sava.

There were excellent reasons for members of Serbian royalty to enter monastic life.  Stephen I struggled with the Byzantine Empire, to whose emperor he was a vassal during a portion of his reign.  Stephen I fought Byzantine forces and allied himself with the Second Bulgarian Empire.  He joined his son as a monk at Mt. Athos in 1196, taking the monastic name Simeon.  At the same time St. Sava I’s mother, Anna, entered convent and became Anastasia.  Father and son founded the monastery of Chilandari (or Hilandar) as the center of Serbian Orthodox theological studies.  St. Sava I’s parents died in 1200.  In time the Serbian Orthodox Church canonized both of them.  The former Grand Prince became St. Simeon the Myrrh-Streaming and his consort became St. Anastasia.

St. Sava I returned to Serbia in 1207/1208, repatriated his father’s remains in the process.  The immediate task was to make peace between his quarreling older brothers.  St. Sava I remained in his homeland until 1217, serving as archimandrite, or chief abbot.  Then he returned to Mt. Athos.

Balkans 1200 CE

Above:  The Balkans and Environs after 1204 Common Era

Map Source = Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1957)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

St. Sava I founded the independent Serbian Orthodox Church in 1219, after meeting with Byzantine Emperor Theodore I Laskaris (reigned 1208-1221) and Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Manuel I Charitopoulos (reigned 1215-1222), then in exile at Nicaea.  Our saint became the first Archbishop of Serbs, a post he held until he retired in 1233.  He appointed bishops, all of whom were alumni of the Chilandari monastery.  He also ended the Serbian Church’s vacillation between allegiance to Rome and allegiance to Constantinople.  St. Sava I also encouraged the spread of education in Serbia and wrote the first original work of Serbian literature–a biography of his father.  Our saint also contended with the Bogomil heresy (900s-1400s), a form of Gnosticism.  Bogomils denied the Incarnation, baptism, the Eucharist, the priesthood, and the structure of the Orthodox Church.

St. Sava I, retired, made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  He died during the return trip, at Turnovo, Bulgaria, on January 14, 1235/1236 Old Style.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMILY DE RODAT, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE HOLY FAMILY OF VILLEFRANCHE

THE FEAST OF EDWARD BOUVERIE PUSEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Almighty God, you have enlightened your Church

by the teaching of your servant St. Sava I;

enrich it evermore with your heavenly grace,

and raise up faithful witnesses, who by their life and teaching

may proclaim to all people the truth of your salvation;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Nehemiah 8:1-10

Psalm 34:11-17

1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Matthew 5:13-19

–Adapted from A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989), page 684

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Revised on November 16, 2016

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