Today we return to our regularly scheduled Saint of the Week business. For this week’s saint I’m going to go way back in Church history to the third Century (200s AD) and even cross some traditions. This saint is an officially recognized saint in the Eastern Orthodox tradition and he is remembered on April 24th.
This week’s saint is Sava (or Sabbas) Stratelates.
Sava was from a Gothic tribe and served in the Roman military. He had attained the rank of “stratelates” or general in the Roman army. Tradition says that Sava had been a Christian since his youth. He was known not only for his military service but also for helping the needy, visiting Christians in prison and even for healing the sick and casting out demons.
The emperor Aurelian heard Sava was a Christian and asked him to recant his faith. This was probably due to Aurelian’s efforts to unify Roman religion around the Roman god Sol Invictus or the “Unconquered Sun”. It probably did not sit well with Aurelian that one of his generals worshiping a god other than what was encouraged by the emperor. Sava, however, did not recant and instead threw down his officer’s belt (effectively resigning from the Roman military) and declaring he would never recant and forsake his faith. This obviously did not sit well with Aurelian and those who had come to hear him recant. Sava was apprehended, he was beaten, flogged, burned with torches and thrown into a large cauldron filled with tar. Sava miraculously survived all this and even through the torture he refused to recant. Because of his faithfulness it is said that 70 other soldiers became followers of Christ that day. Those 70 soldiers were beheaded for their new faith and Sava was throw into prison. That night while in prison, Sava saw a vision of Christ that encouraged him to stand firm, remain faithful and to not fear. The next morning he was tortured even more and was eventually drowned in the Tiber river a around the year 272 AD.
I pray that, like Sava, we would have the faith to stand up when our faith is challenged. I pray that when challenged, we would not respond with violence, anger, hatred or slander. I pray we would throw down our weapons and pick up our cross to follow Christ as Sava demonstrated. I pray that when asked to choose between allegiance to earthly leaders, countries, military or ideals over Christ that we would humbly remain faithful to Christ.