Science of the Saints, 20 March, Our Venerable Fathers of the Saint Sabbas Monastery, killed by Saracens

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 75
During the eighth century the surroundings of Jerusalem were subjected to frequent incursions of the Saracens. The monastery of Saint Chariton was devastated and fell into ruin. Twice the Saracens tried to plunder the Lavra monastery of Saint Sabbas the Sanctified, but Divine Providence protected the monastery. The Lavra monks would have been able to escape the barbarian incursions by going to Jerusalem, but they decided not to forsake the spot where they had sought salvation for so many a year.

At the end of Great Lent in the week before Palm Sunday, on 13 March, the Saracens broke into the monastery and demanded all the valuables be given them. Upon receiving the reply of the monks, that in the monastery was nothing besides a scant supply of food and old clothing, the Saracens began to shoot arrows at the monastery inhabitants. Thirteen men were killed and many wounded, and monastery cells were set afire. The Saracens intended also to torch the monastery church, but seeing in the distance a throng of people, they mistook this for an army force sent out from Jerusalem. The Saracens managed to get away, carrying off the little they had succeeded to plunder. After the enemy fled, Father Thomas, an experienced physician, began to render help to those remaining alive.

On Great Thursday, 20 March, the Saracens with a yet larger force again descended upon the Lavra and began to beat up the monks. Those remaining alive were driven into the church, so as to learn from them under torture where any treasure might be hidden. The monastery was surrounded, so that no one could save themself by fleeing. The barbarians seized hold of the monk John, a quite still young monk, who before had cared for the vagrant. They beat him fiercely, then they cut through the sinews of his hands and feet and dragged him by the feet over stones with the woeful effect of tearing the skin of the back of the martyr.

The keeper of the church vessels, the Monk Sergius, hid the church-ware and attempted to flee, but he was captured and beheaded. Several of the monks nevertheless managed to hide themselves away outside the monastery in a cave, but this was spotted by a sentry on an hill and they ordered everyone to come out. Inside the cave the Monk Patricius in a whisper said to the brethren huddled with him: “Fear not, I alone on your behalf will emerge and meet my death, meanwhile sit ye and pray.” The Saracens questioned whether there was anyone else in the cave, and the monk answered that he was alone. They led him off to the Lavra church, where those yet alive awaited their fate. The Saracens demanded of them a ransom of 4,000 gold pieces and the sacred vessels. The monks were not able to give such a ransom. Then they led them around into the cave of the Monk Sabbas, located at the monastery enclosure, and in front of the entrance to the cave they set a bonfire, on which they piled up dung, so as to suffocate the imprisoned with the poisonous fumes. In the cave perished eighteen men, among which were the Monks John and Patricius. Those remaining alive the Saracens continued to torture, but getting nothing out of them, they finally left the monastery.

Later in the night on Great Friday the monks hidden in the hills returned to the Lavra, they took up the bodies of the murdered monastic fathers to the church and in grief buried them there.

The barbarians that plundered the monastery were punished by God. They fell victim to a sudden illness, in which they perished all every one, and their bodies became the spoil of wild beasts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.