St. Sabas was born in 439 to parents who didn’t want him. His father, an army officer, traveled widely, taking the boy’s mother with him. Sabas was entrusted to an uncle who mistreated him. He ran away twice and at age 10 sought peace and quiet in a monastery. There he learned of the Lord.

Ten years later the young man traveled to Jerusalem, intrigued by reports of religious hermits and monks who lived in the Palestinian deserts. The ascetic, St. Euthymius, became his mentor but refused his requests for total solitude. When Sabas reached age 30, he again begged Euthymius for a life of silence. This time he was allowed to spend five days a week in a remote cave in prayer and manual labor. Every Sunday night Sabas would leave the monastery carrying bundles of palm twigs, and every Saturday morning he would return with 50 baskets he had made.

When Euthymius died, Sabas retired into a cave near the brook Cedron. He lived there, totally separated from human interaction, for years. But at length pilgrims began disturbing him, coming for counsel, wanting to become his disciples. Sabas consented at last and formed a community of ascetics. Soon 100 hermits were cloistered together. Sabas, by then 53 years old, was ordained a priest. Hospitals and inns were built, and benevolent ministries were established. In 493, the patriarch of Jerusalem appointed Sabas head of all the hermits of Palestine.

Sabas found himself in demand from his own monks and by the church at large. Several heresies were threatening, and Sabas became a powerful advocate for orthodoxy. He journeyed to Constantinople to instruct the emperor on doctrinal matters, and he traveled widely preaching the faith and defending orthodoxy.

He was 91 when he made his last journey to Constantinople to intervene with the emperor about political repression in Palestine. His mission was successful, and he returned to his community of monks where he fell sick and asked for peace and quiet. He lingered four days, then died on December 5, 532, at age 94.

In the desert someone is shouting, ‘Get the road ready for the Lord! Make a straight path for him. Fill up every valley and level every mountain and hill. Straighten the crooked paths and smooth out the rough roads. Then everyone will see the saving power of God.’ ” (Luke 3:4b-6)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Dec 5.

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