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December 5

St Sabbas - December 5

Saint Sabbas

Abbot, Hermit, Founder

(439 – 532)

“The emperor does his duty, and we must do ours.”

Saint Sabbas leaving the Emperor to recite his prayers

Saint’s Life Story

His Early Life

Sabbas was born the son of John, a military commander, and Sophia, in 439 in Motalala, Cappadocia (present day Kayseri, Turkey).  Journeying to Alexandria on military matters, his parents left Sabbas in the care of an uncle.  This uncle’s wife used the child so harshly that, three years after, he went to an uncle called Gregory, brother to his father, hoping there to live in peace. Gregory having the care of the child, demanded also the administration of his estate, whence great law suits and animosities arose between the two uncles. After an unhappy childhood in which he was abused and ran away several times, Sabbas, at the age of eight years old,  finally sought refuge in the nearby monastery of Bishop Flavian of Antioch. The gifted child quickly learned to read and became an expert on the Holy Scriptures. Although the youngest monk in the house, he excelled in virtue. Sabbas resisted his parents’ pressure to return to the world and enter into marriage.

His Monastic Life

When Sabbas was 17 years old, he received monastic tonsure. At age 18, Sabbas travelled to Jerusalem, seeking to learn more about living in solitude. Soon, he asked to be accepted as a disciple and spiritual student of a well-known local solitary, Saint Euthymius the Great. At the age of 20,  he was regarded as too young to live completely as a hermit. Initially, Sabbas lived in a Monastery, where he worked during the day and spent much of the night in prayer.  He spent ten years at the monastery of Bishop Flavian. 

An Achorite

 At the age of 30, Sabbas was given permission to spend five days each week in a nearby remote cave. He devoted himself to prayer and manual labor. Sabbas wove ten willow baskets each day. On Saturday, he would take them to the local monastery, led by Saint Euthymius. There Sabbas would trade them for a week’s food and a week’s worth of willow wands for more baskets.

Moved Near Jericho – Further into the Desert

Following the death of his mentor, Saint Euthymius, Sabas moved farther into the desert near Jericho. There, he lived for several years in a cave near the brook Cedron. A rope was his means of access. Wild herbs among the rocks were his food. Occasionally men brought him other food and items, while he had to go a distance for his water.  Some of these men came to him desiring to join him in his solitude. At first, Sabbas refused. But not long after, relenting, his followers swelled to more than 150, all of them living in individual huts grouped around a church, called a laura.

Heroically Devoted

Sabbas was a simple man with little education, but with a firm belief in the spiritual benefits of simple living. The combination of his lack of education and his severe austerities caused some of his charges to rebel. Sabbas tired of the squabbling, so missing his time in prayer, he fled to TransJordania. There, he found a cave inhabited by a lion. The lion moved on, finding a new home, and gave the cave to Sabbas. A distorted version of this tale reached the rebellious monks. They seized on this story, reporting to the patriarch that Sabbas had been killed by a lion, and requested a new leader be appointed. As this message was being formally presented to the patriarch, Sabbas walked into the room. This led to a confrontation during which the complaints of the monks were aired. However, the patriach took Sabbas’s side, and the two restored order and discipline to the lives of the anchorites.

Abbot – But Still Called to Live as a Hermit

The bishop persuaded a reluctant Sabas, then in his early 50s, to prepare for the priesthood so that he could better serve his monastic community in leadership. While functioning as abbot among a large community of monks, he felt ever called to live the life of a hermit. Throughout each year—consistently in Lent—he left his monks for long periods of time, often to their distress. A group of 60 men left the monastery, settling at a nearby ruined facility. When Sabas learned of the difficulties they were facing, he generously gave them supplies and assisted in the repair of their church.

His Death

Sabbas led a peaceful uprising of 10,000 monks who demanded the end of the persecutions of Palestinian bishops of Anastatius I.  Over the years, Sabbas traveled throughout Palestine, preaching the true faith and successfully bringing back many to the Church.  At age 90, Sabbas travelled to Constantinople where he successfully pled for clemency from Justinian for Samarians who were in revolt. He fell ill. Soon after his return, Sabbas died on December 5, 432, at the monastery at Mar Saba near Bethlehem, Israel. 

]Bethlehem Israel Founded by Saint Sabbas
Mar Saba Monastery near Bethlehem Israel Founded by Saint Sabbas


Today, the monastery is still inhabited by monks of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Monastery of Mar Saba long continued to be the most influential in those parts and produced several distinguished Monks, among them Saint John Damascene. Saint Sabbas is regarded as one of the most noteworthy figures of early monasticism.

Born:                   439 in Motalala, Cappadocia (present day Kayseri, Turkey)

Died:                    December 5, 532 at the monastery at Mar Saba near Bethlehem, Israel

Beatified:           Pre-Congregation

Canonized:        Pre-Congregation

Feast Day:         December 5

Patron Saint:    None



Although we may want some peace and quiet at times, most of us do not have a strong desire to get that peace and quiet by living in cave in the desert eating wild herbs like Saint Sabbas.  Even in the solitude of the desert, Saint Sabbas gained a following and a community that needed his leadership. Saint Sabbas stands as a model of patient generosity for anyone whose time and energy are required by others. And these days – that probably applies to all of us.

Do you have a friend, spouse, family member or co-worker demanding your help when you just want a some “down”time? Pray for the intercession of Saint Sabbas to give you the strength to assist those who need you today.


Saint Sabbas, you engaged in prayer and manual labour leaving your fellow monks for long periods of time, especially during Lent. However, when you learned of the difficulties a group of 60 men, who left the Monastery, faced settling at a nearby ruined facility, you did not hestiate to generously give them supplies and assist them in the repair of their Church. Saint Sabbas help us distinguish between time for prayer and time for action aiding others.  Both of these times are needed for us to grow in our faith.

Saint Sabbas, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Links 

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – 5 December – St Sabbas (439–532) – Rev. Alban Butler Volume XII: December. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. December 5 St. Sabas, Abbot

Catholic Lane – St. Sabas, Abbot

Catholic Online – St. Sabas

CatholicSaints.Info – Saint Sabbas of Mar Saba

Franciscan Media – Saint Sabas

New Advent – Ott, M. (1912). St. Sabbas. In The Catholic Encyclopedia

Saints, Feast, Family – Saint Sabas’ Story

Saint Mary’s Press – Saint Sabas (439-532)

Saint of the Day – December 5 St. Sabas

Sanctoral – Saint Sabas Patriarchal Abbot in Palestine (439-531)

uCatholic – Saint Sabas

Wikipedia – Lidwina

Video Link