During my recent pilgrimage to Patmos, on my way back through Kalymnos, I venerated the incorrupt relics of an amazing ascetic and Saint of the “latter days”, our Holy Father Savvas the New of Kalymnos. I even spoke to people whose parents confessed to him and remember with tears his love, compassion and angelic purity.
I would like to share here two episodes from his life which made a big impression on me (recorded in the monastery’s edition of his life):
In Athens he met the acolyte of Saint Nektarios, who informed him that Saint Nektarios was looking for him. Based on this fact, it is assumed that the two saints had met before; in fact, most biographers agree that St Savvas was St. Nektarios’ spiritual child. Therefore, he went from Athens to Aegina in 1919, where he was with Saint Nektarios until he reposed. There he served as a priest in the Convent of the Holy Trinity. He taught the nuns iconography and ecclesiastical music. Upon the repose of Saint Nektarios in 1920, Savas witnessed the first miracle of the Saint when, after his repose, St. Nektarios leaned over so that St. Savas could attire him with his epitrahelion [ie. stole], and then the Saint returned back to his previous rigour mortis (ie. postmortem rigidity). St. Savas performed the funeral and for the first three nights he continued his communication with St. Nektarios over his grave, asking him a number of questions and listening to his answers! St. Savvas’ biographers have recorded those facts from first-hand witnesses and the stunned nuns’ testimonies.
Then, St. Savas enclosed himself in a cell for forty days where he lived in strict prayer and fasting, and emerged holding an icon of Saint Nektarios he had painted, which was the first icon of the Saint to exist. He gave the icon to the abbess ordering her to offer to the faithful for veneration. The abbess told him that this was not possible, as St Nektarios had not been yet officially canonised despite his numerous miracles from the very first moment of his repose and that such an action was not prudent and might get them in trouble with the ecclesiastical authorities and even cause the shutting down of the monastery. But St. Savas insisted that “You must obey. Take this icon and offer it for veneration and do not scrutinise God’s Ways”.
The second episode too happened again in Aegina. A young nun, Nektaria, wanted to see for one last time the face of St. Nektarios after his repose and started digging stealthily his tomb. The other nuns caught her in the act and reported her to the Abbess. She rebuked her and then sent her to St. Savas. He too rebuked her sternly and told her that her action was called grave-robbing and she should not receive Holy Communion until Holy Thursday. The young nun started to cry and beg for forgiveness, telling St. Savas that she did not know that what she had been doing was wrong and sinful. As soon as she left St. Savas’ cell, St. Nektarios appeared to St. Savas, smiling, and told him: “Elder, forgive her. She is very young. She didn’t know, she didn’t know that this was a sin. Offer her Holy Communion on Holy Thursday. Actually, offer her Holy Communion before Holy Thursday. Did you hear, Elder? Have mercy on her. She did not know. Did you hear? Thank you.”
Let us faithful praise Holy Savvas, the glory and protector of Kalymnos, and peer of the Holy Ascetics of old; for he has been glorified resplendently as a servant of Christ, with the gift of working miracles, and he bestows upon all God’s grace and mercy.
Today the island of the Kalymnians celebrates your holy memory with a rejoicing heart; for it possesses as truly God-given wealth, your sacred body that has been glorified by God, O Father Savvas, approaching which they receive health of both soul and body.
Rejoice, thou new star of the Church, the offspring of Thrace and the beauty of Kalymnos, O God-inspired Savvas, fellow citizen of angels and equal of all the saints.
You contended with the saints of old Savas,
And are glorified with them by your numerous miracles.
This angel on earth and a human in heaven was born in 1862 Herakleitsa, Eastern Thrace, Ottoman Empire and reposed in our Lord on 7 April 1947 (aged 85). He lived as a monastic and practiced the arts of Iconography and Ecclesiastical Music in the Saint Anna’s Skete (Mount Athos), the historic Monastery of Saint George Chozeba, the Convent of the Holy Trinity (Aegina), the monastery of St John the theologian and Evangelist (Patmos) and the Convent of All Saints (Kalymnos) and a number of caves and hermitages all over the world. His feast day is 7 April (25 March), The Fifth Sunday in Lent and was canonised in 1992.