Sabbas the Father Confessor of Mount Athos
Elder Sabbas the Father Confessor of Mount Athos (1821 — 1908) was a hieromonk at Mount Athos. He was known for his spiritual gifts of counsel and prophecy.
Little is known about the early life of Elder Sabbas. At Mount Athos, he lived with his Elder, Fr. Hilarion, at the kellia of Apostle James near the Monastery of St. Dionysios. Elder Hilarion reposed in 1864.
Then Elder Sabbas moved to the Monastery St. Dionysios and became known to the brethren for his spiritual gifts. But he desired stillness and settled in the kellia of the Resurrection near the Little Skete of St. Anna. Soon five more people gathered there and became his disciples. Every day he served the Divine Liturgy and then he received many people for confession, especially during the Great Lent.
His forbearance, generosity, the ability to conciliate, console, instruct on the right path, together with the sanctity of life, made father Sabbas an incomparable confessor. He knew when he ought to be condescending and when - moderate, when - strict and precise. He treated the contrite and humble souls very leniently. But when he saw the emotional recalcitrance, he avoided making concessions. Then he acted according to the canons of the Church, but it was always done in a nice way, so that the people obeyed the canon without the slightest disturbance. Especially he could be strict with those who caused any damage to their neighbor.
Elder Sabbas was very strict in matters that concerned the priesthood. If a candidate to the clergy had an obstacle in the form of some sin, Father Sabbas in no case showed him compassion and mercy. Conversely, if any cleric fell into serious sin, the Elder knew that beforehand. - Father - he said to him - take off your epitrachelion not to aggravate the soul even more.
Many people remember emotional ease after a confession to the Elder. For some people, the Elder even named himself all their sins for the whole life.
In 1889, the Elder visited the Holy Land: Jerusalem, the river of Jordan, the Monastery of St. Sabbas. Many people who heard about him, wanted to confess their sins. At the Monastery of St. Sabbas, Elder Sabbas accepted confession from all monks.
Besides the gift of counsel, Elder Sabbas had the power over demons. He helped many people who suffered from demon possession and prelest.
In particular, Elder Sabbas helped to reveal the delusion of one hierodeacon. This story is also available in a letter of Elder Daniel Katounakiotis to Markianus "About rejection of dreams" (in: Angelic Living). Elder Daniel wrote about this as an example that sometimes it is very difficult to reveal the demonic tricks. That hierodeacon was young and arbitrarily started to pray a lot in the night with many prostrations. And then he started to see visions and receive revelations about the sins of other brethren. Though he confessed everything, nobody of the confessors understood the delusion because he looked humble and was making the sign of the Cross during the visions. At first, Elder Sabbas did not understand what was going on. He advised: "I have some thought in my mind. If you have a true vision of Christ and Angels, ask what I was thinking of because only the Lord knows everything." During the next vision, that hierodeacon asked imaginary "Christ" about that and the delusion was revealed. Even though the visions ceased after repeated exorcism, the soul of that hierodeacon was seriously injured. Elder Daniel Katounakiotis writes that later he gave up all his monastic vows.
During the Great Lent of 1908, the Elder became very weak. On April 4, 1908, the Friday of the 6th week of the Great Lent, Elder Sabbas served his last Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts. He partook of Holy Communion, blessed the disciples and several hours later reposed in the Lord.