Sava the Goth

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The holy, glorious and right-victorious Great Martyr Sava the Goth, also known as Sava the Romanian, is the earliest known native born martyr on Romanian soil. He was born in 334 to Christian parents in a village in the Buzău valley and his Act of Martyrdom states that he was a Goth by race.

He was brought up as a good Christian and as a youth became chanter at the church of his spiritual father the Priest St. Sansala. It is thought that he became a monk at the monastic community in the Buzău Mountains formed by refugees from Tomis who had fled the barbarian invasions there. He and St. Sava worked as monastic missionaries in the Buzău region bringing many pagan Dacians and Goths to belief in Christ.

Between 370 and 372, the Gothic King Athanaric, who had settled in Dacia and was at war with Emperor Valens, began a great persecution of Christians in his territory. The Act of Martyrdom of St. Sava states that in 372, on the third day of Pascha, the soldiers of Athanaric under the direction of an official called Atarid captured both Sts. Sava and Sansala. They bound and tortured them in an attempt to make them sacrifice to idols and to eat of those sacrifices. St. Sava was condemned to death by drowning after courageously resisting these tortures and was thrown into the Buzau river with a heavy piece of wood tied around his neck. St. Sansala also resisted the Goths' tortures but was released.

Athanaric's soldiers had wanted to release the Great Martyr, but he urged them that they should follow out their orders, saying the following. 'Fulfill the command you were given. Beyond the river I see what you cannot; I see those who wait to take my soul and bring it to the place of God's glory.' So, he was martyred on April 12 372, on the fifth day after Pascha, at the age of 38. His relics were taken by St. Sansala and hidden by the Christians until they could be sent for safety to the Roman Empire. Here they were received by Bishop Ascholius of Thessalonica.

St. Basil the Great requested of the ruler of Scythia Minor, Junius Soranus, that he should send him the relics of saints and so the Dacian priests sent the relics of St. Sava to him in Caesaria, Cappadocia, in 373 or 374 accompanied by a letter, the Epistle of the Church of God in Gothia to the Church of God located in Cappadocia and to all the Local Churches of the Holy Universal Church. This letter is the oldest known writing to be composed on Romanian soil and was written in Greek, possibly by St. Vetranion of Tomis.

In response St. Basil replied with two letters to Bishop Ascholius where he extolled the virtues of St. Sava calling him an 'athlete of Christ' and 'Martyr for the truth'. St. Sava's feast day is on the date of his martyrdom, April 12

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