Sava of Krypetsk
Our father among the saints, Sava of Krypetsk, also Savva, was an ascetic monastic of the fifteenth century who founded the Monastery of St. John the Theologian on Lake Krypetsk in northwestern Russia. His example of Christian life brought many to see him to be healed. St. Sava of Krypetsk is commemorated on August 28.
Little is known of his early life. The venerable Sava was of Serbian origin who began his monastic life at Mount Athos before traveling to the north near Pskov in Russia. On Mount Snetna, near Pskov, Sava established himself as an ascetic monk at the Monastery of the Holy Birth-giver of God. Then, he moved to a more remote place along the River Tolva to the monastery of the monk Evphrosyn before he withdrew further into the Krypetsk wilderness, 10 miles from the Tolva. There, he settled alone in a small cave in the forest, on a diet of bread and water, but eating nothing on Wednesdays and Fridays. During this time of solitary life, Sava was assailed by unclean spirits over which he prevailed through prayer.
In time, those zealous for wilderness life began to gather round him and then asked him to form a monastery with a church built in honor of the Apostle John the Theologian. While agreeing, Sava refused to be igumen and entrusted the guidance of the monastery to the monk Kassian. But, he was unable to conceal his fame and prominence and became known as a starets, that is an elder, at the monastery. He taught those who came to be vigilant over their purity, reminding them of the injunction of the Apostle Paul against those who defile the body. He warned the rich and judges not to use the poor as the source of their living and to preserve rightful truth. He reminded everyone to avoid quarrels and enmity, to preserve love and peace, and to overlook the faults of others by courtesy, even as they in turn have forgiven us. Sava healed and admonished those who came, but never did he accept gifts from them.
From the very beginning of the monastery he introduced a strict life-in-common. Even as the monastery prospered the cell of the monk contained nothing save for two icons, his monastic clothing, and cot, upon which he lay down to take his rest. By such acts of poverty Sava taught the brethren. Sava commanded the brethren to work the land with their own hands.
Among those who often visited the monastery was the Prince of Pskov, Yaroslav Vasilievich Obolensky. On an occasion the prince brought his ailing wife to the saintly Sava. Upon hearing of the approach of the Prince's party, Sava sent him a message saying, "The starets, the sinner Sava, telleth thee, prince, enter not into the monastery with the princess. Such is our rule here – women are not to enter the monastery. If thou transgress this fatherly command, thy princess wilt not receive healing". Upon hearing of the rule, Prince Yaroslav asked forgiveness, as it was through ignorance that he was on the point of transgressing the rule. Sava, then, came out through the monastery gates together with the brethren and there served a molieben, after which the princess became healed.
The Monk Sava reposed on August 28, 1495, but he did not forsake the monastery. Many a time he came to its defense, as happened the night robbers approached the monastery, but then they caught sight of an august elder who held a staff in his hand and, threateningly, ordered them to repent. The following morning the robbers learned that there was no such elder at the monastery. They, then, realized that the elder had been the Monk Sava himself. This led their leader to make his repentance to the igumen and remain to live at the monastery. A man of tall stature, with a beard grey as snow, roundish and thick yet not very long, the Monk Sava appeared in the mid-sixteenth century to the monk Isaiah and showed him where to find his uncorrupted relics which were and remained miracle-working.