Saint Saba the Hermit


Monks and hermits have always been an integral part of the Maronite Syriac Heritage.

Mar Saba is a popular saint venerated by Maronites and with many Maronite churches named after him. Mar Saba was born at Mutalaska near Caesarea in Cappadocia, 439, to noble parents.

At age eight (8), Mar Saba abandoned his life in the world and entered into the nearby monastery of Bishop Flavian of Antioch where he studied the Scriptures. His parents asked him many times to leave and be married but he refused. By age of seventeen (17), he committed his whole life to being a monk and went to Jerusalem to learn from the example of the solitaries of that country.

Mar Saba loved silence and by the age of thirty (30) decided he wanted more. He decided to spend five days a week in a remote cave in prayer and manual labour. Mar Saba later retired further into the desert towards Jericho, where he spent four years in total isolation. After Mar Saba had lived there for some time, many came to him desiring to serve God under his direction.

He was at first unwilling, but eventually founded a new Lavra (a Lavra is a cave where hermits live). The number of his disciples increased to 150, but no priest served the community.

Mar Saba received ordination in 491 AD. The reputation of his sanctity drew people from remote countries to his Lavra.

It is claimed that many miracles took place through the prayers of Mar Saba including a spring of water welling up at the Lavra during a time of drought.

His Great Lavra long continued to be the most influential monastery in those parts, and produced several distinguished monks, among them St John of Damascus. It is now known as the monastery of Mar Saba and is in modern day Palestine.


Photo: The relics of St. Sabbas in the Catholicon (main church) of Mar Saba monastery, West Bank.

Saint Saba feast day is celebrated each year on 5 December.



Editor: Diana Maroun Khoury

Updated: 24 May 2016