Advent Saints: Saint Sabas, Abbot

Saint Sabas of Mar Saba5 December

The Roman Church confines herself to-day to the Office of the Feria; but to that she joins a Commemoration of Saint Sabas, Abbot of the celebrated Laura of Palestine, which still exists under his name. This Saint, who died in 533, is the only one of the Monastic Order of whom the Church makes any mention in her Liturgy during the whole period of Advent; we might even say that he is the only simple Confessor whose name occurs in the Calendar of this part of the year; for, as regards Saint Francis Xavier, the glorious title of Apostle of the Indies puts him in a distinct class of Saints. Here again we should recognise Divine Providence, which has selected, for these days of preparation for Christmas, those Saints whose characteristic virtues would make them our fittest models in this work of preparation. We have the feasts of Apostles, Pontiffs, Doctors, Virgins: Jesus, the Man-God, the King and Spouse of men, is preceded by this magnificent procession of the noblest of his servants: simple Confession has but a single representative, the Anchoret and Cenobite Sabas, who, by his profession of the monastic life is of that family of holy solitaries, which began with the Prophet Elias under the Old Testament, and continued up to the time of Saint John the Precursor, who was one of its members, and will continue on during the New Covenant until the last Coming of Jesus. Let us, then, honour this holy Abbot, towards whom the Greek Church professes a filial veneration, and under whose invocation Rome has consecrated one of her Churches. Let us beg his prayers by this Collect of the holy Liturgy:

Collect

May the intercession, we beseech you, O Lord, of the blessed Abbot Sabas, recommend us to you; that what we cannot hope for through our own merits we may obtain by his prayers. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

O Sabas, you man of desires! in your expectation of that Lord, who has bid his servants watch until he come, you withdrew into the desert, fearing lest the turmoil of the world might distract your mind from its God. Have pity on us who are living in the world, and are so occupied in the affairs of that world, and yet who have received the commandment which you did so take to heart, of keeping ourselves in readiness for the Coming of our Saviour, and our Judge. Pray for us, that when he comes, we may be worthy to go out to meet him. Remember also the Monastic State, of which you are one of the brightest ornaments; raise it up again from its ruins; let its children be men of prayer and faith, as of old; let your spirit be among them, and the Church thus regain, by your intercession, all the glory which is reflected on her from the sublime perfection of this holy State.


Advent Reflection

Let us look again at the Prophecy of Jacob. The holy Patriarch not only foretells that the Messias will be the Expectation of nations; he adds, that when this promised Deliverer comes, the sceptre will have been taken away from Juda. (Genesis 49:10) This oracle is now filled. The flag of Caesar Augustus floats on the ramparts of Jerusalem. The Temple is still untouched; the abomination of desolation stands not yet in the holy place; sacrifices are there still offered up to God: but then, the true Temple of God, the Incarnate Word, has not yet been built; the Synagogue has not denied Him, who was her expectation; the Victim, that was to supersede all others, has not been immolated. Yet, Juda has no Chief of her own race; Caesar's coin is current throughout all Palestine; and the day is not far off when the leaders of the Jewish people will own, in the presence of the Roman Governor, that they have not the power to put any man to death. (John 18:31) So that there is now no King upon the throne of David and Solomon, that throne which was to abide for ever. O Jesus! Son of David, and King of Peace, now is the time when you must show thyself, and take possession of the Sceptre which has been taken in battle from the hand of Juda, and put, for a time, into that of an Emperor. Come! for you are King, and the Psalmist, your ancestor, thus sang of you: "Gird your sword upon your thigh, O you most Mighty! With your comeliness and your beauty set out, proceed prosperously, and reign, because of truth and meekness and justice, and your right hand shall conduct thee wonderfully. Thy arrows are sharp: under thee shall people fall: your arrows shall go into the hearts of the King's enemies. Thy throne is for ever and ever; the sceptre of the kingdom is a sceptre of uprightness. . . . . God, your God, hath anointed thee, Christ! who tahest thence your name, with the oil of gladness above your fellows, who have been honoured with the name of King." (Psalm 44) When you come, O Messias! men will be no more as sheep going astray without a shepherd; there will be but one fold, in which you will reign by love and justice, for all power will be given unto you in heaven and on earth. When, in the hour of your Passion, your enemies shall ask you: Are you King? you will answer them in all truth: Verily, I am. (John 18:37) Come, dearest King, and reign over our hearts; come, and reign over this world, which is yours because you created it, and will soon be yours because you will have redeemed it. Reign, then, over this world, and delay not the manifestation of your royal power until the day of which it is written: he will break Kings in the day of his wrath; (Psalm 109) reign from this very hour, and let all people fall at your feet and adore you in one grand homage of love and obedience.


Sequence for the Time of Advent

• O you that in the might of your right hand, alone rules over all sceptres,
• Raise up your great power, and show it to the people,
• To whom grant the gifts of salvation.
• Jesus, whom the oracles of the prophet fortold,
• Send him from the bright palace of heaven,
• Send him, O Lord, into our land.
• Amen.

- composed in the 11th century; taken from ancient Roman-French missals


- from the book The Liturgical Year: Advent, by the Very Reverend Dom Prosper Gueranger, Abbot of Solesmes, translated from the French by the Revered Dom Laurence Shepherd, Monk of the English-Benedictine Congregation, 2nd edition; published in Dublin Ireland by James Duffy, 15 Wellington-Quay, 1870