Sermon of Saint Sava on the True Faith delivered at Monastery Zica, 1220
Brothers and friends and fathers and children called by God, lend your God-loving hearts to hearing the divine dogmas. And hearing these holy words place them, brothers, in your hearts and the conscience of your souls and before the eyes of your mind and understand them.
God, all merciful and lover of mankind, having immeasurable mercy for man, bowed the Heavens and descended to earth, and with His Divine Dispensation and voluntary bearing of many different sufferings to His Divine Body, enlightened the human race; and He sent to the whole world the Holy Apostles, saying: „Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit“. But since they themselves did not come to us, our fathers, hearing in truth their words, believed them. And the gracious God, Who has endless mercy and does not wish that any one of us die, by that same first commandment and same manner, according to the teaching and preaching of the Holy Apostles, elevates me to that Sainthood (Archbishopric), wanting through me to „fulfill that which is missing“ of our fathers; and through the Holy Spirit He commands me to announce this word regarding your salvation, which you, hearing it with love, keep it that we might be in communion with the order of the Fathers.
Build your deeds on the foundation of the True Faith
Therefore, brothers and children, putting all of your hope in God, I first pray that we, above all, hold to His True Faith. For, as the Apostle says, „for no other foundation can a man lay than what is laid,“ by the Holy Spirit through the Holy Apostles and God bearing Fathers, and that is – the True Faith, confirmed and preached at the holy Seven Ecumenical councils. And for this reason upon this foundation of the True Faith we need to build with gold and silver and precious stones, that is good deeds. For neither is there use in a correctness of life without the true and enlightened faith in God, nor can true confession (faith) without good deeds, bring us before the Lord, but we must have them both, that „the man of God be perfect“, that our life not falter because of the lacking (of one). For, as the Apostle says: „Faith which works by love“.
We believe, therefore, in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, singing to the Thrice Divine, Source and Creator of everything caused, visible and invisible. (The Trinity) Which is of one essence, that is nature, in three Persons, that is we speak of Hypostasis and Persons, by which we do not imply fashion or difference of three Gods or three natures or essences, but we confess One God and one simple and bodiless nature and essence, and we designate the differences of the Persons the difference in Hypostasis. Bowing down to the Trinity, One in Three Hypostasis and the Unity of the One in Essence and One in Might and Without beginning. Only Her do we recognize as Existing in Eternity, with no beginning, Uncreated, Immortal, Indestructible, Unsufferable, All-creating and (all)mighty and (all)providential.
And the One in Trinity, not the Father nor the Holy Spirit, but the Son and God born of the Father, the Word (Logos), beyond time and undivided from Him the Parent Born, and not created, One in Essence Parent and Ever-existing with Him; the Word (Logos) who through (His) goodness brought all things from non-being to being, and in hthe last days came down from the Heavens for us and our salvation and dwelt in the Virgin’s womb and united Himself with the spiritualized body, and a reasonable soul and mind received of essence of that same All Pure Virgin Mary (Theotokos). He, of one essence of Him God the Word (Logos), out of his great love for mankind deigned it, by the will of the Father and (Holy) Spirit, to save His creation. Descending from the Father’s bosom, from which He did not seperate Himself, (not even when He entered the womb of All Pure Virgin) and took upon Himself not an earlier conceived body spiritualized with a reasonable soul and mind, came (out of the Virgin) as God Incarnate. Being born inexpressibly and preserving the virginity of Her who gave Him birth unharmed, He suffered neither mingling nor change, but remained that which He was and became that which He was not. Taking upon Himself the form of a servant, in truth and not illusion He depicts us in all things, expect sin.
We know Him as perfect God and perfect Man, not another and another, but one and the same before the incarnation and after the incarnation, one complex Hypostasis; Him the One and same in two perfect natures and properties, and in two natures of will and action, both united by Hypostasis, unchanged. We confess Him, One, same will by desire and action divine (action) as God, and Him, One, same will and by desire and action human (action) as man. For He was not subject to natural needs, but was born according to (His) will, according to His will He was hungry, according to His will He was thirsty, according to His will He was tired, according to His will He was afraid, according to His will He died, in truth, and not illusion, He suffered all the natural and flawless sufferings of mankind. And He, Sinless, was crucified and tasted death, and is risen on the third day, His body not seeing decay, and His human essence unharmed and undead He resurrected and, taking it to Heaven, He sat at the right hand of the Father. And He will come again to judge the living and the dead. Just as He ascended with His body, the same way will He return and give unto everyone according to their deeds. For He says: „The dead who are in the tombs will arise and those who did good deeds“ with the true faith „will go eternal life, and those who committed evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.“
We bow down and respect….
With this, we bow down and respect and venerate the solemn icon of mankind’s Incarnation of God the Word (Logos), the anointed Divinity, remaining unchanged, so that He who through faith is anointed considers to see the very God Who appeared in the flesh and dwelled among men.
We accept the Orthodox Tradition and the heretical innovations we curse
This is (my) God-loving ones, the dogma of the Orthodox Patristic Tradition. Following them, we also believe and confess thus, and all heretics and every heresy of theirs we curse.
We accept all the seven Ecumenical councils; the first which was in Nicea, 318 holy fathers; the second, in Constantinople, 150 holy fathers; the third, earlier, in Ephesus, 200 holy fathers; the fourth in Chalcedon, 630 holy fathers, the fifth, again in Constantinople, 164 holy fathers; the sixth, again in Constantinople, 170 holy fathers. And also that one, a little later in the Metropolis of Nicea, the seventh Council 350 holy fathers, against those who renounced the holy icons and do not teach them and do not bow down before them, impiously slandering Christians. We accept all the Holy Councils which were gathered by God’s grace at various times and places for the establishment of the Orthodox evangelical teaching, which the Church accepts. And those whom the holy fathers renounce, we also renounce, and those they curse, we also curse.
For the devil has thought of many heresies at various times and periods, and many weeds of evil belief through his servants, the chief-heretics, he planted in the world for the spoilage and sickening of the true faith, which we curse, and those who invented the evil dogmas, and detest every dishonorable heresy. We, therefore, strive all the more towards every piety, taught to us by the divinely wise servants of God – the Prophets, Apostles and Saints, as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the Son of God, says, when He comes from the Father to the world, being incarnated and born a second time, of the All Pure Ever Virgin, and the dogmas of the dispensation of the Father and His beautifully fulfilled, since He was inexpressibly crucified on the Cross, and rose on the third day, and, after His Resurreciotn, remained here on earth for forty days, and since He willed to ascend to the Heavens to His Father, command His Disciples and Apostles, saying: „Go and teach all the ends of the earth, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to keep all the commandments I have given you“. And again: „Preach the Gospel to every creature. Who believes and is baptized, will be saved, and who does not believe, will be judged.“ This is, therefore, True Faith: to be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Pray to God, keeping all of His commandments
And so, we who are Christian have promised that we will pray to God at all times, (keeping the His commandments and always doing His will). For „faith without deeds is dead“, according to the words of James. Therefore, my beloved brothers and children, just as I said at the beginning, we (need) to keep (and preserve) both with fear and trembling. Keep (therefore) the word of God and the Holy Faith of Christ, and with a pure heart call on His All-pure Name and, not laxing in the holy prayers, fall down before Him, confess your sins and weep with tears before Him and singing to Him and singing in your hearts always, day and night, ceaselessly. For God, when people confess Him and pray to Him, assures man Himself and spiritually enters by faith into the hearts of listen well to His teaching. For, spiritual teaching is not a game, nor words of the thoughts of insane people, but it is the preached Holy Faith of God on which are founded the Holy Ranks in Christ our Lord, of whom the Prophets prophesied through the Holy Spirit of God, and the Apostles taught, and the Martyrs confessed, and all the Saints preserved, and the Venerable Fathers zealously as the undivided cornerstone of the Church, of Christ who is the Wisdom and Power of the Father – (and having kept that) by the Holy Spirit and powerfully and mightily and firmly and surely in the faith – and Who assures many to this day and establishes them and assures all of His Divine Faith. He, the All-gracious Lover of man, reaches even to us with His rich mercy, correcting that which we are missing, wanting as the true Pastor to gather us, the misguided sheep, to (His) heavenly sheepfold. Reaching that sheepfold with the eyes of our soul and mind, we always pray to Him, surrendering to Him at every hour, and confessing to Him, as He Himself gives us to state or think of and preserve it unspoken. And, having done His will, we will receive from Him salvation in this age and the next, if we faithfully preserve His commandments, which the Lord Himself commanded us to keep and promised us a heavenly reward, saying: „Truly I tell you: Whoever keeps My word will never see death“.
The Gift of Christ is – that we never die
Yes, my beloved children, what is more reliable and righteous than these words to which Christ Himself testifies and confirms? What is better than this: to never taste of death? For, it only this not tasting of death is already far from sin, for through the tasting of sin the taste of death entered into all of mankind to the time of Christ. For that reason did He taste of death, He who is sinless and immortal according to His first birth by the Father, but He tasted of it for us, and He suffered, so that through faith in Him we taste of immortality, as the Prophet said: „Taste and see that the Lord is good“. Therefore, He (the Lord) is very good and righteous and faithful to all of His words, and all of His deeds are in faith. For this reason, my beloved children, we who love Him should do deeds of faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord, receiving from Him Immortal Faith, such a gift that we never die!
Thus, if you preserve this, you will be blessed (by God) throughout the ages, and your hearts will be blessed, and your souls will be blessed and blessed will be you who have received the Faith of God and preserved it in purity. Looking upon the Immortal Gift of Christ, always do good deeds in Christ: a pure faith and pray often, having love and hope in Him, and a clear conscious before God and man, fast and vigil, laying on the ground, truth in all things, a bodily purity and an abstinence of the soul, preserving the mind of Holy Baptism – the Enlightenment of God, by which we renounced Satan and all his ministers. And always love repentance and confession of your sins and weeping over them, humility and patience, righteousness, teaching, correcting your lives, hatred for sin, and not drunkedness and not fornication, but, on the contrary, a pure life, pleasing in the eyes of God.
That it be good to you and your sons
For God is one from the beginning and in the endless centuries. And this is the first commandment said to those that love Him: “love the Lord God with your whole heart, your whole mind and your whole soul and all of your strength“. And may these words, which I command you today, be written on your hearts and souls, that you fear the Lord God Almighty and Him alone serve with fear and trembling and Him only offer glory and honor, and only Him give your fidelity to, and do not swear by His Name, but may your words – as the Apostle says – “yes be yes, and no be no“. And, in general, may no other god be mentioned other than He who created the heavens and the earth. To nothing „offer worship or serve from Heaven above or on the earth below and what is in the waters or beneath the ground“ other than your Lord God, in whom you were baptized and believe, and renounced yourselves of secret shame, and have become communicants of His „Good Faith“ and co-participants of His Immortality. Be with Him relentlessly for „before His eyes everything is revealed“ as the Apostle says, „our God is a fire which consumes“; and „visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation, to those who love Him and keep His commandments”. For He is “God of gods and Lord of lords, God who is great and mighty and awesome”. Yes, “keep His commandments and carry out before His eyes all the words which He has commanded you”, “that it be well for you and your sons after you, that they live eternally, if you do good and that which is well pleasing before your Lord God” to Whom be glory and without beginning to the ages without end. Amen.