My beloved spiritual children in Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
ON DECEMBER 4TH OUR HOLY ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH COMMEMORATES THE FEAST-DAY OF SAINT BARBARA THE GREAT MARTYR AND THE VENERABLE SAINT JOHN DAMASCENE
The history of our Holy Orthodox Church is full of examples of individuals who dedicated their lives to God. Their stories are different and vary, yet the one thread that links them all is their unconditional love for our Savior Jesus Christ. They endured whipping, stoning, and other forms of torture because of their great faith. Some, were fed to wild animals, others were beheaded, yet, even when faced with this enormous threat to deny Christ, they stood firm and fearless even to torture and death.
One such heroine, a young woman named Barbara, lived in the city of Heliopolis in the beginning of the 3rd century. She was a very beautiful and intelligent young lady and the daughter of Dioscorus, who was a wealthy nobleman and a committed pagan. In his zeal to protect his young daughter, Dioscorus built an awesome tower with every material luxury, the best food, clothing, servants and teachers, but forbade her to have friends and even speak to anyone without his permission. Barbara was a bright and intelligent girl who was respectful and obedient to her father's wishes and remained in the tower, without complaint, even during his frequent business trips. Dioscorus's intentions were simple - he wanted to surround her with the greatest comforts; with the best education of the time, and with the best instructors who would instructor on the pagan religion. He believed that by keeping her secluded from the world, she would grow up and be a dedicated pagan like him.
One day, before leaving on one of his many trips, Dioscorus decided to build a bathhouse for Barbara next to her tower. He drew up plans and left strict orders for the builders to follow. Dioscorus' business however, kept him away for an unusually long time, so that the workers were over half finished with the bathhouse and he had still not returned home. It was around this time that St. Barbara came down from the tower to inspect the new structure. She noticed that it had only two windows, and thought to herself that the pool would have more light if there were three windows. She, therefore, instructed the workers to add a third window. Remembering Dioscorus's stern orders, the workers were afraid to deviate from the original plans, but Saint Barbara convinced them that she would assume full responsibility for the change. The workers, aware of the love that Dioscorus had for his only daughter, agreed and place a third window in the bathhouse.
One day, when the construction was nearly completed, Saint Barbara stood by the pool facing the east and said, "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit," and she miraculously drew the sign of the Cross on the marble wall of the bathhouse with her finger. She then returned to her tower where she spent her time fasting and praying.
When her father Dioscorus returned home he immediately saw the additional window in the bathhouse and became extremely angry. He entered the bathhouse, to inspect it further, and then noticed the large cross, engraved on the marble wall. He became furious. He quickly went to the workers and demanded to know who gave them permission to make changes to his plans for the bathhouse. The workers, cowering in the face of such anger, replied that Barbara instructed them to add the third window and then drew the cross on the marble wall with her finger.
Dioscorus immediately confronted his daughter and demanded to know why she had altered his plans. In a furious rage he cursed her for disobeying him and insisted on knowing the meaning behind the additional window. Saint Barbara responded in a very loving way to her father that indeed the three windows represented the Three Lights which guide everyone who comes into the world. The young Christian proceeded to explain and confess her faith in God the Holy Trinity.
Upon hearing Saint Barbara's confession of faith, Discorus became enraged! His plan of keeping his daughter in darkness had failed! Even though she had no 'human' teacher to bring her to the knowledge of the True God's existence, St. Barbara's mind, heart and soul were opened by the grace of God to feel His Divine presence. Secretly, she was able to meet with Christians who spoke to her about Jesus Christ and His Sacred Teachings. Convinced of the Truth concerning the Savior, she became a Christian whose love for God inspired all who heard of her.
Blinded by his hatred and anger, Dioscorus delivered his daughter Barbara to Marcian, the pagan Roman Prefect, to torture her until she denied Christ. Saint Barbara was stripped and struck with whips and clubs until she was standing in a pool of her own blood. To increase the agony, the soldiers rubbed vinegar into her wounds. Through all this, Saint Barbara stood steadfast in her Christian faith and would refuse to deny her beloved Savior Jesus Christ.
Saint Barbara then was thrown into prison and ordered to return the following day. While in her prison cell, the Saint knelt in prayer to ask the Almighty God to grant her strength that she needed to remain faithful, and as she prayed her heart was filled with divine joy and her wounds were completely healed. In a nearby prison cell, was another pious young Christian woman named Juliana, who because of her own faith in Christ, was also imprisoned. Upon witnessing the miraculous healing of Saint Barbara, Juliana praised God and promised to endure whatever terrible tortures that were facing her because of her faith.
The next day, Saint Barbara was brought before the pagan Prefect. He was amazed to see that her wounds had healed and demanded her to deny Christ. Her refusal angered the Prefect, who commended her body to be hung on a stake and ripped with iron claws. The soldiers then burned her wounds with hot irons and beat her head with spiked rods. Yet through it all, Saint Barbara found strength and comfort in prayer.
Juliana witnessed Saint Barbara's torment and wept bitterly over her inability to help her. When Marcian saw this, he ordered that Juliana be brought forward and tortured in an effort to have her renounce her faith in Jesus Christ. Saint Juliana refused and the horrible beatings resumed and continued for many hours while the young Christian women stood praying and chanting hymns glorifying to God. Their refusal to renounce their Christian faith only further enraged the pagan Prefect and he ordered that the two girls be taken out of the city and killed.
When Dioscorus, who was watching his daughter's torture, heard Marcian pronounce the death sentence, he offered to execute Saint Barbara himself with his own sword. Saint Barbara and Saint Juliana were then led out of the city to a mountainside were they were beheaded--Saint Barbara, by her own father, and Saint Juliana by an executioner. As the two men hurried down the mountainside, a great bolt of lightning came from heaven striking Dioscorus and killing him, another bolt killed Saint Juliana's executioner. When the cowardly Marcian, the Roman Prefect, heard of these events, he became so paralyzed by fear that he died of fright.
Saint Barbara the Great Martyr gained her crown of martyrdom on December 4, 306 A.D. and joined her true Father in Heaven.
Through the holy intercessions of the women Martyrs, Saint Barbara and Saint Juliana, O Lord, have mercy on us and saves us. Amen.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of St. Barbara. In the Fourth Tone
Let us praise the most honorable Barbara. She thwarted the enemy's power, and through the might and strength of the Cross, she was made free in her flight to God.
SAINT JOHN DAMASCENE
Saint John was born in 7th century Damascus, Syria, into a Christian family. Saint John's father, Sergius, found a learned monk to teach his son John and his adopted brother, Cosmas. The children studied secular and spiritual subjects, as well as music. Saint John made great progress in theology. At last the monk departed, saying that John and Cosmas had become remarkably wise. Sergius soon died, and John was chosen to take his Office as a Treasurer at the court of the Caliph. During this time, John wrote three treatises against the iconoclasts (the enemies of holy icons) and the Emperor Leo the Isaurian. His letters were circulated to the people to strengthen and prepare them to answer the attacks of the heretics. The enraged Emperor wrote a counterfeit letter under St. John's name that was sent to the Caliph. The Caliph removed John from his post, and had his right hand cut off, and led him through the city in chains. That night, the cut off hand was returned to the Saint. He prayed for healing before the holy icons of the Mother of God, known as the "Theotokos of the Three Hands." As he slept, he heard the Mother of God telling him that he had been healed, and commanded him to unceasingly write with his healed hand. When the Caliph learned of this great miracle, he freed Saint John and asked forgiveness. Saint John and his brother Cosmas entered the Monastery of Saint Sava the Sanctified in Jerusalem. Until the end of his days, Saint John wrote canons, troparia, and festal homilies for feast days. He established the Typikon, the order of services, and wrote a collection and summary of the Dogmatic teachings of the Holy Fathers. He fell asleep in the Lord peacefully at 104 years of age.
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--St. John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God