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The Holy Great Martyress Barbara


Com­mem­o­rat­ed on Decem­ber 4

      The Holy Great­Mar­tyress Bar­bara lived and suf­fered dur­ing the reign of the emper­or Max­imi­an (305–311). Her father, the pagan Diosko­ros, was a rich and illus­tri­ous man in the city of Phoeni­cian Heliopo­lis; ear­ly left a wid­ow­er, he con­cen­trat­ed all his atten­tion in ten­der devo­tion to his only daugh­ter. See­ing the extra­or­di­nary beau­ty of Bar­bara, Diosko­ros decid­ed to raise her con­cealed from the eyes of strangers. For this he built a tow­er, where besides Bar­bara, there were present only her pagan teach­ers. From the tow­er heights there opened up a view of God’s world of hills stretch­ing into the dis­tance. By day she was able to gaze upon the wood­ed hills, the swift­ly flow­ing rivers, and on the mead­ows cov­ered with a gay­ly mot­tled blan­ket of flow­ers; by night the har­mo­nious and majes­tic vault of the heav­ens twin­kled and pro­vid­ed a spec­ta­cle of inex­press­ible beau­ty. Soon the maid­en began to ask her­self ques­tions about the Pri­mal Cause and Cre­ator of so har­mo­nious and splen­did a world. Grad­u­al­ly she became con­vinced of the idea, that the soul-less idols – were but only the work of human hands, and though her father and teach­ers offered them wor­ship, the idols were not suf­fi­cient­ly clever and august enough to have made the sur­round­ing world. The desire to know the True God so con­sumed the soul of Bar­bara, that she decid­ed to devote all her life to this and to spend her life in virginity.
      But the fame of her beau­ty spread through­out the city, and many sought for her hand in mar­riage. But despite the endear­ing entreaties of her father, she refused. Bar­bara cau­tioned her father, that his per­sis­tence might end trag­i­cal­ly and sep­a­rate them for­ev­er. Diosko­ros decid­ed, that the tem­pera­ment of his daugh­ter had been affect­ed by her life of seclu­sion. He there­fore per­mit­ted her to leave the tow­er and gave her full free­dom in her choice of friends and acquain­tances. The maid­en thus encoun­tered in the city youth­ful con­fes­sors of faith in Christ, and they revealed to her teach­ings about the Cre­ator of the world, about the Trin­i­ty, and about the Divine Logos. Through the Prov­i­dence of God, after a cer­tain while there arrived in Heliopo­lis from Alexan­dria a priest in the guide of a mer­chant. He per­formed the sacra­ment of Bap­tism over Barbara.
      Dur­ing this while at the house of Diosko­ros a lux­u­ri­ant bath was being built. By his orders the work­ers pre­pared to put into it two win­dows on the south side. But Bar­bara, avail­ing her­self of her father’s absence, asked them to make a third win­dow, in the form of a Trin­i­ty of Light. Over the entrance of the bath-house Bar­bara pat­terned a cross, which was durably set into stone. On the stone steps of the bath-house there lat­er remained the imprint of her feet, while with­in the water-spring had dried up, appear­ing lat­er on with great heal­ing pow­er, – all which Sime­on Metaphrastes in writ­ing about the suf­fer­ings of the holy mar­tyress, com­pares with the life-cre­at­ing pow­er of the stream of Jor­dan and the Pool of Siloam. When Diosko­ros returned and expressed dis­sat­is­fac­tion about the change of his plan of con­struc­tion, his daugh­ter told him about her knowl­edge of the Tri­une God, about the sav­ing pow­er of the Son of God, and about the futil­i­ty of wor­ship­ping idols. Diosko­ros went into a rage, grabbed a sword and was on the point of strik­ing her. The maid­en fled from her father, and he rushed after her in pur­suit. His way became blocked by an hill, which opened and con­cealed the saint in a crevice. On the oth­er side of the crevice was an entrance upwards. Saint Bar­bara man­aged then to con­ceal her­self in a cave on the oppo­site slope of the hill. After a long and fruit­less search for his daugh­ter, Diosko­ros saw two shep­herds on the hill. One of them point­ed out the cave to him, where the saint had hid­den. Diosko­ros beat his daugh­ter ter­ri­bly, and then locked her under watch and tried to wear her down with hunger. Final­ly he hand­ed her over to the gov­er­nor of the city, named Mar­tianus. They beat Saint Bar­bara fierce­ly: they struck at her with ox thongs, and ground into her wounds with an hair-shirt. By night the holy maid­en prayed fer­vent­ly to her Heav­en­ly Bride­groom, and the Sav­iour Him­self appeared and healed her wounds. Then they sub­ject­ed the saint to new, and even more cru­el torments.
      Amidst the crowd stand­ing near the place of tor­ture of the mar­tyress was the Chris­t­ian Julia­nia, an inhab­i­tant of Heliopo­lis. Her heart was filled with sym­pa­thy for the vol­un­tary mar­tyr­dom of the beau­ti­ful and illus­tri­ous maid­en. Julia­nia like­wise want­ed to suf­fer for Christ. She began loud­ly to denounce the tor­tur­ers, and they seized hold of her. For a long while they tor­tured both holy mar­tyress­es: they lac­er­at­ed and tore at their bod­ies with hooks and then led them stripped through the city amidst deri­sion and jeers. Through the prayers of Saint Bar­bara the Lord sent an Angel, which cov­ered the bare­ness of the holy mar­tyress­es with splen­did garb. The stead­fast con­fes­sors of faith in Christ, Saints Bar­bara and Julia­nia, were then behead­ed. Diosko­ros him­self exe­cut­ed Saint Bar­bara. The wrath of God was not slow to pun­ish both tor­tur­ers, Mar­tianus and Diosko­ros: they were struck down by bolts of lightning.
      In the VI Cen­tu­ry the relics of the holy Great­Mar­tyress Bar­bara were trans­ferred to Con­stan­tino­ple. In the XII Cen­tu­ry the daugh­ter of the Byzan­tine emper­or Alex­is Comnenes, the princess Bar­bara, hav­ing entered into mar­riage with the Russ­ian prince Mikhail Izyaslavich, trans­ferred them to Kiev. They rest even now at the Kiev Vladimir cathedral.

© 1996–2001 by trans­la­tor Fr. S. Janos.