Monday, December 17, 2012

Saint Barbara (285-303)

Barbara was born in a city of the eastern Roman Empire around AD 285. Her father was a rich Olympian named Dioscorus.

Dioscorus was very controlling. While providing his daughter with every comfort, he forced her to live alone in one tower of his large house. That way he could control all people and information getting to her.

Dioscorus especially wanted to prevent Barbara from learning about Jesus. By that time, the number of Christians in the empire had increased to the point that serious doubts about the Olympian gods were being raised. Dioscorus, a devout Olympian, believed that the Olympian gods kept Rome strong. He did not want his daughter to have any doubts about this.

Despite his best efforts, he failed. Dioscorus allowed Juliana, the daughter of a fellow Olympian aristocrat, to visit his daughter. Unbeknownst to him or her father, Juliana was a Christian. Barbara, hearing Jesus through the words of Juliana, decided to devote her life to Jesus despite her father’s known disapproval.

By 303, leading Olympians in the Empire, including Dioscorus, felt so challenged by the witness of Christians to Jesus that they came to believe all Christians must be murdered. They were able to persuade Diocletian, the Roman emperor, to issue an edict calling for the death of Christians and the destruction of Bibles and church buildings. This led to the most severe and widespread persecution of Christians in Roman times.

It was at this time that Barbara told her father that she was a Christian. He was so angry that he hauled her before the local police chief. The chief had her imprisoned to please her important father. He also had her tortured to force her to renounce her devotion to Jesus.

She didn’t. Soon she was formally sentenced to death. Her father himself beheaded his own daughter with his own sword. She died on December 17, 303. Her friend Julianna was also imprisoned, tortured, and executed.

After murdering his daughter, Dioscorus was on his way home when he was struck by lightning and died.

Barbara’s body was buried by a Christian friend named Valentinus. At some point in time, her bones were taken to Constantinople. From there, they traveled around 1150 to St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery in Kiev (in today’s Ukraine). In the 1930s they were moved across the city to St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral.

For centuries, Christians have prayed to Saint Barbara for protection against lightning, fevers, explosions, and sudden death.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.