December 4, 2017: ST. BARBARA
December 4, 2017: COMMEMORATION OF ST. BARBARA, VIRGIN AND MARTYR
O immeasurable mercy of divine goodness, which did enlighten Barbara with the brightness of the true light, making her worthy, by her contempt for what was dazzling in earthly grandeur, to be admitted to a union with God! As the lily among thorns, as light in darkness, so shone Barbara. Alleluia!
O God, who, amongst other miracles of thy power, hast bestowed the crown of martyrdom even on the weaker sex: mercifully grant, that we, who solemnize the feast of blessed Barbara, thy Virgin and Martyr, may by following her example, come to thee. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
Although, in the Roman Liturgy, St. Barbara is merely commemorated in the Office of St. Peter Chrysologus; yet the Church has approved an entire Office for the use of those Churches which honour the memory of this illustrious Virgin in a special manner. The Legend which follows, although of considerable weight, has not, consequently, the authority of those which are promulgated for the use of the whole Church, in the Roman Breviary. Let us not, on this account, be the less fervent in honouring this glorious Martyr, so celebrated in the East, and whose feast has been for so many ages admitted, with more or less solemnity, into the Roman Church. The Acts of her martyrdom, though not of the highest antiquity, contain nothing in them but what redounds to the glory of God and the honour of the Saint… Let us admire the constancy wherewith this Virgin waited for her Lord, who came at the appointed hour, and was for her, as the Scripture speaks, a Spouse of blood, because he put the strength of her love of him to the severest of all tests.
Barbara, a Virgin of Nicomedia, the daughter of Dioscorus, a nobleman, but a superstitious pagan, came readily, by the assistance of divine grace, from the contemplation of the visible things of creation to the knowledge of the invisible.
Wherefore, she devoted herself to God alone and to the things of God. Her father, desirous to preserve her from all danger of insult, to which he feared her great beauty might expose her, shut her up in a tower. There the pious virgin passed her days in meditation and prayer, studying to please God alone, whom she had chosen as her Spouse. She courageously rejected several offers of marriage, which were made to her, through her father, by rich nobles. But her father hoped, that by separating himself by a long absence from his child, her intentions would easily change. He first ordered that a bath should be built for her in the tower, so that she might want for nothing; and then he set out on a journey into distant countries.
During her father's absence, Barbara ordered that to the two windows already in the tower a third should be added, in honour of the blessed Trinity; and that on the edge of the bath the sign of the most holy Cross should be drawn. When Dioscorus returned home, and saw these changes, and was told their meaning, he became so incensed against his daughter, that he went in search of her with a naked sword in his hand, and, but for the protection of God, he would cruelly have murdered her. Barbara had taken to flight: an immense rock opened before her, and she found a path by which she reached the top of a mountain, and there she hid herself in a cave. Not long after, however, she was discovered by her unnatural father, who savagely kicked and struck her, and dragging her by the hair over the sharp rocks, and rugged ways, he handed her over to the governor Marcian, that he might punish her. He, therefore, having used every means to shake her constancy, and finding that all was in vain, gave orders that she should he stripped and scourged with thongs, the wounds to be then scraped with potsherd, and so dragged to prison. There Christ, surrounded by an immense light, appearing to her, strengthened her in a divine manner for the sufferings she was yet to endure. A matron, named Juliana, who witnessed this, was converted to the faith, and became her companion in the palm of martyrdom.
At length Barbara had her body torn with iron hooks, her sides burnt with torches, and her head bruised with mallets. During these tortures she consoled her companion, and exhorted her to fight manfully to the last. Both of them had their breasts cut off, were dragged naked through the streets, and beheaded. The head of Barbara was cut off by her own father, who in his excessive wickedness had hardened his heart thus far. But his ferocious cruelty was not long left unpunished, for instantly, and on the very spot, he was struck dead by lightning. The Emperor Justinus had the body of this most holy virgin translated from Nicomedia to Constantinople. It was afterwards obtained by the Venetians from the Emperors Constantine and Basil; and having been translated from Constantinople to Venice, was deposited with great solemnity in the Basilica of St. Mark. Lastly, at the earnest request of the Bishop of Torcello and his sister, who was abbess, it was translated in the year of grace 1009, to the Nuns' Church of St. John the Evangelist, in the diocese of Torcello; where it was placed in a worthy sepulchre, and from that time has never ceased to be the object of most fervent veneration.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Advent, Edition 1870;
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume I, 1806.
St. Barbara, pray for us.