December 4, 2020: ST. BARBARA
December 4, 2020: 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.
Another account of St. Barbara.
The holy virgin and martyr, St. Barbara, who, from the most ancient times, has been celebrated in the whole Christian world, was born of heathen parents in Nicomedia, of Bithynia. She was much beloved by her father, Dioscorus, on account of her unusual intelligence. He appointed a tower as a special place, well fitted up, for her dwelling, and chose the best masters to instruct her in art and science, but especially in paganism, as he feared she might be induced to unite herself to one not agreeable to him, or be seduced by the Christians, of whom he was a great enemy. But just this solicitude of her father gave her cause to think, and thus to arrive at the knowledge of the true God. She contemplated the heavens, the sun, moon and stars, in their regular course; she meditated on the changing of the seasons; looked on the wonderful creation of the world and its inhabitants, and justly concluded from it that there must be a Creator—that He alone must be the true God, and that the gods she worshipped had no power. To these contemplations she united prayers, and also led a most blameless life. The Almighty, who forsakes not one who aids himself, gave her opportunity to become instructed in the Christian religion, and to receive holy baptism, without the knowledge of her father. Meanwhile, a suitor for her hand came to her father and asked his consent. Dioscorus was not unwilling to grant the wish, as the young man was his equal in rank and wealth; but he would make his daughter acquainted with the offer he had received for her before he gave his word. Barbara had a great many objections; and her father, who did not desire that she should hastily give her consent, and would not coerce her, urged her no further; and as he was about to set out on a long journey, he thought it but right to give her some time for consideration. Barbara requested to have, for her greater comfort, a bathing-room added to her dwelling, which Dioscorus gladly granted her. The object of the holy virgin was, to have a special apartment where, with those who, like herself, were secretly Christians, she could pray to the true God. The father ordered two windows for the new room; Barbara, however, had a third added, in honor of the three Divine Persons in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. The room was, by the pagan's order, adorned with idolatrous statues, with which the holy virgin would gladly have dispensed. Looking at them, she wept over the blindness of her father, who desired that she should worship them as gods. Going from one to another, she spat upon them, saying: “Those who honor you as gods are worthy to be turned into what you are made of—wood and stone.” After this, she went to a column of marble, and with her fingers pressed the sign of the cross upon it, as if it had been wax. After her death, the health of many infirm, who devoutly kissed this miraculous cross, was restored.
No sooner had her father returned from his journey, than he desired to know his daughter's resolution. Already prepared by prayer for the approaching struggle, she said, unhesitatingly, that she would never consent to marry a pagan, as, being a Christian, she had chosen a much more noble spouse, Christ the Lord. Her father was speechless at this unexpected answer, and, when able to control himself, told her either to renounce Christ, or prepare herself for the most cruel death. The greater the wrath of the blind Dioscorus became, the more fearless was Barbara. This enraged him so greatly, that he seized his sword to take her life on the spot. Barbara, to escape his rage, fled, while her father, sword in hand, pursued her out of the city. According to an ancient legend, the fugitive virgin came to a rock, which miraculously opened, thus offering her a passage, and shielded her, for the moment, against her father's wrath. The latter, however, was not touched by this visible miracle, but passed over the mountain and pursued the maiden, as the hound pursues the deer. Barbara had, meanwhile, taken refuge in a cave, and would not have been found had not two shepherds informed the infuriated father of her retreat. Hastening towards the place, he found her praying. No tiger could assail his prey with more rage than this tyrant assailed his innocent child. He threw her on the ground, stamped upon her with his feet, beat her, and finally dragged her by the hair into the hut of a peasant, where he locked her up, until he had her brought back to his house by soldiers. Now began her martyrdom, which was so severe, that what she had before suffered was as nothing in comparison; for, Dioscorus was determined to force her to deny Christ. Seeing, at last, that all was in vain, he gave her up to the governor, Martian, that she might be dealt with according to the laws of the land.
Martian at first showed compassion for the Saint, in consideration for her youth, and endeavored to win her by flattery and kind words. Not succeeding in this, he had recourse to severity, and had her whipped with scourges, until her whole body seemed to be but one great wound. After this, she was dragged to a dungeon, where she was left to die. The Almighty, however, who had destined her to still more glorious combats, sent an Angel during the night, who healed all her wounds, and encouraged her to perseverance, with the promise that she would overcome all tortures by Divine assistance. The following day she was again brought before Martian, who, not comprehending how Barbara had been healed, ascribed it to his gods. The virgin, however, said: “No, no, Martian! Wood and stone, of which your idols are made, have not this power. It is the work of the God of heaven and earth, whom I worship as the only true God, and for whose honor I am willing to die.” Martian, full of anger at these words, ordered her to be tormented more cruelly than on the previous day. After her body was all bruised and wounded, she was barbarously burned with torches, and at last both her breasts were cut off. The torture was very great, but the eagerness of Barbara to suffer for Christ's sake was still greater. She gave no sign of pain, but turning her eyes to heaven, said: “Let not thy hand, O Lord, forsake me! In Thee I am full of strength; without Thee, I am powerless!” A new martyrdom followed after this. The tyrant commanded her to be scourged in public through all the streets of the city. This was more terrible to her than all her previous tortures; hence she turned to the Almighty, praying humbly that she might not be exposed to the eyes of the heathen. She was immediately surrounded by a bright lustre, that veiled her form from all eyes. The barbarous Dioscorus was present at the martyrdom of his holy daughter, from beginning to end, and not only looked with satisfaction at the whipping, burning, and cutting, but animated the executioners in their cruelties; and when Martian, at last, sentenced Barbara to be beheaded, he asked, as a favor, to be allowed to take the place of the executioner, and behead his daughter. Having obtained his request, Dioscorus took her to a neighboring mountain, followed by a great crowd of people. Barbara rejoiced to be thought worthy to die for Christ's sake; and no sooner had she reached the mountain, than she again thanked God for all the graces that He had bestowed upon her, and begged Him to assist her to the end. A voice was heard from on high, which invited the undaunted martyr to come and receive the crown that awaited her. Kneeling down, she bared her neck, and received from her father the fatal stroke. She was hardly twenty years of age. Juliana, a pious woman, who had been present at the martyrdom, burned with the holy desire to give her life, also, for Christ, and was beheaded on the same day, after she had suffered great torments. Her body was laid beside the body of St. Barbara; but her soul followed the soul of the fearless virgin into heaven. Quite different was the end of the inhuman father. Whilst he was descending from the mountain, with the blood of his innocent child still on his hands, a terrible thunder-storm arose, during which he was struck by lightning, and sank dead upon the ground. Thus the father went to hell on the same day on which his daughter ascended triumphantly to heaven. We must not omit to remark that St. Barbara is especially invoked in the whole Christian world for the grace of receiving the last sacrament before death; and many facts have shown that this invocation has the desired effect.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Advent, Edition 1870;
The Lives of the Saints, Rev. F.X. Weninger D.D., S.J. Vol. II, Permissu Superiorum, 1876; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume I, 1806.
St. Barbara, pray for us.