December 4 is the Feast Day of Agia Barbara, who is considered one of the major Saints of the Greek Orthodox Church.
During the rule of Maximius, in the year 290 AD, the governor in the Anatolian city of Heliopolis was Dioscuros. He was a wealthy man who was originally from the nearby village of Galassos. He had only one child, a very beautiful girl named Barbara. Her parents were extremely proud of her, not only because of her beauty but of her virtuosity as well.
To protect her, her parents erected a fortress in which they placed Barbara while still young, as was the case with Saint Christina. They supplied her with all her needs; servants, food and clothing. When Barbara came of age, many military officers of Heliopolis asked her father for her hand in marriage, for they had heard of her great beauty and charm. He refused, however, to give his promise to anyone until he conferred with his daughter. Barbara responded by telling her father that if he forced her to marry she would commit suicide. Dioscuros left the fortress believing that in time he could convince her to consent to marriage.
Dioscuros, deciding to add a bathing house to the fortress, left the plans with the builders and instructed them to begin work while he departed for another city where he had some pressing business. During her father’s absence, Barbara had the opportunity to leave her living quarters and observe the erection of the bathing house. Upon discovering that the building was to have only two windows, she asked the builders to install a third, and that she would assume the responsibility.
Our God, who knows everything before it occurs, was extremely pleased with Barbara’s innocence and filled her heart with the Holy Spirit and with the love of Christ. While standing by the pool of the bath house, Barbara made the sign of the cross on the marble with her finger. Miraculously, her finger chiselled the cross deeply into the marble.
One day, returning from the bath house, Barbara noticed the false gods which her father worshipped and she spat at them. She returned to the fortress, fasting and praying that she would receive Divine Guidance.
When her father returned, he saw the third window in the bath house and questioned the builders, who informed him that his daughter had ordered the third window installed. After questioning Barbara whether there was any particular reason for three, she told him that Three Lights guide everyone who walks the earth. Making the sign of the cross with three fingers she said that one signifies the Father, one the Son, and the other the Holy Spirit, and with these three Lights the whole world is guided. These words angered her father and made him forget that Barbara was his daughter. Drawing his sword and threatening to kill her, Barbara fled to a nearby mountain. Reaching the top, she raised her arms and prayed to God for help. The earth parted and swallowed most of her body. In the meantime, her father asked two shepherds whether they had seen his daughter. The first told him that he hadn’t, so that she might be spared, however, the other pointed in the Saint’s direction.
Finding his daughter, Dioscuros forced her back to the fortress and locked her up. He then went to the ruler of the city named Marcius and informed him that Barbara was a Christian. She was then given to Marcius with her father’s damnation. Marcius had the Saint stripped and beaten with sticks, then her wounds rubbed with vinegar. She was then imprisoned. Towards midnight a bright light appeared to Barbara and a voice told her not to fear, Christ was always with her. As soon as the words were spoken, all her wounds disappeared. A God-fearing woman, named Julia, who was imprisoned with Barbara, saw the miracle. She praised God with all her heart and decided to martyr for her Christian beliefs.
The tortures continued for Barbara. The ruler ordered his soldiers to tear the Saint’s body with iron claws, to burn her with torches and to hit her head with a spiked club.
Julia, witnessing the torture felt so much sorrow that she began to cry uncontrollably. Discovering that she was also a Christian, Marcius ordered that she be hung beside the Saint to suffer the same tortures. He then had his soldiers cut off the martyr’s breasts then taken back to prison.
St. Barbara was stripped of her clothing to be marched throughout the city. Seeing though that he could not overcome the Saint with threats and tortures, Marcius ordered his soldiers to behead both Barbara and Julia.
Present at all these tortures was Dioscuros, Barbara’s father. He felt neither pain nor remorse for what he had done to his only child. When the ruler sentenced them to death, Dioscuros requested that he be permitted to perform the execution of his daughter. Barbara and Julia were taken to the mountain where Dioscuros had previously captured his daughter. He beheaded St. Barbara and a soldier beheaded St. Julia. For several seconds the earth shook. The earth then opened and swallowed the bodies of the two martyrs.
God was quick with Divine Retribution to Dioscuros, for as he was descending the mountain, a thunder storm arose. A bolt of lightning descended from the heavens and killed this bloodthirsty tyrant. A second bold of lightning immediately descended and murdered St. Julia’s executioner.
When Marcius heard of the events which occurred at the execution he became psychologically distressed and soon afterwards died of his remorse.
After several days, a pious Christian named Valentios saw in his dream two white robed virgins who instructed him to go to the mountain on which the Saints had been executed and to dig to find their bodies. Valentios immediately arose from his bed and with several other Christians, went to the mountain to carry out the Saint’s instructions. After digging for several hours, they found the holy bodies of Sts Barbara and Julia. With great respect and reverence, they venerated the bodies of the Saints. The holy bodies of the martyrs were taken to the village of Galassos where they were entombed with honour.
Her memory is celebrated today and it is also the Name Day of Varvara, Damaskinos, Damaskini. Xronia Polla!
*Source: Greek Orthodox Association of America