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June 11, 2011

Saint Barnabas the Wonderworker of Vasa

St. Barnabas the Wonderworker (Feast Day - June 11)

The oldest surviving reference made about Saint Barnabas the Ascetic, who lived as a hermit at the village of Vasa, is found in the writings of the chronicler Leontios Machairas, who states: "At Vasa there is Saint Barnabas the monk. The Saint is one of the 'Three Hundred' refugees - clergy, monks and laymen - who fled to Cyprus during the persecution of the Arabs." However, according to his Doxastikon written shortly after his death, reference is given that Barnabas was in actuality a native of Vasa, Cyprus. Furthermore, his name indicates that he was a native of Cyprus, since we have four other saints bearing that name from Cyprus, including the Apostle himself who founded the Church of Cyprus. Essentially, we do not know for sure the origins of the ascetic Barnabas whom we commemorate today nor the exact time of when he lived.

According to local tradition and the hymns written in his honor, St. Barnabas lived as an ascetic in a cave west of the village of Vasa at the base of a stone cliff of white watery rocks. The cave is 28 feet in length, 18 feet in width and 8 feet in height.

We are told that in his youth he was full of piety and goodness, and he was admired for his modesty. At some point he decided to dedicate himself to the Lord with complete self-denial through continuous prayer, fasting, study and repentance by becoming an ascetic in the aforementioned cave.

Over time he was purified of all his passions and became illumined with the Holy Spirit, becoming a bearer of many divine gifts. Locals came to him for advice and to seek his prayers. He even had the grace to work miracles, both before and after his death. According to the hymns written in his honor, at his death his face was illuminated by divine grace as bright as the sun, so that all who saw him from Vasa were astounded.

Today only few portions of his relics are preserved at Vasa, together with his cave, as many portions have been given to other churches for a blessing. In Vasa there existed until 1897 a domed church dedicated to Saint Barnabas, however the residents of the village demolished it in order to replace it with a "magnificent" church which is dedicated to Panagia Evangelistria. It is in this church that bones from the pelvis, the bottom edge of the spine, a thigh bone, the skull and a few others of the Saint are preserved. There are also two icons of the Saint, one old and one newer, which bear the inscription: "The memory of Jesus illumines the nous and dispels the demons." In imitation of St. Barnabas, we also should always invoke the name of Jesus that we may not be the prey of demonic activity and influence.

The memory of Saint Barnabas is celebrated on June 11, the day on which is also celebrated the memory of Saint Barnabas the Apostle, the founder of the Church of Cyprus.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
The village of Vasa rejoices, in having the divine larnax of your relics, as a well-spring of healings, and a salvation for all those in sorrow, to all those who flee to you, Father, with faith. Rightous Barnabas, entreat Christ God, to grant us great mercy.