December 4, 2013

Saint Barbara as a Model for our Lives

St. Barbara the Great Martyr (Feast Day - December 4)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Barbara is a jewel of the third century. She came from the East and was raised in a pagan family. Her father, named Dioscorus, was rich, and he was a fanatical pagan. His daughter was a virtuous and benevolent person and she was catechized in the faith of Christ by a pious woman. After her baptism she lived in an enclosed tower because she was very beautiful, and she lived in asceticism and prayer. Her difficulties were numerous, but Saint Barbara had learned to entrust to God all her problems and the difficulties she faced. It was not long before Dioscorus learned that his daughter had become a Christian. He had a bath house built and ordered for it to have two windows. The Saint told the craftsmen to open three windows. When her father asked about this she replied that she had three windows opened in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Then, full of anger, he came against her with a sword and she fled into the forest. He chased her, arrested her and led her to the pagan ruler who tried, first with flattery and later with inhuman torture, to persuade her to deny Christ. Because she remained firm and steadfast in her faith, he wanted to humiliate and disgrace her. For this reason he ordered the removal of her clothing and to parade her this way through the city. His miserable purpose failed to be realized, however, because God protected her in a wondrous way. At the moment when they tried to unclothe her, she would be dressed immediately with new clothes, better and more brilliant than the previous. Then the ruler ordered her decapitation, and her father full of hatred and blind fanaticism decapitated her with his own hands, and in this way she received the blessed crown of martyrdom.

The life and times of Saint Barbara gives us the opportunity to emphasize the following:

First, the offering of one's self to God and to entrust to Him, with unwavering confidence, our various problems that concern us, is a way of life that helps us balance our lives and not despair, not to "feel down" as we often say. For it is not a small thing to be hated by your own father, for him to give you over to tortures and finally for him to bring on your death with his own hands. That is, from the place where you expect to experience love, the essence of life, you encounter hatred and death. The place where you seek to lean on for support and comfort in the difficulties of your life, you face hostility even for having not committed any offense. The only offense was because you have chosen a different faith from what he had, even though he should love you sacrificially.

Do you think such similar events do not happen nowadays? For someone to want to impose one's views on another, when they feel like they have the ability to do so, with flattering and promises of a better life, or even with various extortions when the other is in a disadvantaged position? Many times poverty and misery lead people to the decision to leave their homeland and submit to the trial of searching for better and more humane living conditions. And then, unfortunately, several tragic events occur, many of which the protagonists are certain parents.

Second, the fall of man into sin and apostasy from God, led them to create substitutes of the true God. This led to the establishment of various religions, in which they essentially worship created things and non-existent gods. Christ became man to free humanity from the tyranny of the devil and created things. Orthodoxy is not a human construct, it is not a discovery of man and in this sense it is not a religion, but a Church. In other words, it is a revelation of God Himself and, as it is stressed by the ever-memorable Fr. John Romanides, it is "the treatment of religion, or superstition". Unfortunately, today we are becoming witnesses of sick events, such as the hatred of blind fanaticism, which is derived from various human constructs.

There are nowadays many who argue, apparently out of ignorance, that God is one and that we all worship the same God. There is certainly no greater error than this. For what relation is there between the Holy Triune God of the Orthodox Church, who is a Person and developes a personal communion of love with humanity and even teaches love towards our enemies, and the gods of the idols or with the dynastic gods of other religions, that are without mercy for "unbelievers" and inspire revenge, intolerance and fanaticism? A person is free to believe whatever they want, but we can't bulldoze over everything. The experience of Orthodox ecclesiastical life humanizes people and elevates them to such a point so as to love, not only our children in the flesh which is self-evident, or friends and those who are like-minded, bet even enemies, and they respect their differences and their faiths.

A personal communion with the personal God of the Church generates an unwavering trust in His love, which frees man from all complexities and deadlocks and elevates their humanity.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΑΓΙΑ ΜΕΓΑΛΟΜΑΡΤΥΣ ΒΑΡΒΑΡΑ", December 2004. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.