Friday, October 9, 2015

Saint Poplia the Confessor, Who Confronted Julian the Apostate With Spiritual Songs

St. Poplia the Deaconess (Feast Day - October 9)


Poplia was delivered from the delusions of this world,
As a sparrow that leaves its nest for the sky.

By Theodoret of Cyrus 
(Ecclesiastical History, Bk. 3, Ch. 14)

I will now include in my history the noble story of a right excellent woman, for even women, armed with divine zeal, despised the mad fury of Julian [the Apostate] (361-363).

In those days there was a woman named Poplia [or Publia], of high reputation, and illustrious for deeds of virtue. For a short time she bore the yoke of marriage, and had offered its most goodly fruit to God, for from this fair soil sprang John, who for a long time was chief presbyter at Antioch, and was often elected to the apostolic see, but from time to time declined the dignity.* She maintained a company of virgins vowed to virginity for life, and spent her time in praising God who had made and saved her.

One day the emperor was passing by [in Antioch], and as they esteemed the Destroyer [Julian] an object of contempt and derision, they struck up all the louder music, chiefly chanting those psalms which mock the helplessness of idols, and saying in the words of David: "The idols of the nations are of silver and gold, the work of men's hands" (Ps. 134:15), and after describing their insensibility, they added "may they that make them be like them and all those that trust in them" (Ps. 134:18). Julian heard them, and was very angry, and told them to hold their peace while he was passing by. She did not however pay the least attention to his orders, but put still greater energy into their chant, and when the emperor passed by again, she told them to strike up: "Let God arise and let his enemies be scattered" (Ps. 67:1).

On this Julian in wrath ordered the choir mistress to be brought before him; and, though he saw that respect was due to her old age, he neither had compassion for her gray hairs, nor respected her high character, but told some of his escort to box both her ears, and by their violence to make her cheeks red. She however took the outrage for honor, and returned home, where, as she was wont to do, she kept up her attack upon him with her spiritual songs, just as the composer and teacher of the song laid the wicked spirit that vexed Saul.

* This may be St. John Scholasticus (Feb. 21).

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