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September 4, 2016

Holy Hieromartyr Babylas, Bishop of Antioch, and the Three Children With Him

St. Babylas of Antioch and the Three Children With Him (Feast Day - September 4)

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

This "great and wonderful man, if he could be called a man" - as St. John Chrysostom spoke of him - was Bishop of Antioch during the reign of the wicked Emperor Numerian. This Numerian concluded a peace treaty with a barbarian king, who was more noble and peace-loving than he. As a sign of his sincere desire for a lasting peace, the barbarian king gave his young son to be brought up and educated in Numerian's court. One day Numerian stabbed this innocent boy to death with his own hands, and offered him as a sacrifice to the idols. Still hot from the crime and the innocent blood, this criminal with an emperor's crown went to a Christian church to see what was going on there. Saint Babylas was at prayer with the people, and heard that the emperor had come with his retinue and desired to enter the church. Babylas interrupted the service, went out in front of the church, and told the emperor that as he was an idolater he could not enter the holy temple where the one, true God was glorified. In a homily about Babylas, Saint John Chrysostom said: "Who else in the world would he fear - he who, with such authority, repulsed the emperor?... By this, he taught emperors not to overreach their authority beyond the measure given to them by God, and he also showed the clergy how to use their own authority." The shamed emperor turned back, but planned revenge.

The following day, he summoned Babylas and berated him, urging him to offer sacrifice to the idols, which, of course, the Saint steadfastly refused to do. The emperor then bound Babylas and cast him into prison. The emperor also tortured three children: Urban age twelve, Prilidian age nine, and Hippolinus age seven. Babylas was their spiritual father and teacher, and they, out of love for him, had not run away. They were the sons of Christodoula, an honorable Christian woman who had herself suffered for Christ. The emperor first ordered that each child be beaten with a number of blows corresponding to his years, and then had them cast into prison. He finally had all three beheaded with the sword. The chained Babylas was present at the beheading of the children and encouraged them. After that, he laid his own honorable head under the sword. He was buried in his chains by the Christians, in the same grave as those three wondrous children, as he had willed before his martyrdom. Their holy souls flew off to their heavenly habitation, while their miracle-working relics remained for the benefit of the faithful, as a constant witness to their heroism in the Faith. They suffered in about the year 250.


A saint's power after his death is often many times greater than in life. "That is why God left us the relics of the saints," says Saint John Chrysostom in his unsurpassable homily on Saint Babylas. Saint Babylas was buried in the city of Antioch. At that time, Emperor Gallus - the brother of Julian the Apostate - was reigning together with Constantius, the son of Constantine the Great. Inspired by piety, Gallus translated the relics of Saint Babylas to the outskirts of Daphne and built a small church, placing the relics of the Martyr in it. There was a famous temple of Apollo in Daphne, built on the spot where, according to a pagan legend, a virgin had turned into a laurel tree in order to be saved from the "god" Apollo, who was pursuing her out of unrestrained fleshly passion for her. There stood the idol of Apollo, which allegedly could foretell anyone's future. But, as the relics of Babylas now rested in the vicinity of the temple, the demon from the idol fell silent and ceased making prophesies. Later, when Emperor Julian the Apostate set out on his catastrophic war with the Persians, he visited the temple of Apollo and consulted the idol about the outcome of his impending war. The idol responded with trepidation that it could not render a clear response "because of the dead" buried in its proximity. Of course, that pertained to Babylas, the presence of whose body had silenced the demon. Julian ordered that the relics of Babylas be transported back to Antioch. However, as soon as the relics of the martyr were removed, fire fell from heaven and consumed the temple of Apollo, destroying it forever. Julian set out against the Persians and his blasphemous life came to a horrible end. Such was the power of Christ's martyr after death: he silenced the demon, brought down fire from heaven, destroyed the idolatrous temple, and punished the apostate emperor with a dishonorable death.


The Holy Hieromartyr Babylas

Before the doors of the holy temple
The wonderful shepherd bravely stood.
The bloody emperor wanted to enter,
But the shepherd would not let him.

"You know nothing of the true God;
You bow down before idols.
What do you seek, foul pagan,
Among right-believing Christians?"

The stubborn emperor turned violent
And chained Babylas.
Yet, smiling at the emperor,
Babylas glorified His Lord.

And the emperor sneered at the Saint:
"Behold, these chains fit you nicely-
Just your size, contemptible old man-
Just as if they were tailored for you!"
Thus spoke the emperor, and he fell silent.

And Babylas replied to the emperor:
"I swear to you, that this iron
Is more precious to me than gold.
These chains have more worth
Than your royal diadem!

O Emperor, I value them more
Than your entire realm.
Because I wear these chains for Christ.

They are the price of my freedom,
For I shall dwell in eternity,
And by these chains I will enter therein."

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
O Babylas husbandman of righteousness, thou didst cut down the thorns of error. With the radiance of thy priesthood and reddened by the streams of thy blood, thou wast presented to Christ crying out: Here am I and Thy children O Jesus, graciously receive us.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Thou didst treasure in thine heart the mysteries of the faith, without fearing the tyrant, O Hieromartyr Babylas, servant of Christ, preserve us.