December 4, 2023

Homily on the Commemoration of the Holy Great Martyr Barbara (St. Luke of Simferopol)

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on December 4/17, 1947)

"And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might feel Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us" (Acts 17:26–27). These are very deep words, because God must be felt. This is the great mystery of the knowledge of God.

God is not known by the mind, God is felt by the heart. This is how the sixteen-year-old girl Barbara felt God in her heart. Her father, a rich and noble Roman, was a stubborn pagan, and, of course, she was not raised in the knowledge of the True God. He wanted her not to know people, not to know the world, he constantly kept her locked up, settling her in a high tower, from the windows of which a wide view of fields, meadows and forests opened. At night, Barbara admired the shine of the stars. And so, looking at nature, at its great harmony and beauty, at the amazing order reigning in it, the young woman thought more and more deeply about who created all this.

When she talked about this with her servants, they answered: “All this was created by the gods whom your father honors.” But Barbara deeply doubted: “Is it possible that soulless idols made by people from silver and gold created the whole world? There must be one True God Who rules over the whole world. He must be Good. He must be completely different from the pagan gods.” Barbara came to this thought, and the Lord gave her true deep knowledge of Himself.

Barbara’s father left for a long time and allowed her to leave the tower and walk in the garden at that time. There she met Christian girls, started a conversation with them about God, and from them heard a sermon about the Lord Jesus and the Holy Trinity. And her spirit was kindled with deep love, and the Lord sent her a priest who enlightened her and baptized her. The father returned and learned that Barbara had accepted the Christian faith.

This mystery of faith is still taking place in the hearts of people who feel God. And this faith draws them to God, and they respond to the call. Children, boys and girls come to the temple who have not been taught the true faith by anyone. Their living conditions are even worse than those that befell the Great Martyr Barbara. They only heard from everywhere that there is no God, and yet an unknown force draws them to the temple of God. They hesitantly enter here, look around, listen to the chants, and look closely at the entire structure of our worship. And all this deeply affects their souls, because in the temple they feel God in their hearts, and their hearts, children, adolescence and youth, not yet stained by any worldly dirt, not spoiled, not darkened by the darkness of sin, are pure and capable of perceiving God.

And they come to faith and know God. Let us thank Him for the fact that He touches young hearts so tenderly and so kindly. Let us give thanks for the fact that He raised up for us, like a torch, the holy lamb Barbara. After all, if there were not such chosen ones of God, burning with love and faith in Him, then our life would be pitiful, unhappy and dark, like an autumn night. Who would help us walk in its darkness? Who would warm our hearts, which are heavily affected by the cold of life? Who would enlighten us, who would show us truth and light? Who would take us by the hand and lead us along the terrible road of sinful, worldly life? Who would strengthen us in faith? Who, if not these lights? Those in whose hearts faith burns brightly, whose love is fiery, like the love of Cherubim and Seraphim, illuminate our path in the darkness of existence. The Lord knew that man would get lost on the hard path of worldly life if there were no righteous people, and he raised them up in great numbers in all ages.

In this host the Holy Great Martyr Barbara shines like a bright star in heavenly majesty. In addition to the amazing knowledge of God, to which she came with her pure heart, let us praise her boundless love for Him and her suffering for Him. She was led naked through the streets of the city, and with her another martyr, Juliana, who, seeing the terrible torture of Saint Barbara, confessed that she too was a Christian, and was subjected to the same terrible tortures. Perhaps this shame, this exposure of their pure virgin bodies, was more terrible than all other torments.

Let us bow before how fearlessly Saint Barbara confessed her faith before her fierce father. He hated Christianity so much and revered the pagan gods so much that, having heard from his daughter an exhortation to leave idolatry and believe in the one True God, he immediately pulled out a sword and rushed at her, wanting to kill her. But the Lord miraculously saved His servant. She was faced not with a quick death by the sword, but with severe, terrible torture, after which her bestial father himself dragged her to the place of execution and cut off her head.

Let's try to be at least a little like her. If martyrdom is the lot of a chosen few, then confession is obligatory for everyone. Like Saint Barbara was not afraid of anything, so we should not remain silent, but preach about Christ to those who have not heard anything about Him, who live in the darkness of ignorance of God. We cannot hide our faith, but we need to openly, holding our heads high, confess the Holy Trinity, for which the Holy Great Martyr laid down her life. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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