St. Barbara (and John Damascene)

Friends in Christ, today is the Feast of St. John Damascene. St. John is famous for his fight against iconoclasm. Iconoclasm is the idea that it is wrong to use sacred images of Christ or the saints.
Icons – these were and still are very important in the faith of Easter Rite Catholics and Orthodox Christians. But there were times when strong passions flared up against their use, leading even to violence. This was called iconoclasm.
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The major iconoclasm period was 730 – 787AD, and in the end, the Church called a Council to deal with it, declaring at the 2nd Council of Nicea that it is fine to make images of Christ and the saints. St. John Damascene was one of the strong defenders of the right to make icons and images, and he wrote beautifully on this subject and on the sacred Liturgy.
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Today is also the Feast day of St. Barbara; although she is not on the public calendar, I know a number of people who have a special love for her, so we should say something about her.
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St. Barbara was the daughter of a rich man named Dioscorus who was a pagan. Because she was so beautiful, Dioscorus did not allow any man to see her. In fact, he kept her locked in a tower all the time.
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One day, her father went on a journey, at which point Barbara came down from the tower to see a bath-house that her father was having built. She saw in it, two windows that the workmen had made; thinking that 3 windows would well-symbolize the Holy Trinity, she said to them: ‘Make me here another window’, which they did. Days later in secret, a priest came and baptized Barbara in that bathhouse.
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When her father came home and she told him that she was a Christian, he was outraged, and dragged her before the Prefect who had her cruelly tortured. Then she was ordered to sacrifice to the gods. Barbara said: ‘I offer myself to God, Jesus Christ, who has created heaven and earth and all things.’
She was then ordered to be beheaded, at which point her own father dragged her up a mountain to kill her himself. Before her death, she prayed ‘Oh Jesus, I beseech thee to hear my prayer, that for all who call on you in my memory, you will not remember their sins.’ Then with a sword, Dioscorus put his own daughter to death. But when he was coming down the mountain he was struck by lightening and nothing remained of him except ashes.
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St. Barbara is the patron saint of architects, prisoners, soldiers, and cooks, but most importantly, she is the patron against a sudden death, that a person could receive the sacraments and die in peace.

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