It seems as if the whole world was collapsing throughout the Roman Empire. Disease was spreading in every village and town, and even the mighty emperor had been slain by his own troops. Looking about his palace, Dioscuros, who lived in Asia Minor wondered if anything was secure in these times. Although he was the governor of a large and wealthy city located near the Persian border, Dioscuros could not help but worry. Perhaps, he thought, the only true help lay in the gods - in Jupiter, Appollo, and Mercury. Dioscuros had always been loyal to his pagan gods, ever since his childhood.
It was then that Dioscuros' eye caught sight of the large tower located in the courtyard of his palace. He smiled when he saw it, for here was a tower no enemy, no disease, no danger could ever penetrate. At the top of the tower lived his daughter, Barbara. Beautiful, virtuous, Barbara was his only child and his one special joy.
Barbara had spent all of her life in an apartment in the pinnacle of the tower. Although she had committed no crime, she was never allowed to leave her tower. There were too many dangers outside, said her father. 8ecause of his love for her, Barbara was a special kind of prisoner. The tower had been constructed to protect her from anyone her father did not trust. So Barbara grew up in her lonely tower, her only contact with the outside world being the windows through which she could look out and marvel at the countryside below.
In Barbara's studies, her teachers had told her about the world outside, Being an intelligent girl, Barbara began asking them more questions. Gazing out from her tower, she had looked in wonder to the beauty of God's creation. She delighted at the millions of stars which nightly lit up the dark sky, and often arose early to see the bright orange sun rise in the east. She often asked herself: "Who created this world, this infinite space, full of stars, and moon, and sun and this earth with its seas and woods, and birds? " Finally, she came to the conclusion that there must be one Creator, one wise and Almighty Giver of Life.
From her friends, Barbara began to hear about the new teaching that was secretly being spread throughout the land - teachings about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Creator of the World. Soon she discovered that one of the girls who knew much about Jesus was herself a Christian. Barbara begged to be instructed in this new faith, and secretly decided to become a Christian herself.
One day, when Dioscuros was away, Barbara decided to lnspect the new bathhouse that her father ordered to be built for her. In it was a large pool - a perfect place for baptism. Barbara told the builders to make a few changes in the design. Instead of two windows, there would be three - in honor of the Holy Trinity. And there, on the wall above, a Cross would be cut into the stone.
Then Barbara wrote a letter to the great teacher Origen from Alexandria to come and baptize her. Origen taught her more about the love of Jesus, and His Salvation on the Cross to save mankind. He also gave her few religious books, and told her that she must suffer a lot because of her faith, but at the end she will be crowned with eternal glory. A few days before her father returned, Barbara was baptized in the new pool.
When her father returned he went straight to greet his beloved daughter. As he walked by the new bathhouse he noticed the three windows, and saw the cross. "Who had authorized these changes?" he asked himself. "Who could have dared to influence his daughter with signs of those Christians?" Barbara greeted her father warmly, then she revealed to him that she had made the changes in the building, for she was now a Christian. Dioscuros was furious. "Have you been baptized yet?" he asked. "Yes" she replied.
Dioscuros was enraged because all of his plans had been ruined. All of his precautions were for nothing. Barbara saw her father reach for his sword and she dashed out of the room and ran down the stairs of the tower. She escaped from the palace and went to a nearby mountain and there she prayed to God for help.
But the soldiers of Dioscuros were sent out and the next day they found her. When Barbara refused to give up her faith, her father ordered the soldiers to take her to the imperial governor. There she was given two choices: sacrifice to the pagan gods or die. Barbara answered quickly, "I would rather die, for in this way I will witness my love for my Savior Jesus." The governor sent her to be tortured but Barbara remained firm in her faith. Finally they threw her into jail with another woman called Julia, who became Barbara's friend and tried to care for her wounds.
Around midnight in the dark cell, a bright light shone. Christ himself appeared to Barbara and told her, "Don't fear, my child, for I will be always with you." After these words, all her wounds from the many tortures were healed. Julia decided to accept Christ herself and follow Barbara in her martyrdom.
In the morning when Barbara stood in front of the governor, everybody was amazed by the absence of her wounds. Again Barbara was mercilessly tortured and when it was discovered that Julia also was Christian, the governor ordered her to be tortured as well. As for Barbara, they stripped her clothes off and forced her to walk in the streets of the city naked. Yet as Barbara stepped outside the prison walls, she was covered with brilliant light. Not only could her naked body not be seen but also all her wounds had been healed again.
The imperial governor had grown tired and afraid of this young woman with so much power. He ordered his soldiers to have Barbara and Julia beheaded at the same time. Immediately the earth shook and swallowed the bodies of the two martyrs. The governor, in terror, became insane and died.
Several days after, a pious Christian discovered the two white-robed bodies. He buried them in a manner befitting those who died a martyr's death.
Today a famous church in old Cairo bears the name of the great Saint Barbara and contains her relics.
May her prayers be with us. Amen.