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Friday, June 24, 2011

The Holy Apostle Barnabas

Ícone de São Barnabé.Image via WikipediaHoly Apostle Barnabas of the Seventy was born on the island of Cyprus into the family of rich Hebrews, and he was named Joseph. He received his education at Jerusalem, being raised with his friend and co-student Saul (the future Apostle Paul) under the then reknown teacher of the law, Gamaliel. Joseph was pious, he frequented the Temple, he strictly observed the fasts and avoided youthful distractions. And during this time period our Lord Jesus Christ began His public ministry. Seeing the Lord and hearing His Divine Words, Joseph believed on Him as the Messiah, he was ardent with love for Him and followed Him. The Lord chose him to be among His Seventy Disciples. And it was amongst the followers of the Lord that Joseph received a second name -- Barnabas, which in Hebrew means "son of consolation". After the Ascension of the Lord to Heaven, Barnabas sold land belonging to him near Jerusalem and he brought the money to the feet of the Apostles, leaving nothing for himself (Acts 4: 36-37).


    When Saul after his conversion arrived in Jerusalem and sought to join with the followers of Christ, everyone there was afraid of him as having been a persecutor but a short while before. Barnabas however came with him to the Apostles and reported, how the Lord had appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9: 26-28).

    As entrusted him by the Apostles, Saint Barnabas went to Antioch to encourage the believers: "Having come and having seen the grace of God, he rejoiced and he urged all to cleave to the Lord with sincerity of heart" (Acts 11: 23). Then the Disciple Barnabas went to Tarsis, and thereafter he brought the Apostle Paul to Antioch, where for about a year they taught the people in the Church. It was here that the disciples first began to be called Christians (Acts 11: 26). With the onset of famine, and taking along generous alms, Paul and Barnabas returned to Jerusalem. When king Herod killed the Apostle James Zebedaeus, and to please the Jews had the Apostle Peter put under guard in prison, Saints Barnabas and Paul and Peter were led out of the prison by an Angel of the Lord, and they hid out at the house of Barnabas' aunt Maria. Later, when the persecution had quieted down, they returned to Antioch, taking with them Maria's son John, surnamed Mark. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the prophets and teachers there imposed hands upon Barnabas and Paul, and sent them off on matters to which the Lord had summoned them (Acts 13: 2-3). Arriving in Seleucia, they sailed off to Cyprus and in the city of Salamis they preached the Word of God in the Jewish synagogues. On Paphos they came across a sorcerer and false-prophet named Barjesus, who was close with the proconsul Sergios. Wanting to hear the Word of God, the proconsul invited the saints to come to him. The sorcerer attempted to sway the proconsul from the faith, but the Apostle Paul denounced the sorcerer, who through his words suddenly fell blind. The proconsul believed in Christ (Acts 13: 6-12). From Paphos Barnabas and Paul set sail for Pergamum Pamphylia, and then they preached to the Jews and the Gentiles at Pisidian Antioch and throughout all that region. The Jews made a riot and expelled Paul and Barnabas. The saints arrived in Iconium, but learning that the Jews wanted to stone them, they withdrew to Lystra and Derben. There the Apostle Paul healed a man, crippled in the legs from birth. The people assumed them to be the gods Zeus and Hermes and wanted to offer them sacrifice. The saints just barely persuaded them not to do this (Acts 14: 8-18).

    When the question arose, whether those converted from the Gentiles should accept circumcision, Barnabas and Paul set off to Jerusalem. There they were warmly received by the Apostles and elders. The preachers related, "what God had wrought with them and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles "Acts 14: 27). After long deliberations the Apostles collectively resolved not to impose upon Gentile-Christians any sort of burden beyond that necessary -- to refrain from idol-sacrifice and its blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication, and not to do to others that which they themselves not do (Acts 15: 19-20). Letters were dispatched with Barnabas and Paul, and they again evangelised at Antioch, and after a certain while they decided to visit the other cities, where earlier they had preached. The Disciple Barnabas wanted to take Mark along with him, but the Apostle Paul did not want to, since earlier he had gone off from them. A quarrel arose, and they separated. Paul took with him Silas and set off to Syria and Cilicia, and Barnabas took with him Mark -- to Cyprus (Acts 15: 36-41).

    Having multiplied the number of believers, the Disciple Barnabas set off to Rome, where he was perhaps the first to preach Christ.

    The Disciple Barnabas founded the episcopal seat at Mediolanum (now Milan in Italy), and upon his return to Cyprus he continued to preach about Christ the Saviour. Thereupon the enraged Jews incited the pagans against Saint Barnabas, and they led him out beyond the city and stoned him, and then built a bon-fire so as to burn the body. Later on, having come upon this spot, Mark took up the unharmed body of the Disciple Barnabas and buried it in a cave, placing upon the bosom of Saint Barnabas, in accord with his final wishes, the Gospel of Matthew copied out in his own hand.
    The Disciple Barnabas died in about the year 62, at age 76. Over the course of time the place of burial of the Disciple Barnabas was forgotten. But numerous signs appeared at this place. In the year 448, during the time of the emperor Zeno, the Disciple Barnabas thrice appeared in a dram-vision to the Cyprus archbishop Anthymos and indicated the place of burial of his relics. Starting to dig at the indicated spot, Christians found the incorrupt body of the saint, and upon his chest was the Holy Gospel. It was from these times that the Cyprus Church began to be termed Apostolic in origin and received the right of autonomously choosing its head. And thus the Disciple Barnabas defended Cyprus against the pretensions of the opponent of the Fourth OEcumenical Council, the heretic surnamed Knapheios, who had usurped the patriarchal throne at Antioch and sought to gain dominion over the Cyprus Church.

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