Advent: December 4th
Optional Memorial of St. John Damascene, priest and doctor
Previous Calendar: St. Peter Chrysologus, bishop, confessor and doctor; St. Barbara, virgin and martyr
St. John Damascene was a learned theologian who carefully gathered together and transmitted to us the teaching of the Greek Fathers, and is thus one of the most trustworthy witnesses to oriental tradition. He also wrote many liturgical hymns still in use today. St. John Damascene died in 749. Leo XIII proclaimed him a Doctor of the universal Church.Before the reform of the Roman Calendar in 1969, this was the memorial of St. Peter Chrysologus, bishop, confessor and doctor whose feast is now celebrated on July 30, and St. Barbara, virgin and martyr, whose feast is only on local or particular calendars.Jesse Tree ~ Fall of Man
St. John Damascene
John of Damascus or Damascene, the last of the Greek Fathers, was one of the principal defenders of the veneration of images against the Iconoclasts, who condemned this practice.
- St. John Damascene has contributed much to the Church through his writings. Read all or part of his most famous work, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith.
- Check out some ideas for Celebrating the Feast of St. John Damascene.
- He was famous for his opposition to the heresy of the Iconoclasts: you could find out more about this heresy.
- Learn more about Catholic Sacramentals which include statues and images.
- St. John Damascene was made a Doctor of the Church for his efforts to defend the faith, learn to defend the use of religious pictures and objects to your Protestant friends.
- Read more about St. John Damascene here and here.
Barbara (from Nicomedia) was the daughter of a pagan noble who worshipped false gods. Because of her striking beauty, her father enclosed her in a tower to hide her from the snares of men. Barbara vowed virginity, and during an absence of her father had a third window added to her quarters in honor of the Blessed Trinity; at the same time, she also adorned her bath with the sign of the holy Cross. Upon his return her father was so angered over these changes that a miracle was needed to save her life. She was presented before the magistrate, subjected to much torturing, and finally her own father wielded the sword that severed her head. Immediately God's vengeance struck him dead. The holy virgin is highly honored both in the East and the West as patroness of artillery men and of miners. She is especially invoked for preservation from sudden death. She is one of the "Fourteen Holy Helpers."
Saint Barbara, thou noble bride,
To thee my body I confide
As well in life as at life's end.
Come, aid me when I breathe my last,
That I may, ere here all is past,
Receive the Blessed Sacrament!
In certain parts of Europe, the so-called "Barbara branch" is brought into homes today. It consists of a small cherry twig that is set in water and should blossom on Christmas eve. The custom is deeply Biblical and liturgical. "The bud from the root of Jesse and the flower from its root" is Jesus Christ, whom we expectantly await during Advent and who will blossom forth as a flower at Christmas.Patron: against death by artillery; against explosions; against fire; against impenitence; against lightning; against mine collapse; against storms; ammunition magazines; ammunition workers; architects; armourers; artillery; artillerymen; boatmen; bomb technicians; brass workers; brewers; builders; carpenters; construction workers; dying people; explosives workers; fire; fire prevention; firefighters; fireworks; fireworks manufacturers; fortifications; founders; geologists; gravediggers; gunners; hatmakers; hatters; lightning; mariners; martyrs; masons; mathematicians; military engineers; milliners; miners; ordnance workers; prisoners; safety from storms; sailors; saltpetre workers; smelters; stone masons; stonecutters; storms; sudden death; Syria; tilers; warehouses; watermen.Symbols: cannon; chalice; host and paten; tower with three windows; tower and palm; monstrance; peacock feather; torches; fortress; spears; crown; book; sword; palm of martyrdom.
Often Portrayed As: princess in a tower with either the palm of martyrdom or chalice of happy death; woman holding a tower or feather; woman trampling a Saracen.Things to Do:
- Be sure to look at Celebrating for the Feast of St. Barbara in the Activities section. See also Painting Angels, Saints and Their Symbols for a description of St. Barbara's symbols.
- Have a St. Barbara's Party, Syrian Style.
- Further reading:
- Read about the German custom of St. Barbara's Twig, where every member of the family puts a small cherry or peach branch into water so that it will blossom on Christmas. If you have a young lady in your home desiring marriage, the custom of St. Barbara's Cherry Twigs will have St. Barbara pick the right husband for young unmarried girls. An alternative idea to this custom would be forcing Amaryllis or other bulbs to bloom for Christmas. Start the bulbs today!
- St. Barbara is the patron of artillerymen. Offer your rosary or say a prayer for all our enlisted men and women who are in harm's way. This page provides the Legend of St. Barbara and the explanation why she is the patron of artillerymen. Read the Ballad of St. Barbara by G. K. Chesterton.
- Read about Barbórka, Miners Day, which is celebrated in Poland and other European countries.
St. Osmund was the Bishop of Salisbury who helped compile the Domesday Book. A member of the Norman nobility, he was the son of Count Henry of Seez and Isabella, half-sister of King William the Conqueror of England.