This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

January 24 -- Feast of Saint Babylas

"None Shall Pass" -- Bishop Babylas
Saint Babylas was elected Bishop of Antioch just four years before Philip the Arab seized control of Rome and made himself Emperor.  Their paths crossed and within a year they had both left their offices and lives at the hands of the Emperor Decius.

The legend says that Philip the Arab was a Christian, but modern writers seem to doubt this.  No one except the Christian writers claim Philip was a Christian.  Moreover, they only do it to embarrass him, which would seem to be unlikely if he were in fact a Christian (given their propensity to canonize any leader of the faith).  Unlike Constantine a few decades later, Philip left no record of influence on the faith.  And the Acts of the Martyrs says that Numerian, not Philip, was the emperor whose admission was refused.

Nonetheless, Eusebius says that Philip arrived for Easter Sunday Mass and was refused admittance to the cathedral.  Babylas allegedly told him that he must wait outside with the other penitents as he had not confessed his sins and prepared himself for the Lord's Table.  If so, it would be a good demonstration of the independence of the Church in matters theological, something the well-meaning Emperor Constantine might have taken to heart before he tied Church and State up too tightly.

Is that plaid by Polo?
Decius was a  general whose troops proclaimed him emperor and then fought to secure the throne for him in the unending cycle of mutiny and murder that was Imperial  Roman politics.  Philip himself is believed to have engineered a grain shortage to foment mutiny against the Emperor Gordian, and then to have ordered Gordian's murder in secret.  Live by the sword... Decius' troops overpowered Philip in AD 249; when news of his death reached Rome from the battlefield, praetorian guards murdered his son and co-Augustus. 

That same year, Decius launched the seventh Roman persecution of Christians.  Within a year, Babylas was arrested and accused.  He of course confessed his faith and was subsequently thrown in a prison, where he died of maltreatment.

And now we come to the question of whatever is meant by the Communion of the Saints.  A century later, when Christianity was the official religion of the Empire, Constantius Gallus ordered a new church to be built in Daphne, a suburb of Antioch.  A temple to Apollo was nearby and the good Caesar wanted to offset its prominence with a holy Christian shrine so he moved the remains of Babylas to it.  This was the first translation of a saint's relics -- a practice that would later be so common that translation days became second feast days.

Julian the Apostate ordered the saint exhumed and returned to his original grave.  Julian apparently was visiting the temple to hear prophecy from the oracle, but the spiritual force of the buried saint interfered.  A similar interference with divine revelation from the pantheonics had triggered the persecution of Diocletian.  It would make sense, therefore, that Julian would seek to relocate this source of spiritual interference away from Apollo's temple. 

Initially, I had typed a curse following Julian's  name, but deleted it on reflection.  After all, others -- even Christian militants -- have done much worse to the remains of saints.  But the exhumation was followed by a fire that destroyed the Temple of Apollo.  Christians were suspected, but a votive candle was eventually blamed. 

Julian's mischief was reversed by his successors, but Babylas was not re-translated to Daphne.  Instead, he was sent to yet another church on the River Orontes, and then centuries later translated once more to Cremona.

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