St Babylas of Antioch

(Commemorated on September 4)


Saint Babylas was the twelfth Bishop of Antioch (237-253 AD). He served Antioch’s Christian citizens well during the years of Christian persecution, and especially cared for the vulnerable widows and orphans. Saint John Chrysostom was from Antioch, and in his homily on the Acts of the Martyrs said that Saint Babylas “saved this holy ship [the Church] in storm and choppy sea and waves.” He reported on the time that Saint Babylas stood outside of the church and refused to let the visiting pagan emperor enter the church to witness the Divine Liturgy. He ordered him instead to take his place among the penitents for his part in a murder.

During the Decian persecution (250 AD) St Babylas made an unwavering confession of faith and was thrown into prison. He was placed in heavy chains and given the choice to either sacrifice to the idols or die. Despite the tortures that Saint Babylas was enduring, three young brothers who were spiritual children of the Saint did not abandon him. These young boys suffered tortures, but none of them renounced Christ. In the end, Saint Babylas and his companions were executed in 253, and are commemorated on September 4.

Saint Babylas is also well known for events that occurred after his death. He was one of the first saints to have his relics moved, or ‘translated’, to the suburb of Daphne in Antioch by Caesar Constantius Gallus around 350 AD. In St John Chrysostom’s words it was like “bringing a physician to the sick,” as his presence counteracted the ungodly activities of the pagans at the nearby Temple of Apollo.

Saint John also relates the following events in his sermon: When the pagan Emperor Julian the Apostate went to the Temple to receive a prophecy, the demon in the statue replied: “The dead prevent me from uttering, but break open the graves, dig up the bones, move the dead.” By this, the demon made known that the power of the Saint prevented him from speaking. The emperor then moved the Martyr’s relics, but in doing so created a triumphant procession of his relics throughout Antioch. As soon as the coffin reached the city, a thunderbolt destroyed the statue in the Temple and burned the roof. Thus, even in death, the Saints make known the glory of God.


Source: Lychnos August-September 2021