11 June 2011

11 June - Saint Barnabas

Weather: If it rains on St. Barnabas Day, it is good for grapes.

On St. Barnabas Day, it is time to cut your hay.

St. Barnabas oft times brings a tempest [for which the good saint is invoked against hailstorms, not least of which is a prayer to leave the growing grain standing]

Saint Barnabas, Apostle and Martyr (died c. 61)
A Jew born in Cyprus, who received the Holy Spirit, sold all he had, and gave it to the Twelve.  He introduced Paul (formerly Saul the Persecutor) to Peter, and accompanied him on many of his travels, preaching the Gospel and converting many.  Tradition says that he carried the Gospel to Milan, and was stoned (or burned) to death by a mob in Cyprus.

As summarized in the Catholic Encyclopedia: "With the exception of St. Paul and certain of the Twelve, Barnabas appears to have been the most esteemed man of the first Christian generation.  St. Luke, breaking his habit of reserve, speaks of him with affection, "for he was a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and of Faith".  His title to glory comes not only from his kindliness of heart, his personal sanctity, and his missionary labours, but also from his readiness to lay aside his Jewish prejudices, in this anticipating certain of the Twelve; from his large-hearted welcome of the Gentiles, and from his early perception of Paul's worth, to which the Christian Church is indebted, in large part at least, for its great Apostle.  His tenderness towards John Mark seems to have had its reward in the valuable service later rendered by him to the Church."

[One thing that strikes me about Saint Barnabas is his courage.  Saul of Tarsus was a zealous persecutor of Christians in his day - had he a blog, I'm sure it would have been filled with righteous calls to exterminate this so-called Jewish sect, these followers of an executed criminal, who refused to follow the Law has handed down through the ages.  Successful efforts would have been highlighted ("We found the whole family at prayer... that's the best time to strike"), and the stoning of that pipsqueak Stephen would likely have garnered the most hits and combox traffic ("Oh, yes, I agree." "Stone the lot of them!" "Should be beheaded!" "Crucify them all - only do it upside down!" "We can't wait for these people to die of old age; get rid of them now!" "Rumor says he was asking for forgiveness. Is that what you heard?...)

If the persecutors of our day - Osama, Pol Pot, Mao, Hitler, Stalin, fill in the blank - were to have a sudden conversion on the road to Damascus, would you sponsor them, as Barnabas did Saul?  Would you take them to meet the Holy Father, expecting him to accept these men (who, let's face it, have bloody hands)?  Would you stand by them, join them in their missionary efforts, protect them, call them your friends and fellow apostles?

Barnabas was a brave man.  He trusted the Holy Spirit to the utmost. I don't know that I have that courage.]

St. Barnabas' Day was at one time considered the day of the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, when the sun, after its long march north, seems to stand and then start its journey south again.  As such, it became a day of high festival.

From this came the rhyme:
Barnaby bright, Barnaby bright
The longest day and the shortest night

Traditionally, Midsummer begins now, and continues until the 2nd of July.

From an old churchwarden's account of disbursements for his church, some claim that it was customary for priests and clerks of English churches to wear garlands of roses and woodruff today, while other say that the garlands were used to decorate the churches, not the priests.  Be that as it may, I get great enjoyment imagining our pastor, Father G., wearing a garland of roses, like a Derby winner.