02 Dec Saint Bibiana, Virgin and Martyr
Today is the feast day of Saint Bibiana. Ora pro nobis.
Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876
In the fourth century, there lived at Rome a virgin celebrated among the Christians for her beauty and her modesty, named Bibiana. Flavian, her father, was, in the reign of the godless Emperor Julian, dispossessed of all his honors and banished from his country on account of his faith. He ended his life in misery, a true martyr for Christ’s sake. Dafrosa, her mother, was for the same reason, after her husband’s banishment, locked up in her own house, that she might starve. Saint Bibiana and Demetria, the two daughters, shared their mother’s imprisonment. But as neither the mother nor her daughters became emaciated by the hunger they, suffered, and, on the contrary, appeared more vigorous than before, and could not be frightened into denying Christ, the mother, by the order of the governor Apronianus, was banished from the country and then beheaded. Saint Bibiana and Demetria were, at the same time, deprived of all their possessions, in the hope that poverty would cause them to abandon their faith. But the Christian heroines regarded it as little as those to whom St. Paul writes: “You have received the loss of your possessions joyfully, because you know that you have to expect greater goods in heaven.” They said cheerfully: “It is better to lose the temporal goods, which we cannot possess long, than the eternal.” The Governor, after a time, called both of them, and promised that all that had been taken from them would be restored, if they would only worship the gods; but if they refused, he threatened them with imprisonment, a cruel martyrdom and the most painful death.
The Christian virgins were as unmoved by the flatteries and promises of the tyrant, as by his menaces. “We worship the true God,” said Bibiana, “and are ready to die rather than to stain our souls by sacrificing to the gods.” Demetria spoke in the same manner, but hardly had the words left her lips, when she sank down and expired. Bibiana was given into the charge of a wicked and cunning woman, named Rufina, who was to cause her to abandon her faith; for, the heathens knew, by experience, that none more easily denied Christ than those who had lost their purity. Rufina, the wicked woman, left nothing untried. She represented the pleasures of the world to Bibiana in such a manner, that she thought the virgin would surely drink the poison thus put to her lips; but all her wiles were of no effect. Although the maiden was kept like a prisoner by Rufina and could not escape, yet she remained unharmed by the fire of temptation. Calling ceaselessly to God for aid and strength, she was so graciously sustained, that she not only manifested not the least pleasure at Rufina’s wicked behavior, but was more and more strengthened in virtue. Rufina, enraged at this, maltreated the innocent virgin by beating her most violently. All that her rage suggested was employed to gain her end; but the virgin, upheld by the Almighty, remained true to her resolution, rather to lose her life by the most cruel martyrdom, than to stain her purity.
When, at length, Rufina saw to her great chagrin that her endeavors were entirely useless, she informed the tyrant Apronianus of her failure, and persuaded him immediately to sentence Bibiana to death. The tyrant, without delay, ordered her to be tied to a column, and beaten to death. The order was executed, and Bibiana repeatedly declared that she regarded it as a high honor to be thought worthy to die for Christ’s sake. With her eyes raised to heaven, she stood motionless during her martyrdom, until her whole body was one mass of bloody wounds, and she gave her unspotted soul to the keeping of her heavenly Bridegroom. According to the tyrant’s command, her holy body was left on the public road, to serve as a prey to the dogs; but it remained untouched, until a pious priest carried it secretly away, and buried it beside the grave of her mother and sister. At present there stands a beautiful church on the spot, built in honor of the holy martyr, and in commemoration of the sufferings and death of her mother and sister. (1)
Prayer from the Liturgical Year, 1870
Holy Bibiana, most wise Virgin! thou hast gone through the long unbroken watch of this life; and when, suddenly, the Spouse came, thy lamp was bright and richly fed with oil. Now thou art dwelling in the abode of the eternal marriage-feast, where the Beloved feeds among the lilies. Remember us who are still living in the expectation of that same divine Spouse, whose eternal embrace is secured to thee for ever. We are awaiting the Birth of the Savior of the world, which is to be the end of sin and the beginning of justice; we are awaiting the coming of this Savior into our souls that He may give them life and union with Himself by love; we are awaiting our Judge, the Judge of the living and the dead. Most wise Virgin! intercede for us, by thy fervent prayers, with this our Savior, our Spouse, and our Judge; pray that each of these three visits may work and perfect in us that divine union, for which we have all been created. Pray also, O faithful Virgin, for the Church on earth, which gave thee to the Church in heaven, and which so devoutly watches over thy precious remains. Obtain for her that strict fidelity, which will ever render her worthy of Him, Who is her Spouse as He is thine. Though He has enriched her with the most magnificent gifts, and given her confidence by His promises which cannot fail, yet does He wish her to ask, and us to ask for her, the graces which will lead her to the glorious destiny which awaits her.
We will today consider the state of nature at this season of the year. The earth is stripped of her wonted verdure, the flowers are gone, the fruits are fallen, the leaves are torn from the trees and scattered by the wind, and every living thing stiffens with the cold. It seems as though the hand of death had touched creation. We see the sun rise after the long night of His absence; and scarce have we felt His warmth at noon, than He sets again, and leaves us in the chilly darkness. Each day He shortens His visit. Is the world to become sunless, and men to live out the rest of life in gloom? The old pagans, who witnessed this struggle between light and darkness, and feared the sun was going to leave them, dedicated the twenty-fifth day of December, which was the winter solstice, to the worship of the sun. After this day, their hopes revived, in seeing the glorious luminary again mounting up in the sky, and gradually regaining his triumphant position.
We Christians can have no such feelings as these; our light is the true faith, which tells us that there is a Sun to be sought for which never sets, and is never eclipsed. Having Him, we care little for the absence of any other brightness; nay, all other light, without Him, can only lead us astray. O Jesus! thou true light, that enlightenest every man coming into this world! Thou didst choose, for Thy birth among us, a time of the year which forces us to reflect upon the miserable state of the world when Thou didst come to save it. “The evening was coming on, and the day was far spent,” says St. Bernard: “the Sun of Justice had all but set, so that exceeding scanty was His light or warmth on earth: for the light of divine knowledge was very faint, and, sin abounding, the heat of charity had grown cold. There was neither Angel to visit men, nor Prophet to speak to them; both seemed in despair, for the hardness and obstinacy of man had made every effort useless: then I said, they are the words of our Redeemer, then I said, lo! I come (First Sunday of Advent)!” O Jesus! O Sun of Justice! give us a clear knowledge of what the world is without Thee; what our understanding is without Thy light; and what our heart without Thy divine heat.
Open Thou the eyes of our “faith; that whilst seeing with the eyes of the body the gradual decrease of the material light, we may think of that other darkness, which is in the soul that has not Thee. Then, indeed, will the cry, which comes from the depths of our misery, make its way to Thee, and Thou wilt come on the day Thou hast fixed, dispelling every shadow of darkness by Thy irresistible brightness. Amen
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff