Throughout the centuries there have been but few that have been recognized as Apostles or missionary saints. During His life on earth, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ called the Twelve and the Seventy to become His apostles. Due to their pivotal role in the spreading of the message of Christ, the Apostles are listed first among the six categories of saints. The Prokeimenon that is sung in the Plagal of Tone Four notes: "Their sound has gone forth into all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world."
In His Great Commission to the Holy Apostles Jesus said: "Go, therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19-20). In fulfilling the Lord’s Great Commission they succeeded in carrying out His message of salvation to the entire world. They became His representatives on earth and, in so doing, they bore witness to Him, they taught the world how He lived, what He said, and what He accomplished. We, the stewards of the Christian Orthodox Church, are fortunate to be the beneficiaries of the stewardship offered by the Holy Apostles.
The lives and works of the Twelve Holy Apostles are more familiar than those of the Seventy. For this reason, we wish to highlight the life of the Holy Apostle Barnabas, one of the Seventy. Born to a wealthy family on the beautiful island of Cyprus, he was named Joseph. His parents offered him every opportunity to progress in life. He was sent to study under the renowned rabbinical scholar Gamaliel and his schoolmate was Saul, later to become the Holy Apostle Paul. Having traveled to Jerusalem, he visited his cousin, St. Mark the Evangelist. Barnabas had a great desire to study religion and he readily became a Christian and joined the other Apostles. We read in the Book of Acts: "Joseph, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet" (Acts 4:36-37). Along with the Apostles Paul and Mark, Barnabas preached in many lands. Among the places where He spread the Good News were: Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, Egypt, Jerusalem, Rome, and his homeland of Cyprus. It is accepted by many that the Apostle Barnabas was the first to preach Christ in Rome and Milan, Italy. Following a short period as the Bishop of Milan, he returned to Cyprus to preach Christ in his native land. Under his guidance, the Church progressed in faith and many came to accept Christ in a predominantly pagan environment. The success of his ministry brought the anger from the non-Christian authorities and he was arrested, tortured, and burned to death. It is said that the Christians of Cyprus buried him next to St. Mark in the city of Salamis, "holding a copy of the Holy Gospel of Matthew that he had transcribed with his own hand."
The Holy Apostle Barnabas was greatly respected by the other apostles. It was said that he possessed the ability to bring consolation and encouragement to others and for this reason, was given the name Barnabas. He was recognized for his enthusiasm to preach the Good News and possessed such noble qualities like kindness, sympathy, and generosity. Luke the Evangelist describes Barnabas as: "…a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith…" (Acts 11:24). What a marvelous example of Christian Orthodox Stewardship. Through the intercessions of the Holy Apostle Barnabas may Jesus Christ our Lord, God, and Savior bless us with these same qualities of Stewardship.
To learn more about the stewardship of the saints, click here.