The Hieromartyr Babylas, and with him the three young men Urban, Prilidian, Eppolonias, and their mother Christodoula died as martyrs under the emperor Decius (249-251).
During a time of his stay at their city of Antioch, the emperor arranged for a large festival in honour of the pagan gods. During this same time the holy and God-fearing bishop of Antioch, Babylas, was making Divine Liturgy in church; he prayed for his flock and taught it bravely to undergo all the tribulations for the faith in Christ. After his abomination of idol-worship, Decius, wanting to behold the making of the Divine Mysteries, decided to enter the church and by his visit to defile the Sanctuary of the Lord. News of this reached the bishop, and he, not wanting to permit impiety in the temple of God, went out to meet him and block the path to the church.
When the emperor tried to get closer to the church doors, Saint Babylas shoved him away with his hands, such that the emperor had to forego his intent. He wanted to take his revenge on the saint right away, but seeing the large throng of Christians, he feared having them riot.
The next day the angry emperor gave orders to set fire to the Christian temple, and to bring Bishop Babylas before him. To the question about why he should insult the imperial dignity, and not allow the emperor into the church nor render him due respect of position, the holy bishop answered, “Anyone that would rise up against God and want to desecrate His sanctuary, such a one not only is not worthy of respect, but is become the enemy of the Lord.”
The emperor demanded that the holy bishop worship the idols and in such manner redeem his offence against the emperor, or else face execution. But having convinced himself that the martyr would remain steadfast in his faith, he commanded the military commander Victorinus to put him in heavy chains and lead him through the city in disgrace. To this the holy martyr replied, “Emperor, for me these chains be as venerable as for thee is thine imperial crown, and the suffering for Christ for me is as acceptable as is the imperial power for thee; death for the Immortal King for me is as desirable as thine life be for thee.”
At the trial with Bishop Babylas were three young brothers who did not forsake him even in this most difficult moment. Seeing them, the emperor asked, “Who are these children?” “These are my spiritual children,” answered the saint, “and I have raised them in piety, I have nourished them with an education, cultivated them with guidance, and here in a small body before thee are these great young men and perfect Christians. Test and see.”
The emperor tried in all sorts of ways to entice the youths and their mother Christodoula into a renunciation of Christ, but in vain. Then in a rage he gave orders to whip each of them in a number equivalent to their years of age. The first they whipped with twelve blows, the second ten, and the third seven. Having dismissed the mother and children, the torturer again summoned the bishop, telling him that the children had renounced Christ. But the lie quickly unraveled and brought no success. Then in a rage he commanded all the martyrs be tied on a tree and burnt at with fire. But seeing the stoic bravery of the saints, the emperor finally condemned them to the death of martyrdom by beheading with the sword (+c.251).