Sunday, June 18, 2000

Warrior Series: St. Leontius

THE HOLY MARTYR LEONTIUS (73 A.D.)


(June 18) Leontius was a Roman commander in Tripoli in Phoenicia during the reign of Emperor Vespasian. He was born in Hellas [Greece] "of great physical stature, powerful, strong and brave in battles." Hadrian, the imperial deputy, sent a military detachment to arrest Leontius, for Hadrian was a fierce adversary and persecutor of Christians. Hypatius, the senior officer of this detachment, became ill enroute with a bitter fever because of which the detachment had to slow down their march. One night an angel of God appeared to Hypatius and said to him: "If you want to be well, cry out three times toward heaven with all your soldiers: 'O God of Leontius help me!' "

Hypatius informed his companions of his vision and all in unison cried out as the angel instructed and immediately Hypatius became well. This miracle astonished all but especially Theodulus. Hypatius and Theodulus then went ahead of the other soldiers to seek Commander Leontius. Leontius received them graciously and served them. When he expounded his faith in Christ to them, their hearts burned with love for Christ and, at that moment, a bright cloud descended upon Hypatius and Theodulus and dew from a cloud descended upon them. That was the Holy Spirit of God Himself baptizing these converted souls and St. Leontius, at that moment, spoke these words: "In the name of the All-holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit." The evil Hadrian, learning that Hypatius and Theodulus became Christians, ordered that they be scourged without mercy and following that to be beheaded with an axe. And so, these two spiritual children of Leontius died.

Then Hadrian prescribed cruel tortures for Leontius but Leontius remained unwavering in his holy faith. His entire body was covered with wounds but he diligently prayed to God not to abandon him. In the midst of the cruelest torments, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, encouraged and comforted him. Finally, they knocked the martyr Leontius to the ground and beat him until he gave up his soul to God. The sufferings of St. Leontius was personally witnessed by Kir Notarius who recorded all that he saw on lead tablets and placed them in the martyr's grave. St. Leontius suffered honorably in the year 73 A.D.


HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT LEONTIUS
Leontius, the heart of a lion,
A lion's heart and name,
Of his God, he was not ashamed
But, before all, confessed Christ,
The Savior of the world, Christ the God.
Youth, strength and commandership scorned
For the sake of the truth of the Crucified Christ
And [Who] from death, resurrected gloriously.
Flattered, hosted, glorified and favored with gifts,
He, his God did not deny,
Flogged, spat upon, scraped and crucified,
He, his God, did not deny,
But, the greater the torment and ridicule
The flame of faith greater and brighter.
The Roman Empire and all the powers of Hades
Against him had turned,
But he knew that alone, he was not.
For, beside him, stood Christ.
A pillar of stone, amidst the angry reeds,
A pillar of fire among the slaves of darkness.
By his faith, he amazed the people,
To live eternally, his life he gave.

Monday, June 12, 2000

Warrior Series: St. Peter

VENERABLE PETER THE ATHONITE (734 A.D.)

Peter was a Greek by birth and a soldier by profession. Once, in battle against the Arabs, Peter was captured, bound by chains and cast into prison. Peter remained imprisoned a long time in the town of Samara on the Euphrates river and he constantly prayed that God free him from prison and take him to some wilderness where he would dedicate himself completely to a life of prayerful asceticism. St. Simeon, the Receiver of God, with St. Nicholas appeared to him in prison, touched his iron chains with his staff and they melted like wax and Peter suddenly found himself in a field outside the town. He immediately set out for Rome where he was tonsured a monk by the pope himself at the tomb of St. Peter.

After this he again departed by boat for the east. The All-Holy Birth-giver of God along with St. Nicholas appeared to him in a dream and the Birth-giver of God said to St. Nicholas that she designated Mt. Athos for a life of asceticism for Peter. Up to this time, Peter had never heard of the Holy Mt. Athos. Disembarking, therefore, on the Holy Mountain, Peter settled in a cave where he remained for fifty-three years in difficult mortifications, in a struggle with hunger and thirst, with heat and cold and mostly with the powers of the demons until he overcame all with the help of God.

After he endured the first temptations and successfully passed the first difficult tests before God, an angel of God began to bring him bread every forty days. On several occasions, the tempting devil appeared to him under the guise of an angel of light but Peter repelled him with the sign of the cross and the name of the All-Holy Birth-giver of God. About a year before his death he was discovered by a deer hunter around Athos and from the mouth of the saint heard his life story. He died in the year 734 A.D. His relics were translated to Macedonia.

HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT PETER OF ATHOS
Saint Peter in the awesome wilderness,
Of all earthly riches, deprived
And the rich illusions of the devil,
Through tearful prayers, overcame all,
The heart he harnessed and to God raised it,
The mind he straightened and to heaven uplifted it,
Immobile as a rock among the cliffs,
Wearied by hunger and all-night vigils,
Directed himself toward every good
As bodiless in an earthly body.
On Mt. Athos, half a century
In prayer speaks only with God,
From age he turned as white as snow,
Neither man he saw, neither wanted he to.
To him, God revealed the window of heaven,
Countless miracles, Peter saw,
The Mother of God, God's angels.
And the all-wonderful saints of God.
To him the Lord an angel sent,
To him, gave Holy Communion from heaven,
Until, a spiritual giant Peter of himself created
As a certain city on a high mountain.
To be a teacher throughout the ages,
To the holy monks, a wonderful example. 


REFLECTION
Great and wonderful is the Mystery [Sacrament] of Holy Communion. Even the anchorites [recluses] and hermits craved for nothing else as much as to be given the possibility to receive Holy Communion. St. Mary the Egyptian begged St. Zosimus to bring her the Holy Mystery on the Jordan and to communicate her. Returning from visiting St. Onuphrius, Venerable Paphnutius found a humble community of four young ascetics in the desert. When Paphnutius asked them whether and how do you receive Holy Communion, they replied that an angel of God visits them every Saturday and Sunday and administers them Holy Communion. Paphnutius remained until the first following Saturday and was personally convinced. When Saturday dawned, the entire community was filled with an indescribable wonderful fragrance and while they were at prayer, an angel of God in the form of a handsome young man, as bright as lightning, appeared with the All-pure Mysteries. Paphnutius became frightened and out of fear fell to the ground. But they raised him up and brought him to the angel that he, along with them, receive Communion from the hand of the angel.

According to his own testimony, St. Onuphrius received Holy Communion from the hand of an angel as did many other anchorites and hermits. Therefore, it is completely erroneous to think that solitaries and hermits did not receive Holy Communion. God Who provided for their bodily nourishment did not leave them without the Life-giving nourishment of the Body and Blood of Christ the Lord.

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