CHARALAMBOS D. VASILOPOULOS
SAINTS’ LIVES (168)
The memory of Saint Longinus is celebrated on the 18th October.
Translation based on the third edition.
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Which Christian has not heard of Kentirion(Mark 15: 39) of the Gospel (in Greek)? Kentirion means Centurion. During The Holy Week of our Lord Jesus Christ’s Passion, when everyone goes to Church, people hear in the Gospel readings, that this Centurion was in charge of the garrison’s soldiers, during the Crucifixion of Christ. Do people know that this Centurion in the end believed in Christ and acknowledged His Godhood straight after the Crucifixion? “ So, when the Centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the events that happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly He was the Son of God!”
People do not know that his name was Longinus. Neither do they know his later life, his martyrdom and the wondrous miracles that he performed after his death.
So, all this will be narrated in this booklet.
Archimandrite CHARALAMBOS VASILOPOULOS
Holy Convent Asomaton Petraki
MARTYR LONGINUS, THE CENTURION
Who is Saint Longinus?
Saint Longinus was a Centurion and of Judean descent. He lived during the time of our Lord Jesus Christ and served as Centurion in the service of Pontius Pilate.
On the day that our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, due to His infinite compassion in order to redeem us from the original sin, Longinus was commanded by Pontius Pilate to guard, together with his soldiers, Christ’s Body.
As we know, after the Holy Crucifixion, the Apostles and the other Jesus Christ’s followers fled in Jews’ fear.
Blessed Longinus stayed close to the Crucifix. His soul was deeply touched by innocent Christ’s unrighteous Crucifixion. Then, the miraculous events and the great miracles, that took place at the time, started happening in front of his eyes. First, he saw the earthquake, then the darkness that shaded the sun, the tombs that were opened and the dead coming out of them alive. He was filled with holy fear. He became conscious of God’s omnipotence as He expressed His fury for the greatest crime.He fell at the feet of the Crucified Christ and said in a loud voice:”Truly He was the Son of God!”
He avows Christ’s Godhood.
Longinus immediately realized the truth and avowed boldly and without any fear in the middle of the Synagogue of the Jews, saying freely again “Truly He was the Son of God!” Then, again, when Lord’s life-giving and most–Holy Body was buried, Pilate commanded Longinus himself, together with his garrison, to guard Christ’s Tomb.
So then, the Centurion went and guarded the Tomb, as he was commanded, even though he had a good opinion of Christ and believed that He was God’s Son, as he had avowed before with his own mouth.
During our Savior’s Resurrection when Longinus, together with his soldiers, saw Angel’s marvelous vision of the coming down in full brightness, removing the stone from the Tomb, they all fell to the ground, frightened by this unexpected miracle, which did not leave them untouched. Soon after, when they saw Christ coming out alive with Godly brightness, their agitation turned into religion. Longinus and his soldiers believed that He was God and when they approached the Tomb and saw only the shroud inside, they said loudly: “Truly He was the Son of God!”
The bribing of the Jews.
They ran immediately to the Synagogue and they announced it. But the elder of the Synagogue considered Christ’s Resurrection of to be a great embarrassment for them. In order to cover up their mistake, they thought of bribery. They gave the soldiers in the garrison as much money as they wanted so that they would slander the Resurrection and say that the Apostles came secretly in the night and stole His Body. This is what the rest of the soldiers reported to Pilate and started spreading to the rest of the people in the city.
But Longinus, the faithful, did not receive any silver coin. With free opinion and tongue, he started spreading the truth and criticizing the lies of the Jews. He told everyone that Christ is the true God and Heresurrected from the dead.
Jews’ hatred towards Saint Longinus.
When Pilate and the rest of the Jewish exarches found this out, they turned against Longinus with all the hatred they had had before against Christ, and tried to find a way and opportunity to kill him. But a friend of Longinus informed him about everything they were planning against him. So, fed up with the cowardly attitude of his superiors, he throws down his belt and cloak, he scorns his position, forsakes his relatives and friends and goes to Cappadocia. There, he became a messenger of the wondrous paradoxes of Christ, as a first Apostle.
Longinus’s avowal, that the Crucified Jesus is the true God and is resurrected, was spread almost all over the world.
It did not take long for the theocidal Jews to find this out. They gathered and managed to convince Pilate to write accusations against Longinus to Tiberius. Pilate, indeed, denounced Longinus for scorning his position and the faith of idolaters, preaching, that a man, Jesus Christ is the eternal King, convincing with this opinion most of the Cappadocians, who finally believed. Together with letters, the Jews sent money to Caesar in order to convince him to decide to sentence Longinus.
Longinus is sentenced to death.
Indeed, they got what they wanted. When Pilate received the royal edict ordering Longinus’ execution, Pilate showed it to the Jews. They were thrilled about it, acted immediately, quickly and eagerly, like carnivorous hawks, against Longinus, and arrived in Cappadocia. They stayed in a place, outside the city, where Longinus’ ancestral farmland was. This was where Longinus, himself, lived, leading an ascetic and placid life.
Not knowing Longinus personally, the soldiers confidentially asked him to reveal and show them, if he knew, the place where Longinus the Centurion was living.
They said that, because they were thinking of going there unexpectedly and arresting him. They believed that if he found it out, he would leave, thereby avoiding arrest. The fools did not know that Longinus was even more eager to die for his love of Christ, Who was crucified for our salvation.
How he welcomed his executioners.
Longinus was informed by the Holy Spirit what the executioners wanted from him. Nevertheless, he answered them in a calm and benevolent voice: “Follow me and I will show you the man you are looking for”.
Christ’s brave athlete felt great happiness, knowing before the martyrdom, how much contentment he was going to experience because of the temporary death, and thought to himself saying: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Gospel of peace who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Rom 10:15, Isaiah ch…..: 67). Now I, myself, become worthy to see the heavens opened and to invite death, together with Stefan, the first martyr, in α glorious voice, and call upon God and my Saviour: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”(Acts 7:59).
Now I take off the earthen gown, freeing myself from attrition and with great joy I put on the uniform of eternity. I come out from the great waves and the grievous wreckage of transient life and go towards the real harbor in which there is life without sorrow but only with eternal rest. So, my soul, rejoice that you go to the Creator and Saviour. Show then, Longinus, a joyful and smiling face; welcome your executioners hospitably and take care of them abundantly, those who offer you such bliss; offer a luxurious meal to your guests, those who came to take you to the meal of your Lord and Master”.
With these thoughts in mind, the blessed Longinus welcomed his enemies to his house. After taking great care of them, he asked them why they were looking for Longinus so eagerly.
They, without any suspicion at all, first made him promise not to talk to anyone about the case. After that, they confessed to him the truth i.e. that the emperor had sent a written order to Pilate to execute the Centurion and his two fellow soldiers. Then, the Centurion asked for the two soldiers’ names, in order to verify whether they were talking about his two fellow soldiers. When he understood that they had been ordered to behead him together with his companions, he said to them:
“Rest in my home for two days, because these three are coming here in two days time and I will deliver them to you, without you having to go and ask for them”. He said that because he had sent the other two on some mission. Because he wanted all three of them to be martyred together, he sent a missive to the other two soldiers, asking them to return immediately.
In the meantime, Longinus, as a great student of Christ, took care of Pilate’s delegates generously. During these two days, he showed them the great pleasure he felt, offering them his hospitality, exactly, because he knew what they were about to do to him.
He reveals himself to his executioners.
When he found out that the other two were approaching, Longinus said to the soldiers:
“Be aware my dear friends, that I am Longinus, the one you are looking for”.
They were stunned when they heard it and they did not believe it, because they saw him happy and smiling. When they confirmed it, their souls pained and they sighed deeply. Their conscience tormented them, since they were forced by the command, to pay back with such harm, the one who had offered them such regal hospitality, and had showed them such love. They told him with great sorrow and pain:
“Why, friend Longinus, have you made such an effort to receive us in your home, and the hospitality you have shown us will become death for you?
Go in peace, man, and let life be given to you as a gift for the great hospitality you offered us. We are afraid of putting a knife to your throat. We respect the salt and the food you offered us. Our mind does not allow us to do you such harm. Our hands are too cowardly to touch you. It is better to risk suffering from Pilate than taint our conscience and reward you in such a way”.
This is what the soldiers said because they felt compassion for the Saint. But he, both pleased and happy, answered them bravely:
“Why do you begrudge me the goods that you are going to give me despite your will? Why do you despair for my death, which is the beginning of my life in the eternal Kingdom? Do not feel sorry my friends but console yourselves, for this end causes me such an eternal exultation, because it makes me worthy to enjoy Paradise for ever with my Lord Jesus Christ. He is the true God, as all His creation declared during the time of His willingly Passion. The sky blackened. The sun darkened. The earth shook. And the stones were torn apart. How can I be more insensitive than the stones and the other creation? Not to recognize my Creator? To deny Him? God Forbid!”
These and other things said the Saint in order to convince the delegates to carry out the command they had been given. Meanwhile, the Saint’s two other companions arrived. When the Saint saw them he felt very happy, embraced them and kissed them saying:
“Be of great joy my soldiers and inheritors of Christ’s Kingdom. Now the Angels are opening the gates of the skies to lead our souls to Heaven.Behold, I see the candles and the gifts with which we are going to be presented blissful to the Founder Christ.
Straight away the Saint put on his best clothes, as if he had been invited to a wealthy wedding. He, himself, selected the place where he wanted his body to be buried.
Centurion’s and his two soldiers’decapitation.
Everything was arranged. The Saint and his fellow companions, blissful and resplendently dressed, kneeled, bent their honourable heads and the delegates beheaded them on the 18th October. Their blessed souls left for heaven.
After the decapitation, the soldiers took Centurion’s head and brought it to Pilate for the Jews to see and be satisfied. The Jews paid the soldiers well; they gave them a lot of money. Pilate, in order to satisfy the Jews more, commanded them to throw Centurion’s honourable head, contemptuously, outside the city.
However, the Lord, for Whom this honourable head had been cut off, did not allow it to stay scorned in the muck, into which it had been thrown.
The most wondrous thing for the Saint’s glory is the following.
One miracle of Saint Longinus.
A poor, blind widow had a dearest only son, a small consolation for her widowhood and blindness. She had great reverence and faith in God. So, she took her stick and her son and left on a pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre. She hoped that Lord Jesus Christ, being omnipotent, would take her blindness away.
After a long journey, they arrived at the Holy Sepulchre. Once she had kneeled before It, she took some soil from the ground and put it reverently on her eyes.Not only did she not get her eyesight back but she also faced an even greater sorrow. Her dearest and only son who was the aid and guide of her eyes, became ill and died.
The unfortunate woman wept desolately for these three misfortunes and said:
“My Lord, why did You desert me? Am I the only one who has sinned and you have deprived me of my dearest and only child, who was the light of my eyes? Which hope of salvation and consolation is there left for me? Oh my sweetboy, my dearest and only little child, consolation of my suffering, what will I, the unfortunate one, do? How am I going to manage without you?
With these laments, the unfortunate woman fell asleep because of her sorrow and her tears. And what a miracle! She dreamed of the Saint, who told her:
I am Longinus the Centurion, whose head was cut off for Christ’s sake. They brought this head here and threw it outside the city in a place where muck is thrown.
So, go to this place, dig deep enough and you will find my head. Touch your eyes with it and you will get back your eyesight. Then, I will show you your son, who is in great glory and you will be consoled for all your misfortunes.
When she heard these, the blind woman went to the place she was told to go with great effort and by somebody’s guidance. She started eagerly to dig in the muck with her own hands. When she found the sacred honourable head, she held it tightly in her arms, as if it were the greatest treasure, put it onto her eyes and immediately got her eyesight back. She embraced and kissed it repeatedly,crying hot tears. Then, after she had cleaned it carefully, she anointed it with myrrh and returned to her house, holding it as if it were a precious pearl.
The next night, the Saint appeared to her again in her sleep, holding in his embrace her son as if it were his own child. Her son was wearing the rich clothes of a bridegroom and was happy. Then the Saint said to her:
“Look at your son, for whom you were mourning, how delighted he is. So, do not be sorry but be happy. God considered him worthy of His kingdom and he was offered to me as one of my companions and he will never be parted from me. So, take my head and the remains of your son and bury them together in one tomb. You must always thank God because He placed him in such glory and eternal bliss”.
After all these, the woman put the head together with her son’s remains in a case which she took back to her country Cappadocia, to a village called Scandali.
Thus, in this way, by asking to get her eyesight back, she gained the Saint’s protection. That is why she built a church dedicated to Saint Longinus and placed in it the holy head of the Martyr. There, it became a source of curatives for herself and for her compatriot Christians. She thanked God saying:
“Now I have discovered how many good things are gained by those who love Lord. I asked for physical eyes and I got the eyes of the Spirit. I was sad for the death of my child and I saw him in great glory, coheir with the Saints, standing close to God, mingling with Prophets and Martyrs. Both he and Longinus the Centurion were dressed resplendently, chanting the victorious ode, saying in that holy voice: “Truly He was the Son of God!” and “His kingdom is and will be everlasting and His rule endless”.
The Sun of the glory, nailed to the Cross, and in the shadow of death as you saw him shining, you were illuminated by His lightning, and you, Longinus, made a martyr of yourself piously; for this reason you relieve from all illnesses, those who say; glory to Him who gave you power, glory to Him who put the wreath on you, glory to Him who acts all healing through you.
The church has become joyful today exclaiming, on the commemoration of the blessed athlete Longinus; Christ, You are the State and the Foundation.
You are the greatest messenger and eyewitness, of the physical suffering of the merciful Word of God, Bravely you preach His Resurrection; for Christ, Longinus, you perished willingly.
Christ, Longinus calls You Son of God again, as before; his neck is cut. On the 18thLonginus head fell.
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