This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Friday, April 22, 2011

April 22 -- Feast of St. Leonidas of Alexandria

Origen: neither heretic nor saint
and also by extension (and my proclamation) the feast of his son Origen.

Leonidas was a professor of rhetoric in Alexandria who was imprisoned and beheaded in AD 202 by Laertus, the governor of Egypt. Leonidas was killed for his Christianity, so all his property was confiscated. His wife and seven sons were impoverished until the family was adopted by a wealthy Christian woman.

One son, Origen, was perhaps the most brilliant Christian thinker of the third century. Well, he's got some stiff competition, but top five, easy. He is considered the father of the homily, and wrote thousands of pages of commentary on religious texts.

He survived the persecutions of Maximian, but was imprisoned and tortured during the persecutions of Decius.

He'd be a shoo-in for sainthood, right? Sure, except that his speculative ideas were later branded heresy when the mania for definitive orthodoxy was in full bloom. They couldn't do anything to Origen himself -- Decius had seen to that -- but they could identify forbidden ideas as Origenism and thereby block any possible sainthood.

The picture above, by the way, was taken from the Animal Liberation Front website, which quotes him offering an explanation of why we eat meat.


  1. I believe this is the 1st icon I've seen of him. I wonder who painted it? I would like to get one someday for my son Leonidas.

  2. It seems to be an icon of Origen rather than Leonidas. I'd call a shop that specializes in Greek Orthodox icons, maybe Monastery Icons at (800) 729-4952. Good luck

  3. Apparently it was Origen who connected the ox and donkey with the Nativity scene. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote this year, there's nothing in the Gospels to suggest that the animals were there, but Isaiah wrote (1:3) "The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand." His Holiness did not come out an ban the animals from Nativity; rather, he just noted there's nothing in the text to support their presence.

    I like Origen's connection to Isaiah. I think it makes sense, and gives a practical charm to Nativity scenes. It's another feather in his cap, as far as I am concerned.