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.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

March 15 -- Feast of Saint Longinus the Centurion

Bernini's version of Longinus
Longinus was the Roman centurion in command during the execution of Jesus.  You might not expect that the guy who mocked and flogged the Lord all the way up the Via Dolorosa would get to become a saint, but that redemption piece (no one is irredeemable) is a staple in traditional Christianity.

Longinus was nearly blind, maybe totally blind in one eye.  That's probably how he got command of the execution squad instead of being out in the hinterland, hunting down Essenes and Zealots.  Anyway, when he felt the condemned man had taken enough abuse, or maybe he was just ready to call it a day, he took a spear and drove it through  Jesus' side.  According to John's Gospel, blood and water flowed out.  It ran down the shaft of the spear and got on Longinus' hands.  He touched the blood to his eyes and his vision was healed.  This, along with the darkness and the earthquake and all that stuff, made a believer out of Longinus.   He ditched his armor and went to live with the disciples in Caesarea for thirty-eight years.

Octavian the Prefect summoned him to account for his Christianity, which by then was forbidden.  They bandied words, which wasn't earning the ex-centurion any points, but instead of just refusing to offer a sacrifice to the stone idols, Longinus drove demons out of them into Octavian and his men.  The possessed Romans dropped to all fours and started jabbering like... well, like they were demonically possessed.  Longinus conversed with them a little and then drove them off, leaving the prefect and his soldiers unharmed.  This might have reinforced the faith of the assembled Christians, but it did nothing to endear Longinus to Octavian.

Time passed and then the prefect summoned Longinus again and accused him of enchantry.  Yep, that was the charge.  Someone named Aphrodisius spoke up on Longinus' behalf, so Octavian had the man's tongue ripped out.  No sooner was this done than Octavian was blinded and "lost all his members."  I'm not sure what that means?  Paralysis?  Quadriplegia? Something worse?  Anyway, Blind Octaplegia begged Aphrodisius to ask Longinus to get God to restore him, which is kind of funny, since Aphrodisius had no tongue.  Stranger still, Aphrodisius replied, basically saying "I told you so." Longinus spoke up and said that Octavian was going to have to kill him so he could go to God and make a case for Octavian's restoration.

Longinus was beheaded.  Octavian threw himself (memberlessly?) on the bloody corpse and was fully healed.  He became a Christian and lived out his days by keeping the faith.  Longinus' lance is contained in one of the four pillars over the altar in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

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