Augustine Sokolovski

On July 1 the Church celebrates the memory of the Holy Martyrs Leontius, Hypatius and Theodulus. The Saints suffered for Christ in the ancient Phoenician city of Tripoli, located in the north of modern Lebanon.

Leontius and his compagnons were among the most revered saints of the Ancient Church. Suffice it to mention that they were considered the patron saints of the Byzantine army. The special character of the veneration of the saints is also evidenced by the fact that in the church calendar on the day of their memory there are no other remembrances dedicated to the saints.

According to the life, the saints suffered for Christ during the reign of the pagan Emperor Vespasian (69-79). At that time, Christianity was perceived by most pagans as part of the Jewish religion, and therefore, as an ancient religion, was allowed. But as soon as the Romans began to understand that it was about some new teaching (Acts 17:19), Christianity, according to Roman laws, became illegal.

The time of Leontius was just such a transitional period when Christianity began its independent existence. By the predestination of God, about which Paul writes in the Epistle to the Romans (chapter 11), the Jewish people, with the exception of the Apostles and a relatively small circle of disciples, did not believe in Christ. Paul distinguished between divine foreknowledge and predestination.

According to Paul's logic, if all Jews had believed, Christianity would have remained the faith of the People of Israel. The unbelief of the Jews "doomed" it to become universal, to become a universal confession for all peoples. In the Creed, the confession of this mystery is hidden in the words about faith in the Lord Jesus, "crucified under Pontius Pilate." The mention of the Roman procurator is the confession by Christianity of its universal vocation.

So, becoming a "separate" faith from Judaism in the eyes of the Roman authorities, Christianity doomed itself to persecution. It is important to understand that this choice to meet persecution was conscious.

According to his life, having become a witness of the apostolic sermon, Leontius came to faith in Christ. As an officer in the Roman army, he began preaching Christianity to his colleagues. For the investigation and trial, the military authorities appointed the commander Hypatius.

The latter was seriously ill. Simultaneously with the order to deal with the whole rigor of the case of preaching Christianity in the army, in a vision he received a command to call on "God, whom Leontius professes." Together with one of his soldiers named Publius, Hypatius invoked the "God of the Christians" three times and was healed of his illness.

It turned out that all three, Leonty, Hypatius and Theodulus, confessed themselves to be Christians and were arrested. Hypatius and Publius were interrogated formally, and for refusing to renounce their faith in Christ, they were beheaded. Leontius, as the formal culprit of everything that happened, was subjected to the most severe tortures, and died in agony. His body was secretly buried by Christians.

Sometime later, a rich Syrian named Maurus, who was in a Roman prison, had a vision in which a voice from above, through the prayers of Leontius, promised him release. Having gained freedom and returned to his native land, the Maurus built a martyrium on the site of the suffering of the martyrs - a special church-chapel, where, in accordance with ancient tradition, special veneration was paid to Leontius.

In ancient times, pilgrims from various countries went to the place of veneration of St. Leontius, the martyrium in Tripoli. Thus, the great ascetic and philanthropist of those times, Saint Melania the Younger (383-439), also the alleged author of texts inscribed with the name of Dionysius the Areopagite, Bishop Peter the Iberian (411-491), made a pilgrimage to Leontius.

The martyr Leontius was praised by such theologically opposed authors as Theodoret of Cyrus (386-458) and Severus of Antioch (465-538). Theodoret testified that the celebration in honor of Leontius in the liturgical year is one of the most significant. Severus was baptized in the Basilica of St. Leontius and dedicated two sermons to him and wrote a hymn to the saint.

Significant evidence has been preserved of the veneration of martyrs in Phenicia itself, Syria, Palestine, Crete, Antioch, Constantinople, and even Arabia. The veneration of the Phoenician martyrs in antiquity was universal.

However, over time, they were forgotten, and their veneration faded. Quite a few saints were named in honor of Leontius, but over time even his name itself ceased to be used. Eternal memory is not just a wish, but one of the biblical names of God. Remembering the holy martyrs, we ask him to save us from oblivion.