On September 26, the Orthodox Churches of the Julian calendar celebrate the memory of Cornelius the Centurion. This is precisely the Roman soldier who, according to the Book of Acts, was commanded by the Angel of God to Peter to be enlightened by the grace of the faith of Christ from the Apostle. It is important to remember that his name is commemorated among the saints. This means that he, by the power of grace, was able to preserve what was once accepted by the Gift of God.
“Your prayers and your alms have come as a memorial before God,” the Angel said to Cornelius. Perhaps everyone knows these words from the apostolic book (Acts 10:4). Due to the fact that we, Orthodox Christians of the 21st century, study little in the texts of the Holy Scriptures, we hardly notice that the entire 10th chapter of the Book of Acts is devoted to the story of the centurion’s conversion. This is undeniable evidence of the importance of this particular story.
Indeed, together with the second chapter, which describes the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, and the ninth chapter, which describes the conversion of Paul, the chapter dedicated to the calling of Cornelius visibly surpasses the other chapters of Acts. This alone indicates how significant Cornelius's conversion was. Moreover, the conversion of the centurion is a key event in all church history.
The fact is that after the event of Pentecost, the Apostles zealously preached Christ. Their preaching was accompanied by signs and wonders. However, their preaching was addressed exclusively to the Jews, or to those pagan converts to Judaism who had already kept the Law.
The Lord in a vision commanded Peter to proclaim the good news to Cornelius, in the presence of Peter he sent down the Holy Spirit on the centurion and his family, and thereby testified before the Apostle His Will that from now on the Apostles would proclaim the good news to everyone.
It was this providential change in the direction of preaching that ultimately led to the fact that Christianity became the Universal Faith, and you and I became Orthodox Christians. The memory of Cornelius the Centurion on the eve of the day of the Exaltation of the Cross teaches us to constantly read the Scriptures and thank God for our conversion to faith in Christ.