Martyr Longinus, the Centurion, who pierced the our Lord, with a spear – July 17
The Holy Martyr Longinus, the Centurion, was a Roman soldier, who served in Roman garrison, based in Jerusalem in Judea, under the command of the then prefect and Governor, Pontius Pilate, of Judea during 26-36 AD. He was assigned with the duty of crucifixion of the Lord as well as the sealing and guarding the tomb of Jesus. When our Savior Jesus Christ was crucified, the detachment of soldiers under the command of Centurion Longinus, stood watch on Golgotha, at the very foot of the Holy Cross of our Lord. Longinus and his soldiers were eyewitnesses of the final moments of the earthly life of the Lord, and of the great and awesome portents that appeared at His death.
The earth shook, rocks cracks open, the tombs broke open, the sun hid its face, and mysterious darkness, miraculously wrapped up the hills. The whole world shook in sorrow. The centurion took a long look into the face of the Crucified King and the events that followed shook the centurion’s soul. The soldiers were at a loss for words, as the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed. Longinus believed in Christ and confessed before everyone, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Mt. 27: 54). He became one of the first fruits of Cross.
Longinus, the centurion who pierced the side of our Crucified Savior (Jn. 19: 33-34) while He lay hung on the Cross, . Longinus, was said to be almost blind, but he pierced the side of our Lord with a lance, some blood and water from Jesus body fell into his eyes from the sudden flow that poured forth from our Lords body and he was miraculously healed. It was then he exclaimed “Indeed, this was the Son of God!” [Mark 15: 39]. He saw, and experienced the Lord’s power and gave testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe (Jn. 19: 35).
After the Crucifixion and Burial of our Savior, soldiers under Longinus, stood watch with his company at the Sepulchre of the Lord. The Jews bribed them to lie and say that His disciples had stolen away the Body of Christ, but Longinus and two of his comrades refused to be seduced by the Jewish gold. They also refused to remain silent about the miracle of the Resurrection, as they were present at the All-Radiant Resurrection of Christ.
Having come to believe in the Savior, they converted, left the army and received Baptism from the apostles. Longinus left Judea to preach about Jesus Christ the Son of God in his native land (Cappadocia), with two of his comrades. He took instruction from the apostles and became a monk in Cappadocia. He dedicated himself to preaching the miracle of the Resurrection of the Lord.
The words of these eyewitness, who had actually participated in the great events in Judea swayed the hearts and minds of the Cappadocians; Christianity began quickly to spread throughout the city and the surrounding villages. This act was denounced by the Jews to Pontius Pilate, who denounced the defection of Longinus and the two soldiers. The Jewish elders persuaded Pilate to send a company of soldiers to Cappadocia to kill Longinus and his comrades. When the soldiers arrived at Longinus’s village, the former centurion himself came out to meet the soldiers and took them to his home. After a meal, the soldiers revealed the purpose of their visit, not knowing that the master of the house was the very man whom they were seeking. Then Longinus and his friends identified themselves and told the startled soldiers to carry out their duty.
The soldiers wanted to let the saints go and advised them to flee, but they refused to do this, showing their firm intention to suffer for Christ. Pilate sent a report about the centurion to the emperor Tiberius and received the emperor’s decree to execute the apostate. He was arrested for his faith, his teeth forced out and tongue cut off. However, Longinus miraculously continued to speak clearly and managed to destroy several idols in the presence of the governor. The holy martyrs were beheaded, and their bodies were buried at the place where the saints were martyred. The head of Saint Longinus, however, was sent to Pilate.
Pilate gave orders to cast the martyr’s head on a trash-heap outside the city walls. After a while a certain blind widow from Cappadocia arrived in Jerusalem with her son to pray at the holy places, and to ask that her sight be restored. She had sought the help of physicians to cure her, but all their efforts were in vain. In Jerusalem, the woman’s son became ill and he died a few days later. The widow grieved for the loss of her son, who had served as her guide.
Martyr Longinus appeared to her in a dream and comforted her. He assured her that she would see her son in heavenly glory, and also receive her sight. He told her to go outside the city walls and there she would find his head in a great pile of refuse. Guides led the blind woman to the rubbish heap, and she began to dig with her hands. As soon as she touched the martyr’s head, the woman received her sight, and she glorified God and Saint Longinus.
Taking up the head, she brought it to the place she was staying and washed it. The next night, Longinus appeared to her again, this time with her son. They were surrounded by a bright light, and Longinus said, “Woman, behold the son for whom you grieve. See what glory and honor are his now, and be consoled. God has numbered him with those in His heavenly Kingdom. Now take my head and your son’s body, and bury them in the same casket. Do not weep for your son, for he will rejoice forever in great glory and happiness.”
The woman carried out the saint’s instructions and returned to her home in Cappadocia. There she buried her son and the head of Saint Longinus. Once, she had been overcome by grief for her son, but her weeping was transformed into joy when she saw him with Saint Longinus. She had sought healing for her eyes, and also received healing of her soul. Martyr Longinus is commemorated on July 17, in the Syrian Churches and on October 16 and 29 in the Coptic and Eastern Orthodox Churches