February 20, 2017

Synaxarion of our Holy Father Leo the Wonderworker, Bishop of Catania

St. Leo of Catania (Feast Day - February 20)


Leo was indeed dead, but deemed not to decay,
Called by all, the president of Catania.
On the twentieth Leo was buried in the earth and poured forth liquid.

Saint Leo lived during the reign of Leo the Wise (886-912),* and was from the Italian city of Ravenna, the son of pious and noble parents. Due to the purity of his life, he went through all the stages of the priesthood, becoming a Reader, Subdeacon, Deacon and Presbyter. Lastly, by divine election, he became Bishop of the metropolis of Catania, which is found in the very famous island of Sicily, and where Mount Etna is located, which bursts forth flames of fire till this day. This blessed one, who bore the name of a prevailing lion, and having zeal for good and virtue, shined like a luminary in that place. In this way he attended souls, was a protector of widows, consoled the poor, dispersed the darkness of error, and by his prayers he toppled an idol statue to the earth.

He built by his own devices a magnificent Temple dedicated to the victorious Martyr Lucy of Sicily,** and completely burnt the magician and marvel-making Heliodoros. This man would not cease disturbing all the Christians of the place, creating marvels which were false and illusory, and later brought himself against the Church of Christ. Blessed Leo captured this marvel-maker with haste, and tied him up with his sacred stole, ordering that a great fire be made in the middle of the city. Since the Saint exposed and displayed all the magic done by the senseless one, he wanted to clearly present to all his own piety and truth, while those of the offender were demonic machinations. Wishing therefore to present these things, the Saint together with Heliodoros entered into the fire, and the Saint did not emerge from there until the wretched and pitiful one was completely consumed.

This miracle astonished everyone, for not only did the Saint remain unharmed by the fire, but neither were his sacred vestments touched by the fire. Because the fame of this miracle reached the ears of the ends of the world, Emperor Leo the Wise and his son Constantine, having heard of it, sent for him, and had the Saint brought to Constantinople. When he arrived, they grabbed his sacred feet, and begged him to pray to God on their behalf. This Saint not only worked great miracles while he was alive, but after he died and was buried, he worked even more miracles.


* Latin sources date the repose of the Saint to 787, which would place him during the Iconoclastic reigns of Leo III the Isaurian (717-741) and his son and co-emperor Constantine V Copronymos (720). We should also consider the fact that Saint Joseph the Hymnographer composed the divine office to the Saint, and he lived from 810 to 886, thus the Saint must have reposed before this time. Also, Sicily came under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in ca. 733, prior to which it was under Rome.

** Celebrated on December 13th.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
Thou wast shown forth as a resplendent priest, a teacher of godliness and a wonderworker, blessed Hierarch Leo; for by the light of heavenly virtue thou wast enriched with the power of the Spirit, and dost heal the souls and bodies of those who hasten to thee. Glory to Christ Who has glorified thee; glory to Him Who has crowned thee; glory to Him Who through thee works healings for all.

Kontakion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone
The Church has thee as a light brighter than the sun, blessed Leo, crying to thee: By thy intercessions pleasing to the Lord, keep the Church unconquered and unshaken by any heresy.