February 29, 2020

Saint Leo the Cappadocian

St. Leo the Cappadocian (Feast Day - February 29)

By John Moschos

(The Spiritual Meadow, Ch. 112)

The Life and Death of Leo, a Cappadocian Monk

When that man of faith, Tiberius Caesar, was emperor (Tiberius II Constantine, 578-582), we went up to Oasis, where we met a monk called Leo, a man of Cappadocia highly versed in divine matters. Many people had told us many admirable things about him. And certainly, after we had had some intimate conversation with him and experienced the holiness of this great man, we were wonderfully edified, especially by his humility and silence, the meagreness of his possessions and the charity which he showed towards everyone.

But this venerable old man used to say, "Believe me, my sons, I am going to reign."

"No, believe you us, Abba Leo," we would say, "no one from Cappadocia has ever become a king. This thought of yours is out of order."

"It is true, my sons," he repeated, "I am going to reign." And no one could move him from this position.

Now during the invasion of the Mazices, after they had plundered and laid waste the whole province, they arrived at Oasis, killed some of the monks and took most of them captive. Among them were Abba Johannes (he was lector of the Great Church of Constantinople), Abba Eustathius of Rome, and Abba Theodorus of Cilicia. The three of them were rather infirm.

"If you take me to the city," said Abba Johannes to the barbarians, after they had bound him, "I will ensure that the bishop will give you twenty-four numismas for us."

They agreed, and one of the barbarians led him to the city so that he could see the bishop. Abba Leo and several other fathers were in the city, and for that reason had not been attacked. So Johannes went in to the bishop and asked for the ransom of twenty-four numismas, but the bishop found that he could not scrape together more than eight. He offered these eight to the barbarian, but he would not accept them.

"Either you give me the twenty-four numismas or I keep the monk," he said.

So they had no option but to hand Abba Johannes, weeping and sighing, back to the barbarian, who took him back to the camp.

But after three days Abba Leo took the eight numismas and went out to the desert place where the barbarians were.

"Why don't you take me, along with these eight numismas," he said, "and let these three men go. They are very frail and would not get very far through the desert. It would kill them, and you would have gained nothing. Whereas I am perfectly healthy and would be able to give you service."

And the barbarians agreed to take Leo and the eight numismas and to let the three men go. Abba Leo went with them to their own place, and when he got to be past the age of being able to serve them they beheaded him. And so Abba Leo fulfilled the Scripture, 'Greater love hath no man than that he lay down his life for his friends' (John 15:13). Then at last we understood what he had meant when he said, "I am going to reign", for indeed, he who lays down his life for his friends does indeed reign as a king.