Equal-to-the-Apostles Emperor Constantine and the Empress Saint Helen, his Mother

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

FEAST OF THE HOLY GREAT SOVEREIGNS CONSTANTINE AND HELEN,

EQUAL TO THE APOSTLES

This great and renowned sovereign of the Christians was the son of Constantius Chlorus (the ruler of the westernmost parts of the Roman Empire), and of the blessed Helen. He was born in 272 AD, in (according to some authorities) Naissus of Dardania, a city on the Hellespont. In 306 AD, when his father died, he was proclaimed successor to his throne. In 312 AD, on learning that Maxentius and Maximinus had joined forces against him, he marched into Italy, where, while at the head of his troops, he saw in the sky after midday, beneath the sun, a radiant pillar in the form of a Cross with the words: "By this shall thou conquer" (En Touto Nika). The following night, our Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him in a dream and declared to him the power of the Cross and its significance. When he arose in the morning, he immediately ordered that a labarum be made (which is a banner or standard of victory over the enemy) in the form of a Cross, and he inscribed on it the Name of Jesus Christ. On October 28 he attacked and mightily conquered Maxentius, who drowned in the Tiber River while fleeing. The following day, Constantine entered Rome in triumph and was proclaimed Emperor of the West by the Senate, while Licinius, his brother-in-law, ruled in the East. But out of malice, Licinius later persecuted the Christians. Constantine fought him once and again, and utterly destroyed him in 324 AD, and in this manner he became monarch over the West and East. Under him and because of him all the persecutions against the Christian Church ceased. Christianity triumphed and idolatry (paganism) was overthrown.

In 325 AD he gathered the First Ecumenical Council (Synod) in Nicaea, which he himself personally addressed. In 324 AD, in the ancient city of Byzantium, he laid the foundations of the new capital of his realm, and solemnly inaugurated it on May 11, 330 AD, naming it after himself, Constantinople (the city of Constantine). Since the throne of the imperial rule was transferred to Constantinople from Rome, it was named New Rome, the inhabitants of its domain were called Romans (Romioi), and it was considered the continuation of the Roman Empire. Falling ill near Nicomedia, he requested to receive divine Baptism, according to the Eusebius the Church Historian (The Life of Constantine. Book IV, 61-62), and also according to Socrates and Sozomen; and when he had been deemed worthy of the Holy Mysteries, he reposed in 337 AD, on May 21st or 22nd, the day of Pentecost, having lived sixty-five years, of which he ruled for thirty-one years. His remains were transferred to Constantinople and were deposed in the Church of the Holy Apostles, which had been built by him (see Homily XXVI on Second Corinthians by Saint John Chrysostom).

As for his holy mother Helen (Eleni), after her son had made the Faith of Christ triumphant throughout the Roman Empire, she undertook a journey to Jerusalem and found the Holy Cross on which our Lord was crucified (see September 13 and 14). After this, Saint Helen, in her zeal to glorify Christ, erected churches in Jerusalem at the sites of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, in Bethlehem at the cave where our Savior was born, another on the Mount of Olives whence He ascended into Heaven, and many others throughout the Holy Land, Cyprus, and elsewhere. She was proclaimed Augusta, her image was stamped upon golden coins, and two cities were named Helenopolis after her in Bithynia and in Palestine. Having been thus glorified for her piety, she departed to the Lord being about eighty years of age, according to some in the year 330 AD, according to others, in 336 AD.

ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CELEBRATION OF THE FEAST OF SAINTS

CONSTANTINE AND HELEN

The feast and commemoration of Saints Constantine and Helen is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom which is conducted on the morning of the feast and preceded by a Orthros (Matins) service. A Great Vespers is conducted on the evening before the day of the Feast.

Holy Scripture readings for the Feast of Saints Constantine and Helen are: At the Vespers: I Kings 8:22-23, 27-30; Isaiah 61:10-62:5; Isaiah 60:1-16. At Orthros (Matins): St. John 10:9-19. At the Divine Liturgy: Epistle Lesson: Acts 26:1, 12-20. Gospel Lesson: St. John 10:1-9.

HYMNS OF THE SAINTS

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn: Plagal Fourth Tone

He beheld the image of Your Cross in the Heavens and, as Paul, he too did not receive the call from men. Your Apostle among Kings placed the care of the Royal City in Your hands. Through the intercessions of the Theotokos, O only Loving Lord, keep it ever in peace.

Kontakion Hymn of the Feast: Third Tone

Today, Constantine with his mother Helen present the Cross, the Most Precious Wood. It shames unbelievers. It is a weapon of faithful kings against their adversaries. A great sign has come forth for us which is awesome in battle.

(Source: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America)

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CONSTANTINE AND CHRISTIANITY

History

St. Constantine is perhaps known for being the first Roman Emperor to endorse Christianity, traditionally presented as a result of an omen--a Chi-Rho (an abbreviation for the name Christ), with the inscription "by this sign thou shall conquer"--before his victory in the battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 AD, when Constantine is said to have instituted the new standard to be carried into battle, called the Labarum.

Christian Historians over since Lactantius have adhered to the view that Constantine "adopted" Christianity as a kind of replacement for the official Roman paganism. Though the document called the "Donation of Constantine" was proved a forgery (though not until the 15the century, when the stories of Constantine's conversion were long-established "facts") it was attributed as documenting the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity for centuries. Even Christian skeptics have accepted this formulation, though seeing Constantine's policy as a political rather than spiritual move.

By the end of the 3rd century, Christian communities and their bishops had become a force to contend with, in urban centers especially Christians were preferred for high government positions; the Church was granted various special privileges; and churches like the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem were constructed. Christian bishops took aggressive public stances that were known among other cult leaders, even among the Jews. Proselytism had had to be publicly outlawed, simply to maintain public decorum. In the essential legions, however, Christianity was despised as womanish, and the soldiers followed pagan cults of Mithras and Isis. Since the Roman Emperors ruled by "divine right" and stayed in power through the support of the legions, it was important for them to be seen to support a strong state religion. The contumely of the Christians consisted in their public refusal to participate in official rites that no one deeply believed in, but which were an equivalent of an oath of allegiance. Refusal might easily bring upon all the Roman soldiers, the fare of many Martyrlogies.

Constantine and Licinius' Edict of Milan (313 AD) neither made paganism illegal nor made Christianity a state-sponsored religion. What it did was legalize Christianity, return confiscated Church property, and establish Sunday as a day of worship. Though the Church prospered under Constantine's patronage it also fell into the first of many public schisms. He called the First Ecumenical Council to settle the problem of Arianism (heresy), a dispute about the personhood and Godhood of Jesus Christ. It produced the Nicene Creed (Symbol of Faith), which favored the position of Saint Athanasius, Arius's opponent, and became official doctrine of the Church. (Orthodox Wiki)

Equal-to-the-Apostles

Constantine's legacy can be seen in Christianity's transformation from a private sect into a public church that encompassed the whole of society. He put it on an institutional footing, which enabled the Church to be the leading cultural force in the ancient world. The Christianization of Roman society can be seen as a partial fulfillment of Revelation 21:24: "The nations...shall walk in its [New Jerusalem] light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it." The Church is the New Jerusalem--replacing the Jerusalem of the Old Testament--which brings spiritual enlightenment to the pagan nations throughout the Roman Empire. However, a balanced assessment of the historical evidence shows that, as much as Constantine may have contributed to the Christianization of the Roman Empire, he did not originate Holy Tradition as many Protestants believe.

Constantinople--The New Rome. With his decision to turn the sleepy village of Byzantium into the Roman Empire's New Capital City, Constantine laid the groundwork of what would become a major spiritual center, the Patriarchate of Constantinople. As the New Rome, Constantinople was intended to signal the Roman Empire's break with its pagan past and its embracing of Christianity. Under Constantine's order, no pagan ceremonies were allowed in this city. While the original Rome and the Latin West entered into the Dark Ages, Constantinople thrived as a spiritual and political capital the time of Columbus' voyage to America. Constantinople was also the springboard from which the missionary outreach to Russia would take place.

The Council of Nicea and the biblical canon. While Constantine played an important role at the First Ecumenical Council, there is no evidence that he had anything to do with deciding which books would go into the Bible. The Muratorian Canon (from the year 200) provides a list of New Testament documents that closely resembles the list found in today's Bible. Similar lists can be found in the writings of Origen (250) and Eusebius of Caesarea (300). It is true that Constantine ordered the burning of books by Arius, the anti-Christian philosopher Porphyry, the Novatians, the Marcionites, and others. But the fact remains that by the time Constantine became emperor, much of today's biblical canon was already in place.

The Orthodox Church sees St. Constantine as the Emperor who assisted the early Church in Evangelizing the Roman Empire. For this reason it honors him as Saint Constantine Equal-to-the-Apostles.

Constantine and the Church

For Orthodoxy, St. Constantine represents an important link to the past. The persecuted underground Church and the official state Church are the same Church. Constantine played a key role in the historic transition from the former to the latter. For Orthodox Christianity, there is no "fall of the Church." The Orthodox Church believes that it stands in unbroken continuity with the Church of the first century. (Source: Constantine The Great: Roman Emperor, Christian Saint, History's Turning Point by Robert Arakaki)

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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Glory Be To GOD For All Things!

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George