Constantine the Great and Elena: two lives connected by one Cross
Constantine the Great and his mother Elena are venerated by the Church as equal saints. This means that their role in the history of Christianity is special, and few were honored with this title. Why did they get such great glory and respect? What else, besides blood ties, are these amazing saints connected?
Ruler of all empire
Guy Flavy Valery Konstantinborn supposedly in272in the city of Naisse, which corresponds to the modern Serbian Nis. His father, Constantius Chlorine, was Caesar of the western cities of the Roman Empire, his mother Elena was a Christian of low origin.
After the death of his father, Constantine took his post. The victory over their "competitors" - the co-rulers Maxentius and Licinius to 323 made him the ruler of the entire Roman state. He became the sovereign emperor.
Constantine the Great realized his extraordinary role in the fate of the empire quite early.His special piety was manifested even at the time when he was a pagan. Like his father, the future emperor was an adherent of solar monotheism, which consisted in the worship of the Invincible Sun.
However, if he attributed the victory over Maximian Hercule to the patronage of a pagan deity, sacrificed to the temple of Apollo, then the decisive battle with Maxentius, through which Constantine entered Rome, was a sign of the help of another God, before this unknown king.
The momentous battle took place in 312. With a small army, Constantine entered Italy and attacked the Eternal City. And then his opponent Maxentius made an irreparable mistake that contradicted any military logic. Instead of taking a blow under the protection of the city walls, he left the city and took the fight near the Tiber River, where he was defeated.
Victory in the battle of the Milvian Bridge (under this name it went down in history), Constantine the Great attributed to the special intercession of the Christian God. And for this there were reasons. Church history says that on the eve of Caesar in a dream was told to make a monogram on the shields of soldiers with the two initial letters of the name "Christ."This Christian sign is called labarum. With him the army and won.
Other historians write that the emperor, together with the warriors, saw a cross in the sky at noon, covering the sun. The inscription on it read: Hoc vince (Sim (this) win). In any case, the victory of Constantine was preceded by some divine revelation, a sign from above. With him, the emperor entered Rome, and the Christian faith in the heart of the ruler.
"Symphony" of the Church and the state
The next year after the outstanding victory, Constantine the Great publishes a famous Edict of Milan, proclaiming freedom of religion in the Roman Empire. From now on, the persecution of Christians ceased, they could fearlessly be baptized and practice their faith.
For Christianity, a new period began in harmonious coexistence with the state power. Over time, the wise ruler adopted a series of laws that enshrined the privileges of the Christian Church and its clergy. They could now influence the political life of the state.
In addition, the king's Christian ideas were expressed in many of his other laws. For example, in 321, he officially declared Sunday as a non-working day.By his decrees, the emperor forbade the pagan games, private divinations and sacrifices, punishment through crucifixion, as well as stigmas on the faces of criminals, since each person reflects the image of God.
Another of the main achievements of the ruler was convening on his initiativeI Ecumenical Council. He passed in325yearatNicaeain order to get rid of the Arian heresy from the Church. All this activity marked the beginning of the construction of a truly Christian Empire, thanks to which Constantine and his mother, Queen Helen, entered the history of the Church with the title of Equal-to-the-Apostles.
Constantinople - New Rome
The great king will be destined to accomplish another great plan. He moved the capital of his state to another city, later named after him and becoming the heart of the Empire for more than a millennium. This is aboutConstantinople. What is the emperor did not please Rome?
Firstly, its unprofitable strategic location, because it was safer at that time to keep closer to the borders. Secondly, in Rome, pagan customs were too rooted, which were hard to get rid of. In order to build a new, precisely the Christian capital, the former colony of the city was chosenByzantineon the shore of the Bosphorus.
It is believed that the choice of location for the new capital was also God's revelation given to Constantine the Great in a dream. Prior to this, the main "candidates" for it were Troy and Nicomedia. A beautiful legend tells that to determine the boundaries of the new capital, the emperor walked in front of the surveyors with a spear in his hand, as if he was being led by someone invisible. On the question of how long to go, he replied:Until stop Walking in front of me.
The city came to fame. It was built for six years, bringing workers and material from around the world. In the spring330 g. He was solemnly consecrated by the bishops, the celebration lasted 40 days. Despite the fact that Constantine gave the capital a nameNew romealready during the life of the king, they began to call her Constantinople.
Baptism before death
Paradoxical fact: the emperor, thanks to whom thousands were baptized during his life, was baptized just before his death. However, this practice was not surprising in those days. To combine the Christian principles of life and public administration in practice was not easy. The empire at the time did not stop the execution and torture, the order could be maintained only by force.
Moreover, under the envious slander of his wife Fausta, Constantine the Great killed his son from Crisp's first marriage, and then, having figured it out, killed Faust herself, ordering her to be locked in a bath. And all this happened only a year after the Nicene Council.
It cannot be said that in his Christian views the emperor was completely consistent. For example, for a long time he continued to combine the cult of the Invincible Sun with faith in Jesus Christ, even not considering it impossible. Until the last, he retained the title of the supreme pagan priest.
Struggling with the Arian fallacies at the Ecumenical Council, he himself was baptized on his deathbed by Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, who was an Arian. Nevertheless, we honor Constantine the Great as a saint and equal to the apostles precisely because of his incomparable contribution to the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire and throughout the enlightened world.
Who was Saint Helena?
The emperor's mother, Saint Helena, also entered the history of the Church on a par with her son. She was a woman of simple descent, most likely the daughter of an innkeeper; she married Constance Chlorus, a Roman soldier, out of love. In a marriage that lasted almost twenty years, they had a son.
Everything changed when the spouse of Helen was appointed ruler of the western part of the Empire. According to political calculations, the emperor Diocletian forced him to divorce and married his stepdaughter. Son of his first marriage, he sent to Nicomedia. Closer to him moved and Queen Helen.
Here, the future holy saint became acquainted with Christianity and was baptized. She was then about forty years old.
Finding a shrine
The queen had to perform a special mission much later, after almost forty years. She was destined to find one of the main shrines of all Christians - the Cross, on which the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified. To this end, in326 yearshe went to jerusalem
On the former site of Calvary now stood a pagan temple dedicated to Venus. Find out where the Holy Sepulcher, was not from anyone. Then Queen Helen, together with the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Macarius, began to pray, served a prayer service. Then they felt an incomprehensible fragrance emanating from the earth. This was an indication from above to the cave of the Holy Sepulcher.
The place where the true Cross of the Lord is located, by the providence of God, was shown by a Jew named Judas, who retained the old tradition. However, they found three crucifixes with a tablet beside them, which indicated that Jesus Christ was crucified on one of them.How did you find out which one?
Here again the providence of God intervened. Past that place were people who carried the funeral of the deceased. They were asked to stop. After that, all three crosses were placed on the deceased in turn, and at the laying of the latter he came to life. Thus a great miracle appeared - the Life-giving Cross of the Lord was found.
Many people crowded each other, wanting to see the shrine. Then Patriarch Macarius, together with Queen Helen, put the Cross in a high visible place. People prayed before him with the words "Lord, have mercy!". Thus arose the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross of the Lord, which we celebrateSeptember 27.
After these events, a Jew who indicated the place of the shrine, was baptized, accepted monasticism, and later, becoming the patriarch of Jerusalem, was glorified in the face of saints under the name Kyriak.
The fate of the Cross
After the miraculous discovery of small parts of the Life-Creating Cross, the empress drove to Rome and Constantinople. But the main part of it remained in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which was built by Queen Helena on the site of the Jerusalem shrines. There he remained until 614, when he was captured and abducted by the Persians.
After the defeat of Persians by Emperor Heraclius, the Cross was solemnly returned to its former place. And it was accompanied by one interesting event. When the emperor was approaching with a shrine to the city, at some point an unknown force stopped him, he could not move.
Patriarch Zechariah made the assumption that the lush garment does not correspond to the mission that the emperor is trying to accomplish; he must enter the city as the Savior. Then Hercules changed his outfit to rags and barefoot calmly entered the city with the Cross.
Fearing a new seizure of the main shrine by foreigners, the emperor later ordered the Cross to be divided into nineteen parts and distributed among the Christian churches.
A film from the Pilgrimage to the Eternal City series will tell you about the saints of the Equal to the Apostles: