Feast of the Holy Great Sovereigns Constantine and Helen, Equal to the Apostles, celebrated on May 21.
Constantine was a great and renowned sovereign of the Christians and 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 and in 306 (when his father died) he was proclaimed successor to his throne. In 312, on learning that Maxentius and Maximinus had joined forces against him, he marched into Italy, where he saw in the sky beneath the sun, a radiant pillar in the form of a cross with the words: “By this shalt thou conquer.”
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, he immediately ordered that a banner be made in the form of a cross and inscribed with the Name of Jesus Christ.
On October 28 he attacked and 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 again, and destroyed him in 324, and in this manner became monarch over both the West and East. Under him and because of him all the persecutions against the Church ceased. Christianity triumphed and idolatry was overthrown.
In 325 he gathered the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea. In 324, in the ancient city of Byzantium, he laid the foundations of the new capital of his realm naming it after himself, Constantinople. Falling ill, he requested to receive divine Baptism, and died in 337, on May 21 or 22, 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.
As for his holy mother Helen, 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 Sept. 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 Saviour was born, another on the Mount of Olives whence He ascended into Heaven, and many others throughout the Holy Land, Cyprus, and elsewhere. She departed to the Lord being about eighty years of age, according to some in the year 330, according to others, in 336.
Icon of Saints Constantine and Helen provided by Athanasios Clark and used with permission.
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