Wednesday June 3, 2020 / May 21, 2020
Afterfeast of the Ascension. Tone six.
Fast. Fish Allowed
Venerable Dodo of the St. David-Gareji Monastery, Georgia (596) (movable holiday on the Wednesday of Holy Ascension). The Meeting of the “Vladimir” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos (was established to commemorate the deliverance of Moscow from an invasion of Tatars led by Khan Makhmet-Girei in 1521). Holy Equals-to-the-Apostles Emperor Constantine (337) and Helen, his mother (327). St. Constantine (1205) and his children Sts. Michael and Theodore, wonderworkers of Murom. Uncovering of the relics of Blessed Andrew of Symbiksk (1998). Venerable Cassian the Greek, monk, of Uglich (1504). Synaxis of Hieromartyrs of Kerel. Synaxis of Hieromartyrs of Simbir. Synaxis of Hieromartyrs of Ufa. Honour list of Icon of the Mother of God “Virgin of Tenderness” from Pskov-Pechersk (1524), Zaonikievsky (1588), Krasnogorsk, or Chernogorsk (1603), Oransk (1634)
The Scripture Readings
Luke 1:39-49, 56 Matins Gospel
Philippians 2:5-11 Epistle, Theotokos
Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28 Gospel, Theotokos
Acts 26:1-5, 12-20 Equals-to-the-Apostles
John 10:1-9 Equals-to-the-Apostles
St. Constantine the Great and His Mother Helen
Commemorated on May 21
The Holy Emperor Constantine (306-337), has received from the Church the title “Equal-to-the-Apostles”, and in world history he received the name “the Great”. He was the son of Caesar Constantius Chlorus (305-306), governing the lands of Gaul and Britania. The immense Roman empire was at this time divided into a Western and an Eastern empire, at the head of which were two independent emperors and also co-rulers titled “Caesars”, – such in the Western half of the Roman empire was the aforementioned father of Saint Constantine. Saint Contantine’s mother was the empress Helen, who was a Christian. The future ruler of all the whole Roman empire – Constantine – was raised to have respect for the Christian religion. His father did not persecute Christians in the lands governed by him, this at a time, when through all the rest of the Roman empire Christians were subjected to fierce persecutions by the emperors Diocletian (284-305) together with his co-ruler Maximian Galerius (305-311) in the East, and the emperor Maximian Hercules (284-305) in the West. After the death of Constantius Chlorus, his son Constantine in 306 was proclaimed by the army as emperor of Gaul and Britania. The first act of the new emperor was to promulgate in the lands subject to him the freedom of confession of the Christian faith. The pagan-fanatic Maximian Galerius in the East and the fierce tyrant Maxentius in the West hated the emperor Constantine and they plotted to overthrow and kill him, but Constantine bested them in a series of battles, and he defeated his opponents with the help of God. He prayed to God to give him a sign, which should inspire his army to fight valiantly, and the Lord manifest to him in the heavens a radiant Sign of the Cross with the inscription “With this Sign thou wilt conquer”. Having become sole ruler of the Western half of the Roman empire, Constantine in the year 313 issued the Edict of Milan concerning religious toleration, and in the year 323, when he came to rule as the sole ruler over the whole Roman empire, he extended the conditions of the Milan Edict also over the Eastern half of the Roman empire. After three hundred years of persecution, Christians finally received the possibility to openly confess their faith in Christ.
Renouncing paganism, the emperor did not let his capital remain in ancient Rome, the former centre of the pagan realm. He transferred his capital to the East, to the city of Byzantium, which also was renamed Constantinople [“Constantinopolis” means “the city of Constantine”]. Constantine was deeply convinced, that only the Christian religion could unify the immense Roman empire with its diverse peoples. He supported the Church in every way, he brought back from banishment the Christian confessors, he built churches, and he showed concern for the clergy. The emperor deeply revered the victory-bearing Sign of the Cross of the Lord, and he wanted also to find the actual Life-Creating Cross, upon which was crucified our Lord Jesus Christ. For this purpose he dispatched to Jerusalem his own mother – the holy Empress Helen, granting manifold plenitude of power and material means. Together with the Jerusalem Patriarch Makarios, Saint Helen set about the search, and through the Will of God the Life-Creating Cross was discovered in a miraculous manner in the year 326. (The account about the finding of the Cross of the Lord is located under the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, 14 September). Situated in Palestine, the holy empress did much of benefit for the Church. She gave orders, that all places connected with the earthly life of the Lord and His All-Pure Mother, should be freed of all traces of paganism, and she commanded that churches should be built at these places of memory. Over the Cave of the Sepulchre of the Lord the emperor Constantine himself gave orders to construct a magnificent church to the glory of the Resurrection of Christ. Saint Helen gave the Life-Creating Cross to the Patriarch for safe-keeping, and part of the Cross she took with her for the emperor. Having distributed generous alms at Jerusalem and seeing to the feeding of the needy, during which times she herself attended them, the holy Empress Helen returned to Constantinople, where she soon after died in the year 327.
For her great services to the Church and her efforts in finding the Life-Creating Cross, the empress Helen is titled “Equal-to-the-Apostles”.
The peaceful state of the Christian Church was rent by the rise from within the Church by dissensions and quarrels from heresies which had appeared. Already at the beginning of the emperor Constantine’s reign there had arisen in the West the heresies of the Donatists and the Novatians, demanding a second baptism over those who lapsed during the times of the persecutions against Christians. These heresies, repudiated by two local Church councils, were finally condemned at the Milan Council of 316. But particularly ruinous for the Church was the rise in the East of the heresy of Arius, daring to repudiate the Divine Essence of the Son of God, and teaching that Jesus Christ was a mere creature. By order of the emperor, in the year 325 there was convened the First OEcumenical Council in the city of Nicea. At this Council were gathered 318 bishops. Among its participants were confessor-bishops from the period of the persecutions and many other luminaries of the Church, among whom – was Sainted-hierarch Nicholas of Myra in Lycia. (The account about the Council is located under 29 May). The emperor was present at the sessions of the Council. The heresy of Arius was condemned and a Symbol-Creed of Faith compiled, in which was included the term “of One-Essence with the Father”, always confirming in the consciousness of Orthodox Christians the truth of the Divinity of Jesus Christ, Who took on and assumed upon Himself human nature for the redemption of all the human race.
The deep churchly awareness and feeling of Saint Constantine might possibly surprise one, where the working-out of the definition “of One-Essence”heard by him in the disputes of the Council, was at his insistence included within the Symbol-Creed of Faith.
After the Council of Nicea, Saint Constantine continued with his active role in the welfare of the Church. He accepted holy Baptism at the end of his life, having prepared for it all his whole life. Saint Constantine died on the day of Pentecost in the year 337 and was buried in the church of the Holy Apostles, in a crypt earlier prepared by him.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.
HYMN OF PRAISE
To Constantine, the shining Cross appeared;
Constantine saw it and glorified God.
It was a sign from the Son of God;
There is nothing more beautiful than this sign:
The sign of suffering and temporary trouble,
But also the sign of final victory.
By this sign which worked wonders,
Constantine set out and conquered everywhere.
In the midst of pagan Rome, which persecuted the Cross,
He raised the Cross on high, to the glory of the Savior.
That which for three centuries had been broken and cursed,
Now, for Rome, became great and holy!
For three centuries the Cross had been spat upon;
The earth had been bathed in the blood of the saints.
Empires and emperors, arrogant and odious,
Were destroyed one by one, like weak reeds,
But the sign of the Cross remained upright;
Miraculously and gloriously it shone on the world.
Constantine recognized it and raised it even higher;
That is why, in the calendar, his name is written.
We see that vice is something shameful and sinful, in that it always hides and always takes upon itself the appearance of good works. St. John Chrysostom beautifully says: “Vice does not have its own particular face, but borrows the face of good works.” This is why the Savior said: They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves (Matthew 7:15). Call a liar a liar, a thief a thief, a murderer a murderer, an adulterer an adulterer, a slanderer a slanderer, and you will infuriate them. But if you want to call a man honest, honorable, unselfish, truthful, just, conscientious, you will make him light up with joy and please him. Again, I quote Chrysostom: “Good works are something natural in man, while vice is something unnatural and false.” If a man is caught in a vice, he quickly justifies his vice by some good works; he clothes it in the garment of good works. Indeed, vice does not posses its own particular face. The same is true of the devil, the father of vice!
Contemplate God the Holy Spirit as the Inspirer of justice, peace and joy:
1. How He inspired with justice, peace and joy all the lovers of Christ’s justice;
2. How He inspired–and even today inspires–with justice, peace and joy all the sufferers for Christ’s justice.
on the children of God
“The Spirit Itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16).
Only he who has the Spirit of God in himself has the witness that he is a child of God. Without the Spirit of God there is no such witness. Not even the whole universe can give this witness. The universe by itself, without the Spirit of God–what else does it witness to us other than the fact that we are its slaves, its victims, whom it unmercifully swallows? In essence, the pagans thought that also. Do not the opponents of God today think likewise? They do think so. For, indeed, it is difficult to take that thought away from those who do not recognize the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God, the Witness of Heaven. The same apostle says: For ye have not received the spirit of bondage (Romans 8:15). What is this spirit of bondage? It is every spirit except the Spirit of God, Whom Christ the Lord sends to those who love Him. The spirit of bondage is the spirit of materialism, the spirit of fortune-telling, the spirit of naturalism, the spirit of pessimism, the spirit of despair, the spirit of vice. Only the Spirit of God is the All-holy Spirit of adoption and freedom.
Oh, what happiness; oh, what peace; oh, what joy when the Spirit of God nestles in the cleansed heart of man as a sparrow does in its nest! Then our hope opens hundreds of doors in the prison of the universe; and our embrace, wider than the universe, stretches out to the One Who is greater and more merciful than the universe. To Whom? To the Father! And then we cry out: Abba, Father! (Romans 8:15).
The witness of God that comes through sight can lead us to doubt that we are the children of God. But the witness that comes to us from the heart, from the Spirit of God, does not leave even the slightest doubt. God witnesses about God. What doubt can there be? God the Holy Spirit caresses us in the heart of our very being. Can there be any doubt there? No, for then we know and feel completely confident that God is the Father and that we are the children of God. No one’s servants, no one’s slaves, but rather the children of God.
O Lord God, Holy Spirit, come abide in us and remain with us as a Witness of the Trinity and the Kingdom, as a Witness of the immortal paradise.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.