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Question 226

Hi, Father, correct me if I'm wrong but from my understanding of our church's teaching about sacraments, baptism is a rite or passage into the life of Christ. This is wherein we die and are born again. Yet baptism by itself does not save us. We have to live a life of repentance nourished by the body and blood of Christ. We are required to become sanctified or divinized through the grace of God. In contrast to the charismatic churches we are not saved once but are in a process of being saved. Even the thief who died next to Christ and asked Him to remember him in His kingdom was told he would be with Christ in paradise but was not deemed a Saint. My question is, no disrespect intended, how was it possible for the Orthodox church to proclaim St Constantine a Saint since he was only baptized on his death bed?

 

Answer to Question 226

 

The Good thief is deemed a saint and is called St. Dismas and is remembered on the Holy and Great Friday

 

Your interest on St. Constantine the Great must surely stem from the fact that you have the same name. I don’t want to give you a fairytale answer so I will not try to justify his actions. Yes! As an emperor, he was involved with battles and treachery from many sides, and many historians make him out to be brutal, not only in battle, but also in his taxations and laws. Of course, not all that has been written on Constantine must be taken as Gospel truth. Authors love to exaggerate or make up stories to fill up the pages and make for more interesting reading.

 

The Church has many saints who have killed others, Moses for example killed an Egyptian, and many of the soldier saints must have killed in battle. Of the soldier saints, many were not even baptized, but coming to faith in Christ and accepting martyrdom for His Name sake, they were baptized in their own blood. The Church disregards their sins during their life, because they have been washed away with baptism, either of water and the Spirit or of blood as in the case of the Martyrs. 

 

Constantine, called the first Christian Emperor was not baptized until late in his life. [According to some, on his deathbed by Eusebius, but according to the Church, after suffering from leprosy by Sylvester]. As Christians we must accept the Mystery of Baptism and believe that it does wash away all sin otherwise we have no hope of salvation. Baptism bestows on man a clean slate, for he emerges from the water dead to sin, reborn unto a new life, resurrected into a life in Christ; a child of God; a faithful Christian; a citizen, heir and member of God’s heavenly kingdom. With Baptism, Constantine’s sins were washed away, so the Church must disregard all his past evil actions. What remains are only the good actions, which are many.

 

Firstly, we have the Edict of Milan, which, with the toleration of the Christian religion, saved thousands from being killed and gave Christians the freedom to worship God openly. In time, he gave rights to the Bishops and Priests, and the right for the Church to inherit property. He was responsible for the Church, becoming, from the Church of the Catacombs to the Church of the Empire. He built the new capital of the empire [Constantinople] and after the inauguration of the City; he laid down that no pagan rite should ever be performed there. He summoned and presided at the First Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church at Nicaea in 325, whose main work was the condemnation of Arianism. The Council summing up the Christian faith gave us the Nicene Creed. Constantine also built many Churches including the Church of the Holy Apostles at Constantinople and the Church of the Resurrection at Jerusalem.

 

The three events: The edict of Milan, The Christian Capital of Constantinople and the First Ecumenical Council, mark the Church’s coming of age. They allowed the True Christian faith to spread and be preached throughout the Empire. Fifty years after his death, Theodosius carried Constantine’s policies to their conclusion by making Christianity the only recognized religion of the Empire. The Church was now established. The Roman authorities once said to the Christians “You are not allowed to exist” Constantine was responsible for the continual existence of the Church. Indirectly, through his actions, millions of people were able to hear of Christ and be converted to the true faith. Truly, he deserves his title as St. Constantine ‘Equal to the Apostles’.