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Question 5.

Αγαπητέ π. Χριστοφόρε,
Από διάφορες ιστορικές πηγές πληροφορούμαστε ότι ο Μ. Κων/νος ήταν ένοχος πολλών δολοφονιών και άλλων βαρύτατων εγκλημάτων. Ήταν ορθή η αναγνώρισή του ως αγίου από την Εκκλησία;

 

Translation of Question 5.
From various historical sources, we are informed that Constantine the Great was guilty of many murders and other grave crimes. Was his recognition as a Saint by the Church correct?

 

Answer to Question 5.

Dear Constantine,
Greetings in Christ. 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 is the cleansing of original sin and all sin, it 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’.

Your question opens up many doors for discussion. In general, people think of a saint as a holy man who has spent all his life in prayer and worship of God and performing miracles. But we are all called to be saved and whosoever is saved is a saint. How we live before coming to the knowledge of Christ doesn’t matter, what matters is our way of life after we have accepted Christ into our hearts. We tend to forget that Christ said that He didn’t come to save the righteous, but sinners. Constantine was cleansed of his evil doings through Baptism, but I was baptized in infancy. How can I be cleansed of my evils? The Church gives us the means with the Mystery of Confession. Confession, is one might say, an extension of the Mystery of Baptism and helps us to wipe the slate clean and start again. As weak men, we will continue to sin, but we should not allow our weakness to lead us to despondency and a feeling that we cannot be saved. An important element for our salvation is repentance. The word repentance is often misunderstood. The Greek word ‘Metanoia’ means a change of mind and that is what repentance should be. I regret for my actions and confess my sins. No matter how many times we fall into sin and set up a wall separating ourselves from eternal life, God has given us the means through the Church to break it down and start again.

God is Merciful; He accepts all who come to Him without regard to their sinful past. “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” [Luke 15:7, 10]

Easter is approaching and during the Pascal Liturgy, the Priest will read St. Chrysostom’s Easter Sermon. Read it carefully and you will see that it sums up all our hopes and Christ’s love for mankind.

Whosoever is pious and loves God, let him enjoy this good and cheerful festival. Whosoever is a grateful servant, let him rejoice and enter into the joy of the Lord. Whosoever is weary of fasting, let him now receive his earnings. Whosoever has laboured from the first hour, let him today accept his just reward. Whosoever has come after the third hour, let him with thanksgiving take part in the celebration. Whosoever has arrived after the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings, for he too shall suffer no loss. Whosoever has delayed until the ninth hour, let him approach without hesitation. Whosoever has arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not fear the delay, for the Master is gracious: He receives the last even as the first; He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that has laboured from the first; and to him that delayed He gives mercy, and the first He restores to health; to the one He gives, to the other He bestows. And He accepts the works, and embraces the contemplation; the deed He honours, and the intention He commends.
Therefore let everyone enter into the joy of the Lord. The first and the last, receive your wages. Rich and poor, dance with each other. The temperate and the slothful, honour this day. Ye who have fasted and ye who have not, rejoice this day. The table is fully laden; all of you delight in it. The calf is plenteous, let no one depart hungry. Let everyone enjoy this banquet of faith. Let everyone take pleasure in the wealth of goodness. Let no one lament his poverty, for the universal kingdom has appeared. Let no one bewail for his transgressions, for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free. He who was held by death, eradicated death. He plundered Hades when He descended into Hades. He embittered it, when it tasted of His flesh, and this being foretold by Isaiah when he cried: Hades said it was embittered, when it encountered Thee below. Embittered, for it was abolished. Embittered, for it was ridiculed. Embittered, for it was put to death. Embittered, for it was dethroned. Embittered, for it was made captive. It received a body and by chance came face to face with God. It received earth and encountered heaven. It received that which it could see, and was overthrown by Him whom he could not see. Where, O death, is your sting? Where, O Hades is your victory? Christ is risen, and thou art cast down. Christ is risen, and the demons have fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life is liberated. Christ is risen, and no one remains dead in a tomb. For Christ having risen from the dead, has become the first-fruits of those that have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and power, for ever and ever. Amen.