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June 26, 2022

Today in calendars: Holy Emperors Constantine and Helena

The Orthodox Church commemorates today the Holy Emperor Constantine and his mother Helena. Constantine the Great, Roman emperor (306-337), became the sovereign of the entire Roman Empire after defeating Maxentius and Licinius. On the eve of the battle with Maxentius, in 312, Constantine saw a bright cross in the sky and an inscription: In hoc signum vinces (By this sign you shall win). The emperor set the sign of the holy cross on all the banners of his army and rode victoriously into Rome. By the Milan edict (313) he granted religious freedom to Christianity, which became the state religion during Theodosius the Great. The emperor Constantine summoned the first Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325), where, after prolonged debates, Arius’ teachings were condemned and the dogma that the Son of God is co-substantial with the Father and, therefore, inseparable from Him, was adopted. On this occasion, the first seven articles of the Creed were also drafted, the date for Easter was set (the first Sunday after the full moon, after the Spring Equinox) and 20 canons of Church discipline were given.

Saint Constantine the Great was baptised on his deathbed by the bishop Eusebius of Caesarea. He died shortly afterwards, in Nikomidia, and was buried in Constantinople, in the church he himself had founded.

Flavia Iulia Helena was born in Bitinia. In 293, at the request of the emperor Diocletian, the Roman general Constantiu Chlorus divorced the empress Helena. The latter did not remarry, and chose to live away from the public eye, but close to her son. She managed to find, on the hill of Golgotha, the cross Christ had been crucified on. According to tradition, following digs, three crosses were found. To identify the cross on which Christ had been crucified, they touched a dead man with the three crosses. He was restored to life when being touched by the cross of the Lord. The empress Helena built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Church of Bethlehem, the one in Nazareth and many other holy places.

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