Saints Constantine

and Helen

June 3rd (May 21st old calendar).

Constantine's parents were the Emperor Constantius Chlorus and the Empress Helena. Chlorus had further children by another wife, but by Helena he had only the one, Constantine. Constantine fought two great battles when he came to the throne: one against Maxentius, a tyrant in Rome, and the other against Licinius not far from Byzantium. At the battle against Maxentius, when Constantine was in great anxiety and uncertainty about his chances of success, a shining cross, surrounded by stars, appeared to him in the sky in full daylight. On the cross were written the words: 'In this sign, conquer!' The wondering Emperor ordered that a great cross be put together, like the one that had appeared, and be carried before the army. By the power of the Cross, he gained a glorious victory over enemies greatly superior in number. Maxentius drowned himself in the Tiber. Immediately after this, Constantine issued the famous Edict of Milan, in 313, to put an end to the persecution of Christians. Conquering Byzantium, he built a beautiful capital city on the Bosphorus, which from that time was named Constantinople.

At this time, Constantine fell ill with leprosy. The pagan priests and doctors advised him to bathe in the blood of slaughtered children, which he refused to do. Then the Apostles Peter and Paul appeared to him and told him to seek out a bishop, Sylvester, who would heal him of the disease. The bishop instructed him in the Christian faith and baptized him, and the leprosy vanished from the Emperor's body.

When there was discord in the Church about the troublesome heretic Arius, the Emperor summoned the first Ecumenical Council in Nicaea, in 325, where the heresy was condemned and Orthodoxy confirmed.

St. Helena, the Emperor's devout mother, was very zealous for the Christian faith. She visited Jerusalem and found the Precious Cross of the Lord, and built the Church of the Resurrection over Golgotha and many other churches in the Holy Land. This holy woman went to the Lord in 327, at the age of eighty. The Emperor Constantine outlived his mother by ten years and entered into rest at the age of about sixty in 337, in the city of Nicomedia. His body was buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople.

Troparion Tone 8

O Lord, thy disciple Emperor Constantine, who saw in the sky the Sign of Thy Cross,/ Accepted the call that came straight from Thee, as it happened to Paul, and not from any man./ He built his capital and entrusted it to Thy care./ Preserve our country in everlasting peace, through the intercession of the Mother of God,/ for Thou art the Lover of mankind.

Kontakion Tone 3

Today Constantine and Helena his mother expose to our veneration the Cross,/ the awesome Cross of Christ,/ a sign of salvation to the Jews/ and a standard of victory:/ a great symbol of conquest and triumph.


Finding of the Lord's Cross

By Empress Helen

September 27th (September 14th old calendar).

The first meritorious act of Empress Helen was that she inclined her son Constantine (see above) toward the Christian Faith at a time when other youths of noble birth were being educated in pagan ways and abhored Christianity. The secon - acquisition of the Lord's Cross.

In the 326, with the intent of finding the Lord's Cross Empress Helen traveled to Jerusalem. There she was told that the Lord's Cross was buried at a place where the pagans had erected a temple in memory of Venus. When, at her command the edifice was destroyed and excavation begun, they found three crosses and near them a small board on which was written: "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews."

In order to find out on which of the crosses the Saviour was crucified, they began in sequence to lay the crosses on a deceased person. From two of the crosses there occurred no miracle. When the third cross was placed upon the deceased he was resurrected, - thus they found the Cross of the Saviour.

When the people heard of the miracle, then all wanted to see the Holy Cross. Then Macarius, patriarch of Jerusalem and the Empress Helen stood on a hill and elevated the Cross. The people on seeing the Cross of the Saviour, prayed with the words: "Lord have mercy."

In memory of this event the Church established the feast of the Elevation of the Lord's Cross. This feast day is considered in the ranks of other great feast days and is celebrated on September 27th. On this day, the Cross is triumphantly brought to the center of the Church for veneration. During the rein of Constantine, the name Jerusalem was reenstated instead of Colonia aelia Capitolina which had been changed by Emperor Hadrian (117-138).

The Empress Helen built several Churches in the Holy Land: on Golgotha the Church of the Resurrection (and tomb) of the Lord, where annually on Easter eve descends a benevolent fire: on the Mount of Olives (where the Lord ascended into heaven); in Bethlehem (where the Lord was born in the flesh) and in Hebron by the Mamre oak (where God revealed Himself to Abraham). 


Holy Protection Russian Orthodox Church

2049 Argyle Ave. Los Angeles, California 90068


(constantine_helen.doc, 08-15-2000)