CONSTANTINE AND HELEN, EQUAL-TO-THE APOSTLES
Constantine and Helen, Equal-to-the Apostles, Pachomios the Righteous New Martyr
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 26:1, 12-20
IN THOSE DAYS, King Agrippa said to Paul, "You have permission to speak for yourself." Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense: "I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining round me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.' And I said, 'Who are you, Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles-to whom I send you to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.' "Wherefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance."
The Lord said to the Jews who had come to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.
New Martyrs and Confessors of Butovo
On the fourth Saturday of Pascha, the Russian Orthodox Church commemorates the Synaxis of the New Martyrs and Confessors who suffered at Butovo (Бутово). This movable feast was added to the Menaion of the Russian Orthodox Church, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II of Moscow and All Russia on September 3, 2003.
The Butovo landfill is currently located within Moscow, it is a place of mass graves of the victims of Soviet repressions during the 1930s and early 1950s.
At present, about a thousand persons are known to have been shot at the Butovo landfill for their confession of the Orthodox Faith. By the summer of 2003, 255 of them were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church.
There is no other place in Russia where the relics of so many Saints have been gathered together.
The Butovo landfill is located on the land of the former estate of Drozhino, known since the XVI century. The last owner of the estate was I. I. Zimin, the older brother of S. I. ZImin, the owner of the Moscow private opera.
Equal of the Apostles and Emperor Constantine with his Mother Helen
The Church calls Saint Constantine (306-337) “the Equal of the Apostles,” and historians call him “the Great.” He was the son of the Caesar Constantius Chlorus (305-306), who governed the lands of Gaul and Britain. His mother was Saint Helen, a Christian of humble birth.
At this time the immense Roman Empire was divided into Western and Eastern halves, governed by two independent emperors and their corulers called “Caesars.” Constantius Chlorus was Caesar in the Western Roman Empire. Saint Constantine was born in 274, possibly at Nish in Serbia. In 294, Constantius divorced Helen in order to further his political ambition by marrying a woman of noble rank. After he became emperor, Constantine showed his mother great honor and respect, granting her the imperial title “Augusta.”
Constantine, the future ruler of all the whole Roman Empire, was raised to respect Christianity. His father did not persecute Christians in the lands he governed. This was at a time when Christians were persecuted throughout the Roman Empire by the emperors Diocletian (284-305) and his corulers Maximian Galerius (305-311) in the East, and the emperor Maximian Hercules (284-305) in the West.
After the death of Constantius Chlorus in 306, Constantine was acclaimed by the army at York as emperor of Gaul and Britain. The first act of the new emperor was to grant the freedom to practice Christianity in the lands subject to him. The pagan Maximian Galerius in the East and the fierce tyrant Maxentius in the West hated Constantine and they plotted to overthrow and kill him, but Constantine bested them in a series of battles, defeating his opponents with the help of God. He prayed to God to give him a sign which would inspire his army to fight valiantly, and the Lord showed him a radiant Sign of the Cross in the heavens with the inscription “In this Sign, conquer.”
After Constantine became the sole ruler of the Western Roman Empire, he issued the Edict of Milan in 313 which guaranteed religious tolerance for Christians. Saint Helen, who was a Christian, may have influenced him in this decision. In 323, when he became the sole ruler of the entire Roman Empire, he extended the provisions of the Edict of Milan to the Eastern half of the Empire. After three hundred years of persecution, Christians could finally practice their faith without fear.
Renouncing paganism, the Emperor did not let his capital remain in ancient Rome, the former center of the pagan realm. He transferred his capital to the East, to the city of Byzantium, which was renamed Constantinople, the city of Constantine (May 11). Constantine was deeply convinced that only Christianity could unify the immense Roman Empire with its diverse peoples. He supported the Church in every way. He recalled Christian confessors from banishment, 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 also wanted to find the actual Cross upon which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified. For this purpose he sent his own mother, the holy Empress Helen, to Jerusalem, granting her both power and money. Patriarch Macarius of Jerusalem and Saint Helen began the search, and through the will of God, the Life-Creating Cross was miraculously discovered in 326. (The account of the finding of the Cross of the Lord is found under the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, September 14). The Orthodox Church commemorates the Uncovering of the Precious Cross and the Precious Nails by the Holy Empress Helen on March 6.
While in Palestine, the holy empress did much of benefit for the Church. She ordered 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.
The emperor Constantine ordered a magnificent church in honor of Christ’s Resurrection to be built over His tomb. Saint Helen gave the Life-Creating Cross to the Patriarch for safe-keeping, and took part of the Cross with her for the emperor. After distributing generous alms at Jerusalem and feeding the needy (at times she even served them herself), the holy Empress Helen returned to Constantinople, where she died in the year 327.
Because of her great services to the Church and her efforts in finding the Life-Creating Cross, the empress Helen is called “the Equal of the Apostles.”
The peaceful state of the Christian Church was disturbed by quarrels, dissensions and heresies which had appeared within the Church. Already at the beginning of Saint Constantine’s reign the heresies of the Donatists and the Novatians had arisen in the West. They demanded a second baptism for those who lapsed during the persecutions against Christians. These heresies, repudiated by two local Church councils, were finally condemned at the Council of Milan in 316.
Particularly ruinous for the Church was the rise of the Arian heresy in the East, which denied the Divine Nature of the Son of God, and taught that Jesus Christ was a mere creature. By order of the emperor, the First Ecumenical Council was convened in the city of Nicea in 325.
318 bishops attended this Council. Among its participants were confessor-bishops from the period of the persecutions and many other luminaries of the Church, among whom was Saint Nicholas of Myra in Lycia. (The account about the Council is found under May 29). The emperor was present at the sessions of the Council. The heresy of Arius was condemned and a Symbol of Faith (Creed) composed, in which was included the term “consubstantial with the Father,” at the insistence of the Emperor, confirming the truth of the divinity of Jesus Christ, Who assumed human nature for the redemption of all the human race.
After the Council of Nicea, Saint Constantine continued with his active role in the welfare of the Church. He accepted holy Baptism on his deathbed, 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 he had prepared for himself.
Venerable Constantine, (in baptism Yaroslav), with his children Michael and Theodore, Wonderworkers of Murom
The Holy Princes Constantine and his sons Michael and Theodore of Murom lived during the eleventh-twelfth centuries.
Prince Constantine, a descendant of Saint Vladimir, asked his father, Prince Svyatoslav of Chernigov, to give him the city of Murom, which was inhabited by pagans, so he might enlighten this land with the light of the Christian Faith.
The prince sent his son Michael as emissary to the Murom people, but the pagans murdered him. When Prince Constantine arrived in the city with his retinue, the people quieted down and accepted him, but for a long time they would not give up paganism.
Once, they went to the prince’s home, intending to kill him, but the prince came out to the crowd holding the Murom Icon of the Mother of God (April 12). The mutinous people unexpectedly quieted down and agreed to accept holy Baptism at the River Oka.
At the place of the murder of his son Michael, Saint Constantine built a church in honor of the Annunciation, and later on another church named for the holy Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb. Prince Constantine zealously assisted his son, Prince Theodore in spreading the Christian Faith among the people of Murom.
Saint Constantine died in 1129, and was buried in the church of the Annunciation beside his sons, Saints Michael and Theodore.
Venerable Cassian the Greek of Uglich
Saint Cassian the Greek of Uglich: Today we commemorate the namesake of Saint Cassian (in the world Constantine). See October 2.
Meeting of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God
The Celebration of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God was established to commemorate the deliverance of Moscow from an invasion of Tatars led by Khan Makhmet-Girei in 1521. The Tatar hordes approached Moscow, burning and destroying Russian cities and villages, and exterminating their inhabitants.
Great Prince Basil raised an army against the Tatars, while Metropolitan Barlaam and the people of Moscow prayed fervently for deliverance. At this time a certain pious blind nun had a vision. She saw Moscow’s bishop-saints exiting from the Savior gates of the Kremlin, forsaking the city and taking with them the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God, the holiest object in the city of Moscow. This was God’s chastisement for the sins of its inhabitants.
At the Savior gates the holy hierarchs were met by Saints Sergius of Radonezh (Sept. 25) and Barlaam of Khutyn (Nov. 6), tearfully imploring them not to leave Moscow. All of them offered intense prayer to the Lord for the forgivness of their transgressions and the deliverance of Moscow from its enemies. After this prayer the bishop-saints returned to the Kremlin, and they carried back the holy Vladimir Icon.
St Basil the Blessed (August 2) saw a similar vision. It was revealed to him that Moscow would be saved, through the intercession of the Theotokos and the prayers of the saints. The Tatar Khan also had a vision of the Mother of God with a fearsome host, contending against his forces. The Tatars fled in fear, and the capital of the Russian realm was saved.
The Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God is also commemorated on June 23 and August 26.
“Tenderness” Icon of the Mother of God from the Pskov Caves
The sacred Tenderness Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos was painted and brought to the Pskov Caves monastery through the efforts of the devout Pskov merchants Basil and Theodore. It was transferred it to the town of Pskov in the year 1521, and was glorified by miracles of healing in 1524. The Tenderness Icon is especially honored as the protector of the city when it was besieged by the Polish King Stephen Bathory (1533-1586) in the year 1581. Both the Tenderness Icon and the Dormition Icon were glorified at that time.
The Tenderness Icon is also honored on October 7, the day when Pskov was liberated from Napoleon's invasion in 1812. Other days on which the Tenderness Icon is commemorated are: June 23, August 26, and on the Seventh Sunday of Pascha.