The Catholic Southern Front

Chapter 6 – The Victorious Augustus Emperor Constantine

Following Our Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension, the Apostles evangelized the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. On February 27, 271-273, at Naissus in Serbia, Saint Helen and Augustus Flavius Valerius Constantius Chlorus gave birth to a son whom they named Constantine. Other historical accounts state that Constantine was born and educated in Britain. In the Holy Land, Constantius and Saint Helen discovered most of the Holy Relics, such as the True Cross, nails and the Holy Veil of the Blessed Virgin. In later years, Helen and Constantine translated the Icons and relics from Jerusalem to Constantinople. The Imperial Family built churches to guard the Christian Holy Sites in Jerusalem and fortified the City of Constantinople as to receive the western pilgrims en-route towards the Holy Land. Saint Helen is accredited for allowing an order of monks to erect a monastery on the site of the burning bush on Mount Sinai in Egypt (Monastery of Saint Catherine, Jebel Musa). Amongst other precious religious objects within Saint Catherine’s Monastery, the pilgrim can observe beautiful icons depicting the Blessed Virgin, the Apostles and the military saints, such as Saints George and Theodorus.

 

In the year 303, Diocletian brought forward three edicts against Christianity;

  1. the first edict ordered the destruction of all temples and places of worship, together with all sacred scripture and Christian books,
  2. the second was a mandate for the arrest of all the clergy, 
  3. the third forced all the citizens to worship and make sacrifice to the Roman gods.

 

Those who resisted were to be tortured into submission or killed. The edicts caused the eventual martyrdom of 300,000-500,000 Christians. In 305, two years following the proclamation of the edicts, Diocletian and Maximian renounced their power and retired, their retirement at the height of their careers was deemed highly unusual and politically abnormal. According to the Diocletian manner of Roman rule, known as the Tetrarchy, Augustus Flavius Valerius Constantius was one Caesar serving under an Augustus. Constantius was elected Caesar on March 1, 293, and Augustus on May 1, 305, and wedded a second woman by the name of Theodora. On July 25, 306, during a campaign against the Picts in Britain, Constantius died at York. Following Constantius’ death, his troops proclaimed Constantine as Caesar and later Augustus. The religious nature of Constantine, although pagan at this point, was evident in his first instructions to end any kind of religious persecution in the regions under his control. He offered his prayers to Mars, the god of war and Apollo, the god of art. He lived in Trier, put aside his mistress Minerva who had given him a son (Crispus) and married Fausta, Maximian’s daughter, this was evidently a political move. Constantine’s conversion to Christianity occurred in a similar fashion as had previously occurred to St. Paul. Through miraculous apparitions, Constantine was commanded from heaven to place Christ’s cross and monogram on his soldier’s shields, which came to be known as the ‘labarum.’ In 312 his son’s tutor, Eusebius, recorded the miraculous events previous to the Battle at the Milvian Bridge on the River Tiber. Later, Eusebius described the whole affair regarding the dream and vision and various conflicting versions exist on Constantine’s baptism.

During the same period of Constantine’s proclamation as Augustus, Maxentius, Maximian’s son, was elected by the Roman Senate in Rome on October 28, 306, and was also proclaimed Augustus. Maxentius had Constantine’s statues pulled down and publicly proclaimed him a tyrant. In 310 Maximian died, executed due to his plotting against Constantine’s life, this led to the inevitable, both Constantine and Maxentius were drawn for war. Maxentius’ army consisted of one hundred thousand combatants, while Constantine marched steadily with a force of twenty thousand men. On his way to Rome, Constantine experienced the miraculous apparitions as supernatural signs in the sky during the day and a vision or dream during the night. While Constantine was still marching towards Italy, the miraculous phenomena occurred probably in Gaul. According to Eusebius, Constantine experienced a solar phenomenon. This solar miracle was similar in nature to what later occured during the seventeenth century at Czestochowa in Poland and during the twentieth century at Fatima, in Portugal. However, let us meditate and ponder upon the following scriptural verses: “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the Chief priests. About noon, O king, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people (the Jews) and from the Gentiles (the Romans and all who were under their authority). I am sending you to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’” (Acts 26:12-18) 

While riding with his army, from his steed the Emperor observed a luminous cross just above the sun. Essentially, a brilliant light assured him victory in the sign of Christ’s cross and monogram. At night, Christ Himself ordered him to make the sign seen in the sky, into a military insignia and place it on his standards and on the shields of the troops. Constantine ordered his soldiers to place Christ’s monogram on their shields and had it engraved in his helmet, which he wore ever after. The cross witnessed by the Augustus, was surmounted by a crown within which were the Greek letters ‘Chi-Rho,’ or the first two letters of the word ‘Christ.’ But the Chi-Rho was earlier used by pagans to represent the god of time ‘Chronos,’ who brought order to chaos. It is interesting to draw a parallel between the pagan god ‘chronos’ and Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. The Lord came into time born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to bring order to the chaos of man’s existence. Jesus Christ is the Eternal Word, the Alpha and the Omega, the God who judges at the end of time.

Maxentius consulted the priests and ogres of Rome and endeavored to obtain the support of all the Roman deities. Regardless of such efforts and the command over a numerically superior army, on October 28, 312, Constantine’s troops defeated Maxentius’ army, Maxentius himself lost his life in the River Tiber. Constantine’s vision; ‘In This Sign Wilt Thou Conquer,’ or ‘Hoc Signo Victor Eris,’ or ‘In Hoc Signo Vinces’(1) became reality, (EV TOUTW NIKA – in Greek). Constantine’s victory was repeated against the other Caesars, Maximinus and Licinius. The conquered Licinius gave Constantine his sister in marriage and pledged allegiance against Maximinus. He also pledged to protect the Christians in the East, an assurance which he would later betray. On April 30, 313, upon the battlefield Licinius’ soldiers invoked the God of Christians and won a victory against the Christian foe, Maximinus, who had also hypocritically and ignorantly invoked the God of the Christians, before dying a horrible death. Constantine and his troops were not as yet baptized, however, after the vision and the victory at the Milvian Bridge, the Emperor allowed Christian worship throughout the whole Roman Empire. The commemorating Arch erected in remembrance for the victory at the Milvian Bridge, which can still be seen in the vicinity of the Coliseum (Rome), was inaugurated without the usual pagan celebrations. Constantine acknowledged the fact that it was the God of the Christians who had brought him to power, giving him authority over the entire Roman Empire, no other Roman pagan god accomplished this deed. Symbolically, the Coliseum was built on the very site where many Christians were burnt and crucified in Emperor Nero’s garden. The ancient gladiatorial stadium was built with the funds acquired by the liquidation of King Solomon’s treasures and King Solomon’s Judaic Temple in Jerusalem. Christians were murdered and martyred in the Coliseum. To remind posterity of their sacrifice, Emperor Constantine, the hero and colossus of Christendom, erected his Arch of Triumph nearby. In commemoration of a victory, which came about through the graces wrought by the sacrifice of so many thousand Christians, Emperor Constantine abolished death by crucifixion.

The Edict of Toleration by Galerius of 311, published in Saint George’s city of martyrdom, Nicomedia, states: “…Wherefore, for this our indulgence, they (Christians) ought to pray to God for our safety for that of the republic, and for their own, that the republic may continue uninjured on every side, and that they may be able to live securely in their homes.”(2) Interestingly, Galerius invited the Christians to pray to their God, for their own protection and the whole Roman Empire, against the dangers which threatened its borders. Therefore, in ancient Roman politics a separation between Church and State was virtually impossible, the Roman culture of prayer to any powerful deity for protection, was performed publicly. In like manner, it is a false concept to believe that modern politics has successfully introduced a separation between the ‘prayers to deities’ and State. The engineers of the ‘enlightenment,’ the worshippers of the ‘god of reason,’ the ones who have for the past three hundred years, advocated and promoted a clear and distinct separation between Church and State, the secret fraternal societies, also pray to their deities, in particular to the ‘Grand Architect of the Universe’ or the ‘Prince of this world.’ The Edict of Tolerance by Galerius was published on the eve of May 1; the future month associated with Our Lady and her many feasts.

The ‘Edict of Milan’ took place in 313, granting freedom of worship to all Christians in the Roman Empire. The translation of the Edict’s original Latin states: “When I, Constantine Augustus, as well as I, Licinius Augustus, fortunately (or fortuitously) met near Mediolanurn (Milan), and were considering everything that pertained to the public welfare and security, we thought, among other things which we saw would be for the good of many, those regulations pertaining to the reverence of the Divinity ought certainly to be made first, so that we might grant to the Christians and others full authority to observe that religion which each preferred; whence any Divinity whatsoever in the seat of the heavens may be propitious and kindly disposed to us and all who are placed under our rule. And thus by this wholesome counsel and most upright provision we thought to arrange that no one whatsoever should be denied the opportunity to give his heart to the observance of the Christian religion, of that religion which he should think best for himself, so that the Supreme Deity, to whose worship we freely yield our hearts, may show in all things His usual favor and benevolence. Therefore, your Worship should know that it has pleased us to remove all conditions whatsoever, which were in the rescripts formerly given to you officially, concerning the Christians and now any one of these who wishes to observe Christian religion may do so freely and openly, without molestation… Let this be done so that, as we have said above, Divine favor towards us, which, under the most important circumstances we have already experienced, may, for all time, preserve and prosper our successes together with the good of the state.”(3)

Such edicts shed light over the birth of a relationship between Church and State and reveals the essential nature of the donation of Rome to the Catholic Pontiffs. Surely both verbally and evidenced by Constantine’s behavior, Rome was indeed donated to the Church, for if this donation had not occurred at least verbally, Constantine himself would not have moved the Roman senate, the legal courts and the capital city of the Empire to Constantinople. Constantine probably felt that the many thousand Christians martyred in Rome, was enough a price for the city to be donated to them, the Christians. The fact that the document on the ‘Donation of Rome’ was a forgery, does not preclude the hypothesis that such a document could have possibly existed in those days previous to the numerous sacks and destruction of Rome. Pepin the Mayor of the Gallic Palace, in 754 was crowned by the Roman Pontiff, securing the Carolingian Dynasty in France and probably pledging to return to the Pontiff the Lombard lands in Italy, which had previously belonged to Constantinople. In 756, regardless of the Byzantine opposition, who stated that the Italian Lombard territories belonged to the East, Pepin restored these lands to the Pope. The forged document on the ‘Donation of Rome,’ might have been created in these days to make the restoration by Pepin, justifiable and not appear as a second donation. The political maneuvering between the Roman Pontiff and the French progenitor of the Carolingian Dynasty seems suspicious by some. However, the approval of the Almighty, by the coronation of Charles the Great in the year 800 as ‘Holy Roman Emperor’ and his great success rivaling Emperor Constantine’s before him, should remove any doubts which state that the Pontiff’s maneuvering in the 750s was just sterile politics. The supporters of the Protestant Reformation delighted and gloated upon the fact that the document on the ‘Donation of Rome’ was indeed a forgery. During the past three hundred years, the main attacks against the Roman Church occurred in most part, by those who were influenced by the political movements and literary works produced by the instigators of the ‘age of Enlightenment.’ In the 1700s, throughout the 1800s and 1900s, these men worked assiduously to perform a concrete separation between Church and State, by attacking the temporal and political powers of the Church. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, by various means, the Christian Dynasties were dismembered, the Papal States were confiscated, both Emperor Constantine’s and Pepin’s true ‘Donations’ were undermined and the sacrifice and the blood shed by many thousand Christian martyrs, trampled underfoot.

In February 313, Constantine’s half sister was given in marriage to Licinius in Milan (Mediolanurn). However, the remaining Diocletian tetrarch, Licinius, wavered greatly and warred against Emperor Constantine’s troops at Cibalae. On October 8, 314, Licinius was defeated but swiftly recovered a new army. At Castra Jarba or Thrace, in November 314, another battle ensued, Campus Ardiensis, this left no victor. After agreeing for peace, once again Licinius returned to his old ways of persecuting Christians and openly professed idol worship, sacrifice and paganism.

A martyr worthy of mention is Saint Blaise, who was the bishop of Sebaste. In 316, the Roman Governor Agricola under Licinius’ orders arrested Blaise. Blaise was imprisoned and while in jail, healed the prisoners and saved the life of a child from choking. He was thrown into a lake, but he miraculously walked over water, his persecutors drowned while trying to capture him. He was tortured with iron rakes, which sliced and tore his flesh and was beheaded. Licinius became an Augustus and on March 1, 317, Constantine appointed three Caesars; his two sons Crispus and Constantine and Licinius’ son, Licinius. This ‘Concordia Augustorum,’ failed, due mostly to the Emperors’ religious differences. Emperor Constantine gathered a large army consisting of 125,000 infantry, 10,000 cavalry and 200 vessels. Licinius gathered an even larger army and notwithstanding this disparity in numbers, Constantine forcefully defeated the pagan Licinius.

Licinius garrisoned Byzantium and a mysterious violent storm overpowered his fleet as it chased Constantine’s ships. The Emperor inflicted a naval defeat and Licinius escaped with 30,000 men to Nicomedia in Turkey, the city where Saint George was martyred for the Faith. In 324, war broke out again. Realizing that his, was a useless quest, Licinius surrendered and Constantine spared his life. In 325, Licinius renewed his persecution against the Christians and the Roman Senate quickly passed sentence to execute the Augustus. His son’s forces were also suppressed. In 326, Constantine erected the Church of Lydda, Palestine, in honor of Saint George.

In 318, the Emperor of the West became governor of the East and what was Byzantium became the Capital of the Empire and renamed ‘Constantinople.’ Following Constantine’s complete victory, the heresy of Arianism was condemned at the first Ecumenical Council of the Church, on May 20, 325 in Nicea. All the victories were similarly to the first at the Milvian Bridge, accredited to the Christian God.

Constantine was said to have erred. Due to his idea of resolving divisions in the Church, he did not completely discredit Arianism. In an unfortunate event in 327, he executed his son Crispus, following the latter’s involvement with his step-mother Fausta, Constantine’s wife and Maximian’s daughter. Crispus returned victorious from a campaign, Fausta desiring to vindicate the death of her father and brother, might have seduced Crispus in an attempt to turn him away from his father. Crispus’ popularity with the troops must have been deemed ‘politically undermining’ and Constantine sensed the betrayal, fearing a split in his political power, decided to move swiftly and immediately put his son to death. If Crispus dishonored the Emperor by sleeping with his father’s wife, how could he be trusted? Following a rebuke by Saint Helen, for the manner in which Constantine handled the situation, the Emperor also ordered the execution of Fausta. Much perturbed by what came to pass, Saint Helen performed a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in reparation of her grandson’s and daughter in law’s behavior and Constantine’s severe judgement. While visiting the Holy Land, she discovered and excavated the holy sites of Christendom. The erection of churches over these sites kept them identifiable till our present day, the sites withstood the test of time and the troubles caused by their Christian enemies.

Both Constantine and Saint Helen are accredited for erecting and creating the foundations of many churches in Rome, Constantinople and Jerusalem. Although Rome was furnished with pagan monuments, Constantinople was essentially a Christian city and many historians believe that Constantinople’s success meant the death knell for Rome. However, notwithstanding the fact that the political center was indeed moved, Rome was at least verbally and in action, donated to the Catholic Church and the Pontiffs now ruled from the Eternal City. This Christian rule can never be considered, as many historians state, ‘the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,’ but the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church, as we know it today. Should we ask the souls in heaven whether they have benefited from Catholic Rome and whether they consider their salvation through the work of the Roman Catholic Church as a fall? Rome reminded Constantine of the pagan past, the site of many assassinations and the martyrdom of Christians, including the executions he himself had ordered. Constantine must have desired to be closer to the Holy Land, the place of the Messiah’s Sacrifice and Resurrection. Therefore, mid-way between ancient Rome and Jerusalem, between ancient paganism and ancient Orthodox Judaism, a true Christian city was to stand. Constantinople served the pilgrims well and set the faithful a step closer to the Holy Land, the future site where the Lord would return, an expected event at the time considered to be imminent.

It was evident that Constantine was victorious by the trust and honor he gave to Christ’s Holy Name. A commemorating statue of the Emperor in Rome, showed the monogram of Christ (XP) in his hand and beneath, the words: “By the aid of this salutary token of strength I have freed my city from the yoke of tyranny and restored to the Roman Senate and People the ancient splendor and glory.”(4) Upon the triumphal Arch, there is still engraved the original words: “Instinctu Divinitatis (by the will of the Christian God), and by his own virtue… he (Constantine) has liberated the country from the tyrant (Maxentius) and his faction.” In 319, Emperor Constantine initiated the works for the first Saint Peter’s Basilica, over Saint Peter’s tomb in Rome, completed in 349. In 326, in Jerusalem, Constantine built a basilica marking the Holy Site of Christ’s tomb; today the Holy Sepulchre stands on the same site. Constantine fell ill in April 337 he prayed at the tomb of Helen’s favorite martyr Saint Lucian and according to the Orthodox sources, an Arian bishop at Nicomedia baptized him. It is probable that the Emperor was secretly baptized at the Lateran Baptistery of San Giovanni in Laterano, Rome Italy, by Pope Sylvester I. To prove to his followers that he believed in the union between Catholicism and Arianism, he might have also been baptized by the Arian Bishop, just before his death. However, this second baptism is disputed, for the Council of Nicea which he convened for unity, had condemned Arianism. On Pentecost May 22, 337, Constantine died. He appointed Constantine II, Constantius II and Constans his sons and nephew Flavius Dalmatius as his successors. Flavius was killed in a bloody coup and Constantine II, Constantius II and Constans were each proclaimed Augustus. The Orthodox Christians revere Constantine as a saint and keep his Feast Day on September 3 and on May 21, together with Saint Helen’s Feast. The Lateran Baptistery in Rome is the oldest baptistery in Christendom. It can still be visited today, and within the octagonal structure, the pilgrim tourist can view the doors from the Baths of Emperor Caracalla, within this baptistery the sacred waters of Christian baptism washed away the neophyte’s Original sin. Emperor Constantine’s baptism could have taken place here. Political Rome was born into Christianity.

It was Constantine’s son, Constantius, who gradually phased out paganism from Roman society. He abolished altogether the sacrifice to the Roman gods: “Cesset superstitio; sacrificiorum aboleatur insania”(5) or “Let superstition cease; let the folly of sacrifices be abolished.” Roman laws became gradually ever more moral and less cruel and following the conquest by Christ at the Milvian Bridge, a purging of the pagan spirit in society, was the most obvious next step. The conversion of the seat of the Roman Empire was the beginning, for the Church had to trace through yet arduous times of heresy, contradiction and misunderstandings. In 325, the first Ecumenical Council of Nicea (a Church-State meeting) was organized by Emperor Constantine and Pope Saint Sylvester I. The objects of discussion were the impious doctrines of Arius, the formulation of the Creed, the canons, the synodal decree and other matters regarding the celebration of Easter and the Meletian schism. Arius reduced Jesus Christ to a mere man, but the Council sustained that: “Jesus Christ, the Son was of the same substance as the Father.” In particular due to this condemnation, it is a highly improbable fact that an Arian bishop baptized Constantine. Constantine might not have understood such theological matters and surely desired that both the Roman and Arian faction remain united. The Catholic Church was right as regards to spiritual and religious matters, however his reasoning made political sense. The Roman Church would not allow such unity, the Arians refused to amend their errors creating a fundamental split, and the whole heresy was condemned. Constantine referred to the bishops at the Council, as the bishops inside the Church while referring to himself, he stated that he was the bishop outside the Church. Constantine was essentially a political leader who desired unity. To the Emperor the stand and separation from ancient paganism was enough, the schism within the early Church was politically precarious.

The steady conversion to Christianity met little serious resistance until Julian the Apostate came to power. Probably, the first military victory brought about by the intercession of Our Lady (by the Eternal Ark of the New Covenant) occurred in 363/4, thirty years following Constantine’s death. Commander Basil was engaged in battle against the Persians in Cesarea, today’s Turkey. There he implored for the Blessed Virgin’s intercessory help. News reached the saint that Emperor Julian the Apostate (Constantine’s nephew) had sworn to kill him on his return from battle. He was concerned for his people, as the newly elected Emperor spurned by his hatred for Christianity, intended to re-establish paganism throughout the Empire and rebuild the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Julian the Apostate planned to re-start the persecution of Christians and bring to naught Emperor Constantine’s work. Following the death of Emperor Constans, three edicts were issued revealing the Apostate’s intent. In content the edicts were essentially similar to Diocletan’s proclamation for a Christian persecution. Saint Basil prayed to the Blessed Virgin, “Holy Virgin, come to our aid.” Our Lady replied to Saint Basil, “…do not worry Basil, I promise that the Emperor’s rage will not touch you. Other battles you will have to fight for my Son, to protect my people.”(6) Days later news reached Basil that the new Emperor, Julian the Apostate, after having conquered some fortresses, forced his enemy to close itself in Ctesifonte, but not having hope in the siege, had gone up the River Tigris and died, he was struck down in battle by a spear or an arrow. In 370, Basil was elected bishop and defended the Church from heresies, such as the Arian heresy. According to the pagan Ammianus Marcellinus, advisor to Emperor Julian, the Apostate was convinced that the Temple in Jerusalem should be rebuilt. Therefore, he ordered the planning of such a project and commissioned many workmen. However, Ammianus wrote that: “Terrible balls of flame, which were often expelled from the foundation, made that place inaccessible, burning repeatedly those who worked there; in this manner, this enterprise was halted spontaneously driving away persistent workmen.”(7) Saint Gregory the Theologian, regarding Emperor Julian, said that as the construction was about to begin a blazing Cross appeared in the heavens and the clothing of the onlookers were imprinted with crosses. As Julian the Apostate lay dying he said: “You have conquered me, Galilean!”(8), understandably referring to Jesus Christ. According to Labianus, on Julian the Apostate, he stated that the Emperor was assassinated by a Christian who was one of his own soldiers. In ancient Christian texts, it was a certain Saint Mercurius or Maurice who carried out the assassination. Here it is good to point out that the antichristian was defeated following his attempts to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.

The Church-State council of May 381, referred to as the ‘Council of Constantinople,’ was organized by Emperor Theodosius for the purposes of; providing for a Christian succession in the Patriarchal See, for the confirmation of the Nicene Creed, to deal with the Macedonian heresy and discuss the Semi-Arian question. In June 22, 431, at the Council of Ephesus, Nestorious stated that Jesus Christ was one person of the same substance as the Father with two natures, the Divine and the human. However, Nestorius put into question Christ’s Divinity from conception, referring to the Blessed Virgin as the ‘Mother of the man, Anthropotokos,’rather than the ‘Mother of the Divine Jesus, Theotokos.’ At the Council of Ephesus in 431, the first Marian Dogma that Mary is ‘Theotokos,’ or the Mother of God, was declared. This was done to anathematize the heresies of Nestorius, the bishop of Constantinople. The Church declared: “Therefore, because the holy virgin bore in the flesh God, who was united hypostatically with the flesh, for that reason we call her Mother of God, not as though the nature of the Word had the beginning of its existence from the flesh (for “the Word was in the beginning and the Word was God and the Word was with God”, and he made the ages and is coeternal with the Father and craftsman of all things), but because, as we have said, he united to himself hypostatically the human and underwent a birth according to the flesh from her womb”. (Third letter of Cyril to Nestorius)…  “If anyone does not confess that Emmanuel is God in truth, and therefore that the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God (for she bore in a fleshly way the Word of God become flesh), let him be anathema.” (9) Finally, the Church revealed that what had originally provoked the ancient, primordial angelic rebellion.

At Ephesus the fathers of the Church condemned Nestorius and proclaimed the Blessed Virgin’s divine motherhood. The fathers insisted that the Divine Word of God, one substance with the Father was united with the flesh in the mother’s womb. After the Counsel of Ephesus, the Feast of Theotokos fell on August 15 as early as 455 and 479 in Antioch, Syria and Constantinople. At the Council of Chalcedon in 451, many bishops from the whole of the Roman Empire gathered at Constantinople. On October 13, it was decided that the bishop Dioscurus should be deprived of his bishopric in Alexandria, due to having supported the heresies of Eutyches on the nature of Jesus Christ. On October 22, the declaration of Chalcedon proclaimed that Jesus Christ is: “…one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, known in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.” (10) The reader is drawn to the fact that coincidentally, following the Council of Chalcedon of 451, which essentially occurred in October, this month was ever after recognized as belonging to the Blessed Virgin, especially the thirteenth of October would have severe future connotations. Therefore the month of October, especially the 13th and 22nd days, reminds the Christian of the proclamations at Chalcedon of 451, supremely the fact that Jesus Christ is: “…one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, known in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.”(11) His Human nature particularly linked to the human race, thankfully due to Our Lady’s humble acceptance of God’s plan through which it was possible for the Lord to become a man and enter time. Our Lady’s obedience enabled the redemption of humanity and it is the month of October, which highlights the recognition of the beginning of the Enmity between the ‘Woman’ and the ‘Dragon/Devil.’ Her humble ‘Yes’ opposed Lucifer’s Rebellion and Eve’s disobedience. The apparitions of Fatima (1917) ending spectacularly on October 13 with the miracle of the sun, witnessed by 60,000 people, testifies to the Council of Chalcedon of 451 and reveals where from Our Lady derives her powers of intercession.

In 451, Emperor Marcian asked the Patriarch to bring the relics of the Blessed Virgin to Constantinople, to be enshrined in the city. The patriarch explained that there are no relics of Our Lady in Jerusalem, as Mary had died in the presence of the Apostles, but her tomb when opened later was found empty and her body was taken up into heaven by the angels, who dwell in heaven. This is evidence to Our Lady’s Assumption. In 600, Emperor Mauritius prescribed throughout the Empire, the celebration of the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven, to be held on August 15. In 1950, Pope Pius XII proclaimed ‘The Assumption of Our Lady’ as the fourth Dogma on the Virgin Mary. In his ‘Munificentissimus Deus’ the Pontiff wrote: “We pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith.”(12) In other words in 1950, the Pontiff has similarly to his early counterparts at the Council of Ephesus of 431, ‘anathematized’ anyone who denies any dogma on the Blessed Virgin.

 

And the Word was made flesh, and came to dwell among us.

(John 1:14)

 

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.

(Luke 1:28)

 

In 325, at the Council of Nicea, Mary was referred to as the ‘New Eve’ who repaired the fault of the first mother. The image of Our Lady was also frequently depicted in the catacombs of the second and third centuries. A third century Egyptian papyrus contains the invocation of the Blessed Virgin as the Mother of God who frees and protects her children from all dangers. In the fourth century the term ‘Panaghia’ was applied to her, meaning ‘All Holy.’ In the fifth and sixth centuries within the liturgical mass, the honor was granted to the Virgin as being the first in the list of the saints, as she is due greater honor than the other saints and the angels, this veneration is called ‘Hyperdulia.’ In the fifth century, a church dedicated to the Mother of God was built in Jerusalem over the site of her tomb and another shrine erected on Mount Gerazim.

‘Santa Maria Maggiore,’ the Basilica named after the title of Our Lady, ‘Salus Populi Romani’ or ‘the Protectress of Rome,’ was built in 350 during the Pontificate of Saint Liberius. Originally called ‘Santa Maria Nives’ or ‘Our Lady of the Snows,’ it was built following the apparition of the Blessed Virgin to a Roman citizen. The apparition occurred to a noble man of the fourth century, whereby the Blessed Virgin communicated her desire that a church in her honor would be erected upon a spot marked by snow, this occurred on the summit of the Esquiline Hill in Rome. As was indicated by the vision to the nobleman, in that location the Pope found an outline for the new church. The Basilica was built and today is known as Santa Maria Maggiore, the third most important Basilica after Saint Peter’s Basilica and San Giovanni in Laterano. Another magnificent temple in Rome, the Pantheon was first planned by Emperor Marcus Agrippa in 27 BC (finished 125 AD by Hadrian) in honor of the gods of the Pantheon, Apollo and Mars. This temple was consecrated to Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the martyr saints, by Pope Boniface IV (608-615). It could be suggested that to the words “M.Agrippa.L.H.Cos.tertivm.Fecit” or “Emperor Agrippa had this Temple erected” upon its façade, should be added the words “Et.Mariae.Vinces” or “and Our Lady won for herself.”

 

‘Salus Populi Romani’ is the Icon at Santa Maria Maggiore, held within the Cappella Paolina. This Icon is two thousand years old and similarly to the Icon of Czestochowa in Poland, was painted by the hand of Saint Luke the Evangelist. The Icons are both of the ‘Hodegitria’ kind or ‘Our Lady of the Way,’ the Roman Icon originates from the Hodegon in Constantinople. From years 352-366, Saint Liberius removed the Icon to the Basilica in Rome. The Icon was crowned by Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605), Pope Gregory XVI (August 15, 1838) and Pius XII (November 1, 1954 the Marian Year celebrating the centenary of the Dogma on the Immaculate Conception). On March 25, 1981, the Roman Pontiff crowned the ‘Salus Popoli Romani’ with the rite referred to as, ‘the Rite for Crowning an Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary,’ thus revealing the Queenship of Mary as founded upon her Son’s Sacrifice upon the Cross and his Resurrection. The coronation by Pope John Paul II, occurred on the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, the third year of his Pontificate. As explained in his Apostolic Letter, “A Concilio Constantinopolitano I,” it was carried out to commemorate the 1600 years since the Council of Constantinople, where the Holy Spirit was prominently discussed, and the anniversary of the 1550 years of the Council of Ephesus, where the Blessed Virgin was honored. In the year 1981, the Feast of Pentecost fell on June 7, as Pope John Paul II stated in the Apostolic Letter, this date was the same day that the bishops began to arrive for the Council of Ephesus, later postponed to June 22 in 431.

In the eight century, Leo the Iconoclast persecuted the images and icons, representing Our Lord, Our Lady and the saints. The Seventh Ecumenical Council (Nicea II in 787) was held to condemn Iconoclasm. On October 13, at the Council, the fathers read the ‘horos,’ or the dogmatic decision, on the ‘Veneration of Images.’ The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 476-477) declares: “Since the Word became flesh in assuming a true humanity, Christ’s body was finite. Therefore, the human face of Jesus can be portrayed; at the Seventh Ecumenical Council (Nicea II in 787); the Church recognized its representation in holy images to be legitimate… for the believer ‘who venerates the icon is venerating in it the person of the one depicted.’” (13) Regarding the Salus Popoli Romani, whenever danger threatened Rome, the people would rush to the Image and invoke the Blessed Virgin’s intercession and protection. In 597, the Icon ‘Salus Populi Romani’ was carried in procession by Pope Gregory the Great, towards Hadrian’s tomb to arrest a plague. Following the apparition of Saint Michael above Hadrian’s tomb, the plague was indeed contained. Various Popes prayed before this Icon during times of calamity and war and it is, therefore, hard to understand how certain experts date this Icon to the twelfth century. Although the painting style resembles twelfth century iconography, a possibility exists that the Icon was repainted over the original. The Icon’s history is incredible, therefore the latin word ‘salus’ meaning health, welfare, safety and prosperity (for prosperity is the end product of the first three conditions) was appropriately given to such an ancient Icon of Our Lady which kept Rome and its people in safety since the ancient early Christian days.

The Icon of Czestochowa was probably protected by an order of nuns in the Holy Land. In 325 the Czestochowa Icon was retrieved by Saint Helen from Jerusalem and translated to Constantinople. Emperor Constantine placed the Icon in a church built purposely to hold the Hodegitria Icon and the Holy Veil of the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, it is not certain which of the two Icons, if not both, were placed together with the Holy Veil of Our Lady. However, the Salus Popoli Romani was taken to Rome, while the Icon of Czestochowa was left in Constantinople. This seems plausible and logical for both cities needed Our Lady’s miraculous intercession and protection. Having both miraculous Icons in the old and new capitols of the Empire, both the Roman Pontiffs and the Emperors desired to place the entire Roman Empire under the protection of Our Lady. The Icon of Czestochowa was possibly kept in Constantinople, from the third to the eight centuries. Whenever the Eastern capital was threatened, the miraculous Icon and Holy Veil were displayed upon the walls and on witnessing miraculous phenomena, the enemy fled in terror. The City of Constantinople had many churches dedicated to Our Lady, within which many icons were placed. During the reign of Leo the Iconoclast, the destruction of the icons was compulsory on pain of death. Most icons were translated to other lands, some of which disappeared and miraculously reappeared elsewhere. Notwithstanding this tumultuous past, the pilgrim tourist can today still visit the two ‘2000-year-old’ miraculous Icons in Rome and Poland. The relics of the True Cross and fragments of the Holy Veil of the Blessed Virgin, can be also viewed at the Vatican Museum in Rome.

 

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