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Sts. Constantine and Helen - Feast Day May 21st

An icon of Sts. Constantine and Helen.

Submitted by Caye Caswick (Chrismation Name: Helen) - March 23, 2004

St Helena was born in Asia Minor in 248 AD. The Roman Centurion Flavious Constas (or Konstantios Chloros) so fell in love with her beauty and her good character that he married her. Her husband was a secret friend of the Christians. A logical man, clever in the art of warfare. He fought in both Germany and England and he never lost a battle. She gave birth to her son Constantine in Naissus, Serbia, probably on 27 February in 272 or 273 AD.

In 290 AD Konstantios was promoted to Caesar and Co-Governor of the West. Spain, France and Britain were under his control. He was forced to divorce Helena and marry Theodora, who was of royal descent. At the age of 15 Constantine was asked to serve under the divine Augustus. St Helena at the age of 45 was now alone-no husband or son.

For 13 years she never saw her beloved son. Augustus took Constantine to Egypt. There he was promoted to command 1000 troops. He was well liked and respected.

In 303 Galerios, the other Caesar, introduced fierce persecutions against the Christians. He watched with jealousy Konstantios in the West, and his son Constantine in the East. In 305, Galerios and Konstantios were promoted to Augustus, the former gaining control of the east and the latter the west. Everyone expected Galerios to take Constantine under his wing. Instead he promoted his barbaric cousin Maximino. Konstantios asked for the return of his son, as he was afraid for his life. Galerios reluctantly agreed, on the condition that Constantine was to advise him the night before he made plans to leave. Constantine suspected something and fled. Galerios was furious.

In 306 Konstantios died in his son's arms in York, England. The troops elected Constantine as Augustus. Galerios only recognized him as Caesar. Now there were 6 co-emperors. Maximianos asked for Constantine's help against Galerios. In return he would give him the title of divine Augustus and the hand of his daughter Fafsta. Constantine agreed, and divorced Minervina who was not of royal blood. When Galerios died Constantine allied with Likinios and headed for Rome where Maxentios had ruled. His army had twice the strength of Constantine's (170,000 foot and 18,000 cavalry). Before Constantine neared Rome he had a vision. He saw in the sky a cross with the words "with this you win" under it. He realized the Lord was with him. He made a gold cross and put a gold wreath with the letter "X" on it, representing the name of Christ. He marched through the Alps, Torino, Milan, and Brescia. On the 28 October 312 he was at the gates of Rome. He won the victory. Likianos married the sister of Constantine (Konstantia), and the only two emperors left now were related. Likianos was a murderer and soon fell out with Constantine. Peace was eventually restored, and Constantine was given the Balkans and Greece as the spoils of victory.

In 313 Likianos and Constantine signed an agreement by which everyone was free to worship as they pleased. Constantine's zeal and love of God resulted in another war with Likianos. The latter lost 33,000 troops this time. Constantine marched into Byzantium. His sister begged him to spare the life of her husband Likianos. Constantine agreed and sent Likianos into exile to Salonika. Within the year he was murdered. After his victory at Chrysopolis in Asia Minor against Licinius, he became sole Emperor and immediately moved his capital from Rome to Byzantium which he rebuilt, gave it his name. Constantine had the city officially dedicated on 11 May. The city was only an imperial residence until 359 when it became the official capital of the empire. He signed two accords. By the first he compensated all Christians from the injustices of Likianos. By the second, he, in effect, made Christianity the true faith. Constantine was never a dictator. He was a humble man. He was praised for this by St John Chrysostom.

As Satan could not destroy Constantine, he decided to destroy his family from within. On the one side was St. Helena and Crispo, her beloved grandson. On the other side were Constantine's brothers and sisters-the children of Theodora, and Fafsta. Imagine the petty jealousies that went on in a family like this for the worldly gains of power and favoritism.

Fafsta was true to Constantine in the beginning. She told him that her own father was planning to kill him. Constantine put someone else in his bed, and the truth was proven when Fafsta's father murdered the servant. Then Fafsta became insanely jealous of Crispo, who was favored by Constantine and his mother, even above his own children. Fafsta told her husband that Crispo was after his throne. Constantine was very naive and, believing his wife, had Crispo murdered. St. Helena was heartbroken.

Constantine's policy from the beginning was to bring the Christian Church into close relationship to the point of identification between Church and State. This resulted in his being concerned with the internal affairs of the Church even though he was not a baptized Christian himself and never became such until shortly before his death. St Helena gave much of her wealth away to the poor and for the building of churches. She built the Churches of the birth of Christ and the Resurrection in the Holy Land, and she found the Cross on which Christ died. This was proven to her when a dead child was brought back to life after been laid on it. She died in 327 aged 80. She built churches in Cyprus and many schools too. Among the churches she built was the Church at Stavrovouni.

We celebrate their day on 21st May every year.

For a description of this icon and the troparion and kontakion for this saint please click here