Constantine – The Godfather of Christianity

Mosaic depicting Constantine the GreatMosaic depicting Constantine the Great at Hagia Sophia

Constantine, the Godfather of Christianity, was made Emperor of the Western and Eastern Roman Empire after he won the Battle of Milvian Bridge on October 27, 312.  On the eve of the great battle, as told by Eusebius of Caesarea, a heavenly sign appeared. Constantine was told if he led the battle with that sign on the shields of his men, he would be victorious.

Once Constantine became undisputed emperor of the whole Roman Empire, he proclaimed the Edict of Milan just a year later, giving Christians the right to practice their religion publicly.  In 325AD, he called the First Ecumenical Council of all Christians.

The sign was …the Chi X and Rho P superimposed and stood for ‘Christos‘ in Greek is the Monogram of Christ. (READ MORE) It was to become the universal sign of the triumph of Christianity for all Christians.

Constantine, ruler of the Eastern Roman Empire stood poised to fight against Maxentius, a fellow contender for the throne of Western Rome. Faced with superior numbers, Constantine was pondering his strategy when the vision appeared in the evening sky and a voice from the heavens spoke:

The sign which led Constantine into battle in 312AD

The ancient Chi-Rho motif etched on the Ring of Christ from Kourion

En toutoi nika” “In this sign you shall conquer.

Icon of Constantine the Great and his mother Helena

Constantine and Helena

325 AD…The Nicene Council

There were many different groups of practicing Christians throughout the empire who were not all professing the same belief in the nature of Christ. Arius a priest from Alexandria started preaching what became known as the Arian Heresy in 318 AD. A schism was formed by the great numbers of people who followed his teachings.

Though the emperor encouraged those with different points of view to settle the matter among themselves, they could not.

Concerned by the ever worsening events, the ever-pragmatic Constantine, (though still not fully a Christian himself; he was baptized on his death bed) realized that an empire-wide assembly of bishops had to be called to settle the matter.

At his expense, Constantine wanted the bishops to go to Nicaea to attend the First Ecumenical Council which would, after much discussion, heated debates, and chaotic bouts, result in the Nicene Creed.

Emperor Constantine invited 1,800 bishops of the Apostolic Christian Church from the Eastern and Western Empire to the Nicene Council in an effort to unify the Faith and to put an end to the incessant arguments and heresies that permeated Christianity. Despite the Imperial invitation only around 300 bishops, mainly from the East, attended.

Eusebius, a 5th Century church historian and present at the first council, notes that most of the bishops in attendance were maimed and disfigured, suffering greatly during the last great persecutions of the empire under Diocletian and Galerius. From 303 to 311AD, Christians were killed, starved, tortured, lost their property, and were eaten by lions in the arena. Constantine became emperor in 312AD; he called the council in 325AD, so many bishops were those who lived through that dark time.

The result of their arduous and sometimes violent debates was the Nicene Creed which solidified for the first time the doctrine of the Faith, declaring that Jesus was truly God and truly man, but begotten by God, the Father.  He hoped that the unity of the belief in the ‘one holy universal Apostolic Church’ would stabilize the empire.

Time would show and four more councils through the 6th Century would prove this would not be the case.

A Handbook on the History of the Church

For a fascinating account of the 1st Ecumenical Council read the chapter Age of Conflict by Rev. Samuel Green, D.D. THE HANDBOOK OF CHURCH HISTORY From the Apostolic Era to the Dawn of the Reformation, 1904

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