Archive for May 21st, 2018

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Translation: “In this Sign, You Will Conquer”

Constantine I served as Roman Emperor from A.D. 306 to 337. During his reign the persecution of Christians was forbidden by the Edict of Milan in 312, and ultimately the faith gained full imperial support. Constantine took an active interest in the life and teachings of the church and  called the Council of Nicaea in 325 at which orthodox Christianity was defined and defended. His mother, Helena(ca. 255-329), strongly influenced Constantine. Her great interest in locating the holy sites of the Christian faith led her to become one of the first Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. Her research led to the identification of Biblical locations in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and beyond, which are still maintained as places of worship today.

From The Ecclesiastical History of Christianity by Sozomen (Salminius Hermias Sozomenus[a] (GreekΣωζομενός; c. 400 – c. 450 AD), also known as Sozomen was a historian of the Christian Church.)

Chapter 3. By the Vision of the Cross, and by the Appearance of Christ, Constantine is led to embrace Christianity.— He receives Religious Instruction from our Brethren.

We have been informed that Constantine was led to honor the Christian religion by the concurrence of several different events, particularly by the appearance of a sign from heaven.

When he first formed the resolution of entering into a war against Maxentius, he was beset with doubts as to the means of carrying on his military operations, and as to the quarter whence he could look for assistance. In the midst of his perplexity, he saw, in a vision, the sight of the cross shining in heaven. He was amazed at the spectacle, but some holy angels who were standing by, exclaimed, Oh, Constantine! By this symbol, conquer! And it is said that Christ himself appeared to him, and showed him the symbol of the cross, and commanded him to construct one like it, and to retain it as his help in battle, as it would insure the victory.

Eusebius, surnamed Pamphilus, affirms that he heard the emperor declare with an oath, as the sun was on the point of inclining about the middle of the day, he and the soldiers who were with him saw in heaven the trophy of the cross composed of light, and encircled by the following words: By this sign, conquer.

This vision met him by the way, when he was perplexed as to whither he should lead his army. While he was reflecting on what this could mean, night came; and when he fell asleep, Christ appeared with the sign which he had seen in heaven, and commanded him to construct a representation of the symbol, and to use it as his help in hostile encounters. There was nothing further to be elucidated; for the emperor clearly apprehended the necessity of serving God.

At daybreak, he called together the priests of Christ, and questioned them concerning their doctrines. They opened the sacred Scriptures, and expounded the truths relative to Christ, and showed him from the prophets, how the signs which had been predicted, had been fulfilled. The sign which had appeared to him was the symbol, they said, of the victory over hell; for Christ came among men, was stretched upon the cross, died, and returned to life the third day. On this account, they said, there was hope that at the close of the present dispensation, there would be a general resurrection of the dead, and entrance upon immortality, when those who had led a good life would receive accordingly, and those who had done evilwould be punished. Yet, continued they, the means of salvation and of purification from sin are provided; namely, for the uninitiated, initiation according to the canons of the church; and for the initiated, abstinence from renewed sin. But as few, even among holy men, are capable of complying with this latter condition, another method of purification is set forth, namely, repentance; for God, in his love towards man, bestows forgiveness on those who have fallen into sin, on their repentance, and the confirmation of their repentance by good works.

Reflection:  We do know that by the 4th Century, the Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity after over 2 centuries of persecution, sometimes wicked and bloody.  Yet at the eve of the Battle of Milvian Bridge, it is estimated that up to half the Roman Empire was Christian.  For over 2 centuries, the Church lived in a world that thrived on conquering and living off the conquests of gold and human flesh.  Christians already knew what Constantine saw about the Cross of Christ, By this Sign You Will Conquer, but even more:  

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Romans 8: 37

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I have learned a few things from watching the situation comedy,”The Big Bang Theory” and one is the meaning of vexillology:  the study of flags.   In the Church Year, the color is red for Pentecost, symbolizing the fire of the Holy Spirit and the tongues of fire that rested on the Apostles. 

This is the Altar at Concordia Lutheran Mission for Pentecost.  We put up the flags  as a reminder that beginning at Pentecost, and continuing Image may contain: table and indoorto this day, 2,000 years later, the nations hear the Word of God in their own language (Acts 2:  6 and 11)

Red is also the color for the feast days of martyrs.  Then red signifies blood.  In flags, likewise red can mean blood but also valor and strength.  Valor and strength means risking one’s life in defense of a nation.

Note the many flags with the color red!  Jesus died for the life of the world.  Many of the flags of the world can be a salutary reminder of that God so loved the world, He gave His only-begotten Son.  In an intimate connection, red can remind us of the Holy Spirit:  The Holy Spirit who is God before time and in the beginning,  “…was hovering over the face of the waters.”  The Holy Spirit who descended on the 120 Galileans gathered in Jerusalem and then gave the gift of language to speak the Gospel for all the nations gathered there for Pentecost (Acts 2: 6-11).  The Holy Spirit, as the Son taught concerning the Spirit, “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16: 14).  The Holy Spirit’s book is the Bible and the core curriculum  is Christ for us and for our salvation.  The Lord sends out the Apostles as witnesses (John 16:27), with the Spirit to forgive and retain sin (John 20: 21-23).  He sent them baptizing and teaching  “all nations”  (Matthew 28: 19-20).  As we are baptized in the Name of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are baptized in the Holy Spirit.  This is for all nations as even the secular flags of the world give mute witness to the Lord of all nations. Yet even more, infinitely more (!), the Lord of all nations,the Holy Spirit witnesses to the Son in  His blood of the New Testament beginning in Baptismal waters, as John sums it up for us:

This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify:the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.  (1 John 3)

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

(Matthew 28: 20)

*Octave:  Originally the 8th day after a Church feast or festival, beginning the count with the day of the feast or festival itself; later the term came to denote all 8 days.  The Lord rose from the dead on the first day of the week.  With 7 days in the week, the First Day, the Day of Resurrection is then the 8th day.  Likewise, in the Old Testament the 8th day is important as in circumcision on the 8th day.  Also, many of the Festivals of Israel have a week for the Festival culminating on the 8th day.

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