Sunday, August 19, 2012

Helena of Constantinople

Flavia Iulia Helena Augusta, also known as Saint Helena, Saint Helen, Helena Augusta or Helena of Constantinople (ca. 250 – ca. 330) she was married to the Roman general Constantius Chlorus, who became emperor of Britain, Gaul, and Spain when Diocletian divided the Empire. In about 272 she bore him a son, Constantine, but in 292 he divorced her in order to cement a political alliance by another marriage.

Most historians say that she was born in Drepanum (now Helenopolis) in Asia Minor; but an old tradition asserts that she was born in Britain, in Colchester, and was the daughter of the chieftain Cole, remembered today as Old King Cole. If so, she may have been a Christian from birth, since Christianity was well established in that region.

In 306, after the death of Constantius, the Roman army at York proclaimed Constantine emperor in his father's place, and by 312 he was master of the Western Empire and issued an Edict of Toleration that made the practice of Christianity legal for the first time in over 200 years.

Helena worked enthusiastically to promote Christianity, and eventually went to the Holy Land, where she spent large sums on the relief of the poor and on building churches on sacred sites. She is particularly associated with the discovery at Jerusalem, near the probable site of Calvary, of a wooden cross that was accepted as the actual cross on which Jesus was crucified.

She also found the nails of the crucifixion. To use their miraculous power to aid her son, Helena allegedly had one placed in Constantine's helmet, and another in the bridle of his horse. Helena left Jerusalem and the eastern provinces in 327 to return to Rome, bringing with her large parts of the True Cross and other relics, which were then stored in her palace's private chapel, where they can be still seen today. Her palace was later converted into the church Santa Croce in Gerusalemme.

According to one tradition, Helena acquired the Holy Tunic on her trip to Jerusalem and sent it to Trier.

Several of Saint Helena's treasures are now in Cyprus, where she spent some time. Some of them are a part of Jesus Christ's tunic, pieces of the holy cross and the world's only pieces of the rope to which Jesus was tied with on the Cross. The latter has been held at the Staurovouni monastery, which was also founded by Saint Helena.

Helena passed unto heavenly rest in about 330, her sarcophagus is on display in the Pio-Clementine Vatican Museum, although the connection is often questioned (The elaborate reliefs contain hunting scenes). During her life, she gave many presents to the poor, released prisoners and mingled with the ordinary worshipers in modest attire.

Propers for St. Helena of Constantinople

The Collect.

Almighty God, who didst call thy servant Helena to an earthly throne that she might advance thy heavenly kingdom, and didst endue her with zeal for thy Church and charity towards thy people; Grant unto us thy people that we may be fruitful in good works, and steadfast in our faith in thee, and finally by thy mercy may attain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and ever. Amen.

The Epistle - Philippians 4:4-9.

The Gospel - St. Matthew 25:31-40.

Reference and Resources:

No comments: