One of the acts most significant in its consequences for world history was the Edict of Milan, published 1700 years ago by the Roman Emperor Constantine. A quarter century after its publication, in 337, Emperor Constantine fell seriously ill and died. According to Eusebius, not long before his death he “considered that it was time to cleanse himself of his former sins, for he believed that everything in which he sinned as a mortal will be taken from his soul by the power of the mystical prayers and saving word of Baptism.” In order to receive the sacrament of Baptism Constantine went to the palace in Nicomedia, which was located near the new capital of the New Rome—Constantinople, where the Emperor Diocletian had earlier built his residence. To Nicomedia came the bishops of the outlying cities. Eusebius relates the words spoken by the Emperor to the bishops assembled around his bed: “The much desired and long-awaited time has arrived, for which I have prayed as the time for salvation in God. It is time for us to receive the seal of immortality, and to partake of saving grace. I had thought to do this in the waters of the Jordan, where as an example to us, as it is told, the Savior Himself received Baptism; but God, Who knows what is profitable, has vouchsafed this to me here. Thus, we shall no longer waver, for if it please the Lord of life and death to prolong my existence, if it has once been determined that I be henceforth united to the God’s people as a member of the Church, that I should participate in prayers together with everyone, then through this will I submit myself to these rules of life, according to God’s will.”
The Church calls St Constantine (306-337) “the Equal of the Apostles,” and historians call him “the Great.” He was the son o the Caesar Constantius Chlorus (305-306), who governed the lands of Gaul and Britain. His mother was St Helen, a Christian of humble birth.
At this time the immense Roman Empire was divided into Western and Eastern halves, governed by two independent emperors and their corulers called “Caesars.” Constantius Chlorus was Caesar in the Western Roman Empire. St Constantine was born in 274, possibly at Nish in Serbia. In 294, Constantius divorced Helen in order to further his political ambition by marrying a woman of noble rank. After he became emperor, Constantine showed his mother great honor and respect, granting her the imperial title “Augusta.”
Saint Basil, Bishop of Zakholmsk, was born of pious parents in the sixteenth century in the Popov district of Herzegovina. At the age of maturity he left his parental home and settled in the Trebinsk monastery in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, and became a monk.
For his virtuous life the saint was elevated to be Bishop of Zakholm and Skenderia. He occupied the bishop’s cathedra in the second half of the sixteenth century, a successor to Bishop Paul and predecessor of Bishop Nicodemus. St Basil was a good pastor of the flock of Christ, and the Lord strengthened his discourse with various miracles. For the sanctifying of soul with the wisdom of holy ascetic fathers, the saint journeyed to Athos. St Basil died peacefully and was buried in the city of Ostrog in Chernogoria on the border with Herzegovina.
The Holy Great Martyr George the Victory-Bearer, was a native of Cappadocia (a district in Asia Minor), and he grew up in a deeply believing Christian family. His father was martyred for Christ when George was still a child. His mother, owning lands in Palestine, moved there with her son and raised him in strict piety.
When he became a man, St George entered into the service of the Roman army. He was handsome, brave and valiant in battle, and he came to the notice of the emperor Diocletian (284-305) and joined the imperial guard with the rank of comites, or military commander.
The following is a description of the Holy Light, which descends upon the Holy Sepulchre, as the Lord vouchsafed to show it to me, his wicked and unworthy servant. For in very truth I have seen with my own sinful eves how that Holy Light descends upon the redeeming Tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ. Many pilgrims relate incorrectly the details about the descent of that Holy Light. Some say that the Holy Ghost descends upon the Holy Sepulchre in the form of a dove, others that it is lightning from heaven which kindles the lamps above the Sepulchre of the Lord. This is all untrue, for neither dove nor lightning is to be seen at that moment; but the Divine grace comes down unseen from heaven, and lights the lamps of the Sepulchre of our Lord. I will only describe it in perfect truth as I have seen it.
"Having fulfilled Forty Days... we ask to see the Holy Week of Thy Passion." With these words sung at Vespers of Friday, Lent comes to its end and we enter into the annual commemoration of Christ's suffering, death and Resurrection. It begins on the Saturday of Lazarus. The double feast of Lazarus' resurrection and the Entrance of the Lord to Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) is described in liturgical texts as the "beginning of the Cross" and is to be understood therefore, within the context of the Holy Week. The common Troparion of these days explicitly affirms that by raising Lazarus from the dead, Christ confirmed the truth of general resurrection. It is highly significant that we are led into the darkness of the Cross by one of the twelve major feasts of the Church. Light and joy shine not only at the end of Holy Week but also at its beginning; they illumine darkness itself, reveal its ultimate meaning.