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May 21 Saints of the Day – Constantine the Great and Godric of Finchale

On this date in 1927, Charles Lindbergh touched down in Paris, becoming the first man to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic. Also on this date in 1932, Amelia Earhart landed in Ireland, becoming the first woman to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic. The panoply of human sexual dimorphism thus fulfilled, no first-ever solo nonstop trans-Atlantic flights have since been recorded.

Constantine the GreatConstantine the Great (ca. 272 – 337), Equal to the Apostles, was on his way to fight for the emperority of the Roman Empire when he had a variously described vision. According to one variation, he saw a chi-rho in the sky above the sun, and the words “Εν Τούτῳ Νίκα,” usually translated as “in hoc signo vinces,” which is a lot like, “in this sign, conquer.” Confused as to what this meant, he dreamed a little dream of Christ, who told him to use that sign against his enemies. He was conveniently camped within blocks of the “In by 7, out by 5” banner shop, so he had a standard whipped up, and went on to win the battle.

This put him in such a good mood about Christianity that the next year he (together with Licinius but this isn’t his story) issued the famous Edict of Milan, allowing Christians (and anybody else for that matter) to worship as they pleased, thus striking down requirements for worshiping pagan gods, burning incense to idols, or going to Justin Bieber concerts. He went on to sponsor churches, promote Christians to high-ranking offices, sponsor Bible production, and many other things that in general made Christians happy and pagans less so. There have since been questions about how politically-motivated all this may have been, but these have never troubled the Orthodox Church and they’re not going to trouble this essay.

When the Arian controversy got controversial, he asked Hosius of Córdoba what he should do. Hosius asked his bishop buds, who said, “Well, in the New Testament, they held a council,” so a council was convened in Nicea. It declared that Christ was of the same ούσιος (technical term meaning “ousios”) as God — not created, as was taught by Arius & the Arians (which would be a really dismal name for a rock band).

Constantine did a lot of other stuff, but the one that had the hugest implications for the Church was the founding of Constantinople, which became the de facto capital of the rump empire after Rome was sacked by the Goths, Visigoths, Bieberites, and so on. Constantine took the tiny Greek town of Byzantium, renamed it New Rome, endowed it with courtiers and Senators and big stone buildings and what-not, and set it on the trajectory to being the glorious hub of the eastern Mediterranean for the next 1000 years, capital of the so-called Byzantine Empire. (Nobody actually called the empire that until over 100 years after its demise, but it appears to be the term we’re stuck with.)

Godric of FinchaleGodric of Finchale (ca. 1065 – 1170) was a sailor and perhaps pirate who landed at Lindisfarne and had a life-changing encounter with St. Cuthbert, who had been dead and buried for over 300 years (which could sober anybody up). He pilgrimaged to Jerusalem, where he vowed to go barefoot the rest of his life (which he did). After traveling about, he spent two years with a hermit named Aelric in Wolsingham; after Aelric’s death he returned to Jerusalem, working in a hospital as a doorkeeper. (Details about this period are scant but I think it only fair we assume he kept the door very well.) He lived out the remainder of his days in a hovel in the forest near Finchale (in England). The prior at Durham sent a priest regularly to say Mass, and persons obscure and great came with some regularity seeking advice. All his life he was in tune with the sea, getting urpy on stormy nights, and sometimes stopping what he was doing to pray for a ship that was foundering.

Four songs by Godric constitute the oldest English songs for which both words and music have been preserved.


Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.


Bibliography
May 21 (Wikipedia)
Constantine the Great (Orthodox Wiki) – Main source
Equal of the Apostles and Emperor Constantine with his Mother Helen (OCA)
Constantine the Great (Wikipedia)
Constantine the Great and Christianity (Wikipedia)
First Council of Nicaea (Wikipedia)
Edict of Milan (Wikipedia)
Godric of Finchale (St. Patrick DC) – Main source
Godric of Finchale
Saint Godric of Finchale (SQPN)

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About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

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