Δευτέρα, 22 Μαΐου 2017

Two Wonderworkers Orthodox Christians New Martyrs


New Hieromartyr John Karastamatis of Santa Cruz († 18 May 1985) & Saint Evgeny Rodionov the New Martyr of Chechnya († 23 May 1996)
 
New Hieromartyr John Karastamatis of Santa Cruz

MYSTAGOGY
O NEKROS



ΓΙΑ ΤΟΝ ΙΔΙΟ, ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ

Fr. John Karastamatis was born in 1937 in the Greek village of Apoika, on the island of Andros. As a boy on the island of Andros, John witnessed many miracles with which God blessed the pious villagers, and thus he was made aware of the closeness of God to the lives of those who seek Him. The heavenly saints, especially the local ones, also manifested their closeness and the power of their intercessory prayer by appearing to and helping the people. John nourished his young soul by learning of the lives of these saints and martyrs, whose unquenchable desire to be faithful to Christ in the face of deprivation, torment and physical death inspired him to also be a servant of God. Although he did not attend any theological school, he wanted to put his faith into practice by someday becoming a priest.

In 1957, at the age of twenty, John came to the United States. Five years later he married a young Greek woman, Athanasia Matsellis, and soon became the father of two children, Maria and Photios. The cities of the United States were in sharp contrast to the village of his birth, but his acute awareness of the nearness of God and the other world, given him in childhood, never left him. He now found himself in the midst of those who not only did not want to be close to God, but who actively fled from Him.

Still he hoped in God, knowing that the freedom of Christ can be found even in the most stifling and evil surroundings.

With the support and encouragement of Fr. George Bogdanos, a Greek priest who recognized in him the integrity and zeal of a true pastor, Fr. John was ordained to the deaconate in 1971 with the blessing of Archbishop lakovos, who supported him in this. Since both his love for the Church and the love of the churchgoers for him was so apparent, he was made a priest only a few weeks later by Bishop Meletios Christianopolis of San Francisco. He first served the Greek Orthodox community in Anchorage, Alaska, the land of newly-canonized St. Herman, who became thus his guardian angel for the rest of his life. He was later assigned to the St. George parish in Vancouver, Canada, and then to All Saints parish in Anaheim, Pennsylvania. He then moved to Santa Cruz, California, which had been named by the Spanish missionaries after the Holy Cross of the Lord. There he labored with enthusiasm to provide a haven of Orthodox Christianity for the faithful in the area, who had long been without a nearby church.

Because the community in Santa Cruz was too small to immediately acquire its own Orthodox church, Fr. John began to serve the Divine Liturgy in the nearby town of Aptos, in the chapel of a Poor Clare convent. The nuns would have their services very early on Sunday morning, leaving the church free for Fr. John and his parishioners to use afterwards. The parishioners were at first hesitant: they would come to Liturgy late, and would all sit at the very back of the chapel, as if they were spectators and not participants. Fr. John knew that he had much work to do. He was sometimes disappointed at the lack of active interest among his flock. His was a burning faith, and lukewarmness had always been foreign to his soul. His task, he knew, was to ignite this fire within each of his parishioners, so that they themselves would struggle for the kingdom of heaven, the one thing needful, and not sit in the background and expect their priest to do their work for them. He could not demand too much at once, but had to be a gentle and loving pastor, condescending to the weaknesses of his flock so as not to overwhelm them and cause them to abandon the Orthodox faith altogether. The gap between shepherd and sheep had to be bridged gradually and carefully, and Fr. John had to spark the kinder in the hearts of his flock without scorching them with the consuming fire within him.



Sometimes Fr. John would speak forceful words of rebuke to awaken his people from their spiritual sleep, but mostly he would inspire them by his quiet and unobtrusive example. They began to see how hard he struggled and were moved to help him fulfill his godly dreams. His fervency and zeal, his unequivocal belief in the other world, was something that they did not fully understand, and yet that they inwardly -- and in some cases unconsciously -- longed for. Having come to love him deeply, they were grateful that God had sent a harvester to their field.

By giving his parishioners new aspirations, Fr. John instilled in them the desire to start their own church. They collected and saved money and eventually found the perfect building for their church: a former funeral home in Santa Cruz, across from the public library and in the best park of town for missionary activity. Fr. John did much of the interior work himself, fashioning a beautiful white iconostasis and a large domed apse behind and above the altar. When completed, the newly-consecrated church became a refuge from the noisy bustle of the world, an island of holiness in the middle of downtown Santa Cruz. The church was dedicated to the Prophet Elias.

With their new and beautiful church, the parishioners, comprised of over 75 families, now had a sense of accomplishment. They felt that they had come a long way from the days when they had little choice but to use a chapel which was outside of town. Now they could branch out into other activities.

Fr. John by no means wanted his Orthodox community to be a closed one, and he rejoiced to discover any fervent young souls which came to him in search of the fulness of Christianity. Santa Cruz has been a gathering place not only of the darker and meaner elements of society, but also of idealistic young people who have desired something more meaningful than the American values of materialism and competition. By the time Fr. John started his church in Santa Cruz, a small but significant "Orthodox Christian movement" had already begun at the university there. This was primarily the result of the missionary work of Hieromonk Anastassy. Through him, many Santa Cruz university students embraced the Orthodox faith and dedicated their lives to serving Christ. In 1981, Fr. Seraphim Rose, at the request of the Orthodox students there, gave two lectures at the university and further inspired young souls to enter what he called "the saving enclosure of the Church." The fellowship of Orthodox students turned also to Fr. John and his church in order to receive spiritual nourishment and to participate in the divine services, which lifted them above the worldliness of university life. Fr. John always greeted them with a radiant smile and warm love, seeing in their young faces the freshness and enthusiasm that would keep Orthodoxy alive for future generations. After these students graduated, Fr. John brought other young people to the Orthodox faith, giving them all that they needed for their growth in the faith and being to them a loving father who was concerned for their spiritual welfare.

Since the Prophet Elias Church was in the middle of town, people would often come from off the streets to ask questions and attend the services. Fr. John kept an "open-door policy," making himself and his church available to anyone with a pastoral need. The people of Santa Cruz came to know him as being kind, trusting, full of love and open. He had great compassion for the poor, and was helpful to all who came to him, disregarding their religion or whether or not they were taking advantage of him. It was not uncommon for him to be awakened at odd hours of the night by needy people knocking at his back door. No one would be refused, but would always be given alms for a meal. In the most outcast and downtrodden of individuals, and perhaps especially in them, Fr. John saw the image of Christ. With deep-felt Christian love, he once wrote these words about the simple people who, although rejected by the world, are faithful to Christ and follow the voice of their hearts: "We see them lonely within the crowd, or following the life of a hermit as they become symbols of truth and beacon lights of Christianity, praying for peace and brotherly love on earth."

Orthodox Christianity was not just something "for Greeks," but rather was universal. His love for God induced him to earnestly desire to bring forth fruits for Him, as a son strives to please his father, and this made him a zealous missionary to all peoples. He had services in public parks, where the townspeople would stop to attend something, which, although foreign to them, they found to be divinely beautiful. Hearing Fr. John, with his full and resonant voice, chanting the ancient Byzantine melodies along with his cantor, would unexpectedly catch a vague and half-remembered glimpse of that sacred realm which their souls knew but their minds had never been exposed to. In such a way was Fr. John able to introduce the riches of Orthodoxy to the spiritually impoverished American people.

While Fr. John's fervent pastoral work served to convert many non-Greek people, his first job was, of course, to "convert" many of his own people -¬those who were baptized Orthodox but whose commitment to Christ meant, at most, only an external commitment to church attendance and activities. By his own faith he demonstrated to them that Orthodoxy is not merely a ritual, a system of dogmas or a behavior pattern, but is instead a transforming power, which is tapped by conscious spiritual struggle.

The good works of Fr. John were too numerous and his outreach too extensive not to evoke malicious actions from the haters of God. The visibility of Fr. John and his church in the middle of Santa Cruz made them more accessible not only to those in need of help, but also to those who wished to destroy all that is holy. A few months before Fr. John's death, the church was desecrated by unknown occultists, who painted "666" and the five-pointed satanic star on the front entrance. When the desecration was discovered, Fr. John reconsecrated the church. Later he received anonymous threats, but was undaunted by them.



It was through Fr. John that the Most Holy Mother of God bestowed a miraculous blessing on the Prophet Elias Church. This occurred after Fr. John brought some bulbs of the "lily of the Panagia" back from his native island of Andros, where he visited with his family. The lily of the "Panagia" (or the "Most Holy") is so named because of the tradition, often depicted in icons, concerning the Archangel Gabriel presenting the Mother of God with this species of lily at the time of the Annunciation. In the monastery on Andros which Fr. John visited, stems from these lilies, being many years old, sometimes bud miraculously at the time of the Feast of the Dormition.

Fr. John instructed his son Photios to plant the lily bulbs in pots and to water them only with holy water, which Photios did. After the lilies had grown from the bulbs in May of 1983, Fr. John cut one of the flowers and placed it by the icon of the Mother of God, which leaned against the iconostasis of his church. The flower did not wilt for three or four weeks, although it had been cut and removed from both water and earth. When it finally dropped its petals (the first one having fallen on a radiant day when one of Fr. John's converts from the university was baptized), Fr. John told his wife not to vacuum up any of them, but to save them and place them by the icon where the flower stem was still leaning. Aпd then, within three weeks, some fresh sprouts appeared on the stem!

The stem continued to produce new stems for many months, until the winter of 1983-4. Fr. John interpreted the miracle as an image of life coming out of death through the Resurrection.

On the night of Saturday, May 5/18, 1985, the eve of Righteous Job the Much-suffering, Fr. John was in the church building preparing a sermon for the following morning. His wife was at that time in Los Angeles visiting her daughter, who had just given birth to her first child. Shortly before midnight, one or more assailants entered the church. Evidently they had been watching Fr. John, for they came at a time when he was alone, when both his wife and 17 year-old son were gone. They attacked Fr. John in his church office, stabbing him with a knife. During the struggle Fr. John was severely beaten, and then was finally killed by a heavy blow on his head. His son, who had dined with him earlier that evening, arrived at 1:30 a.m. at the church where the family lived. Outside the office he discovered the body of his murdered father, and on the walls -- the blood of a martyr.

This time the church was not desecrated. In their investigation, the police reported no signs of vandalism or theft, nor were they able to locate any possible suspects. In the absence of a more plausible reason for the crime, it is most likely that the killing, like the church desecration a few months prior to it, was done at the hands of those who hated Fr. John for his holy work, of those who are the enemies of God and rebel against Him because they serve the first rebel, Satan. But whether Fr. John was killed for overtly satanic purposes or for other, irrational reasons, he had without doubt a martyric death, giving his life for Christ and dying in the very church in which he had diligently served Him. His face and fingers were so mutilated that the coffin had to be closed during the funeral services.

"His life inspired and enlightened and cheered us!" wrote one of his spiritual children. "His death has served to confirm in a most direct way the realities of not only our Orthodox faith, but of the bizarre and truly anti-Christian ways of our times."

Holy New Martyr Priest John of Santa Cruz, pray to God for us!


The grave of Fr. John at Greek Orthodox Memorial Park in Colma, California.

A Miracle of the Bells on Andros

Most holy Fathers and Brother,

I doubly wish the grace and blessing of the Triune God upon you. I am informing you about an admirable event concerning the wonderful new martyr, Father Ioannis Karastamatis. After the events well-known to you, which took place around his venerable person, I asked from my dear in Christ Presvytera Anastasia, [the wife] of Father Karastamatis, to send me - for the blessing and sanctification as much of myself as of my spiritual children - a sacerdotal dress of his. After the lapse of four months, and more precisely on the 5th of July of this year, my pious request was fulfilled in an admirable way. On that day, a Saturday, I performed my sacred functions at the altar of our Holy Monastery for the Feast of our Holy Father Athanasios the Athonite, in the presence of other pious worshippers, men as well as women, praying together. At the end of the holy and sacred ceremony and after the distribution of the consecrated bread, the bells in the altar of the Monastery started to ring, joyfully, by themselves, to the surprise of myself and all of the worshippers present. All of us were amazed and were waiting for some indication to be shown by the Grace of the Triune God. In the course of this event, there arrived from Nikaio of Praeus worshippers with two priests.

In the afternoon we were about to begin an All-Night Vigil for the joined worshippers. Two hours before the beginning of the holy Vigil, the telephone rang and I was asked for: I spoke to the daughter of Father Ioannis, Maria Kosmides Karastamatis, who said that she had come from America bringing the holy sacred vestments of her holy martyred father, which I had asked for. My emotion was very great!!! Tears of joy were running from my eyes, and immediately I explained the morning's event of the bells. That event had been a holy message, which I in no way knew, that I would receive the joy and the spiritual blessing of the coming of his holy vestments. I note also that, at the moment when the bells had been ringing by themselves, at 10 o'clock in the morning, the ship arrived at the port of Andros with the treasure of the vestments, precious to me.

Immediately after the telephone call, on my order, the sacred vestments were brought to the Monastery by the daughter of Father Ioannis, Maria, with his brother Marios. All the priests and worshippers, with emotion and ringing of the bells, received them spreading flowers in the Monastery. There followed a short talk about the martyrdom of the Father, and then began the holy Vigil up until the morning. With spiritual delight, all of us glorified the Triune God, the Virgin Mary and Holy Nicholas, embracing the new star of the sky and admirable holy martyr Father Ioannis. May we have his blessing, and may his intercessions before God strengthen us for our struggles in these terrible days of Antichrist we are going through.

Embracing you in the Love of Christ,

I remain with blessing,

Yours,

Archimandrite Dorotheos Themelis
November 21, 1986
Monastery of St. Nicholas
Andros, Greece

Miracles of Saint John Karastamatis of Santa Cruz (here)

Apolytikion in Tone One

Having cultivated the fruit of God’s knowledge by thy labors, thou hast plucked out the root of godlessness and proclaimed in our land the true faith. Anointed with grace thou hast tended the flock entrusted thee, and in shedding thy blood thou waterest the seeds of Christ’s true faith in our land, O New Martyr John of Santa Cruz. Glory to Him Who hath granted thee strength; glory to Him Who hath crowned thee; glory to Him Who granteth healing for all through thee.

The Orthodox Word, #122 / 1985

Read also about the recent parole hearing of Fr. John's murderer, here and here.

Others new martyrs orthodox priests

The New Martyr Fr. Daniel Sysoev (+2009)

Priest-Monk Nestor the New Martyr of Zharky (+1993)

New Martyrs of Optina Pustyn (on Easter night in 1993)

Orthodox priest murdered (21 March 2000)

 
New martyrs (tag)

Saint Evgeny Rodionov the New Martyr of Chechnya

MYSTAGOGY 
O NEKROS

Για το συγκλονιστικό αυτό νέο άγιο της Ορθοδοξίας δες ελληνικά εδώ.

 


Below is a story of the courage and faith of a young man in Post-Soviet Russia whose memory we celebrate on May 23rd and August 20th.

Evgeny Aleksandrovich Rodionov was born thirty minutes after midnight on May 23, 1977 in the village of Satino-Russkoye near Moscow in what was then the Soviet Union. According to his mother, as a boy in this small village, all he really wanted was to be a cook. When he was eleven years old, Evgeny Rodionov received from his grandmother a little Cross on a chain. He wanted to wear it to school, but his mother, then an atheist, warned him against it, since the communist authorities frowned on such things. Evgeny wore it anyway and refused to ever take it off.

In 1995 Evgeny turned eighteen and was drafted into the Russian armed forces as is required for all Russian men. Right before being drafted, Evgeny was baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church on his own accord seperate from his parents who were still atheists. For his duty he was chosen to work in a frontier guard unit (something of a mix between the US Border Patrol and the National Guard) and sent for training in the Kalingrad area of what was formerly East Prussia. After training he was sent to the border of Chechnya and posted near the town of Galashki. This was towards the end of the controversial First Chechnyan War. On the night of February 14, 1996, just six months after he started his service, Evgeny and three comrades were captured by a force of Muslim Chechen guerillas who were disguised in an ambulance while the Russian soldiers were manning a checkpoint.


 

According to a report in Pravda from 2003:

"They [Evgeny and the soldiers with him] patrolled the border between the republics of Chechnya and Ingushetia. Their control and registration post was located some 200 meters far from the security detachment. The post was just a small cabin, without any light or wire communication. The cabin did not even have a military support, in spite of the fact that it was a single cabin on the mountainous road, which was used for carrying weapons, ammunition, captives, drugs and so on. The border guards stopped an ambulance vehicle to check it. More than ten armed Chechens got out of the vehicle. Needless to mention that it was very easy for them to cope with young inexperienced soldiers. The guys showed as much resistance as they could, but the outcome of the fight was evident before it even started."

Upon capture they were held in the cellar of an abandoned house for 100 days as ransom demands were sent to their families. Kidnapping and demanding ransom was almost a cottage industry in Chechnya during that time period. They kept Evgeny hanging by his wrists in a basement. They starved and beat him. Rodionov's ransom was reported to be 50 million rubles (1.6 million dollars) - at the time an impossible sum. Another report says it may have been in the $10,000 range. Whatever it was, the ransom was not met.

Chechen field commander Rusland Haihoroev (also spelled Khaikhoroyev in some sources) eventually beheaded Evgeny with a rusted saw that took over an hour to complete on May 23, 1996 (his 19th birthday) near the settlement of Bamut. His body, along with four other Russian prisoners were placed in a bomb crater outside the village of Alexeevskaya and covered up with lime and dirt. Haihoroev stated later in an interview that he only killed Rodionov after the soldier denied conversion to Islam and refused to give up his Orthodox Cross, while two others with him had converted to Islam. Russian troops occupied the village where Evgeny was murdered the following day after the execution.

Evgeny's mother, Lubov Rodionova, was informed that her son had deserted the army. She did not believe the news and went to look for him in Chechnya. She stayed there for ten months chasing down leads and questioning anyone who would talk to her. It was months before she found out that he had in fact been killed. This news came when she found the Chechens who had held her son prisoner and then killed him. Rusland Haihoroev, the leader of the Chechen gang, told her seventeen times over the course of seventeen seperate meetings, that she had born a bad son who refused to adopt Islam and join the separatists in their fight against Russia. “Your son had a choice to stay alive. He could convert to Islam, but he did not agree to take his Cross off. He also tried to escape once,” said Haihoroev to Evgeny's mother. She finally agreed to pay Haihoroev some 100,000 rubles (about $4000 US) to take her to his gravesite in the forests outside of Alexeevskaya. This was money she did not have, so she had to sell her apartment to finance the deal. Chechens in Moscow handled the deal and when all was done Haihoroev showed her where his body was. There late at night, with the assistance of the military, she was able to exhume his body. She found her sons headless body together with the Cross he wore and died for among his bones and stained with small drops of blood. The head was discarded in another place. According to Evgeny's mother, this event took place in the following way:

“When I came to Chechnya in the middle of February, a living private cost ten million rubles. This price was 50 million in August. A friend of mine was told to pay 250 million rubles for her son, since he was an officer. It was nighttime when I and some sappers digging the pit, in which the bodies of four Russian soldiers were thrown. I was praying all the time, hoping that my Evgeny was not going to be there. I could not and did not want to believe that he was murdered. When we were taking out the remnants, I recognized his boots. However, I still refused to accept the fact of his death, until someone found his Cross. Then I fainted.”


 

Lubov took Evgeny’s body away along with the bodies of his murdered friends. She returned to Moscow with the aide of the Russian Orthodox Church and buried him. When Lubov Rodionova came back home, Evgeny’s father died five days after the funeral. He could not stand the loss of his son.

“We know that he had to go through horrible, long-lasting sufferings that could be compared to the ones of great martyrs in ancient times. They were beheaded, dismembered, but they remained devoted to Jesus Christ anyway,” priest Alexander Shargunov said during the requiem in Evgeny Rodionov’s memory.

Evgeny was posthumously awarded the Order of Courage by the Army. Lubov Rodionova later returned to Chechnya on a second trip and recovered her sons head.

Haihoroev himself and his bodyguards were killed on August 23, 1999 in a fight between his group and a rival Chechen band.

The soldier's fate would have probably been forgotten, if a Central TV film crew had not come to the village where Evgeny's relics now lie six years later to shoot a short report on a Cross being set on a restored church. Parishioners told the reporters about the heroic deed of the son and the courage of the mother, who had buried him in his homeland. They filed the story as a separate report. A year later a huge devotion spread throughout Russia and the entire world.



 

The New York Times reported in 2003:

"In pamphlets, songs and poems, in sermons and on Web sites, Private Rodionov's story has become a parable of religious devotion and Russian nationalism. The young soldier, it is said, was killed by Muslim rebels seven years ago because he refused to renounce his religion or remove the small silver Cross he kept around his neck...

"As his story has spread, pilgrims have begun appearing in this small village just west of Moscow, where his mother, Lubov, 51, tends his grave on an icy hillside beside an old whitewashed church. Some military veterans have laid their medals by his graveside in a gesture of homage. People in distress have left handwritten notes asking for his intercession. In a church near St. Petersburg, his full-length image stands at the altar beside icons of the Virgin Mary, the Archangel Michael, Jesus and Nicholas II, the last of the czars, who was canonized three years ago.

"Aleksandr Makeyev, a paratroop officer who heads a foundatioion to assist soldiers, said he had seen soldiers kneeling in prayer before an image of Private Rodionov. 'The kids in Chechnya, they feel they've been abandoned by the state and abandoned by their commanders,' he told the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets. 'They don't know who to appeal to for help, but they understand that Zhenya is one of them,' he said, using Private Rodionov's nickname. 'You can say he is the first soldier-saint.'

"Among the photographs of her son that Mrs. Rodionov spreads on her kitchen table are laminated cards that she says some soldiers carry with them for luck. They bear his image along with a prayer:

"Thy martyr, Evgeny, O Lord, in his sufferings has received an incorruptible crown from Thee, our God, for having Thy strength he has brought down his torturers, has defeated the powerless insolence of demons. Through his prayers save our souls."

Icons and pictures of this young man Evgeny spread around Russia very quickly and he was hailed as a New Martyr for Christ. In these icons sometimes he wears a uniform, sometimes a red robe (which is a way he appears in visions to the faithful, especially soldiers and children), sometimes armed, sometimes holding a Cross of martyrdom, but always with his halo. The picture distributed of him shows Evgeny wearing the Cross around his neck for which he died. Miracles have been occurring in connection with Evgeny's relics as well. During a religious procession in commemoration of Martyr Evgeny on November 20, 2002 the icon with the image of the soldier started secreting sweet-scented myrrh.


 

A sign in memory of the brave Evgeny was put at the entrance to the school where he studied. There was also a documentary released about him. People’s donations made it possible to put a two-meter (6 ft.) high Orthodox Cross on his grave which is located in the village of Satino-Russkoye, near Podolsk, in the Moscow region. People come to visit his grave from the most distant parts of Russia. A WWII veteran once came to visit Evgeny’s grave and he took off his military decoration – the Bravery Medal – and put in on the tombstone. The writings on Evgeny’s grave Cross run: “Russian soldier Evgeny Rodionov is buried here. He defended his Fatherland and did not disavow Christ. He was executed on May 23, 1996, on the outskirts of Bamut.”

His own Cross, the one that he refused to give up, his mother has donated to St. Nicholas Church in Ordinka, Moscow.



 

Because of the huge devotion to the New Martyr Evgeny, the pious faithful sought official canonization from the Moscow Patriarchate. Initially they refused and this divided the Orthodox in Russia. Maksim Maksimov, secretary of the canonization commission, explained the Synod's position in Tserkovny Vestnik (Church Bulletin), the official publication of the Russian Orthodox Church. His arguments can be summarised in three points: the only evidence that the soldier was executed for this faith is the testimony of his mother, who in her love made a god of her son; the Russian Orthodox Church has never canonized anyone killed at war; the period of new martyrs ended with the collapse of the Bolshevik regime. However, he emphasised, the deceased can be honoured without canonization. Patriarch Alexy of Moscow personally blessed the popular account of Evgeny's life, but worried that his cult would balloon into anti-Muslim rage.

Opponents of the decision, including well-known priest Alexander Shargunov, argued that an outbreak of people's love is enough for the truth; that Evgeny's grave works miracles, curing the sick and reconciling enemies. They also point out that the solider did not die at war but in captivity, and that to say that the time of martyrs is over is near heresy.

Evgeny was officially declared a Saint on August 20, 2002. A Church in his name was built in Hankala, near Groziniy. It is the only Orthodox Church in Chechnya.

Evgeny's mother, who never before set foot in a church, is now an Orthodox Christian believer, saved by the example of her son, the Holy Martyr Evgeny Rodionov. Eventually the faithful helped her to raise enough money to buy a new home.



 

Evgeny Rodionov’s biography was published in a booklet that came out in 2002. The book was called The New Martyr of Christ, Warrior Evgeny. The fifth edition of this booklet was the one blessed by Patriarch Alexy. It was written by priest Alexander Shargunov who is a noted communist and nationalist which in turn has been the cause of speculation regarding the truth of his tale. Some say Fr. Alexander merely contemporized a story from Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov (Book III, Chapter 7, “Disputation”) to promote Russian interests in the Chechnyan War. Though this tale of Dostoevsky, which is based on actual events as described by Dostoevsky in his Diary of a Writer (1877), is very similar to the story of Evgeny, this only testifies to the possibility of its actuality. This argument does not hold up when the testimony of Evgeny's mother and executioner bear testimony to the truth of the tale, as well as the fact that there is video evidence to prove Evgeny was beheaded and countless stories of miracles reported by the pious faithful. Evgeny's relics also testify to the truth of the story.

There are a few videos being ciculated on the internet of Russians being beheaded by Muslim Chechens. In fact, there are over 400+ hours of such videos known. They say that a video was made by the Chechens of Saint Evegni's death as well, though its whereabouts are unknown. According to one person who has examined all these videos, as well as the execution of Saint Evgeny: "They used the rusted old saw, and slowly sawed his head off. Everything was filmed, and when Lubov Rodionova came to see the field commander who did it, he gave her a tape with her son's execution on it." I must warn my readers that these videos are very gruesome and are best avoided, as they will likely leave your mind in a frenzy for a few seconds as they did to me. The Chechens preferred this atrocious method of execution because they followed a legend saying that a decapitated victim would not come for the murderer after death.

Below is a tribute video to the New Martyr Evgeny Rodionova [2 others videos here]

" Ηow does one become a missionary to Africa? "


In the Orthodox Vineyard of Africa

Abbah JM Kariuki

"My daughter Christine holding prayer ropes ready to be handed to newly illuminated today by Fr Siluoan Chris Brown
Glory to God for all things.
So, how does one become a missionary to Africa? It must cost a fortune, over 1500$ for air ticket from Europe or the Americas! It can be impossible then!
No. No. You could be wrong. You can be a missionary from the comfort of your work desk or coffee table. You ask how? Yes. It could be as little as 5$ to enable our faith have
actions. Our acts of faith include and not limited to CARING FOR ORPHANS. through this missions we are able to reach out to many people.
Please to take part in this mission follow the link below
www.orthodoxmissionkenya.org/donation-details

Κυριακή, 21 Μαΐου 2017

International icon painting competition with the title “THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST”.

Ανοιχτή προκήρυξη του διεθνούς διαγωνισμού εικονογραφικής τέχνης με θέμα:
«Η ΑΝΑΣΤΑΣΗ ΤΟΥ ΙΗΣΟΥ»

Открытое приглашение к участию в международном иконографическом конкурсе на тему:
«Воскресение Иисуса Христа»

دعوة  مفتوحة
للمسابقة الدولية  لفن رسم الأيقونات  وموضوعها :
" قيامة يسوع المسيح "
 
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SAINT CONSTANTINE: FROM LEGEND TO REVILEMENT


Transcript of a speech made by Protopresbyter Constantine Strategopoulos in the Church of Saint Constantine, of the Holy Metropolis of Piraeus, on Friday the 24th of May 2013

Floga (Flame)
Holy Metropolis of Glyfada (Greece)

First and foremost, I wish to offer my heartfelt thanks to the local bishop, the Most Reverent Metropolitan of Piraeus, for the blessing he has bestowed upon us to carry out these lectures within his diocese; and, of course, my utmost thanks go to the vicars and the superintendent of this holy temple for extending a loving invitation to us.
As mentioned before, all these lectures revolve around Saint Constantine and the Edict of Milan. If I were to give this lecture a specific title, to present you with a rough idea of what I am about to discuss, I would call it “From Legend to Revilement”. You will soon understand what I mean by this. And, of course, I cannot help but being personal; it cannot be otherwise, it is impossible for me to speak about Saint Constantine and his mother in a purely theoretical, scientific and historical manner; I will do it to the best of my ability and to the extent that my powers allow. But since that place, the city of Constantine, has marked our lives ‒ it is, after all, my birthplace ‒ I can never speak about it without a sense of deep involvement when I recollect the circumstances that introduced us to Saint Constantine.
Constantine᾽s City, Constantinople. The city that gives us, that has given me personally, the opportunity to become familiar with Saint Constantine ‒ and our very first introduction to the Saint was by getting to know him as a legend. You know, it is one thing to hear about Saint Constantine and another to experience something so staggering, such a legend and such a legacy, in your daily life. We were not just listening to tales about Saint Constantine in that place; the narratives were our living reality. Legendary events and stories that centred around his name and had been passed down in writing characterized our childhood and our very beings. What is related in these stories has been recorded even by historians. When Saint Constantine was marking out the boundary line for the City, an Angel was leading the way; and when his attendants, who could not see the Angel ‒ only visible to the saint ‒ asked him “How far will you take us? How much longer are the boundaries that you are tracing going to be?” he answered: “I am not the one who is tracing them, I am only following the one who is advancing before me”. That, for us, was living history. We were living in a City that had been marked by an Angel. Saint Constantine᾽s life was linked to it, so this City was no random place ‒ it was “the” place in our eyes! It was a legend that could captivate a child᾽s heart and totally transform it. It prompted you to exclaim “What a place to be! A place that is the stuff of legend!”.

 
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Oracles, legends, traditions... The inscriptions on Saint Constantine᾽s tomb spoke of traditions that were passed down to us; they spoke of prophesies that had a significant bearing on our lives, on everything that was happening around us. We would always recall with amusement what we had heard about the Asian shore opposite to Constantinople where Chalcedon is situated. That was the place that had been called “the land of the blind”. They had failed to see the beauty of Constantine᾽s City and decided to settle on the other side across the sea. To us it was the land of the blind.
Everything was imbued with the presence of Saint Constantine! Everything! Even things that were apparently symbolic. Isn᾽t the double-headed eagle the symbol of the Eastern Roman Empire? It᾽s a symbol, for sure; but for us, it was a presence. Scores of eagles, large eagles, were flying above our heads in the City. We didn᾽t call it the land of the symbol of the double-headed eagle; we called it the land of high-flying eagles. How many more such things there were that were shaping the life of a child who felt the impact of a legend! When you arrive at Constantine᾽s City, traditionally you enter from two directions. Either through land, by train, or through sea, the Golden Horn gulf, by boat. I should not include airplanes, since there weren᾽t many in those days.

The people there, made everything beautiful. We used to say, how beautiful sunsets are in Constantine᾽s City... No, it is Saint Constantine that makes them so stunning. The famous sunsets of Constantinople! A natural phenomenon, you might say. No, it is the grace of Saint Constantine. And the sweet scent in the air when we enter the City from the Galata area... Is that the smell of fried skipjack? No, no, no... what are you talking about? It is another manifestation of Saint Constantine᾽s grace! How splendid it is to arrive by train at Sirkeci, where other fragrances fill the air... It᾽s Saint Constantine again, I won᾽t have any arguments! With such a wealth of experience, you become infused with a legend and feel that you bear a certain obligation.
Then you come to the other legend, when you are led to the square where the riots, the “Nika” Revolt, took place and you are told “do you see this column here? This is where the statue of Saint Constantine used to stand before it was demolished. And do you know what is inside this column? It contains the nails that Saint Helen found along with the Holy Cross; they are still buried deep in there”. That was the legend, the breathtaking legend whose power goes beyond turning you into a history expert; it brings you to the point where you stand in awe of the place where you live. It isn᾽t fairy-tale stuff, because the whole Empire must have experienced a similar state of awe for being grounded in such a place. Even today, what Saint Constantine left behind him, not as historical memory but as a living heritage, compels us to go beyond the sense of awe of “what was”. If we have experienced it, we won᾽t say “what a wondrous place we used to live in!”, but “what a wondrous place we live in now!” That was the legend I am referring to.
But when we moved from the legend of Constantine᾽s City to the harsh reality of Athens, we were confronted with defamation and revilement. Everything changed. Textbooks, people, historians, were reviling Saint Constantine. That is why I named this speech “from legend to revilement”. I can hardly describe what a shock that was. They weren᾽t just maligning a historical figure; they were reviling a saint who was, for us, the most iconic figure of Romanity. And then, everything went crumbling down, everything turned to slander, echoing this or that historian...


Photo from here
 
The first time I managed to hold my head up, a few years after I moved to Athens, was when I was appointed to serve as a priest at the church of St Constantine in Glyfada. Until then, I had lingered in that state of inner conflict between the revilement and the legend. Which one would prevail? It was at that point, before I even studied history sources in depth, that I began to experience something else. We, as clergymen, are so indebted to our laity, the people of God! Because these people can be ‒ if they embrace this role ‒ a living manifestation of our tradition. It was there, then, in St Constantine᾽s church at Glyfada beach, that as a young priest I first heard about the staggering experiences of old parishioners, elderly men and women, regarding incidents that testified to Saint Constantine᾽s very real presence. There were so many of them, people who would casually tell me “I saw Constantis”! “Who is that?” I would ask. “Saint Constantine”. “Then why don᾽t you call him "Saint"?” “But he came to me and said "I am Constantis"”. When the testimonies of Constantis᾽ presence became too numerous for my heart to bear, I gradually began to re-discover the legend, and to ask myself where the legend stands in relation to the revilement. At that point, I had to start researching, too, so that I could think as a realist as well as a theologian and, instead of keeping my head in the clouds, be a down-to-earth pragmatist and have a thorough knowledge of history. So, I began by exploring the issue of revilement, but the more I delved into it, the more I discovered the goodness and beauty it sought to cover.
My first personal experience, other than hearing of the encounters that those blessed people among the laity had with Constantis - pardon my expression, but it is based on what the elderly ladies used to tell me in Glyfada- was when I learned about Saint Constantine᾽s spiritual guide. I don᾽t know if you have ever heard of him, the man who stood behind Constantine, if you have wondered who his confessor was, the man who guided him for many years before he became a Christian and kept guiding him towards the revelation of that sacred beauty that led to his sanctification. Maybe you have heard his name; he is a saint of our Church, but he is not known to many people. To me he provided an initial point of access whereby I could see what happened in Constantine᾽s heart. His name is Hosius, Saint Hosius the Confessor, Bishop of Cordova. Cordova in those days was the Spanish city we still know as Cordova. Saint Hosius was no common man; he was a great hierarch who participated in an Ecumenical Council and reached sainthood. Remember his name: Saint Hosius of Cordova. I was really impressed to discover that the person behind Constantine was a saint of this stature, an outstanding figure, and, according to the texts, a man of profound discernment who ‒ amid the uproar of heresies and the upheaval that eventually led the Church to its First Ecumenical Council ‒ maintained a very discreet outlook and kept a very subtle balance in theological matters. That was my first realization of who put “Constantis” on the road to sainthood. From then on, other life experiences followed and were recorded in history, but this was the initial spark. Who is the hidden force behind a saint? It is always a holy person, a spiritual guide and confessor; actually, it is the grace of God that places such people in such a key role. At that point I embarked on the long journey of tracing the historical sources on Saint Constantine᾽s life. I will not tire you, but since we are covering this distance from legend to revilement, I would like you to reach a deeper understanding of this matter and, if possible, overcome your concerns or the temptation of giving in to slanderous accusations that, I dare say at the outset, are totally unsubstantiated and ludicrous.

We need to keep in mind that our Church has acknowledged scores of repentant sinners as saints. The Church does not dismiss repentance; it embraces it. Consider how many of its saints had committed sins in their past. That is one thing, but it is a different story when someone tries to charge a historical personality ‒ for reasons that I will shortly mention ‒ with excessive, false sins with the aim of either vindicating or condemning an entire civilization. Was there ever a saint who used to be sinless? No. It is an entirely different thing, however, to heap lies and fabrications on the personality of Saint Constantine.
Among the historians who wrote about Saint Constantine, there are several who stand out as the most fundamental and thoroughly analyzed sources on his life. First among them is the well-known historian and Church Father Eusebius, Bishop of Nicomedia. The second is another historian, Lactantius. Now, Lactantius is of particular significance, because he was the best and closest friend of Crispus, Saint Constantine᾽s son who, according to Constantine᾽s detractors, was murdered by his father. I will say more on this, but please take a note of the fact that Lactantius was a childhood friend, a bosom friend of the son whom Saint Constantine allegedly put to death, as those who revile him repeatedly claim. Significantly, both Lactantius and Eusebius give high praise to Saint Constantine in their works. How is that for an argument? Can a man exalt the murderer of his best friend? I will let you ponder on the idea for a while.
Furthermore, there were other historians as well, both pagan and Christian ones, who left us accounts and it is remarkable that not only Christian writers praise Saint Constantine unanimously, but even Gentiles speak well of him ‒ except one. There is one single writer who contradicts the others and his name is Zosimus. All modern historians ‒ or, rather, pseudo-historians ‒ who revile and recriminate Saint Constantine use Zosimus as their source. They do not draw on either Eusebius or Lactantius or any of the secondary historians who occasionally referred to Saint Constantine. So, something is seriously amiss here. Out of the seven historians who wrote on Saint Constantine ‒ the most significant accounts being those of Eusebius, Lactantius and Zosimus ‒ only Zosimus makes slanderous attacks against him, and all the circles that portray Saint Constantine not as a saint but as a despicable personality rely solely on Zosimus. One more thing to consider: Eusebius and Lactantius were contemporaries of Saint Constantine, whereas Lactantius lived 150 years after him. Is he a chronicler who merely records a story that he heard? Or does he relate a made-up story? In any case, he is not the historian who had a first-hand experience of his subject. The others actually lived alongside the man.


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I do not mean to sway you by these arguments, but the facts are too powerful and overwhelming. Zosimus, who lived a hundred and fifty years after Saint Constantine and persistently accused him, became the primary source that is being used to this day by neo-pagans and neo-idolaters, by all adversaries who could not stand the splendour of the Orthodox Eastern Empire. Allow me a brief digression here in order to remind you that the empire᾽s name wasn᾽t “Byzantium”. The term was first coined by historians after the Fall of Constantinople, in 1520. It wasn᾽t the Byzantine Empire; it was Romania, or the Orthodox Eastern Roman Empire. It is no coincidence that all those who have brought accusations against Saint Constantine shared a deep hatred for that Orthodox Eastern Empire. Let me say a few words on what is actually a very large topic: In 326 A.D., one year after the Ecumenical Council, Constantine ‒ who detested Rome and was already making plans for Constantinople, came to Rome as emperor, in order to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of his imperial rule, his second Decennalia, as the name went. Naturally, and according to the age-old custom, he was summoned at the Capitol, to take part in a pagan military festival and offer sacrifices to the heathen gods. He refused to do so! You realize that refusing to honour the gods inside the Capitol itself was like turning his back to an entire civilization!
We need to realize that this event was the main reason behind the launching of a vilifying campaign against Constantine, although it had been preceded by the Edict of Milan thirteen years earlier. Note that the Edict of Milan did not cause as much apprehension. The Edict simply gave Christians equal status; it did not put the pagans at a disadvantage. And it couldn᾽t have been otherwise, since the vast majority of the Empire᾽s population were pagans. In today᾽s terms, we would describe them as a predominantly pagan electorate. Constantine did not strike a direct blow at them. He only said that it would be unfair to deny one religion the right to enjoy the same prerogatives as any other. That was not a critical issue. It did vex them, but it wasn᾽t of great consequence, because Christians represented only 10% of the population. According to historians, the critical moment was the one I just mentioned: when he went to Rome and refused to offer any more sacrifices, when he practically renounced the entire ancient world, an act that definitely resonated with the words of the apostle Paul: “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new”. The renouncement was inevitable. And this is where the tragedy began.

One year before he refused to sacrifice to the idols, in 365 A.D., Saint Constantine attended the sessions of the First Ecumenical Council, where the Church Fathers recited the Trisagion (“Thrice Holy”) hymn ‒ “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal...” ‒ as an Orthodox doctrine. It was the most crucial point in my opinion, which is also the opinion of historians who study these issues. Constantine did not sacrifice to the Caesar, in other words to himself, because he acknowledged that there is no other “Caesar” on earth but God. Not surprisingly, Zosimus seized the opportunity to interpret this fact as evidence of Constantine᾽s hatred and enmity towards all Romans. In his eyes he was sacrilegious, an enemy of justice, a foul villain. All because he had rejected a tradition. A tradition, you know, has real value only if it carries true meaning. Our salvation does not rest on an arbitrary notion of “tradition”. We, as Orthodox Christians, speak of Tradition in the name of the Holy Spirit. A tradition that is devoid of the Holy Spirit makes no sense. What good is it, if it just serves the perpetuation of certain habits or the preservation of mores and customs? What significance does it have, especially if it happens to be a demonic tradition [as in the aforementioned case]? This is something that Zosimus could never understand.
Naturally, based on Zosimus᾽ accounts, all subsequent western historians wrote against Saint Constantine. Gibbon, Voltaire and many, many others viewed him as the enemy of an entire civilization. And, of course, the entire western world, the Vaticanian world, followed suit. They resented Constantine with a deep-seated hatred, because it was he who relocated the world᾽s centre from the Old Rome to the New. Have you ever wondered why the name Constantine is so rare in the western world? It is very rare indeed and that signifies a certain degree of animosity, doesn᾽t it? There are hardly any prelates named “Constantine” in the western Church after the Schism either. Doesn᾽t that tell you something? Effectively, all representatives of the “Enlightenment” resorted to Zosimus and to every means at their disposal in order to defame Saint Constantine.
In the first place, Constantine did not abolish [the pagan] religion. Having said that, he did blaze new trails when he grappled with a number of issues. You see, today when the discussion revolves around various regimes, concepts like dictatorship and democracy come up and, of course, dictatorship is so out of the question that people would laugh at the suggestion. Democracy is the standard we uphold. Back in those days, however, the form of administration was not just absolutist; the emperor was not only an absolute dictator, he was a god in the eyes of the people! They bent the knee and offered him sacrifices. That went beyond dictatorial rule. And what did Saint Constantine do, first via the Edict of Milan, in 311 and then in the context of the First Ecumenical Council?
It was around 311, or to be more precise and faithful to historical sources, it was in the years 313-314 that a terrible heresy broke out : the major heresy of Donatism. I will not go into further details now. In his capacity as emperor, Constantine had to take a stance. How was the problem to be tackled? Miltiades, who was the Bishop of Rome in those days, went to the emperor and said “the empire is in great turmoil and the solution rests upon you”. Saint Constantine᾽s answer was, and I quote, “you have a Synod, (i.e. a Council), you should resolve these matters in the synodical assembly”. Do you realize the significance of these words in the context of that world? It was the equivalent of a democratic statement. The decision-making is passed to the assembly; what is more, this is an assembly ‒ a council ‒ of hierarchs. A staggering event in those days!

One small observation: have you considered the fact that even today, in the institution that represents the Vaticanian version of the formation of the Church, whenever a council convenes, even if there are some twelve hundred bishops assembled to resolve an issue and they reach a decision, if their Primate, the “infallible” Pope of Rome, says “no”, the votes of the twelve hundred bishops are annulled. An absolute dictatorship, isn᾽t it? This was the aftermath of the Schism in the West. They could not live up to the new standards that Constantine set. This is a crucial consideration. The granting of decision-making rights to a group of faithful Christians ‒ more specifically, to an assembly, a council of hierarchs ‒ is the second element that tipped the scales against the saint and in favour of his revilement.
And, of course, we have those written records that are so hard to overlook. Many of them ‒ truly gripping documents ‒ were left to us by the historian Eusebius, a friend of Constantine᾽s; a friend, not his confessor ‒ his confessor was the bishop of Cordova, as I mentioned before. So, it was at Constantine᾽s behest that the First Ecumenical Council assembled and here is what his enemies say: “See? The Church was following orders, it had no freedom, it was at the beck and call of the state”. Wrong. Those detractors are ignorant of history. What they don᾽t realize is that in the vast Roman empire no one, especially no person of rank (mayor, governor, Church hierarch...) could make a single move or travel from one place to another without the emperor᾽s leave and authorization. Anything could raise suspicions of conspiracy and sedition. That is why Constantine himself summoned the council and granted the bishops legal permits to travel from all corners of the world to Nicaea. Furthermore, he only called for the assembly; he did not preside over it. There are documents describing his entrance in the First Ecumenical Council. It has gone down on record, although the abstracts of the council were not preserved. We do have its decisions, but, contrary to the subsequent Ecumenical Councils, no further records of its sessions survived. So, Constantine arrived at the Council with no military escort, no attendants. For an emperor, that was unheard of, unthinkable! What is more, he went to the head of the assembly (St Eustathius of Antioch) and humbly asked where he should sit. He was shown his place and did as instructed. How outrageous that was for the head of the Empire! Totally preposterous for that time and age. What is more, who dares say to the Emperor “you should sit there”? Yet, he did take a seat and attended the sessions in silence ‒ a humble presence throughout the proceedings. He ratified the Council᾽s stance in its entirety. This marks the beginnings of true democracy within the Church. I᾽m sure I do not need to remind you of the statement he made in the context of that synodical proclamation: “You are bishops whose jurisdiction is within the Church, over spiritual matters, whereas my place is outside, by necessity. I rule over the world and all these issues affect the entire world”. Thus he began his outstanding work on so many levels that upset some of his subjects. Hatred towards Saint Constantine [still] runs high today.


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In the first place, he gave slaves the potential to be free. Keep that in mind. When we go back to the apostle Paul, we realize that he did not call for a formal abolition of slavery, either. What did he say instead? That masters should have a change of heart, such that it would no longer allow them to own slaves. A revolution that happens by force is always fake. A revolution that takes place in our hearts is always true! This is the course Saint Constantine also pursued. He did not enforce laws for the liberation of slaves. What did he do? He proposed what I have just mentioned: “If you are Christians and live by the principle of love, free those people”. That would spell disaster, so to speak, for the powerful ‒ or, if you wish, for the capitalists ‒ of that age (I hope you will excuse the term). Saint Constantine paved the way for a change of heart. The theological groundwork was already laid in Paul᾽s epistle to Philemon, which you can easily find and read. Another step, of minor significance for us, is that he dissolved the Praetorian Guard, a powerful body that steered the fortunes of the realm. In today᾽s world, we could compare praetorians to the parties that rule the land: well-organized task forces with utter disregard for the will of the people. That is how I would translate it in modern terms.
Constantine also abolished the penalty of death by crucifixion, but what merits even more attention is another decree that he issued and that brought about the severest and most slanderous attacks against him. Take a note of this, because it is a most crucial point ‒ a decisive law over which he was reviled more than ever before. What was this decree about? It concerned adultery, which was henceforth designated as a capital offence, one of the gravest, most serious offences under civil law. 

Consequently, the edicts he issued against adulterers were most severe. It was in this context that, if I may use the expression, the devil pulled his trick. I will explain this story in a few minutes, if you wish. It is, after all, the major foothold that the most insolent slanderers have been using. The fact that Constantine relegated Rome to a secondary position and denounced idol worship is no longer their primary concern. The repudiation of idolatry pales in comparison to the accusation that he killed his own son and his wife. A most serious accusation: the murder of his son, Crispus, and of his wife, Fausta. What heart could bear such a thing? An apologist for Christianity might give an answer, based on what I mentioned in the beginning: all saints have sinned; it is the common truth. However, doesn᾽t that leave a sting behind, like any thorny issue that remains unresolved? “He actually killed his son and wife? What kind of saint is this?” We know that in the Church, everyone can become a saint, even the greatest villains whose words or actions are an affront to God, but this was not the case here, so I will not make a false apology; I will attempt a historical vindication, on the basis of the existing documents. Of course, even if Constantine had murdered his son and his wife, only God knows how saints are designated. Just think how many reached sainthood on these terms. Christ᾽s crucifiers themselves became saints. Saint Longinus is a good example, right? Quite a powerful example, I would say... However, this is not what we are dealing with here. Constantine᾽s case is different. Unfortunately, the law he proposed against adultery became the springboard for launching an attack comprised of the most meandering falsehoods and shocking fabrications, which would stick to him for the rest of his life. Let us briefly consider the facts, while we are at it. It is important because this is the story upon which historians will focus nowadays. They no longer linger on the fact that he transferred the centre of the empire to New Rome. This is secondary now. Today they focus on the crimes.
I will explain in a few words, giving a condensed account from the historians who handled this topic. Saint Constantine was initially married to an excellent young woman. However, in the context of the political power-game that was prevalent in the Empire at the time, he was forced by Maximianus to divorce his first wife, with whom he had a son, Crispus, and wed Maximianus᾽ daughter. It was necessary, for the purpose of maintaining an equilibrium in the Empire and for the termination of hostilities. Thus, he got married to Fausta. One can hardly avoid making a pun with Fausta᾽s name at this point ‒ presumably you are all familiar with Faust, that demonic hero of European literature... What happened next? It was only a few days after Saint Constantine issued the decree that condemned adultery as a major crime and grievous sin. Only a short time had passed before Fausta brought forth an accusation that involved her husband. She claimed Crispus, Constantine᾽s son from his first wife had made an attempt to sexually assault her.

Icon from here (Holy Mount Athos, Protaton, 14th century) 

You ought to keep in mind that this woman had given Saint Constantine three more sons. All three of them became emperors after him. Now, who was the target of her accusations? Crispus, the first-born who had to be removed, because as long as he was alive, her own children could not hope to become emperors. And who was at the centre of her allegations? The very emperor who detested adultery but now had to face the fact that his own son was being charged with it! A “palpable hit” indeed. As historians have observed, how could Saint Constantine summon the political courage to say “I forgive the perpetrator because he is my son”? What about the people? Would they be wrong to assume that the law was relative [i.e. selectively applied]? Fausta᾽s initial statement reflects her cunning: she claimed that Crispus had attacked her and Constantine᾽s immediate reaction was to have his son arrested and confined in prison. Before any of the allegations could be verified, he gave the order. It is paramount to note what historical research has revealed: that there was no order by Constantine to execute his son. Crispus had to be arrested, however. Nowadays, if the son of the Parliament Speaker commits an offence, he must suffer the consequences, regardless. That was Saint Constantine᾽s reasoning, too.
Before Constantine had the chance to analyze the facts and determine what actually happened (or didn᾽t happen), an order was given and Crispus was summarily executed in the prison where he was being held. Contemporary historians tried to locate the written order for Crispus᾽ assassination. No one has been able to find it. For such an order to take effect, it would have to be a Golden Bull, i.e. bear the emperor᾽s golden seal, which only Constantine had in his room and to which Fausta also had access. Modern historians, without being biased, admit that Fausta was in a hurry to execute Crispus before the scandal could be made public and the falseness of the accusations exposed, and so, faking Constantine᾽s signature, she forged the golden bull and had Crispus murdered.
I do not mean to act as an apologist for Saint Constantine, but you see, how modern historical research searches for answers everywhere and needs to consider all aspects of an issue. Shortly after Crispus᾽s execution, in his immense grief, Constantine tried to find the murderer. Presumably ‒ at this point we can only make conjectures since there is no direct evidence ‒ he discovered that Fausta was behind the plot and gave orders for her removal. All of a sudden, Fausta is sent away! Historical accounts reveal that she lived for four more years and died from a disease. This death by disease four years later, was “translated” by pseudo-historians into death by suffocation immediately after Crispus᾽s murder, as soon as Constantine became aware of Fausta᾽s deception and realized that she was the perpetrator. There is historical evidence that she lived four more years and was away from Constantine when she died of unknown causes.

To this day, these two events continue to give occasion for charging Saint Constantine with murder. Because I love the saint, as you love him, too, I will not presume to be his advocate. Nor am I easily convinced by historians, although I am eager to study them, provided that they are true historians. But, in my heart, I wonder how an emperor who introduced such humane laws and abolished autocratic practices could have killed his favourite child, the son who had been appointed as head of the imperial fleet and whom he loved so dearly! Crispus was a charming and charismatic child, endowed with many good qualities, which is more than can be said about the three younger sons who eventually ruled over Byzantium ‒ the Roman Empire ‒ and caused so much harm to it by endorsing heresies. They could not help being Fausta᾽s sons, but sadly it was they who followed in the line of succession.
Fr Constantine Strategopoulos (from here)

There are a few more facts worth laying before you, especially certain laws that reveal Saint Constantine᾽s immense benevolence. With reference to judicial procedures, he issued decrees for the clarification of procedural law, specifying the number of witnesses, as well as the process of taking testimonies, checking and verifying court statements and the people assigned with these tasks. And while he instituted laws along these lines, a whole game of lies was being played behind his back. He smote state corruption and, notwithstanding the fact that his own wife was rotten, he issued laws to check this abuse of power ‒ government corruption, as we would call it today.
He introduced a body of welfare laws that had profound social impact, providing all-around protection for widows, under-age children and orphans, something that is lacking today, in the age of memorandums! His legislation was far too progressive for those times. He strove for a fair taxation system, as he felt that the state was mistreating its citizens and was practically pushing them over the edge! Consequently, he reformed the entire structure of the legal system. Think how often we, today, raise our voices to complain about this or that [case of injustice]. Back in those days, everything changed! The emperor forced state officials who had been levying outrageous taxes, to return to the people every sum they had unjustly collected in the previous years ‒ retroactively! How many of you have heard of that? A measure of retroactive effect! Also, he asked for appeals to be made towards the governors of “Themes” (the administrative districts of the Empire). He examined the appeals and wherever he spotted an injustice, he required the state to pay back the full sum that had been illegally levied. Does that mean anything to you? It is something that we do not see happening today! Needless to say that besides all that, he never persecuted any of the other religions. He respected everyone. Their downfall can only be blamed on themselves.

There is a lot to be said about Saint Constantine and the scope of his social work. Do not look for the immaculate man in his person; undoubtedly, he did commit sins, but not the ones that he has been accused of, not those that led to a global tragedy ‒ the tragic conflict between the West and the East. As soon as I realized these things, I found myself again! I rediscovered the legend! The legend that I had experienced in Constantine᾽s City, the place where every day we were told ”the reason that the sun shines so brightly here is because this is the chosen City of Saint Constantine, that is why!”
When I was forced to come to Athens, I felt ashamed because I was about to start living in another city. Yet everything turned out fine! Can you see why? It is here that I rediscovered Saint Constantine! Everything is so grant when reflected on his person. Everything becomes so awesome and so singular, in his presence that I would have to spend hours talking about him. And, because the love for the Saint grows in a human heart, it is through such personal experiences that the legend re-emerges ‒ a legend that was so unjustly bashed and eventually re-emerged through the accounts of elderly ladies in Glyfada. This love always overwhelms me every time I talk about Saint Constantine.
It was such a joy for me today that I had the opportunity, the honour and the blessing of the reverent Fathers, as well as Saint Constantine, to pay the smallest of tributes that my heart, a heart born and bred in Constantine᾽s City, can offer to him. It is a small thing, but it gave me so much joy because, unworthy as I am, I had the chance to talk about this great saint. So, I thank both God and him, for allowing me to do so. Keep your faith in our Church alive within you. And take heed, because much of the talk you hear today about the Church can be of the sort I have just described. It can be of the same devious type. I have already given you a sample, so please use it every time you hear a rumour, to check your sources and understand facts.
Finally, I would like to say the following regarding Saint Constantine. There have been claims that his christening was performed by a heretic, that Eusebius, who administered the sacrament, wasn᾽t a proper Christian... It is a lie! Eusebius sided with Arius for a short time; however, he participated in the First Ecumenical Council and signed the Nicene Creed (the Symbol of Faith) in its entirety. He merely had some reservations as to whether Arius should be proclaimed an arch-heretic. [Yet] he signed the Statement of Faith! Saint Constantine was not baptized by a heretic, contrary to the claims of those who wish to undermine him and the validity of his christening. He not only received the true baptism, but from that moment onwards he always wore his baptismal robe, instead of the imperial purple tunic. That is how he spent the few remaining days of his life and he closed his eyes wearing that baptismal robe. “A robe of divine light bestow upon me”, as the psalm goes.
Let those who can make an honest statement about Saint Constantine speak up. It is impossible not to be captivated and full of gratitude to him, for making it possible for us to live the way we do? Remember what I said? “How beautiful our life is Constantine᾽s City, a City whose birth and creation was the work of Saint Constantine and his gift to us!” Shouldn᾽t we also be saying how grand it is to live within the compass of our Orthodoxy, this “Empire” that Saint Constantine founded, established and empowered, by granting it civic status and upholding its Creed?
Thank you for listening. I am grateful to all of you for coming here and particularly indebted to Saint Constantine! God bless you!

See also

Saint Constantin le Grand, le premier empereur chrétien, et le Sainte Hélène (21 May)
About Three Holy Hierarchs & Father Cosmas of Grigoriou
The Story of Nelson Mandela Begins in Byzantium
A Letter from an Orthodox Christian to our Native Americans Brothers  
The Sack of Constantinople (1204), the first clash of the Orthodox Christian world and the western colonialism