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Posts tagged ‘Helena’

Respond to Your Call to Influence.


 

group of women
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The church has not always recognized the spiritual gifts of women. But God has fashioned them to be key players in His kingdom.

Let’s imagine for a moment what the world would be like without women. All the wonderful traits women are capable of providing with exuberance—gentleness, nurture, care, refined beauty—would be missing.

Men possess these same qualities but in smaller supply; women, on the other hand, overflow with them. Without women the world would look like an army base where everything’s painted white or gray and designed for efficiency at the expense of beauty. An awful sense of incompleteness would permeate the planet.

Women have many qualities unique to their gender, one of the grandest being the ability to host life. This privilege to shelter another life at such an intimate level has been granted exclusively to Eve and her daughters.

Women can nurture their newborns through the most intimate interaction between a female adult and a child: breastfeeding. The image of a baby being nursed by a loving mother is a picture of total dependency, perfect care and the most sublime transfer of nurture from one being to another.

Women are also the ones who predominantly shape the character of their children during their crucial early years. They plant tender gestures in the inner layer of a child’s malleable soul and watch as, like the seeds in a flowerbed, the spiritual seeds sprout, spreading beauty over the adult landscape in the form of noble deeds.

When were the seeds planted? During the nurturing years when a child spends most of his time with a woman: his mother!

Jesus’ First Teacher
It was a woman, young Mary, who first heard beating within her the heart of God Incarnate when she was pregnant with Jesus. It was her hands that first touched Jesus’ body and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes.

Think for a moment what this reflects: God Almighty, Creator and Preserver of the universe, took the form of a baby and became dependent on the care of one of His creatures. When God experienced human flesh, with all its limitations, who was there to meet His needs? A woman.

Jesus’ mother, Mary, was His first teacher and also later His first disciple. No other human knew Jesus as intimately as Mary did.

Ponder for a moment the scene at Calvary. While most of Jesus’ frightened disciples hid at a distance, Mary and a group of faithful women gathered at the foot of the cross. Despite the pain and suffering Jesus endured, His last earthly concern was for a woman—His mother.

He could not forget that she had taken care of Him when His earthly life began. And now, as His life was about to end, Jesus lovingly turned her over to the care of His beloved disciple (see John 19:26-27).

Women’s Hall of Fame
Throughout the Bible are inspiring testimonies of other brave and brilliant women who were not mere privates in God’s army but key players who were given pivotal assignments at strategic points and in crucial times.

Moses’ mother challenged the pharaoh’s genocidal decree when she preserved the life of the one who would eventually lead millions of Hebrews to freedom (see Ex. 2).

Rahab held the keys to the taking of Jericho. By turning them in the right direction she assured the fall of the fortress city (see Josh. 2).

Hannah cried out to God for Samuel to be born, and he went on to become the greatest prophet and judge Israel ever knew (see 1 Sam. 1).

Deborah was an illustrious judge and a proven prophetess who delivered Israel from the mighty chariots of Jabin, the oppressing king of Canaan. Another woman, Jael, helped to bring total destruction to Jabin and his leading general, Sisera (see Judges 4-5).

Esther courageously risked her life to save her nation, God’s people, when they were in danger of being exterminated.

Sarah was called “mother of nations” by God Himself (see Gen. 17:16) and is listed among the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11.

Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, instructed and guided Apollos, who had been preaching less-than-perfect theology (see Acts 18: 24-26). The fact that in most tranlations, Priscilla is listed first in this passage signifies the prominence of her role.

On the shoulders of these women—and countless more down through the ages—rested the fate of cities, tribes and nations.

Pillars of the Early Church
One of the main reasons Christianity spread so rapidly in the early years is because its message restored honor and self-worth to half the world’s population: women. Romans had such a low view of women that some men engaged in sex with other men. Jewish rabbis completely silenced women inside the synagogue, and pagans used them as temple prostitutes.

However, early church leaders dignified women by teaching that in Christ “there is neither male nor female” and we “are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28, NKJV). Women were also given positions of honor and leadership.

Priscilla, for instance, was part of the team that founded the church in Ephesus—site of the greatest power encounter recorded in the book of Acts. She was there, inside the crux of God’s power, when God dethroned Artemis and brought down the demonic socioeconomic structure that had controlled Ephesus.

Throughout the epistles women are unapologetically exalted as pillars of the faith. Paul identified two women as the headwaters of Timothy’s faith: his mother and his grandmother (see 2 Tim. 1:5). In Romans, a letter intended for wide circulation and public reading, Paul praised several women as people of faith and proven ministry (see Rom. 16:1-15).

The first European convert was a woman, Lydia, and hers was the first household to be baptized (see Acts 16:14-15). She was very assertive in her interaction with the apostles: “She begged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’ So she persuaded us” (v. 15).

Three centuries later, the driving force behind Constantine’s conversion and the subsequent Christianization of the Roman Empire was another woman, Helena, the emperor’s mother.

Extraordinary Sensitivity
Women have an extraordinary sensitivity to spiritual things. I am not saying that they are more godly than men, but I believe they are definitely more spiritual. This is why Jesus was able to reveal two of the most powerful truths in the gospels to women.

He told Martha that He is the resurrection and the life (see John 11:25-27). To the Samaritan woman Jesus explained that He is the living water (see John 4:7-15). These women were in a state of confusion when Jesus found them, but both were able to hear, understand and believe these profound truths.

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Death of Helena, 1st Christian Archaeologist.


Dan Graves, MSL

Death of Helena, 1st Christian ArchaeologistA character in a nursery rhyme may be closely connected with Church history and Christian archaeology. Probably you have sung “Old King Cole was a merry old soul.” But did you know that the British have an ancient tradition that Helena, the fourth-century Christian archaeologist was the daughter of King Coel of Colchester, immortalized in thisMother Goose rhyme?If this story is true, another interesting fact follows from it. Helena was the mother of Constantine, the first christianized Emperor of the Roman Empire. This means Emperor Constantine was the grandson of a Mother Goose hero! Since there actually was a Christian church at Colchester in 250 A.D.–about the time that Helena was born–it is possible that she become a Christian as a young person which would explain Constantine’s interest in the faith.

However, so much of Helena’s life is obscure or unknown, including the date and place of her birth, that we cannot make the connection with any certainty. Some historians theorize that since the emperor Constantine later named a town in Asia Minor Helenopolis in her honor, she was born there, not in Britain, and was the daughter of an innkeeper.

Unclear too is when and where Helena met the Roman soldier Constantius Chlorus, or even if the two were ever officially married. What is certain is that Constantius and Helena were Constantine’s parents. When Constantius became Caesar of Gaul, Spain, and Britain in 292, he dumped Helena in order to marry Theodora, daughter of his patron, the emperor Maximian. It was a cold-blooded political move designed to advance Constantius’ career.

Helena’s son Constantine spent much time at the court of the emperor Diocletian and became a soldier like his father. When his troops later proclaimed Constantine emperor in 306, one of his first acts was to recall his mother from the political exile she had been in ever since her divorce and give her honors befitting the mother of a Roman Emperor. When Constantine embraced Christianity, Helena gave him her strong support and encouragement.

Eighty year old Helena became so enthusiastic about the faith that she traveled to the Holy Land. Her mission was about more than mere curiosity, for as she traveled through the eastern imperial provinces, she encouraged the establishment of the Christian faith.

Once in Palestine she sought out the original locations associated with the life of Jesus, becoming the first known Christian archaeologist. Helena then oversaw the construction of several churches Constantine had ordered built in Bethlehem, Calvary, Olivet, and Bethany at sites associated with Christ’s life. A pagan temple to Aphrodite had been built on the tomb site of Jesus’ resurrection; it was torn down and replaced by the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Later legends arose that Helena also discovered the actual cross of Christ in the tomb beneath the church. In paintings she is often shown as a young and beautiful woman holding this cross.

Helena’s tour became a pattern for Christian pilgrims throughout the Middle Ages. Even today, at Christmas time “Manger Square” in Bethlehem is thronged with pilgrims coming to worship at the Church of the Nativity and at Easter, Christians follow the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrow) to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Both of these ancient churches in the Holy Land are connected with Empress Helena.

When Helena died on this day, August 18, 328, she was buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople.

Bibliography:

  1. Baring-Gould, S. Lives of the Saints. Edinburgh: John Grant, 1914.
  2. Bell, Mrs. Arthur. Saints in Christian Art. London: George Bell, 1901 – 1904.
  3. Butler, Alban. Lives of the Saints. Various editions available.
  4. Christian History InstituteGlimpses. Issue #73: Helena, First Christian Archaeologist.
  5. Kirsch, J.P. “St. Helena.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton, 1914.
  6. “Helena, St.” The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Edited by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. (Oxford, 1997).
  7. Waugh, Evelyn. “St. Helena, Empress;” from Saints for Now, edited by Clare Booth Luce. Sheed & Ward, 1952.

Last updated June, 2007

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