THE ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY post 443
Chapter XVII. Helena , Mother of the Emperor Constantine.-- Her zeal in the Erection of the Holy Church.
Helena , Mother of the Emperor Constantine.-- Her zeal in the Erection of the Holy Church. THE bearer of these letters was no less illustrious a personage than the mother of the emperor, even she who was glorious in her offspring, whose piety was celebrated by all; she who brought forth that great luminary and nurtured him in piety. She did not shrink from the fatigue of the journey on account of her extreme old age, but undertook it a little before her death, which occurred in her eightieth year.
When the empress beheld the place where the Saviour suffered, she immediately ordered the idolatrous temple, which had been there erected , to be destroyed, and the very earth on which it stood to be removed. When the tomb, which had been so long concealed, was discovered, three crosses were seen buried near the Lord's sepulchre. All held it as certain that one of these crosses was that of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that the other two were those of the thieves who were crucified with Him. Yet they could not discern to which of the three the Body of the Lord had been brought nigh, and which had received the outpouring of His precious Blood. But the wise and holy Macarius, the president of the city, resolved this question in the following manner. He caused a lady of rank, who had been long suffering from disease, to be touched by each of the crosses, with earnest prayer, and thus discerned the virtue residing in that of the Saviour. For the instant this cross was brought near the lady, it expelled the sore disease, and made her whole.
The mother of the emperor, on learning the accomplishment of her desire, gave orders that a portion of the nails should be inserted in the royal helmet, in order that the head of her son might be preserved from the darts of his enemies . The other portion of the nails she ordered to be formed into the bridle of his horse, not only to ensure the safety of the emperor, but also to fulfil an ancient prophecy; for long before Zechariah, the prophet, had predicted that "There shall be upon the bridles of the horses Holiness unto the Lord Almighty ."
She had part of the cross of our Saviour conveyed to the palace . The rest was enclosed in a covering of silver, and committed to the care of the bishop of the city, whom she exhorted to preserve it carefully, in order that it might be transmitted uninjured to posterity . She then sent everywhere for workmen and for materials, and caused the most spacious and most magnificent churches to be erected. It is unnecessary to describe their beauty and grandeur; for all the pious, if I may so speak, hasten thither and behold the magnificence of the buildings .
This celebrated and admirable empress performed another action worthy of being remembered. She assembled all the women who had vowed perpetual virginity, and placing them on couches, she herself fulfilled the duties of a handmaid, serving them with food and handing them cups and pouring out wine, and bringing a basin and pitcher, and pouring out water to wash their hands.
After performing these and other laudable actions, the empress returned to her son, and not long after, she joyfully entered upon the other and a better life, after having given her son much pious advice and her fervent parting blessing. Alter her death, those honours were rendered to her memory which her stedfast and zealous service to God deserved.