Today we remember fourth-century Roman emperor Constantine and his mother, Helena. Constantine legalized Christianity and stopped the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. Our devotion is an excerpt from The Ecclesiastical History of Sozomen as printed in Treasury of Daily Prayer.
We have been informed that Constantine was led to honor the Christian religion through a combination of events, particularly when a sign from heaven appeared.
When he first decided to go to war against Maxentius, he was plagued with doubts about how he would go about fighting the war and where he could look for help. In the midst of his doubt and worry he received a vision and saw the cross shining in heaven. He was amazed at the sight, but holy angels who were standing by exclaimed, “Constantine! By this sign, conquer!” And it is said that Christ Himself appeared to him, showed him the symbol of the cross, and commanded him to construct one like it and to use it as his help in battle, and it would ensure his victory.
Eusebius, surnamed Pamphilus, affirms that he heard the emperor declare with an oath, as the sun was on the point of inclining about the middle of the day, that he and the soldiers who were with him saw in heaven the trophy of the cross composed of light and encircled by the following words: “By this sign, conquer.” . . .
While he was reflecting on what this could mean, night came. When he fell asleep, Christ appeared with the sign that he had seen in heaven and commanded him to construct a representation of the symbol and to use it as his help in battle. There was nothing further to be said, for the emperor clearly understood the necessity of serving God.
At daybreak he called together the priests of Christ and questioned them concerning their doctrines. They opened the Sacred Scriptures and explained the truths relative to Christ and showed him from the prophets how the signs that had been predicted had been fulfilled. The sign that had appeared to him was the symbol, they said, of the victory over hell, for Christ came among men, was stretched upon the cross, died, and returned to life the third day. On this account, they said, there was hope that at the end of the present age there would be a resurrection from the dead.
Devotional reading is from Treasury of Daily Prayer, page 1300 © 2008 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word;
Curb those who by deceit or sword
Would wrest the kingdom from Your Son
And bring to naught all He has done.
Lord Jesus Christ, Your pow’r make known,
For You are Lord of lords alone;
Defend Your holy Church that we
May sing Your praise eternally.
O Comforter of priceless worth,
Send peace and unity on earth;
Support us in our final strife
And lead us out of death to life.
Hymn is LSB 655.