Constantine’s Gift to Christianity | Benjamin Wiker | Catholic World Report
On the anniversary of Constantine’s conversion, we should consider why the West seems to be converting back to paganism.
On October 28, 312, Emperor Constantine met Emperor Maxentius in battle just outside the city of Rome at the Milvian Bridge, spanning the Tiber. This battle—occurring exactly 1,700 years ago—is one of the most important events in the history of Christendom, since it was through Constantine’s victory that Christendom began. It is a battle well worth reflecting upon.
As is well known, the previous day Constantine experienced a vision of a cross of light in the sky, with the words “By this sign you shall conquer” (in Greek, not Latin, by the way). That night, so we are told, Constantine had a dream wherein he was told to paint the cross on the shields of his soldiers.
He did. And so it happened, as the vision said.
The next day, October 28, 312, Constantine defeated Maxentius. Interestingly enough, Maxentius could have stayed within the walls of Rome. He was plentifully stocked to endure a siege. Inexplicably, he decided to go out and engage Constantine. His troops were defeated, and Maxentius himself drowned in the Tiber trying to escape.
Such was the beginning of Constantine’s embrace of Christianity, and such was the beginning of the transformation of the Roman Empire from paganism to Christianity.
It is, again, a well-known story, and unfortunately, as with other well-known stories, it is not well-known enough, or at least, not thought about deeply enough.
There are, for example, those who take Constantine’s conversion as the beginning of the end of real Christianity. Christianity, they argue, is the Christianity of the early Church, the Church before it became favored and hence entangled with the empire, the pure Church, the Church before Constantine, the Church of the martyrs.
The problem with this romantic vision of the pure early Church is that it wasn’t shared by the early Church. We owe it to them to take things, first of all, from their point of view.