by St. Constantine the Great
Emperor and Equal to the Apostles, St. Constantine the Great (early 4th century) was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, establishing a policy of religious toleration that paved the way for the freer expansion of the Church. This text is taken from his great oration ‘To the Assembly of the Saints’ – an extensive examination of several Christian topics. That presented here is the opening chapter, dealing with the life-creating Resurrection of the Lord.
To the Assembly of the Saints
That light which far outshines the day and sun, first pledge of resurrection, and renovation of bodies long since dissolved, the divine token of promise, the path which leads to everlasting life — in a word, the day of the Passion — is arrived, best beloved doctors; and ye, my friends who are assembled here, ye blessed multitudes who worship Him who is the author of all worship and praise Him continually with heart and voice, according to the precepts of His holy word.
But thou, Nature, parent of all things: what blessing like to this hast thou ever accomplished for mankind? Nay rather, what is in any sense thy workmanship, since He who formed the universe is Himself the author of thy being? For it is He who has arrayed thee in thy beauty; and the beauty of Nature is life according to Nature’s laws.
But principles quite opposed to Nature have mightily prevailed, in that men have agreed in withholding His rightful worship from the Lord of all, believing that the order of the universe depended, not on His providence, but on the blind uncertainty of chance. And this they did, notwithstanding the clearest announcement of the truth by His inspired prophets, whose words should have claimed belief, but were in every way resisted by that impious wickedness which hates the light of truth and loves the obscure mazes of darkness.
Nor was this error unaccompanied by violence and cruelty, especially in that the will of princes encouraged the blind impetuosity of the multitude, or rather itself led the way in the career of reckless folly.
Such principles as these, confirmed by the practice of many generations, became the source of terrible evils in those early times: but no sooner had the radiance of the Saviour’s presence appeared, than justice took the place of wrong, a calm succeeded the confusion of the storm, and the predictions of the prophets were all fulfilled.
For after He had enlightened the world by the glorious discretion and purity of His character, and had ascended to the mansions of His Father’s house, He founded His Church on earth, as a holy temple of virtue, an immortal, imperishable temple, wherein the worship due to the Supreme Father and to Himself should be piously performed.