Constantine and importance of his reign to the church of Latin West
The church has gone through various persecution phases some of which have even threatened to wipe out Christianity from the face of the earth. An instance of such Christian persecution was seen during reign of the Roman Empire. During that period, Christianity went through the worst kind of persecution yet to be seen in the church age. The entire world was ruled by the Roman Empire and each emperor held distaste for Christians in several ways. Though this was the case, there are some emperors who supported the church and a good example is Emperor Constantine I. The purpose of this paper is to explore Constantine and importance of his reign to the church of Latin West.
He was born on February 27th 273 at Naissus to Constantius Flavius and Helena, his wife. During that time, the Roman Empire was divided into two, the Ease and the West. Though his father was deputy assistant empire in the West, he was brought up in the East where he ascended to several military ranks under emperors Galerius and Diocletian. Constantine was recalled to the west in 305 after his father rose to the rank of an Augustus. In 306, he became the emperor upon his father’s death. He also fought a series of civil wars against emperors Maxentius and Licinius and prevailed as the emperor for both the eastern and western emperors. Constantine was born and raised a pagan but it is believed under the influence of his mother, he converted to Christianity. However, he never declared his status until at the age of forty two. During his reign, Christianity in the East and Western parts of the empire flourished (Leadbetter 1).
The Church in the Latin West
Before division of the empire into the east and west, there was a centralized government that held these two sides together by a central government and the church. However, once divided, the east and western parts of the empire grew in differing directions and the church as well grew into different directions. When Constantine came into power however, he made the attempt to bridge these two sides and made the church the unifying factor. In this regard, the Western Latin Church benefited from that unification process in numerous ways as they are highlighted in this section (Louth 55).
The Importance of Constantine’s Reign on the Church in the Latin West
Various reforms were instituted by Constantine in Western Latin Church. He managed to dismantle all the religions of old state and transferred the assets and functions to Latin west church and the Eastern Church. This proved to be of great help to the church as it provided the financial resources that were badly needed. Constantine institutionalized the church to make it function like any other administrative units which ensured management and operation efficiency in the church. Therefore, the church formed different centers in the civitates where the bishop was the chief administrator in Civitate (The Reformed Reader par.3).
Civitates were municipalities that created basic unit of government in the empire. The positions were occupied through participation of community members in the election of bishops. The elected were approved by imperial government representative and confirmed via a ceremony where the individual would be clothed in specific uniform an symbols of the office they held. The ceremony was conducted by 2 or more bishops who represented ratification of the church in the selection. The official attire as well as coronation ceremonies for bishops were part of activities adopted in Latin West church. However, a Civitate was administered at municipal headquarter and this was not in favor of the Latin West church congregation as most of the members were in rural areas as such, it was not easy for the pagans to be converted into Christians. Nevertheless, the reforms proved effective in overall church administration since it made it possible for the locals to elect someone they deemed fit to serve as their bishop (Arakaki par. 4).
The practice, however allowed the local communities to choose the kind of person they wanted to serve as their bishop. Some picked leaders who appeared spiritual and who did not indulge in secular worldly matters while others preferred men who were experienced and rich, especially from the Roman Empire. In the West, this contributed to reintegration of senatorial nobilities of Romans who were excused from civil responsibilities in society. Also, this placed the church in the direction of people who had knowledge on the nature and meaning of Christian faith (Arakaki par. 5).
Further, Constantine helped the church in developing a unified definition of Christian faith in relation to nature of Jesus Christ. During that period, the church was divided on accounts of followers of Arianism and Athanasius. The divisions occurred as the result of a Priest known as Arius together with his followers who were in support of Arianism. They strongly held that Jesus was a human who was bestowed with divine powers. Their opponents followed Bishop Athanasius who held Jesus was the son of God, the creator and that both were identical and equal with the Holy Spirit. In pursuit to solve the dispute, Constantine assembled Christian bishops in Nicaea city to discuss the matter and helped to unify the definition of the nature of Jesus Christ on accounts of Athanasius. Later, the agreement led to adoption of Athanasian Creed (Louth 54).
Further, Constantine regulated Christian literature in order to ensure there was order and authenticity in materials produced and the process birthed the New Testament Bible for Latin West Church. Christian literature over the years have been produced in a fashion that is uncontrolled. Some of these materials are as old as those produced in 60AD and included records of the early church. Constantine established a commission of scholars so they could verify authenticity of the materials. The scholars edited the materials and produced the earliest New Testament form known as Septuagint used by both the Western and Eastern Latin churches. However, the Septuagint was modified by the western church to create a common bible that was understandable and which to date, is in use (Arakaki par. 7).
Further, Constantine carried out legal reforms in order to ensure various practices in the Eastern and Western church were respected and appreciated by everyone in the state. For example, on March 7th, 321 Constantine declared Sunday as the official rest day and this helped the church to marshal membership into church services. No one was supposed to go to farms or markets on Sundays and public offices were closed. Also, slaves were given fair treatment and on that day, games were not played. This means churches were opened on Sundays and majority of people would flock there as they were not working (Louth 56). To date, this law is still in use and has proven to be of great help to the church where all public offices remain closed on Sundays.
Arakaki, Robert. “Roman Emperor, Christian Saint, A Turning Point in History.” 2012. Department of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. 14 November 2013 http://www.preteristarchive.com/Rome/articles/0000_constantine_turning-point.htm
Leadbetter, Bill. “Constantine And The Bishop: The Roman Church In The Early Fourth Century.” Journal Of Religious History 26.1 (2002): 1. Academic Search Complete. Web. 14 Nov. 2013.
Louth, Andrew. Greek East and Latin West: The Church, AD 681-1071. Moscow : St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007. Availlable at: http://books.google.co.ke/books?id=WlpPjOlVzQwC&pg=PA55&lpg=PA55&dq=the+Church+of+the+Latin+West+during+Constantine&source=bl&ots=uG9EscqlFm&sig=qkogvPawzPIBVEESZHzzWUgAFe4&hl=en&sa=X&ei=WL6DUou9FIKH0AWHvYDYDQ&ved=0CGIQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=the%20Church%20of%20the%20Latin%20West%20during%20Constantine&f=false
The Reformed Reader. “Three Hundred To Four Hundred A.D.” 1999. The Reformed Reader. 14 Nov 2013 http://www.reformedreader.org/history/dugger/ch07.htm
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