Thursday, February 27, 2014

Constantine the Great


As a Knight Companion of the Red Cross of Constantine, we learn about the background of the Emperor Constantine and the story behind his famous conversion to Christianity. He was the first Emperor to convert to Christianity and was a major turning point in the history of Christianity. Please be aware that some points of his life may vary depending on the source.

The Emperor Constantine was also known as Constantine the Great, Constantine I, and Saint Constantine, but his full name in Latin was Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus. Constantine and would serve as a Roman Emperor from 306 AD until his death in 337 AD. He was born into an unstable and divided empire. He was born on the 27th of February in 272 AD in what is now Niš, Serbia. His father, Constantius, was a Roman officer as part of Emperor Aurelian's imperial bodyguard and would eventually be elevated to Governor of Dalmatia from Emperor Diocletian. Diocletian in 285 declared that Maximian, a friend, would serve as "co-emperor" (or Augustus) and each Emperor would have his own court, military, and administration. Maximian ruled from what is now Milan (Italy) or Trier (Germany) while Diocletian served from Nicomedia (or what is now Izmit, Turkey). This Empire was still considered as one, but needed two Emperors to control the vast expanse.

In 293, Diocletian further complicated the matter by appointing two Caesars, or lesser Emperor's, to rule under the Augusti (plural form of Augustus). This system would become to be known as the "Tetrarchy" or "Leadership of Four". Diocletian's reasoning behind this was that the Roman Empire had grown so large that it needed to be divided up to better control and manage the lands as they had of late started falling into ruin from lack of control and maintenance. The two Caesars chosen were Galerius and Constantius. Even though the Caesar title was an appointed position not hereditary, Constantine was already being eyed to take his father's place upon his death.

Constantine was sent to the Court of Diocletian where he received a formal education in Latin literature, Greek, and philosophy. While this life was beneficial to Constantine he was probably hostage of Diocletian to ensure the loyalty of his father to the Augustus. Constantine would prove himself by fighting in Asia, the Danube region, Syria, and Mesopotamia. By 305 AD he was established a prominent member of the court and had become a Tribune of the First Order. Diocletian resigned in the spring of 305 AD because of lingering sickness and around the same time, Maximian resigned as well. There is debate as to the real motivation of their resignations, but we cannot know for sure by any current records. Constantius and Galerius were promoted to Augusti and everyone believed that Constantine and Maxentius (some of Maximian) would be promoted to Caesar, but they were not and Severus and Maximin took the positions; some believe that Galerius feared Constantine and made attempts on his life and forced Diocletian not to promote him. Eventually his father would ask for Constantine to lead a campaign in Britain and remove him from the grip of Galerius. During this campaign in Britain, Constantine's father became sick and died in the summer of 306 AD at Ebucarum (known today as York). Prior to his death he had given his support to his son being elevated to Augustus and those troops loyal to his father consented.

Upon notice though Galerius stated that he would only elevate Constantine to Caesar and Constantine accepted, probably realizing that his legitimacy may be questioned if he rocked the boat and thus started his career as a Roman Emperor. His original share consisted of Britain, Gual, and Spain, and commanded one of the largest armies in the Roman Empire. After completing some military projects he headed for Trier and help drive the Franks back who recently had invaded the lands. He fortified Trier and built a palace for himself there. He would also start many construction projects around Gaul. He also implemented more tolerant policies to the Christian within his lands, though he was not yet Christian.

During this time, Maxentius grew jealous of Constantine and in the fall of 306 AD took upon himself the title of Emperor. Galerius did not recognize Maxentius' authority and sent Severus against him, but most of the troops defected to Maxentius as they had previously served under his father. Maximian came out of retirement to meet with Constantine in 307 and offered him his daughter, Fausta, as well as the promise to promote him to Augusta. In return Constantine would give his support to Maxentius. To all of this he accepted. His support was purely political as he was not directly involved in the conflict for power and remained on his lands, which increased his popularity with the people. Galerius tried to use coercion to demote Constantine from his newly granted Augustus to Caesar, but Constantine held onto the title.

As a sign of the turbulent times, in 310 AD, Maximian would turn on Constantine and tried to convince people he was dead so he could retake up the mantle as Emperor, but most didn't believe him and he was forced to flee. Constantine learning of the conspiracy marched on what is now Marseille to capture Maximian. He accomplished this goal as the citizens were loyal to Constantine and opened the gates when the army approached. Maximian would, with some supposed encouragement, hang himself in the summer of 310 AD. The death of Maximian would fuel the propaganda fires for Maxentius and also posed a problem of legitimacy for Constantine as it was by Maximian that he derived his tile of Augustus from. Whether true or not, stories started to spread that Constantine could tie his family line back to Emperor Claudius II. Orators started saying that Constantine was divinely inspired by Apollo, versus previous uses of either Jupiter or Hercules. The orations worked and his popularity with the people increased, particularly in Gaul.

In 311 AD, Galerius died and soon successors were mobilizing against each other, but Licinius is the victor. Maxentius was preparing for war, but even though he had been tolerant of the Christians of Italy his rule was not very stable. In the Summer Maxentius and Constantine moved against each other. Maxentius didn't move as quickly as Constantine did as the omens spoke against it, but soon Constantine crossed the Alps, at the pass of Mt. Cenis, with a fourth of his army and would soon face a large cavalry force of Maxentius near Turin, but would defeat them and taking the city. Other cities gave no fight and let Constantine pass by and soon he moved upon Milan where he rested for a time. They defeated Maxentius' troops at Verona, Aquileia, Modena, and Ravenna. It was time for Constantine to march on Rome.

Maxentius prepared for a siege which left the rest of the country relatively undefended and easy to take for Constantine. The siege took its toll on Rome and soon Maxentius decided to face Constantine at what would be known as the Battle of Saxa Rubra or the Battle of Milvian Bridge.

It was the nights prior to this battle that Constantine is said to have had his vision which caused him to adopt the cross and gain the protection of the Christian God. In the vision he said to look into the sky and seen a cross of light with it the words "In Hoc Signo Vinces" which translates into "in this sign you shall conquer." The next night Christ is said to have appeared before him saying to use this sign against the enemies of Constantine and that he would be victorious. Constantine then ordered that the labarum (the military standards or banners) to be decorated with the Chi-Rho

On October 28th, 312 AD, Maxentius led his forces believing he had the blessings of his gods. He stood his army in front of Milvian Bridge which today is known as Ponte Milvio near a village along the Flamian road called Saxa Rubra, and in Constantine's time was used to carry Via Flaminia across the Tiber River. The two armies battled and it was Constantine who came out the victor as it is said that Maxentius had placed his troops too close to the river and thus prevented them from regrouping. In comparison, Constantine's army was experienced and disciplined from its time fighting in the outer provinces while Maxentius' troops were not. The army of Maxentius retreated with heavy losses with Maxentius among those who had died, having drowned trying to escape across the river. The head of Maxentius was sent to the lands loyal to him and they gave no resistance. He entered Rome with the pomp and pageantry that one would assume to see with a major victory landed, and made the necessary reforms to solidify his rule and denounce Maxentius as a tyrant. In the East, the allies of Maxentius were defeated by Licinius.

In 313, Licinius and Constantine met in Milan where the "Edict of Milan" was established which granted full tolerance for the Christian faith as well as all religions in the Empire. Licinius left the meeting early to deal with a rival and after defeating him, gained full control over the entire eastern half of the Roman Empire. The friendship or alliance of Constantine and Licinius would fall apart and would lead to the Battle of Cibalae. The alliance would degrade after Constantine finds out that his Caesar, Bassianus, has conspired against him. Bassianus is the brother of Senecio, a close friend of Licinius. After Licinius refused to hand over Senecio, Constantine marched against Licinius.

The two met near the town of Cibalae (now Vinkovci, Croatia) and the battle lasted the entire day. Constantine led a charge of cavalry that broke the ranks of Licinius' troops. Licinius and those who survived fled during the night to Sirmium before heading to Thrace. After a failed peace talk, the two met against at the Battle of Mardia in 317 AD which ended with large losses on both sides. An agreement was made and more land was given to Constantine. From this new deal he gained control of Macedonia and the Balkans which gave him the ability to wage wars against the Goths and Sarmatians.

In 320, Licinius violated the Edict of Milan and started oppressing Christians again which led to instability and a civil war in 324 AD between Licinius and Constantine. At the Battle of Adrianople (near what is now the border of Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey), Constantine was outnumbered, but came out victorious. He won the Battles of Hellespont and Chrysopolis which included a naval battle where Crispus commanded, and by the end of September of 324 AD Licinius and his followers surrendered to Constantine with the promise that their lives would be spared if they lived out the rest of their lives as peaceful citizens. The next year Licinius was accused of plotting against Constantine and was hanged. It was from this defeat and death of Licinius that Constantine reunited the Empire under one Augustus.


Licinius' defeat was symbolic of Christianity's victory over the pagan religions. Plans started to be designed to create a new capitol in the East that should represent the reunited Empire and be a center of enlightenment, trade, and culture. Many places were suggested, but Constantine finally decided to build this capitol on the Greek city of Byzantium (known today as Istanbul). Byzantium already had the infrastructure and structure brought there by previous Roman Emperors. The city was renamed Constantinopolis or Constantinople in English.

Today Constantine stands as a preeminent figure in history with his conversion to Christianity, his defeat over Maxentius, and reuniting the Empire under one ruler being his most famous calling cards. What is also remembered is his role in the Council of Nicaea.

In early Christianity there was no central authority and many disputes arose among priests and bishops. In 325, Constantine seeing the problems called an ecumenical council, known as the first Council of Nicaea, which is most famous for its opposition to Arianism, settling the issue of the nature of the Son of God and his relationship to God the Father, promulgation of early Canon law, the observance of Easter, and for implementing the Nicene Creed.

After the Nicaean Council, he would enact other laws protecting Christians throughout the realm. One such law forbade Jews from owning Christian slaves or circumcising their slaves. He also economic and trade reforms, military reform, and infrastructure projects.

In 326, Constantine put his wife Fausta and his eldest son from another woman, Crispus, to death because it was believed they were having an affair with each other and thus guilty of adultery.

He continued to battle barbarian forces in the outer provinces, but towards the end of his reign he planned on attacking the Persians who were persecuting the Christians in the Middle East. His goal was to liberate the Christian people of the land as well as be baptized in the River Jordan. Though Constantine had helped the Christians there was nothing to suggest he fully embraced the faith himself, but towards the end of his life he desired to be baptized. In the spring of 337 the campaign would be called off as Constantine grew sick and knew his time was short. While in Nicomedia he summoned Eusebius to perform the sacred ceremony. He died soon after the baptism was performed on May 22nd, 337. His body was taken to Constantinople where it was laid to rest at the Church of the Holy Apostles. With the death of Constantine, his sons Constantine II, Constantius II and Constans split the empire. Even though he had converted to Christianity at his deathbed, the Roman Republic still deified him as pagan Emperors had been in the past.

Constantine was a great warrior and by many of his projects is remembered as a great leader, but he was also very controversial as we can see with his life. He left a lasting mark with Constantinople and with reuniting the Empire for a short time. He would be venerated by the Byzantine Empire as well as the Holy Roman Empire as he helped pave the way for Christian dominance and culture in Europe and the Byzantine Empire.

References

1. Leclercq, H. (1911). The First Council of Nicaea. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved February 14, 2014 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11044a.htm

2. A History of Constantine. (2007, July 31). Retrieved from Constantine the Great Coins: http://www.constantinethegreatcoins.com/hist/

3. Constantine I. (n.d.). Retrieved from Encyclopedia Britannica: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/133873/Constantine-I

4. Battle of the Milvian Bridge. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Milvian_Bridge

5. Constantine Speaks. (n.d.). Retrieved from Roman Army Military Reenactment: http://www.legionxxiv.org/constans/

6. Battle of Cibalae. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Cibalae 

7. Constantine the Great. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantine_I

8. Lendering, J. (n.d.). Constantine the Great. Retrieved from Livius: http://www.livius.org/cn-cs/constantine/constantine.html

9. Constantine the Great. (n.d.). Retrieved from Illustrated History of the Roman Empire: http://www.roman-empire.net/decline/constantine-index.html

10. Council of Nicaea. (n.d.). Retrieved from Christian History Institute: https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/study/module/nicea/ 

11. Diocletian. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diocletian

12. Tetrarchy. (n.d.). Retrieved from Dictionary.com: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/tetrarchy

13. Scannell, T. (1909). Diocletian. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved February 14, 2014 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05007b.htm

14. Tetrarchy. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetrarchy

15. Maxentius. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maxentius 

16. Roman Empire is Split into Two Pieces. (n.d.). Retrieved from Ancient Rome for Kids: http://rome.mrdonn.org/twoempires.html

17. First Council of Nicaea. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Council_of_Nicaea

18. Hickman, K. (n.d.). Roman Empire: Battle of the Milvian Bridge. Retrieved from About.com: http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/battleswarsto1000/p/milvianbridge.htm 

19. Herbermann, C., & Grupp, G. (1908). Constantine the Great. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved February 14, 2014 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04295c.htm

20. A Timeline of the Roman Empire. (n.d.). Retrieved from Piero Scaruffi: http://www.scaruffi.com/politics/romans.html

21. Diocletian. (n.d.). Retrieved from Encyclopedia Britannica: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/164042/Diocletian

Monday, February 24, 2014

Masonic Order of the Bath

Originally called the Wahoo Band, the Masonic Order of the Bath is a degree that would be labelled as "fun" and is open to all Master Masons in good standing. This group should not be confused with the chivalric order found in England. The first Band formed in June 21st, 1921, in Red Bank, NJ, by 9 Brothers from Mystic Brotherhood Lodge #21. This group did not bring in any new members for 6-years and it wasn't until January 20th, 1931, that they reached 20-members as well as bringing in 3 honorary members. By 1942, they had 37 active members and 56 honorary members.

In 1941, the organization went through a reformation where it was renamed the Masonic Order of the Bath for the United States of America while the Wahoo Band became an appended degree. The Order continued to expand with honorary members where in 1955 they had 393 honorary members with the 37 active members.

When one is initiated he is consecrated, created and dubbed a Knight of the Masonic Order of the Bath of the United States of America. The Order is led by a High Council with the following elected officers: Commander-General, Deputy Commander-General, Lt. Commander-General, Captain General, Keeper of the Bath Keys, Keeper of the Bath Records, Keeper of the Bath Door, and Keeper of the Bath Mat. This body currently meets during the Masonic Week held on the East Coast each year. A petitioner currently pays $25 for lifetime membership and this body, as one of my Brothers put it, "the social and charitable aspects of Masonry reign supreme."

I had the pleasure of going through this 2-weeks ago and being the active candidate along with Nigel Willows, First Grand Master Mason of the Operatives.


References

1. Hodgkins, J. (2011). Masonic Week for the Uninitiated. Retrieved from Scottish Rite of Freemasonry: http://scottishrite.org/about/media-publications/journal/article/masonic-week-for-the-uninitiated/

2. Origin and History. (n.d.). Retrieved from Masonic Order of the Bath for the USA: http://bath.albertpikedemolay.org/

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Finished with Masonic Week

Well, today was an exciting day. The first meeting for me was the Grand College of Rites and I want to congratulate Lonnie, the new Grand Chancellor, and Jerry, the new Grand Registrar, for being elected as well as all of the new officers. I also want to congratulate Most Illustrious Pierre "Pete" Normand on his year as 2013-2014 Grand Chancellor. The Philalethes Society threw a great luncheon with Arturo de Hoyos as the guest speaker.

With the afternoon came the Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degress (AMD) of the United States of America and a very interesting session and which lasted quite a while. Once that was finished the Grand Master's Council met and I was initiated into the AMD. I was caught off guard at first when they said I was going through, but I'd like to thank Reed and Joe for this. Next was the Banquet of the Grand Council of the AMD. At this banquet the new officers were installed with Robert Davis as Sovereign Grand Master, but I was happy to be in attendance to see the Grand Council of Romania of AMD established and the Sovereign Grand Master Gabi Gherasim installed.


After a quick changing of clothing I attended and was initiated into the Masonic Order of the Bath which was a fun degree to go through. The rest of the night was spent sipping on Scotch and talking shop with a few other Brothers. It was good to see Brothers from all over the United States, Brazil, Italy, Romania, England, and Canada. I can't wait for next years meetings.

Now I sit at the Dulles Airport, ready to head home and I hope that this trip going home is smoother than coming here.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Masonic Week 2014 So Far

Well, what a crazy last few days this has been. The trip started off very rough. I was supposed to arrive in Dulles International Airport on Wednesday night, but a large snowstorm slapped the East Coast and cancelled my flight out of Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. They booked me on flights the following morning so I had a chance to go and visit Unizar Lodge #347 with Nick from the Millennial Freemason. After the Lodge meeting, a few of us went over to a Brothers house and had some drinks as well as some great discussions; I particularly enjoyed my discussion with a Past Grand Master of the MWPHGL of Minnesota on the history of Prince Hall Masonry. The next morning a Brother dropped me off at the airport where I was met with cancelled flight after cancelled flight. After racing around the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport I got settled on a reservation that would get me to Baltimore via Detroit the following morning, Friday, which meant that I missed the St. Thomas of Acon meetings. The silver lining for Thursday is that I gained a beautiful traveling companion coming from Winnipeg and we kept each other company while we were stuck at the airports.

Friday morning came and I made it to Baltimore. I had to take a bus, 2 changes on the DC Metro, and one taxi cab to get to the Hyatt in Reston. As I arrived, I ran into 2 good friends and they helped me get checked in and up to my hotel room where I took one of the greatest showers ever. Afterward I ran into Brother Brent Morris and others in a great discussion. Afterward I attended meetings of the Sovereign Order of the Knights Preceptor, the Masonic Society banquet, and the Order of Corks. At the banquet of the Masonic Society I was honored to sit with Dr. Mike Kearsley (Prestonian Lecture 2014), Chris Hodapp, and several others. We listened to Bro. Robert Davis give an excellent presentation on the authenticity of Freemasonry and the obligations we have as a Fraternity to our members.



By the end of the day I was just exhausted, but I stayed up talking with several Brothers who came up to the Hospitality Suite. Once I was able to get to bed and my head hit my pillows though I was gone to the world. Here I am though fully recharged and ready for the day. On today's schedule is the Allied Masonic Degrees, the Grand College of Rites, and the Order of Bath. I look forward to it all.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Invictus

By William Ernest Henley


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.


Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.