Oration in Honor of Constantine on the Thirtieth Anniversary of his Reign (c. 342)

 1. This is the festival of our great king. Let us, the royal children, rejoice in it, inspired and instructed by our sacred theme. The leader of our feast is the great king himself. In saying ‘the great king’ I mean him who is truly great. The king who is present with us will not be offended but will rather join in applauding this expression of piety, for I refer to Him who is beyond the universe, the highest of all, the supremely exalted, the supremely great, the thrones of whose kingdom are the vaults of heaven and the earth the footstool of his feet. None can worthily conceive him; the light about him flashes with beams of ineffable brightness, so that none may approach the vision of his godhead. Him the hosts of heaven surround and the supernal powers attend; him they acknowledge as their master, their lord and their king . . . [Eusebius continues to describe the praises of the created order. The passage concludes as follows.] To him, its great king, the whole universe itself gives concerted praise. To him the heavens above, and the choirs beyond the vaults of heaven, give honour. Hosts of angels sing his ineffable praises. Spirits who spring from incorporeal light adore the parent of their being. The timeless ages which were before this heaven and this earth, and still yet other and infinite ages of ages, antecedent to all visible existence , acknowledge him as their sole and supreme sovereign and lord. o him too he who is over all, before all, and after all, the pre‑existent only‑begotten Word makes propitiation for the salvation of a11. He is the great high-priest of the great God; he is older than all time and all ages; he supremely and solely is dedicated to the honour of the Father. His glory is that of supreme ruler , of the universe, and viceroy , of the Father’s kingdom kingdom. He is that light transcending all things which surrounds the Father and stands as both mediator and barrier be­tween the being of created things and the unbegun and uncreated ‑  that light which, streaming down from the godhead that is without end or beginning, goes forth to illuminate all things, both the realm above the heavens and all that is under heaven, with the radiance of a wisdom brighter than the sun in splendour. He then must be ruler of this whole universe ‑ the Word of God, whose presence is all pervasive, over all things, through all things, and in all things both visible and invisible.* From him and through him the king who is dear to God receives an image of the kingdom that is above and so in imitation of that greater king himself guides directs the course of everything on earth.

2. The only-begotten Word of God continues sharing in his Father’ rule from ages without beginning to infinite and endless ages. So too the one who is dear to him, sustained by royal aid emanating from on high an strong in the power of his sacred title, has been exercising an earthly rule for long periods of years. Again, the saviour of the universe is bringing the whole heaven and earth and the kingdom that is above into a condition worthy of his father. So too the one dear to him directs those who come under his control on earth to the only‑begotten saving Word and makes them fit for his kingdom. The one saviour of the universe, like a good shepherd keeping wild beasts far from his flock, drives away by his divine and invincible might the rebellious powers which used to fly about in the air above the earth and harass the souls of men. So too the one dear to him is adorned by him from on high with the trophies of victory over his enemies; by the rule of war he masters the open enemies of the truth and brings them to a right mind.

     The Word who is before the world, the saviour of the universe, imparts seeds of reason and salvation to his disciples, making them ( rational and giving them an understanding of the Father’s kingdom. So too the one dear to him is a kind of spokesman of the divine Word, who summons every race of mankind to a knowledge of the Almighty; he calls aloud in the hearing of all and proclaims in clear tones to everyone on earth the laws of true piety. The saviour of the universe opens wide the heavenly gates of the Father’s kingdom to all who are travelling from this world to the other. And he in his turn, emulating the divine example, reproves every stain of godless error from his earthly kingdom; he invites within in his royal palaces bands of holy and pious men, firmly resolved to save without loss of a single life that whole company whose helmsman and governor he is.

And now, in celebrating this festival, when the all‑sovereign God has granted him the honour of reigning for these three decades, he, alone of all those who have yet ruled the Roman empire,  it not as the ancients did, in honour of earth spirits, of seducing demonic apparitions or of any other of the deceptions or fooleries of godless men; rather, fully conscious of the good things bestowed on him, it is to the one who has thus honoured him that he pays his thank offering. Nor does he follow the ancients in defiling his royal palaces with blood and gore or in appeasing the earth spirits with smoke and fire and the whole burnt offerings of animal sacrifice. Instead he offers to the king of the universe the sacrifice which is dear and pleasing to him, namely his own royal soul and godly spirit. For this is the only appropriate sacrifice ‑ the acceptable sacrifice which our king has been taught to offer not with fire or blood but with purified mind and understanding. With true conviction of soul he holds fast to the ways of piety; with exalted mind he utters the praises s of God; with royal deeds he imitates the divine benevolence. So wholly devoted to God, he presents to him the great offering of his own self, the first‑fruits of the world which has been entrusted to him. This is the first and greatest sacrifice he makes; then, like a good shepherd he offers, not ‘a splendid sacrifice of first-born lambs’ [a reference to Homer's Iliad 4, 102] but the souls of the spiritual lambs within his care, whom he leads to the knowledge and worship of God.

Rejoicing in such an offering, gladly welcoming the proffered gift and delighting in the priest who makes so solemn and noble a sacrifice, God has given to him further long periods of kingly rule, adding to his his sovereign multitude of festivals, and at each ten‑yearly celebration has chosen one of his sons to have a share in the imperial throne, thereby, as it were, giving an increase of time to a healthy and flourishing plant. First of all, to mark the first ten years of his imperial rule he appointed the son who bears his own name to a share in his royal office, to mark the second decade he appointed the next in age, and similarly the third to mark the decade which we are now celebrating. And now as the fourth period begins its course and his allotted time extends still further into the future, he plans to expand his royal authority still further by ungrudging association of his family with himself. [Constantine II was appointed Caesar in 317, Constantiuis II in 323, and Constans in 333. Their cousin Dalmatiius was appointed Caesar in 335. Eusebius does not mention Constantine’s eldest son Crispus, appointed Caesar in 3i’7 and executed in mysterious circumstances in 326.]  By this appointment of Caesars he is fulfilling the oracles of the holy prophets, who long ago declared ‘the saints of the most high will receive the kingdom’ (Dan. 7: 18]. So God himself the all sovereign grants to his beloved king increase alike of time and children and has made his rule over the nations of the world fresh and vigorous, like a plant that is putting forth its shoots. He it is who is granting him this festival, establishing him as victor over all his enemies and foes and providing in him an example of true piety for all the inhabitants of the world. As for our emperor, just as the sun gives light to those who dwell in the very furthest parts by means of the rays that stream out from it into the distance, so he assigns his sons to the corners of the globe as lamps and torches bearing the light of which he is the source ‑ to us whose home is in the east he gives a son worthy of himself, and to other races yet others of his children. These noble Caesars he has harnessed, as it were, under a single yoke as the four horses of his royal chariot. He himself directs and guides from on high with the reins of an inspired harmony and concord. At one and the same time he traverses the whole world under the sun; he himself is present to all; he himself oversees all.

The kingdom which he is invested is an image of the heavenly one. He looks up to see the archetypal pattern and p guides those favours in response to the worship given to him. With freedom God has granted him the celebration of whom he rules below in accordance with that pattern. The example of monarchical  rule there is a source of strength to him. This is something granted man alone of the creatures of the earth by the universal King. The basic principle of kingly authority is the estab­lishment of a single source of authority to which everything is subject. Monarchy is superior to every other constitution and form of government. For polyarchy, where everyone competes on equal terms, is really anarchy and discord. This is why there is one God, not two three or even more. Polytheism is strictly atheism. There is one king, and his Word and royal law are one. That Word is not something expressed ‘in phrases or syllables not something that takes a period of time to write down with a pen; he is the living and existent divine Word dispensing to all those under him and after him the kingdom of his Father. The heavenly hosts surround him, the myriads of God’s ministering angels, the great company of the supernal armies and of the invisible spirits of the lower heavens who play their part in maintaining the order of the whole world. And at the head of all these is the royal Word as a viceroy of the great king. The inspired voices of the sacred writers have honoured him with countless titles ‑ captain of the host, great high‑priest, prophet of the Father, angel of great counsel, effulgence of paternal light, only­ begotten son. He who begat him made him to be living word, law, wisdom, the full complement of every good and gave him to all who are subject to his kingdom as a gift embodying the greatest goods. He pervades all things and reaches to every place. He unfolds God’s favours bountifully to all, including even the rational creation on this earth. On them he has bestowed a copy of kingly authority, in that he has furnished the soul of man, made after his own image, with divine powers. From that same source the soul receives as an outcome of divine emanation its participation in the other virtues also. For he only is wise who is also the only God. He alone is essentially good; he alone is truly powerful, he is the begetter of righteousness, the Father of Word and wisdom, the source of light and life, the dispenser of truth and virtue; so too he is the author of kingship itself and of all rule and authority.