Christianization of Rome

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Christianization of Rome

In the third and the fourth century, the course of becoming a follower of the Christian faith was thorny and a complex one. But something was appealing enough that motivated and encouraged people to take dire measures and become a Christian and motivated the pagan Constantine to change not only the course to Christianity but also the incentive to become one.

Before the reign of Constantine the path to Christianity was not easy. It was a path that asked the converts for complete submission and dedication. They not only had to change their beliefs but also their perspective on life and their entire lifestyle. This process of Christianization consisted of four stages.

Stage one of evangelization was one during which the candidate would meet Christians and after discussing with them about their religion would decide to become one. Once the church receives the application it would run a background check on the candidate’s lifestyle and life choices before promoting him to stage two of the process.

Once cleared by the Church the candidate enters stage two, the catechumenate. It was this stage where the candidate would be asked to change everything about him, a complete transformation. This was a prolong process where the candidate held several meeting with the church to help him with the instruction of the conversion process. Sometime this stage would last 5 years but time was very subjective and could take more or less.

Once the church was satisfied with the catechumen’s performance as being creditable enough for being a Christian, he was promoted to stage three, the enlightenment. Enlightenment dealt with the individual’s belief. After a long process of orthodox teachings and frequent exorcism to stay pure the individual was baptized.

Mystagogy was the final stage for the new convert. In this final stage the catechists would share his experience of Eucharistic rites in the week succeeding Easter.

This entire process, whether intentionally or not, was drastically changed by the emperor Constantine. Some might disagree with it but if you look back at Constantine’s successors and all the laws that came along after him you see a clear track line going back to Constantine.

In 312, Constantine saw a dream the night before the decisive battle. He saw a skewed letter X with its head top bowed around and the words "By this conquer” attached to it[1]. The Christian back then thought it was a labarum but there have been some dispute among scholars of the subject if it was something truly Christian or symbolic ancient paganism. Regardless of what the symbol actually represented the reality of the fact is that it was accepted as Christian by Constantine and he had the sign attached to all his soldier’s armor the next day. In fact, this event became so significant to Constantine that he adapted the motto hoc signo vinces which translates as “in this sign conquer”[2]. He entered the battle with that sign and was victorious. Constantine completely honored the labarum as the raison d'être for his triumph against Maxentius.

This success over Maxentius under the banner of Christianity would in due course lead to a Constantine meeting with Licinius in Milan the following year in 313 A.D[3]. Constantine and Licinius during the meeting came to a mutual agreement according to which the empire would take neutral stance in terms of religious worship. This agreement is commonly known as the edict of Milan. It established Christian tolerance in the empire and returned back all the properties that had been held from them[4]. Free from persecution Christianity became an appealing religion to convert to.

Constantine was certainly favoring the Christian belief but did he convert? He declared the bishops as his dearly loved brethren and would later even position himself below them and yet never went through the four...
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