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September 14, 2019

Did the Cross of Christ Expose and Kill Arius?

According to the historian Socrates, when Helen the mother of Emperor Constantine discovered the True Cross, she left a portion of the Cross in Jerusalem, enclosed in a silver case, as a memorial to those who might wish to see it. "The other part she sent to the emperor, who being persuaded that the city would be perfectly secure where that relic should be preserved, privately enclosed it in his own statue, which stands on a large column of porphyry in the forum called Constantine's at Constantinople. I have written this from report indeed; but almost all the inhabitants of Constantinople affirm that it is true" (Eccl. Hist. 1, 17). From this report therefore we are informed that a portion of the True Cross was placed by Emperor Constantine in the Porphyry Column in the Forum of Constantinople for the protection of the city.

The next time Socrates mentions the Porphyry Column in the Forum of Constantine was when he describes the death of the arch-heretic Arius. There we read (Eccl. Hist. 1, 38) how Arius, to avoid punishment, made a false confession of the orthodox faith before the emperor to deceive him that he accepted the faith propounded at the Synod of Nicaea. The emperor accepted his confession, and ordered that he be received back into communion with the Church. Socrates then informs us:

"It was then Saturday, and Arius was expecting to assemble with the church on the day following, but divine retribution overtook his daring criminalities. For going out of the imperial palace, attended by a crowd of Eusebian partisans like guards, he paraded proudly through the midst of the city, attracting the notice of all the people. As he approached the place called Constantine's Forum, where the column of porphyry is erected, a terror arising from the remorse of conscience seized Arius, and with the terror a violent relaxation of the bowels. He therefore enquired whether there was a convenient place near, and being directed to the back of Constantine's Forum, he hastened there. Soon after a faintness came over him, and together with the evacuations his bowels protruded, followed by a copious hemorrhage, and the descent of the smaller intestines. Moreover portions of his spleen and liver were brought off in the effusion of blood, so that he almost immediately died. The scene of this catastrophe still is shown at Constantinople, as I have said, behind the shambles in the colonnade, and by persons going by pointing the finger at the place, there is a perpetual remembrance preserved of this extraordinary kind of death."

We are thus informed that Arius was struck with terror in his conscience when passing the Forum of Constantine in which was the Porphyry Column that contained the relic of the True Cross, and that the latrine where his bowels spilled out was located in the back of the Forum. Does this indicate that the Cross of Christ exposed the deceptive Arius who was parading through the streets of Constantinople and in turn brought about his death? This is what Socrates at least seems to imply.