Constantine legalized Christianity and made it the favored, though not yet official, religion of the Empire. When Constantine was fighting for mastery of the Roman Empire he gathered his army in Gaul and crossed the Alps and returned to Italy and moved on Rome, the capital of his enemy Maxentius. The two armies met at the battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312. On the eve of the battle Constantine said he saw a vision in the sky of a cross, with the words, “in this you shall conquer”. Then that night he had a dream in which he was commanded to place a Christian symbol on his soldiers shields and Standard.
Constantine ordered his soldiers to place on their shields and their Standard a Christian symbol. The battle was won by Constantine, and Maxentius fell into the river and drowned and Constantine became the lone master of the entire western half of the Roman Empire. After further battles with Licinius, Constantine emerged as the supreme ruler of the entire Roman Empire.
Out of this relationship between the church and emperor grew the church and state entanglement of the later Roman Empire. Constantine kept the title of the pagan high priest, PONTIFEX MAXIMUS; and his coins still featured some of the pagan gods, notably the Unconquered Sun, from his previous religion. These were
maintained for a decade after his “conversion”.
The Roman church adopted many pagan beliefs and images. December 25 was the birthday of the Sun and SATURNALIA, the Roman winter festival of December 17-21 celebrated the festivities of the giving of gifts and candles and incense of later Christmases.
Many other pagan symbols were Christianized. Many associated Mary with Isis, the Egyptian goddess whose worship had spread throughout the Empire. Isis became identified with many other goddesses of other nations, and was the universal “mother” of later pagan religions.
Isis was called the “Great Virgin” and “Mother of the God” and was naturally identified with Mary. Some surviving images of Isis holding the child Horus are in a pose remarkably like some of the early Christian Madonnas.
In many places saints took the place of pagan gods. While the church never went so far as to say that saints were to be worshipped, it was said that they were in a favored position of influence to hear prayer and present them directly to God. Eventually relics were said to have miraculous powers. Constantine’s mother, Empress Helena, gave momentum to this, when on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, she claimed to have discovered the very cross on which Christ was crucified. Soon the cross was said to have miraculous powers, and pieces of wood from it were found all over the Roman Empire!
Until Constantine Christian worship had been simple and humble. At first they worshipped in private homes. After Constantine’s conversion, Christian worship began to be influenced by imperial splendor. Ministers who had worn everyday clothes began to dress in luxurious garments. Churches built in the time of Constantine were kingly palaces in contrast. And instead of simple preaching by a pastor, the church took the form of a hierarchy of priests, bishops and archbishops, etc.
The day of worship was the “first day of the week”. The day of Christ’s resurrection, and is distinct from the Jewish Sabbath under the Law, according to the gospels, which was a “day of rest”. But under Constantine Sunday was recognized as the “Sabbath” and was decreed as “a day of rest” looking back to the Old Testament, in A.D. 321. Jews were legally discriminated against as evil haters of good.
The Da Vinci code says that the emperor Constantine stopped goddess worship, changed the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday, made Jesus divine, and established the biblical canon at the council of Nicaea in the early fourth century.
But the council of Nicaea did none of these. Goddess worship was never a part of the early church. Sunday— “the first day of the week was recognized as the day of worship from the time of Jesus resurrection. The deity of Christ had been affirmed for almost three hundred years by the time of Nicaea on May 20th 325. Jesus was worshipped and confessed as universal Lord. This was the stance of the Church from the beginning, as we can see from the writings of Paul, the four gospels, and other New Testament writings.
The Biblical canon had already been established. By the second century, the church leaders had already quoted the four gospels, and only them, thousands of times in their writings, and the present New Testament was cited more the 36,000 times.
Sunday was the established day of worship from the very beginning. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was the beginning of a new dispensation, from the law to grace. The Sabbath was never changed but rather it was fulfilled and done away with by Christ.