Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hail, Athanasius, Father of Orthodoxy

Tomb of St. Athanasius, Church of San Zaccaria, Venice

Today is the feast of St. Athanasius (d. 373 AD), one of the Four Great Doctors of the Church, who was hailed as the "Pillar of the Church" by St. Gregory Nazianzus.   For dutifully upholding orthodoxy against the Arian heresy, which was favored not only by Roman emperors but also by many of his fellow bishops,  Athanasius suffered exile five times.  The Arians held that the Second Person of the Trinity was created by, and therefore distinct from and inferior to, God the Father.   Islam is a type of Arianism, and Arianism persists today even among Catholics who do not credit the full divinity of Jesus. Though he suffered greatly for his fidelity to doctrine, Athanasius was in the end rewarded by a peaceful death, in the company of his clergy and the faithful of Alexandria.

The following is taken from St. Athanasius' "On the Incarnation of the Word:"

"[T]he good God has given [mankind] a share in His own Image, that is, in our Lord Jesus Christ, and has made even themselves after the same Image and Likeness. Why? Simply in order that through this gift of Godlikeness in themselves they may be able to perceive the Image Absolute, that is the Word Himself, and through Him to apprehend the Father; which knowledge of their Maker is for men the only really happy and blessed life."

St. Athanasius, Pillar of the Church, pray for us.

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