May 02, 2003

Today is the 1630th anniversary

Today is the 1630th anniversary of earthly repose of our Father among the Saints Athanasius the Great. St Athanasius was one of the first of the heroes of the Faith of whom I possessed an icon. Not being entirely convinced of the veneration of the holy icons at the time, and being a bit cheap when it came to such things, I bought the smallest icon possible. It also happened to be the one that was in stock at the Orthodox bookstore.

Even then, I knew that if there was a man in the history of the Church to admire and emulate, it was St Athanasius. He was a shining light for orthodoxy during a prolonged struggle within the Church that challenged the most important doctrines upon which she is founded. Barely out of his teens, he published one of the seminal works in the entire body of literature produced by the Fathers of the Church, On the Incarnation. Read it. (And be sure to read the introduction by C S Lewis Ė it is one of his best essays, and to saw that of Lewis is saying a lot.)

Even as a deacon, he saved the day in that spiritual battlefield that was the Council of Nicea. He argued the truth of the eternal existence of the Son of God, confounding those who would oppose the truth. Nicea was one of the defining events of the Church. It is Athanasius that put the Council in a position to draft the Creed that would forever draw the line between what is Christian belief at its very core and what is not.

But though the Arians might have gone down on the day, they did not go down without a fight. And when they could convince emperors and governors that there was a time when the Son of God was not, they were able by force to depose bishops.

Athanasius contra mundum. Athanasius against the world. The war wasnít over at Nicea. During his 46 years as bishop of Alexandria, he was exiled five times when Arians got the upper hand. Yet he never stopped fighting the good fight. Iíve known a lot of good men get depressed and give up the ministry of the Gospel for a lot less.

To his final days, he continued to preach and write about doctrine of the Incarnation as he had written about as a youth, and as had been upheld at Nicea.

That we might contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints, Holy Father Athanasius, pray to God for us!

Posted by david at May 2, 2003 10:28 PM