Icon "St. Athanasius"
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St. Athanasius of Alexandria
St Athanasius is a renowned Christian theologian, a Church Father, and the chief defender of Trinitarianism against Arianism.
St Athanasius was born in the capital of Egypt Alexandria in 295. He came from a Christian family. His parents were poor but he received an esteemed secular learning but studied the Scriptures diligently. St Athanasius seems to have been brought early in life under the immediate supervision of the ecclesiastical authorities of his native city. A story has been preserved by Rufinus (Hist. Eccl., I, xiv). Bishop Alexander, so the tale runs, had invited a number of fellow prelates to meet him at breakfast after a great religious function. While Alexander was waiting for his guests to arrive, he stood by a window, watching a group of boys at play on the seashore below the house. He had not observed them long before he discovered that they were imitating the elaborate ritual of Christian baptism. He sent for the children and, in the investigation that followed, it was discovered that one of the boys (none other than Athanasius) had acted the part of the bishop and in that character had actually baptized several of his companions in the course of their play. Alexander determined to recognize the make-believe baptisms as genuine, and decided that Athanasius and his playfellows should go into training in order to prepare themselves for a clerical career.
Not long after this, Bishop Alexander invited Athanasius to be his commensal and secretary. He was ordained a deacon by the contemporary patriarch, Alexander of Alexandria, in 319. In 325, he served as Alexander's secretary at the First Council of Nicaea. Already a recognized theologian and ascetic, he was the obvious choice to replace Alexander as the Patriarch of Alexandria on the latter's death in 328, despite the opposition of the followers of Arius and Meletius of Lycopolis.
In about 319, when Athanasius was a deacon, a presbyter named Arius came into a direct conflict with Alexander of Alexandria. It appears that Arius reproached Alexander for what he felt were misguided or heretical teachings being taught by the bishop. He embraced a subordinationist Christology (that God did not have a beginning, but the Logos did),
Arius' subordinationist Christology was shared by other Christians in the Empire. Arius was subsequently excommunicated by Alexander, and he would begin to elicit the support of many bishops who agreed with his position. Athanasius may have accompanied Alexander to the First Council of Nicaes in 325, the council which produced the Nicene Creed and anathematized Arius and his followers. On 9 May 328, Athanasius succeeded Alexander as bishop of Alexandria. As a result of rises and falls in Arianism's influence after the First Council of Nicaea, Emperor Constantine I banished him from Alexandria to Trier in the Rhineland, but he was restored after the death of Constantine I by the emperor's son Constantine II. In 339, he was banished once again. This time he went to Rome, and spent seven years there before returning to Alexandria. The years from 346 through 356 were a relatively peaceful period for Athanasius, and some of his most important writings were composed during this period. Unfortunately, the emperor Constantius II seems to have been committed to having Athanasius deposed, and went so far as to send soldiers to arrest him. Athanasius went into hiding in the desert with the Desert Fathers, and continued in his capacity as bishop from there until the death of Constantius II in 361. At the Alexandrian Council of 328, Athanasius was elected to succeed the aged Alexander, and various heresies and schisms of Egypt were denounced. In 340, one hundred bishops met at Alexandria, declared in favor of Athanasius, and vigorously rejected the criticisms of the Eusebian faction at Tyre. At a council in 350, Athanasius was replaced in his see. In 362 was held one of the most important of these councils. It was presided over by Athanasius and Eusebius of Vercelli, and was directed against those who denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit, the human soul of Christ, and Christ's divinity. Mild measures were agreed on for those heretic bishops who repented, but severe penance was decreed for the chief leaders of the major heresies. There were two more brief periods when Athanasius was exiled. In the spring of 365, after the accession of Emperor Valens to the throne, troubles again arose. Athanasius was once more compelled to seek safety from his persecutors in concealment (October 365), which lasted, however, only for four months.
From 366 he was able to serve as bishop in peace until his death.
Athanasius was restored on at least five separate occasions, perhaps as many as seven. This gave rise to the expression "Athanasius contra mundum" or "Athanasius against the world".
He spent his final years repairing all the damage done during the earlier years of violence, dissent, and exile, and returning to his writing and preaching undisturbed. he is said to have written Life of St Anthony and a multitude of theological writings. It is thanks to him that the dangerous Arinian heresy was overthrown.
On 2 May 373, having consecrated Peter II, one of his presbyters as his successor, Athanasius died quietly in his house. His memory is also celebrated on 18 January.
Source of text: en.wikipedia.org
Item No: 110080
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