Today we celebrate the feast of St. Athanasius, one of the great defenders of the faith in the early Church. St. Athanasius was Bishop of Alexandria and is known for his tireless struggle in defense of the divinity of Christ against the heresies that denied this fundamental truth of our faith.
In his time, many denied that Jesus Christ was true God and true man. Some argued that Jesus was simply an exceptional man, while others claimed that he was a being created by God, but not God himself. But St. Athanasius knew that the Christian faith demands that we believe in the full divinity of Christ, and that He is one divine person with two natures, human and divine.
St. Athanasius was born around 296 in Alexandria, Egypt. He was educated at the catechetical school of Alexandria and, at the age of 21, was ordained a deacon by the Bishop of Alexandria, Alexander.
In 325, Athanasius was sent to Nicaea as secretary to Alexander to participate in the Council of Nicaea, which was convened to combat the heresy of Arius. During the Council, Athanasius was one of the main defenders of the doctrine of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ, and helped to draft the Nicene Confession of Faith, that is, part of the Creed that we pray every Sunday.
In 328, Athanasius was appointed bishop of Alexandria, and soon became a prominent leader in the Church. However, during his time as bishop, Athanasius faced strong opposition and controversy because of his uncompromising defense of Christian orthodoxy.
Athanasius opposed the teachings of Arius, who claimed that Christ was a created being and not divine. This controversy led to his removal from the office of bishop on five occasions and his exile on several occasions. But Athanasius did not yield to pressure and remained steadfast in his defense of the orthodox faith.
During his time in exile, Athanasius continued to work to defend the Christian faith and wrote many theological works, including «Against Heretics» and «The Incarnation of the Word of God.» These works helped establish the doctrine of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ as fundamental truths of the Christian faith.
Finally, in 346, Athanasius returned to his position as bishop in Alexandria and continued to work in defense of the faith until his death in 373. Despite persecution and controversy, Athanasius left a lasting legacy as a defender of Christian orthodoxy and the truth of the divinity of Christ.
Today, St. Athanasius is remembered as one of the great fathers of the Church and as a model of courage and perseverance in defending the faith. His example continues to inspire Christians throughout the world to defend Christian orthodoxy and to live their lives in conformity with the truth of the Christian faith.
St. Athanasius did not yield to the pressure of popular opinion or the powerful of his time. He knew that faith in the divinity of Christ was essential for our salvation, because only a true God could reconcile us to the Father and redeem us from our sins.
On this feast day of St. Athanasius, let us ask for his intercession and his example of courage and perseverance in defending the faith. May we be faithful to the truth of Christ’s divinity and may we be living witnesses to the truth of our faith in our own lives. May the example of St. Athanasius inspire us all to live our faith with courage and perseverance. Amen.