Saints and Theology of the Heart - St. Athanasius

Doctor of the Church

Feast: May 2

See also from his writings:
Selected treatises of St. Athanasius

See from his homilies:
On the incarnation of the Word
The Word creates a divine harmony in creation

Etymology: Atanasio: "immortal"

He was born in Alexandria in the year 295.  He studies law and theology.  He retired for a time to a solitary life, making friends with the hermits of the desert.  Upon returning to the city, he dedicated himself totally to the service of God. 

In his day, Arius, a clergyman from Alexandria, was propagating the heresy that Christ was not God by nature.  In order to confront it, the first ecumenical council was held in Nicea, a city of Asia Minor.  Athanasius, who was a deacon at the time, went to the council with Alexander, the Bishop of Alexandria.  With right doctrine and great courage the catholic truth was sustained and the heresy was refuted.  The council excommunicated Arius and condemned his Arian doctrine.

A few months after the council was completed Saint Alexander died and Athanasius was elected patriarch of Alexandria.  The Arians did not stop persecuting him until he was exiled from the city, and from the whole region of the East.    When the civil authority wanted to make him recieve Arius back into the Church, even though Arius persisted in his heresy, Athanasius, exercising his right with great courage, rejected such a proposal and persevered against it, causing the Emperor Constantine to banish him to Treveris in 336.

Athanasius remained in this city for two years, after which, Constantine died and he was able to return to Alexandria, which brought great jubilation to the people. He immediately renewed with great energy the fight against the Arians and was exiled for a second time in 342, which led him to Rome. 

Eight years later he returned again to Alexandria with the satisfaction of having maintained the truth of Catholic doctrine.  But his adversaries sent an army to meet him.  Providentially, Athanasius managed to escape and took refuge in the desert of Egypt, where he was given asylum for seven years by the Anchorites, until he was able to return to his episcopal seat.  In four months, he was forced to flee again in 362, for the fifth time.  Finally, the fury passed, and he was able to live in peace in his seat. 

He died May 2, 373.  He wrote many works.  He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1568 by Pope Pius V.



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