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The Liturgical Calendar: The Church Remembers

Today the church remembers Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, 373.

Athanasius contra mundum—Athanasius against the world. With this phrase Christians have for centuries summed up the great life and work of this wise bishop of Alexandria, Egypt. Long ago he became a symbol of orthodoxy of right and clear thinking in the face of overwhelming opposition. His thinking was ahead of his time. As Christians came to know and understand his teaching, they came to feel that he offered the most accurate intellectual expression of their faith.

The doctrine he espoused eventually became the universal teaching of the church and embodied in the creeds, especially the one that bears his name, the Athanasian Creed. This did not come easily. For a time it seemed that, indeed, the whole world was against Athanasius. His chief opponents, the Arians, gained control of the church. He was deposed and exiled and vilified. He died without seeing the victory of his position proclaimed at the General Council at Constantinople in 381.

Basically, he opposed the Arian teaching that Jesus Christ was less than God but more than man. He held that such a being would be of no benefit to either God or man and could not reconcile God and man. Athanasius taught that Jesus Christ was truly God and truly man. In his renowned treatise, De Incarnatione, he wrote that God the Son “became as we are in order that we might become as he is.”

Fill us with your truth, O God, that we may uphold the faith of your church. Amen.

Read the Wikipedia article here.

Uphold your Church, O God of truth, as you upheld your servant Athanasius, to maintain and proclaim boldly the catholic faith against all opposition, trusting solely in the grace of your eternal Word, who took upon himself our humanity that we might share his divinity; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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