St. Athanasius: hero in the battle against Arianism
May 2 is the memorial of St. Athanasius, bishop and doctor of the Church. St. Athanasius (295 – 373) was the Church’s greatest hero in the battle against Arianism (a heresy that denied Christ’s divinity),which, in his lifetime, earned him the title “Father of Orthodoxy”. Athanasius was born into a Christian family in Alexandria, Egypt, where he received a classical education. He was ordained a deacon and later became a priest. Athanasius served as secretary to Bishop Alexander and accompanied him to the Council of Nicea, which officially condemned Arianism. When Bishop Alexander died, Athanasius succeeded him.
The next 46 years were filled with constant conflict. Anthanasius was exiled on five different occasions under five different emperors. However, his loyalty to the Church never wavered, his courage never weakened even in the face of cruel persecution. For five years he hid in a deep, dry cistern to be safe from their wrath of the Arians and their attempts to assassinate him. The place was known only to one trusted friend who secretly supplied him with food.
Throughout these trials, Athanasius consistently experienced God’s constant protection. On one occasion when the emperor’s assassins were pursuing him, he ordered the ship on which he was fleeing to double-back and sail upstream so that he might meet and by-pass his persecutors. Not recognizing the boat upon meeting in semi-darkness, they naively asked whether the ship carrying Athanasius was still far ahead. Calmly and truthfully Athanasius called back, “He is not far from here.” So his persecutors kept sailing on in the same direction, allowing the saint to escape.
Preserved by Divine Providence through a lifetime of trial and danger, he finally died peacefully in his home in Alexandria in 373.
“You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress. “
Prayer to Mary, Mother of Grace
It becomes you to be mindful of us, as you stand near him who granted you all graces, for you are the Mother of God and our Queen. Help us for the sake of the King, the Lord God and Master who was born of you. For this reason, you are called full of grace. Remember us, most holy Virgin, and bestow on us gifts from the riches of your graces, Virgin full of graces.
~St Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor