My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 18th of January, Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church
Commemorates Our Fathers Among the Saints
ATHANASIOS THE GREAT and CYRIL, ARCHBISHOPS
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Third Tone
SHINING forth with works of Orthodoxy, ye quenched every false
belief and teaching and became trophy-bearers and conquerors.
And since ye made all things rich with true piety, greatly adorning
the Church with magnificence, Athanasios and wise Cyril, ye both
have worthily found Christ God, Who doth grant great mercy unto
Kontakion Hymn. Fourth Tone
GREAT high priests of piety and noble champions of the holy Church
of Christ, keep and preserve all those who chant: O Most compassionate
Lord, do Thou graciously save those who faithfully honor Thee.
In the half-century after the First Ecumenical Synod held in Nicaea in A.D. 325, if there was one man whom the Arian heretics feared and hated more intensely than any other, as being able to lay bare the whole error of their teaching, and to marshal, even from exile or hiding, the beleaguered forces of the Orthodox, it was SAINT ATHANASIOS THE GREAT. This blazing lamp of Orthodoxy, which imperial power and heretics’ plots could not quench when he shone upon the lampstand, nor find when he was hidden by the people and monks of Egypt, was born in Alexandria about the year A.D. 296. He received excellent training in Greek letters and especially in the Sacred Scripture, of which he shows exceptional knowledge in his writings. Even
as a young man, he had a remarkable depth of theological understanding; he was only about twenty years old when he wrote his treatise ON THE INCARNATION. Saint Alexander, the Archbishop of Alexandria, brought him up in piety, ordained him his Deacon, and, after deposing Arius for his blasphemy against THE DIVINITY OF THE SON OF GOD, took Athanasios to the First Synod in Nicaea in A.D. 325; Saint Athanasios was to spend the remainder of his life laboring in defense of this Holy Synod. In A.D. 326, before his death, Alexander appointed Athanasios his successor.
In A.D. 325, Arius had been condemned by the Synod of Nicaea. Athanasios, knowing well the perverseness of his mind, and THE DISEASE OF HERESY lurking in his heart, REFUSED COMMUNION WITH ARIUS. The heresiarch’s followers then began framing false charges against Athanasios; finally Emperor Constantine the Great, misled by grave charges of the Saint’s misconduct–which were completely false–had him exiled to Triberis (Treves) in Gaul in 336 A.D.). When Emperor Constantine was succeeded by his three sons Constantine II, Constans, and Constantius, in 337, Saint Athanasios returned to Alexandria in triumph. But his enemies found an ally in Constantius, Emperor of the East; Saint Athanaios’ second exile was spent in Rome. It was ended when Constans prevailed with threats upon is brother Constantius to restore Athanasios. For ten years Saint Athanasios strengthened Orthodoxy throughout Egypt, visiting the whole country and encouraging all, clergy, monastics, and lay people, to be loved by all, as a father. But after Constans’ death in 350 A.D., Constantius became the sole Emperor, and Athanasios was again in danger. On the evening of February 8, 356 A.D., General Syrianos with more than five thousand soldiers surrounded the church in which Athanasios was serving, and broke open the doors. Athanasios’ clergy begged him to leave, but the good shepherd commanded that all the flock should withdraw first, and only when he was assured of their safety he also, protected by Divine grace, passed through THE MIDST OF THE SOLDIERS AND DISAPPEARED INTO THE DESERTS OF EGYPT, WHERE FOR SOME SIX YEARS HE ELUDED THE SOLDIERS AND SPIES SENT AFTER HIM.
When Julian the Apostate succeeded Constantius in A.D. 361, Athanasios returned again, but only for a few months. Because Athanasios had converted many pagans, and the priests of the idols in Egypt wrote to Julian that if Athanasios remained, IDOLATRY WOULD PERISH IN EGYPT, the pagan Emperor ordered not Athanasios’ exile, but his death. Athanasios took a ship up the Nile. When he learned that his imperial pursuers were following him, he had his men turn back, and as his boat passed that of his pursuers, they asked him if he had seen Athanasios, "He is not far," he answered. After returning to Alexandria for a while, he fled again to the Thebaid until Julian’s death in A.D. 363. Saint Athanasios suffered his fifth and last exile under Valens in A.D. 365, which only lasted four months because Valens, fearing a sedition among the Egyptians for their beloved Archbishop, revoked his edict in February A.D. 366.
The Great Athanasios passed the remaining seven years of his life in peace. Of his 47 years as Patriarch. he had spent some 17 years in exile. Shining from the height of his throne like a radiant evening star, and enlightening the Orthodox with the brilliance of his words for yet a little while, this much-suffering champion inclined toward the sunset of his life, and, in the year 373 A.D., took his rest from his lengthy suffering, but not before another luminary of the Truth, Saint Basil the Great, had risen in East, being consecrated Archbishop of Caesaria in 370 A.D. Besides all his other achievements, Saint Athanasios wrote the life of Saint Anthony the Great, with whom he spent time in his youth; ordained Saint Frumentios first bishop of Ethiopia; and in his Paschal Encyclical for the year 367 A.D. set forth the books of the Old and New Testaments accepted by the Church as canonical. Saint Gregory the Theologian, in his Oration On the Great Athanasios, said he was "Angelic in appearance, more angelic in mind; …rebuking with the tenderness of a father, praising with the dignity of a ruler… Everything was harmonious, as an air upon a single lyre…and in the same key; his life, his teaching his struggles, his dangers, his return, and his conduct after his return.. he treated so mildly and gently those who had injured him, that even they themselves, if I may say so, did not find his restoration distasteful." [Source: The Great Horologion]
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God