My beloved brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord, God, and Savior JESUS CHRIST,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
On the 2nd of May, the Holy Orthodox Church Commemorates the
Translation of the precious Relics of Saint ATHANASTIOS THE
GREAT, PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Third Tone
Thou was Orthodoxy’s steadfast pillar, holding up the Church
with godly dogmas, O Great Pierarch, for thou didst preach unto
all that God the Son is one essence in very truth with God the
Father; thus thou didst shame Arius. Righteous Father Athanasios,
do thou entreat Christ God that His great mercy may be granted
Kontakion Hymn. Second Tone
Having planted the dogmas of Orthodoxy, thou didst cut out the
thorns of false doctrine; and with the rain of the Spirit, thou didst
increase the see of the Faith. Wherefore, we praise thee, O
Our holy Father among the Saints, Athanasios the Great (295-373 A.D.) lived throughout the years of the illustrious Emperor Constantine the Great (306-337 A.D.), and during the time of the latter’s son, the Arian Emperor Constantius II (337-361 A.D.), whom Saint Athanasios said was "worse than Saul, Ahab, and Pilate," and through to the short reign of Emperor Julian the Apostate (361 A.D.), Saint Athanasios attended the First Ecumenical Synod in Nicaea (325 A.D.), which put down the profane and heretic Arius. He was elected Archbishop of Alexandria on the 8th of June, in the year 328 A.D., following the illustrious Patriarch Alexander, Athanasios, 1903)the initiate of heavenly mysteries, who also suffered five exiles (335, 339, 356, 362, and 365 A.D.). He is commemorated today in remembrance of the translation of his relics, first to Constantinople and then to Venice; but we also honor the memory of his tireless labors and everlasting exhortations. The Holy Church, on the 18th of January, commemorates Saint Athanasios with his fellow Alexandrian, Saint Kyril. A service concerning the translation of Saint Athanasios’ sacred relics was composed by Nikodemos the Hagiorite.
Saint Athanasios addressed those questions pertaining to the Holy Trinity, as well as to the incarnation of the Logos (Word) of God. His chief work, as the champion of the Logos (Word), was the disproving of Arian dogma in his four orations or discourses. The divinization of man was paramount to him, which was now made possible since the incarnate Logos put on human flesh. This was inconsistent with Arian ideas, but Saint Athanasios refuted them and said THAT JESUS "WAS NOT A MAN WHO LATER BECAME GOD, BUT GOD WHO LATER BECAME MAN IN ORDER TO DIVINIZE US."
Saint Gregory the Theologian delivered an oration on this Venerable Father and Pillar of Right-believing Orthodoxy. It was a panegyric given at the Church of Constantinople at the annual feast in honor of Saint Athanasios. It is unknown whether Saint Gregory gave the oration on the 18th of January or the 2nd of May. He opens his address to the faithful by saying, "In praising Athanasios, I shall be praising virtue. To speak of him and to praise virtue are identical because he had embraced virtue in entirety…To speak of and to admire him fully would perhaps be too long a task for the present purpose of my discourse, and would take the form of a history rather than of a panegyric…This I will say, in the discharge of his Office, he was sublime in action, lowly in mind; inaccessible in virtue, most accessible in intercourse. He was gentile, free from anger, sympathetic, sweet in words, and sweeter in disposition. He was Angelic in appearance, but more Angelic in mind. He was calm in rebuke, persuasive in praise, without spoiling the good effect of either by excess; rather, he reproved with the tenderness of a father. He praised the dignity of a ruler. His severity was not sour. In all his ways he was reasonable, prudent, and truly wise. His disposition sufficed for the training of his spiritual children, with very little need of words.
"Let one praise him in his fasts and prayers; for Athanasios was as one disembodied and immaterial. Let another laud his unweariedness and zeal for vigils and psalmody. Let some extol his patronage of the needy, while others proclaim his dauntlessness toward the powerful or his condescension to the lowly. Let the virgins celebrate the friend of the Bridegroom…".
Simply put, the Arian heretical position was that (1) God made the Son out of nothing, and called Him His Son; (2) the Logos/Word of God is one of the creatures; (3) there was a time when the Logos/Word was not; and (4) He is alterable, and He is capable, when it is His will, of altering. We learn of Saint Athanasios’ attitude toward heretics in his own words: "A HERETIC IS A WICKED THING IN TRUTH. AND IN EVERY RESPECT HIS HEART IS DEPRAVED AND RELIGIOUS. FOR–BEHOLD!–THOUGH CONVINCED ON ALL POINTS AND SHOWN TO BE UTTERLY BEREFT OF UNDERSTANDING, THE HERETICS FEEL NO SHAME. THEY, THEREUPON, LOSING THEIR LIFE IN THE OBJECTIONS WHICH THEY ADVANCE, INVENT FOR THEMSELVES OTHER QUESTIONS, JUDAIC AND FOOLISH, AND NEW EXPEDIENT, AS IF TRUTH WERE THEIR ENEMY. THEY, THEREBY, RATHER REVEAL THAT THEY ARE CHRIST’S OPPONENTS IN ALL THINGS…AFTER SO MANY PROOFS AGAINST THEM–AT WHICH EVEN THE DEVIL WHO IS THEIR FATHER HAD HIMSELF BEEN ABASHED AND GONE BACK–THEY, AS FROM THEIR PERVERSE HEART, AGAIN MUTTER FORTH OTHER EXPEDIENT, SOMETIMES IN WHISPERS AND SOMETIMES WITH THE DRONE OF GNATS."
Saint Athanasios believed the Divinity of Father and Son IS ONE. ALL things that can be said of the Father CAN ALSO BE SAID OF THE Son, excepting only that the Father is said to be Father. "And why are the things of the Son proper to the Father, except because the Son is the proper Offspring of His essence? And the Son, being the proper Offspring of the Father’s essence, reasonably says that the things of the Father are His own also."
His words were like thunder that smote the ears of the heretics when he said, "The Son is begotten NOT from without but FROM THE FATHER; WHILE THE FATHER REMAINS WHOLE, THE EXPRESSION OF HIS HYPOSTASIS (SUBSISTENCE) ABIDES FOREVER, AND PRESERVES THE FATHER’S LIKENESS AND UNVARYING IMAGE, SO THAT HE WHO SEES HIM, SEES IN HIM THE HYPOSTASIS TOO, OF WHICH HE IS THE IMPRESS (χαρακτήρα). And from the energy of the impress, we understand the True Divinity of the hypostasis, as the Savior Himself teaches when He says, ‘the Father Who abideth in Me, He doeth the works [John 14:10]’ which I do; and ‘I and the Father are one’ (John 10:30), and I am in the Father and the Father in Me’ (John 14:11). Therefore let this Christ-opposing heresy attempt first to divide the examples found in things originate, and say, ‘Once the sun was without his radiance,’ or, ‘Radiance is not proper to the essence of light’ or ‘it is indeed proper, but it is part of light by division.’
The Saint speaking OF OUR REDEMPTION, saying that "Mankind IS PERFECTED IN THE Son, and RESTORED AS HE WAS MADE N THE BEGINNING, AND WITH A MUCH HIGHER GRACE. For, being raised from the dead, WE NO LONGER FEAR DEATH, BUT REIGN ETERNALLY WITH CHRIST IN THE HEAVENS. " The Saint also speaks of the DIVINIZATION OF MAN, THAT IS: "AS THE LORD PUT ON THE BODY AND BECAME MAN, SO ALSO E ARE DIVINIZED (θεοποιούμεθα) BY THE Logos/Word.
Saint Athanasios was a great proponent of Baptism, fo rat that Mystery (Sacrament) is "the HOLY SPIRIT POURED OUT. WE ARE GIVEN THE INDWELLING AND INTIMACY OF THE SPIRIT." He goes on to say that BY VIRTUE OF BEARING JESUS’ BODY, "WE RECEIVE THE SPIRIT AND THUS ARE SANCTIFIED. BY PARTICIPATION IN THE SPIRIT WE BECOME SONS AND ONE WITH THE FATHER AND SON. IT IS THE RECEPTION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT INTO OUR HEARTS THAT EMPOWERS US TO CALL GOD ‘FATHER’ AND TO BECOME HIS CHILDREN. THOSE WHO RECEIVE INTO THEIR HEARTS, AS THE APOSTLE SAYS, ‘THE SPIRIT OF HIS SON INTO OUR HEARTS, CRYING, "ABBA, FATHER" (Galatians 4:6), are they, who, RECEIVING THE LOGOS/WORD GAINS POWER FROM HIM TO "BECOME CHILDREN OF GOD" (John 1:12). For men CANNOT OTHERWISE BECOME SONS, SINCE THEY ARE BY NATURE CREATURES UNLESS THEY RECEIVE THE SPIRIT OF THE NATURE AND TRUE SON. THAT THIS MIGHT TAKE PLACE, THE LOGOS/WORD BECAME FLESH, THAT HE MIGHT MAKE MAN CAPABLE OF DIVINITY."
Saint Athanasios, therefore, urges THE NECESSITY FOR HOLY BAPTISM. For He believes that this Mystery (Sacrament) USHERS IN BOTH GRACE AND CONSECRATION. IT IS THE MEANS OF ADOPTION. HE BELIEVES THAT ITS ADMINISTRATION IS NOT SIMPLY RECITING THE CORRECT WORDS BUT ALSO WITH THE CORRECT UNDERSTANDING AND THE CORRECT FAITH THAT FOLLOWS FROM SUCH UNDERSTANDING. AND THE CORRECT UNDERSTANDING AND BELIEF IS THAT THE DIVINITY OF THE SON IS THE SAME AS THAT OF THE FATHER."
Some might ask, "Why could not God restore man by just a word?" "RESTORATION," Saint Athanasios informs us, "BY A MERE FIAT WOULD HAVE SHOWN GOD’S POWER; THE INCARNATION SHOWS HIS AGAPE (LOVE). For it was not things without being that needed salvation, so that a bare command would suffice, but man, ALREADY IN EXISTENCE, WAS GOING TO CORRUPTION AND RUIN. Therefore, He put on a body that He might find death in the body and BLOT IT OUT. FOR HOW, COULD THE LORD HAVE BEEN PROVED AT ALL TO BE THE LIFE, HAD HE NOT QUICKENED WHAT WAS MORTAL?… And if death had been kept from the body by a mere command on His part, if would nonetheless have been mortal and corruptible, according to the nature of bodies, but that this should not be, IT PUT ON THE INCORPOREAL LOGS OF GOD, AND THUS NO LONGER FEARS EITHER DEATH OR CORRUPTION; FOR IT HAS LIFE AS A GARMENT, AND CORRUPTION IS DONE AWAY IN IT."
That we have the ability to call God "Father" IS DUE TO THE PRESENCE OF THE LOGOS/WORD and the Spirit WITHIN US. It is the Son’s good pleasure that we should call His Father our Father. The Saint prefers the word "Father" to the word "unoriginate" as a name for God. He says, "We have not been instructed to baptize in the name of ‘Unoriginate and Originate’ or in the ‘Uncreate and Creature,’ but in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For in this manner, when we are thus INITIATED, WE ARE TRULY MADE SONS. When saying the name of the Father, we, too, acknowledge also from that name the Logos/Word in the Father." [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy and Glorious Resurrection,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God