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Posts Tagged ‘On the Incarnation by Athansasius’

Collect of the Day

Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, and to another the word of faith. We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted to your servant Athanasius, and we pray that by his teaching we may be led to a fuller knowledge of the truth which we have seen in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Readings

Acts 20:19-35

Psalm 71:1-8

2 Corinthians 4:5-14

St. Matthew 10:23-32

About  Athanasius, Church Father:

  • Athanasius was an Egyptian by birth and a Greek by eduction
  • His parents were both Christians and wealthy and Athanasius received both a solid secular and catholic (Christian) education in the city of  Alexandria, Egypt.  Alexandria was a city noted for it’s learning and it’s martyrs.
  • Athanasius lived during the most horrible of the persecutions of the Church under Diocletius, and then Maximin, from when Athanasius was 5 till he was 14, when it finally  ended in Egypt 311.
  • During the time of the persecution, many Alexandrian Christians fled to the desert and thus some began monasteries.  The most known of the monks was Anthony.  Athanasius knew him and eventually wrote Anthony’s biography.
  • He was a teenager when the Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313 making Christianity a legal religion in the Empire.
  • But after about six years after the Edict, a bishop, Arius, began teaching that there was a time, “…when Christ was not”, thus denying Biblical, catholic and orthodox doctrine.
  • But before the onslaught of the Arian heresy, Athanasius wrote two small books:  Against the Heathen, in which he refutes contemporary paganism (please note: paganism was in it’s pure form at that time, without heretics mixing in Christianity) and the demonstration of the possibility of the knowledge of God by the human soul.  The second one, On the Incarnation of the Word  of God, was on Word made flesh. “It is not speculative, it is not original…not even controversial”, because Arius had not yet started down the wrong path.  The photo above and the quotes below are from this volume, available at St. Vladimir’s Press.  This edition features an introduction by none other than C. S. Lewis.
  • Athanasius was present at the Council of Nicaea as a non-voting Deacon.
  • He was ordained in 328 as Bishop.
  • Athanasius lived his whole life in Alexandria except for the five times he was forced into exile for his preaching and teaching. He stood alone for the Faith delivered to saints once for all (Jude 1:3). Yet,he was known by his contemporaries as a kind and gentle man, of great education and humility.  He was short of stature.
  • His name is associated with the third creed of the Church, confessed in The Book of Concord, the Athanasian Creed, though most likely he did not write it,  nevertheless the creed is a solid reflection of Christian and orthodox theology as taught by the saint.
  • In 356, Anthony died at the age of 105. The desert monks gave support for their brother, Athanasius, especially when he went into exile.
  • After the fifth exile, Athanasius  had seven years of fruitful peace in his labors as a pastor and theologian.
  • He died on this date in 373 as Patriarch of Alexandria.
The information above and the quotes below are all from On the Incarnation, with Introduction by C. S. Lewis, published by St. Vladimir Press in a new translation.
 
A Reflection from Lewis’ Intro:

St. Athanasius has suffered in popular estimation from a certain sentence in the “Athanasian Creed”….the words “Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly” are the offence. They are commonly misunderstood. The operative word is keep; not acquire, or even believe, but keep. The author, in fact, is  not about unbelievers but  deserters, not about those who have never heard-of Christ, nor even those who have understood and refused to accept Him, but those really believed, then allow themselves, under the sway of sloth or fashion or any other invited confusion to be drawn away into sub-Christian modes of thoughts. They are a warning against the curious modern assumption that all changes of belief, however brought about, are necessarily exempt from blame…

His epitaph is Athanasius contra mundum, “Athanasius against the world.” We are proud that our own country has more than once stood against the world. Athanasius did the same. He stood for the Trinitarian doctrine, “whole and undefiled,” when it looked as if all the civilised world was slipping back from Christianity into the religion of Arius—into one of those “sensible” synthetic religions which are so strongly recommended today and which, then as now, included among their devotees many highly cultivated clergymen. It is his glory that he did not move with the times; it is his reward that he now remains when those times, as all times do, have moved away.

Quotes from On the Incarnation:

  • “The Savior is working mightily among men, every day He is invisibly persuading numbers of people all over the world, both within and beyond the Greek-speaking world, to accept His faith and be obedient to His teaching.  Can anyone, in face of this, still doubt that He has risen and lives, or rather that He is Himself the Life?  Does a dead man prick the consciences of men, so that they throw all the traditions of their fathers to the winds and bow down before the teaching of Christ?  If He is no longer active in the world, as He must needs be if He is dead, how is that He makes the living to cease from their activities, the adulterer for his adultery, the murderer from murdering, the unjust from avarice, while the profane and godless man becomes religious?  If He did not rise, but is still dead, how is it that He routs and persecutes and overthrows the false gods, whom unbelievers think to be alive, and the evil spirits whom they worship?  For where Christ is named, idolatry is destroyed and the fraud of evil spirits is exposed; indeed, no such spirit can endure that Name, but takes to flight on sound of it.  This is the work of One Who lives, not of one dead; and, more than that, it is the work of God.
  • “For of what use is existence to the creature if it cannot know its Maker?”
  • “….it was our sorry case that caused the Word to come down, our transgression that called out His love for us, so that He made haste to help us and to appear among us. It is we who were the cause of His taking human form, and for our salvation that in His great love He was both born and manifested in a human body.”
  • “How could He have called us if He had not been crucified, for it is only on the cross that a man dies with arms outstretched?”
  • “He deals with them (“them”=us!  Please note: by this time in his book, Athanasius has portrayed Biblically and correctly man as an idolater, Romans 1, doomed to death on account of sin and disobedience and so the sheer wonder of the Incarnation-Pr. Schroederas a good teacher with his pupils, coming down to their level and using simple means. St. Paul says as much: “Because in the wisdom of God the world in its wisdom knew not God, God. thought fit through the simplicity of the News proclaimed to save those who believe.” (1 Cor. 1: 23) I Men had turned from the contemplation of God above, and were looking for Him in , the opposite direction, down among created things and things of sense. The Saviour of us all, the Word of God, in His great love took to Himself a body and moved as Man among men, meeting their senses, so to speak, halfway.”

 

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