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About St Athanasius

St. Athanasius was born in Alexandria, Egypt, toward the close of the third century and came to maturity in an age when the church was severely threatened by political turmoil and religious controversy. Here is a short sketch of his life.

Athanasius is famous for his resistance to the Arian heresy. Arius was teaching that Jesus was not fully God, that he was a created being. Athanasius saw the error and danger in such teaching and spent the rest of his life as "Champion of the Incarnation", defending the God of the the Word. Here is a typical quotation:

"This is why the incorruptible and immaterial Word of God entered our world... He saw a race of rational creatures on the way to death. He saw death reigning over them through corruption. He saw the penalty for sin was holding us fast to corruption. He saw that it was monstrous that the law would fail before it came to fulfillment. He saw how unthinkable it was that the very things that he himself had fashioned should disappear. He saw, further, the exceeding wickedness of men, and how they had gradually increased their wickedness to an intolerable pitch against themselves. He saw, finally, how all men were under penalty of death.

He saw all this and took pity on our race and had mercy on our weakness. He could not bear the thought that death should have mastery over us. So, lest the creature should perish, and his Father's handiwork be spent for nothing, he took upon himself a body no different from ours. He did not simply decide to become embodied, or merely to appear...No, he took a body just like ours...from a spotless and stainless virgin. He, the Creator of everything, prepared his own body in the virgin as a temple for himself, and made it his very own...

Thus,... because all were under penalty of the corruption of death, he gave his body over to death in our place, and offered it to the Father. He did this out of his loving-kindness so that, first, because all have died in him, the law concerning the ruin of men might be undone .. and, secondly, while men had turned toward corruption, he might turn them again toward incorruption, and raise them from death by his coming in the flesh and by the grace of his resurrection. Thus he banished death from us as completely as straw is consumed by fire." (Exerpts adapted from "On the Incarnation of the World" translated by John Henry Newman. Word Among Us.Advent 99).

298 Born in Alexandria, Egypt, to Christian family.

318 Ordained a deacon: writes a book entitled "On the Incarnation"

325 Attends the Council of Nicaea

328 Elected Bishop of Alexandria

335 Summoned to Council of Tyre by Arians and exiled to Gaul (present day France).

336 Returns to Alexandria

339 Exiled to Rome when Emperor Constantius sides with Arians.

346 Returns to Alexandria amid great rejoicing.

356 Arian charges against Athanasius are revived; he escapes crowded church service and begins third exile.

361 Returns to assume bishopric.

362 Banished by Emperor Julian. Begins fourth exile in Upper Egypt

363 Returns to Alexandria after death of Julian.

365 On the Emperor's orders begins fifty years exile, which last only a few months

373 Dies in Alexandria