|I'm always glad to promote the Sisters of Mercy.|
|Maybe this makes the Trinity clearer|
You've probably guessed by now that Athanasius is an official Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church. He also makes the Anglican and Armenian lists, sweeping the boards, as it were. And the Eastern Orthodox call him the Father of Orthodoxy, which might even be better than making a list of 33. He was a young guy, just twenty-seven, and a deacon rather than a bishop, when the Emperor Constantine summoned the Council of Nicea to settle some doctrinal disputes. One of the burning questions was about the nature of Jesus -- god, man, or hybrid? If you are a regular reader here, you know that people lost their heads (figuratively and literally) over this question. Arius, a theologian and presbyter in Alexandria, built up quite a following with his idea that Jesus was created by God. He was opposed by, among others, the brash young deacon named Athanasius, who contended that Jesus had existed eternally since he was "one in being with the Father." If you recognize that quote, you probably know that Arius lost, his peeps were branded heretics (eventually), and the early Church suffered an ugly schism.
|Athanasius, in Copenhagen, Denmark|
Alexandria was a hotbed of Arianism, and since Athanasius made archbishop at the tender age of thirty, he had a long, hard tenure. Six times the mob was coming after him so he beat feet out of the city and slipped back later. Five more times, under four different emperors, he was exiled, but allowed to return as people cooled off, conditions in Alexandria changed, and attitudes toward Arianism changed slightly. He was called Athanasius Contra Mundum -- Athanasius Against the World. It is kind of a long nickname, but it seems apt.
Oh yeah, he also made this minor contribution to the evolution of Christianity: he set the Canon of books included in the Christian Bible. His version was not immediately and universally embraced, but he's the guy who said these twenty-seven are officially approved, and others might be edifying, but they're not THE BIBLE. If I wrote The Shepherd of Hermas or the Book of Baruch I might be pissed, but since no one was getting royalties I suppose I'd get over it. In other words, I might chase him out of town in a fit of rage, but I wouldn't mind if he came back a week or two later.