This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

January 13 -- Feast of Saint Hilary of Poitiers

Hilary of Poitiers, Doctor of the Church
I must acknowledge that lots of folks celebrate Hilary's feast on January 14 to avoid a conflict with the Octave (eighth day of the feast) of the Epiphany.  Octave's exceed my capacity for calendar management, so I'm sticking with his original feast.  I have read that his actual dies mortalis is unknown, so I am just being a stubborn traditionalist here.

Hilary was acknowledged as a Doctor of the Church (actually, of the Churches) by Augustine of Hippo. Pope Pius IX confirmed him as a Universae Ecclesiae Doctor in 1851.  It takes some humility for a pope to confirm what a Big Dog like Augustine had written more than a thousand years prior.  On the first hand, we all know he's a doctor if Augie the Hip said so.  On the other hand, there's an official list that's kept by the Vatican, and if you're not on the list, you're on the wrong side of the velvet rope. 

A well-educated third century Neo-Platonist (like Augie the Hip), he embraced Christianity after studying scripture.  Even though he was married, the citizens of Poitiers elected him to be their bishop in 353, back when bishops were elected and could be married.  [The day will come again.  I may not live to see it, but it will come again.] 

H's shrine shows the right way to view the Trinity
There's no zeal like a convert's zeal.  The mitre had hardly settled on his pate before he excommunicated Saturninus, the Arian bishop of Arles, and a couple of his supporters.  The Arians, you may recall, held a heterodox view of the nature of Christ, insisting that he was created by and subordinate to God the Father.  They came by this view through an honest reading of John 14:28, but the whole question was debated and voted upon at the Council of Nicea.  Since the Arians lost the vote, we might be tempted to see them as victims of the subsequent suppression, but we'd be mistaken.  They were every bit as intolerant, repressive, and violent as the orthodox Christians.  [Orthodox in this context refers to the Church before the Schism; thus, Western and Eastern Christians were all Orthodox.] 

Bishop Hilary defended his anti-Arian views and actions to Emperor Constantius II.  The Emperor summoned a synod to settle these questions for him, and those good clerics voted to banish Hilary to Phrygia.  There, he churned out letters and books at a pace Stephen King would envy.  He continued to govern his diocese in absentia, pursued the debate over Christ's nature, and pressed for dialogue with the Arians.  He was so insistent on the last point that he was permitted to return from exile after four years.
Emperor Valentinian, sort of

He had a couple of good years of work in his diocese before he crossed the line again.  Auxentius, bishop of Milan, held some heterodox views; excommunication seemed a reasonable response to such divergent thinking.  The western emperor, Valentinian I, summoned his bishop (the imperial throne was in Milan at the time) for questioning.  Auxentius' answers were entirely acceptable.  While Hilary was appalled by Auxentius' duplicity, he had plainly lost another round.  Valentinian, paraphrasing Marcellus Wallace, told Hilary, "You leave town tonight, right now. And when you're gone, you stay gone, or you be gone.You lost all your Milan privileges."   

After this, his writing got a little reckless.  He called the late Emperor Constantius II the Antichrist in one book.  He wrote a response to his expulsion from Milan, which was really just keeping the whole thing stirred up.  When no one bit on these provocations, he settled down to writing commentaries on the Bible, and eventually died peacefully in 368. 

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