Biography of our Patron Saint


Born in Alexandria, Egypt in A.D. 297, Athanasios was associated with the Alexandrian chancery at an early age, having been ordained deacon in the year 319 and subsequently priest.  His brilliance was shown in his “Sermon Against the Arians”, written to answer the widely spreading heresy of Arianism, which had been condemned in 318 by a synod.  According to Arius, an elderly priest of Alexandria, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were three separate essences or substances, which is contrary to Orthodox teaching.  The spread of Arianism prompted Emperor Constantine to convene the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea (A.D. 325), where Athanasios brilliantly opposed the false doctrine of Arius.  He wrote a series of works in defense of the faith proclaimed in Nicaea, that is, the doctrine of the true deity of God the Son.  Nevertheless, the controversy lasted for another two centuries.  The conciliatory tone of the Council of Nicaea was not enough to put an end to the heresy;  Arius would not comply with its decisions and thus fled to Palestine.
   While still in his twenties, St Athanasios wrote two short treatises of which the second one is the famous “On the Incarnation”.  In this treatise he expounds how God, the Logos, by His union with Manhood restored to the fallen man the image of God in which he had originally been created (Genesis 1:27); and how by His death and Resurrection He met and overcame death which is the consequence of sin.  St. Athanasios proved to be the greatest and most consistent theological opponent of Arianism.
   He  convened the Synod of Alexandria in 362 which did much to clear up misunderstandings of the terms “Person” (hypostasis) and substance (ousia).  He also did much to uphold the deity of the Holy Spirit and the full Manhood of Christ against contemporary heretical tendencies.
   At the age of thirty, Athanasios was made Bishop of Alexandria.  Although Arius assured the Emperor that he accepted the creed of Nicaea, the suspicious Athanasios defied the Imperial order for Arius’ reinstatement.  For this he was banished, taking refuge in Treves, France, the place of his first exile, from which he returned in 337 after Constantine’s death.  The same year though, his enemies conspired to have him again banished by a synod in Antioch.  Athanasios, eluded those who would have him imprisoned, traveled to Rome to plead his case before the Pope, Julius I.  Although a council at Sardica favored Athanasios, he did not return from exile until 345, after the death of usurper Bishop Gregory.
   Once again, his enemies sprang into action and at a council in Milan in 355, Athanasios was deposed.  Thus, after ten years of fruitful rule, he took refuge with the monks of the Egyptian desert whom he greatly admired and whom he had befriended.  While with the monks he wrote the History of the Arian Heresy, which displays his vehemence and ironic humor.
   In 361 Athanasios was again restored as Bishop of Alexandria and immediately resumed his struggle against Arianism.  After a series of lengthy and complicated discussions, councils, synods, and other forms of debate, a creedal formula was adopted which satisfied those whose middle view led them to be called Semi-Arians.  Peace had hardly arrived when another storm came in the form of the regeneration of paganism under the Emperor Julian the Apostate.  
   In the autumn of 363, Athanasios was again put to flight, only to return a short time later after the death of the  Emperor.  He enjoyed a comparative calm until he was removed by Emperor Valens during another resurgence of paganism.  Four months later, the aging Bishop was recalled and allowed to live out his life in comparative peace.
   Greatly admired by the Orthodox, St. Athanasios stirred the emotions of the Christians as perhaps no other Father of the Church.  His theological doctrine is clear and uncomplicated in the strictest Orthodox tradition, and his encouragement of monasticism was a labor of love.  He greatly aided the ascetic movement in Egypt.  Also, St. Athanasios was the first to introduce knowledge of monasticism to the West.  He died on May 2, 373.
   The Feast Day of St. Athanasios is celebrated on January 18th (also on May 2nd).  May his blessings and prayers be with us as we aspire to serve the same Lord as St. Athanasios did centuries ago.

TROPARION (Third Tone)

You became radiant by your Orthodox deeds, quelling all heresy and becoming conquering champions.  Your piety enriched all, and the Church became greatly beautified.  You have worthily found Christ our God who by your prayers grants all great mercy.

Ο ΑΓΙΟΣ ΑΘΑΝΑΣΙΟΣ, Πατριάρχης Αλεξανδρείας

«Ο αγιώτερος των ηρώων και ηρωϊκώτερος των αγίων», «Μέγας Πατήρ», «Στύλος της Ορθοδοξίας».  Τίτλοι, από τους πιό χαρακτηριστικούς, που απονεμήθηκαν στο «πολύφωτο άστρο» της Εκκλησίας μας, τον Άγιο Αθανάσιο.  Το έτος 295 η 296 μ.Χ. γεννήθηκε από γονείς φτωχούς στήν Αλεξάνδρεια, αλλά πλούσιους σε αρετές και πίστη.  Δεν είχε τά μέσα για ανώτερες σπουδές.  Ο Θεός όμως, τον προίκισε με πλούσια διάνοια, καί αφού παίρνει τη στοιχειώδη εκπαίδευση, έπειτα αυτοκαλλιεργείται και φθάνει σε μεγάλα ύψη ουράνιας σοφίας.  Το 312 και σε ηλικία 25 χρόνων, χειροτονείτε διάκονος από τον Πατριάρχη Αλεξανδρείας Αλέξανδρο, μαζί με τον οποίο ο Αθανάσιος παίρνει μέρος στήν Α΄Οικουμ. Σύνοδο στη Νίκαια και συντρίβει την αίρεση του Αρείου.  Το 328 πεθαίνει ο Αλέξανδρος και για τον Αθανάσιο πλησίασε μια μεγάλη ώρα.    Στο 33ο χρόνο της ηλικίας του, κλήρος και λαός τον εκλέγουν πανηγυρικά Πατριάρχη Αλεξανδρείας.  Από δώ και πέρα ο Άγιος θα αντιμετωπίσει ένα φοβερό και ανελέητο πόλεμο των αιρετικών του Αρείου.  Πέντε σκηρές εξορίες περιλαμβάνει η πολυτάραχη ζωή του από τον Αρειανό αυτοκράτορα Κωνστάντιο.  Όμως, με πίστη, θάρρος, αγωνιστικότητα και υπομονή, κατορθώνει να βγεί νικητής και συντρίβει τους “λύκους” της Ορθοδοξίας μας.  Και έτσι, ο λόγος της Αγίας Γραφείς «Να αγωνίζεσαι τον καλό αγώνα της πίστεως» και «ας τρέχουμε με υπομονή τον αγώνα πού προβάλλει μπροστά μας»,  γίνεται από τον Άγιο Αθανάσιο πραγματικότητα, αναμφισβήτητο γεγονός.  Απεβίωσε στις 2 Μαϊου 373 σε ηλικία 75 με 77 ετών.  Πρέπει επίσης να αναφέρουμε ότι, ο Μέγας Αθανάσιος διακρίθηκε και ως συγγρφεύς πολυγραφότατος και σπουδαιότατος.  Διάκονος ακόμη έγραψε τις πραγματείες του κατά των εθνικών και περί ενανθρωπήσεως του Λόγου.  Στά «πολεμικά» του κατατάσσονται:  «Έκθεσις πίστεως»,  «Η εγκύκλιος επιστολή», «Η επιστολή προς τους επισκόπους Αιγύπτου καλι Λιβύης», «Οί Λόγοι κατά των Αρειανών».  Άφησε δέ καί αρκετές επιστολές.

Η μνήμη του εορτάζεται την 18η Ιανουαρίου, μαζί με τον Αγ. Κύριλλο.