St. Athanasius, a revered theologian by Orthodox, Catholics, and Protestants alike, is most memorable for his fight against Arianism in the fourth century. He was born around AD 298 in Alexandria. In 319 Arius, a leader in the church, began teaching that there was a time when God the Father had not begotten God the Son, and therefore there was a time when the Son did not exist. This went against the orthodox teaching that the Son was begotten from eternity, and always existed with the Father. To settle the problem of Arius' heresy, the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea was convened in 325, and gave birth to the Nicaean Creed, which is the pattern for orthodox belief in the Trinity. Athanasius, who was at the time a young deacon, attended the council and from that time on was an advocate against Arianism. He became the Patriarch of Alexandria in 328, and was a faithful shepherd to the flock of the Church. Athanasius suffered several banishments, however, from Alexandria, on account of the influence of Arianism, the popularity of which waxed and waned depending on the religious preferences of the Emperor. This did not stop Athanasius' activism for true doctrine, and he wrote several works that include On the Incarnation (concerning Christ's divinity and humanity), Against the Gentiles, and the Three Discourses Against the Arians. While battling Arianism with his pen, Athanasius also used force to stifle the heresy's success, and convened the Council of Alexandria in 362.
St. Athanasius reposed on May 2, 362. His feast is celebrated on this day by the Catholic Church, and on January 18 in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
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