Tomorrow (May 15) marks the commemoration of one of the all-time greatest human beings who ever lived. His name is St. Athanasius. In my book, he's not just a saint; he's much more than that. He's a real life superhero who saved the world from destruction at the hands of the bad guys. Today I am reposting something I wrote about him 2 years ago - on his feast day in 2012. Hope you are as inspired as I am whenever I read his story.
Hero: ‘a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities’
I grew up loving action movies – but not the comic book, superhero kind of movies that are popular now. I grew up watching real heroes, guys without any superhuman powers but who fought with superhuman courage and bravery. Guys like Bruce Willis in Die Hard – who saved the world from terrorists without a weapon or even a pair of shoes. Or like Rambo who could take out an entire city alone and never had to call for backup. Or my personal favorite – this is really going to test your knowledge of the 80s – The Greatest American Hero (listen to the theme song and see if it rings a bell).
Today I want to celebrate one of my real-life heroes – not a fictional character but a real person who really did save the world from evil and without whom only God knows where we’d all be today. And in addition to all that, he’s got a really cool hero name too!
ATHANASIUS (pronounced ath-uh-NEY-shuhs)
Athanasius the Apostolic. That’s his name and he is a true hero who saved the world from bad guys back in the 4th century. But the bad guys he fought against weren’t trying to steal a suitcase of money or blow up buildings for political gain – these bad guys had much more evil intentions.
The bad guys in this story were called Arians and were named such because their leader was a guy named Arius. Arius seemed like a pretty decent guy on the surface (he was a priest so he must have been a good guy right?), but in reality, he was nothing more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Why was he such a bad guy? Because he was a liar! And he deceived people with lies and turned them away from the Truth. He taught that Christ Jesus – who is the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity, the Logos – was not equal to God the Father, but was actually subordinate to Him. In other words, he denied the Divinity of Christ and taught that while God the Father existed before all ages, God the Logos (Jesus) was created by the Father at a certain point in time.
Arius was a liar sent by the devil to pull people away from the true faith in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Logos. The devil wants nothing more than to deny the Divinity of Christ and make us think that Jesus was less than God. Why? Because it is through our belief in Christ’s Divinity that we find eternal life.
“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” John 20:30-31
But that’s where our hero stepped up and saved the day. In 325 AD, he went before a council of 318 bishops (Church leaders) from all over the world – many of whom had already been influenced strongly by Arius – and he fought for the Truth. He spoke with passion. He spoke with conviction. And most of all he spoke with Truth. Despite the opposition of many at the council, Athanasius spoke boldly and said “Jesus that I know as my Redeemer, cannot be less than God.”
As a result of his courage and bravery, the council of Nicaea declared the Truth about Christ and His Divinity – that He is “…Light of Light and True God of True God, Begotten not created, Consubstantial with the Father…”
So in summary…Athanasius saved the day! The bad guys were exposed along with their lies and the Truth shone forth. Today, all who call themselves Christian and believe that Jesus is God owe a special thank you to Athanasius as the Nicene creed – which was written as a result of the council of Nicaea – is the most widely used profession of faith in Christianity to this day.
That’s why I’m proud to say that Athanasius is a hero of mine. He stood strong in the face of opposition and even when everyone was against him, he didn’t waver or flinch. He is called Athanasius “Contra Mundum” - Latin for “against the world” - because during this time, it seemed like the whole world was going to fall for the heresy of Arius. But Athanasius didn’t care who was against him. He stood by His Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and he knew that as long as he had Jesus on his side, nothing else mattered.
Two Bible verses that summarize the life of Athanasius the Apostolic:
“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31
“Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will fight for you.” Sirach 4:28
Today, May 15, we celebrate the departure of the great hero Athanasius the Apostolic, the defender of the faith and one of the patron saints of STSA. May God help us all fight for Truth the way he did.
Discussion: Share some lessons from some of your Christian heroes – those who have helped you in your faith.