Today (May 2) is the feast day of the “Father of Orthodoxy,” St. Athanasius of Alexandria. He is widely known for his long battle with Arianism and his staunch defense of the Incarnation. Athanasius was not afraid to defend the truth at all costs, which got him into trouble with four different emperors and many of his brother bishops. He was exiled a total of five times, equaling 17 years of his episcopate.
His efforts eventually triumphed, and the bishops at the Council of Nicea agreed with Athanasius and St. Nicholas, condemning the heretic Arias. St. Nicholas reportedly punched Arias in the face during his speech at the Council because he couldn’t let Arias continue to propagate heresy.
Athanasius is also well known for his treatise On the Incarnation (De Incarnatione), which even sparked the attention of British author C.S. Lewis. He wrote an introduction to an edition of the book, saying, “When I first opened his De Incarnatione, I soon discovered I was reading a masterpiece … for only a master mind could have written so deeply on a subject with such classical simplicity.”
To help us appreciate the life of St. Athanasius and the masterful work of De Incarnatione, here are 10 inspiring quotes from a Church Father whose example of standing up for the truth still has relevance today:
1) “Christians, instead of arming themselves with swords, extend their hands in prayer.”
2) “The holy and inspired Scriptures are sufficient of themselves for the preaching of the truth.”
3) “Jesus became what we are that he might make us what he is.”
4) “You cannot put straight in others what is warped in yourself.”
5) “Similarly, anyone who wishes to understand the mind of the sacred writers must first cleanse his own life, and approach the saints by copying their deeds.”
6) “For, indeed, everything about is marvelous, and wherever a man turns his gaze he sees the Godhead of the Word and is smitten with awe.”
7) “The presence and love of the Word had called them into being; inevitably, therefore when they lost the knowledge of God, they lost existence with it; for it is God alone Who exists, evil is non-being, the negation and antithesis of good.”
8) “For of what use is existence to the creature if it cannot know its Maker?”
9) “The Greek philosophers have compiled many works with persuasiveness and much skill in words; but what fruit have they to show for this such as has the cross of Christ? Their wise thoughts were persuasive enough until they died.”
10) “Even on the cross he did not hide himself from sight; rather, he made all creation witness to the presence of its Maker.”