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Saint Alexander of Alexandria

Leader of the Council of Nicea


Public Domain

Patriarch (d. 326)

His life

+ Nothing is known of Alexander’s early life. Following his ordination to the priesthood, he was a witness of the bloody persecution of Christians by the emperors Galerius and Maximinus Daiai.

+ Alexander became patriarch of Alexandria in 313.

+ Alexander’s time as patriarch was marked by divisions and great challenges, including a schism caused over the when Christians should celebrate Easter, the attempts of Meletius of Lycopolis to usurp Alexander’s authority, and, most especially the heretical teachings of the priest Arius and his denial of the two natures of Christ.

+ Arius succeeded in winning an increasing number of followers, including deacons and at least one priest, who joined Arius is ordaining other priests who accepted his theology.

+ When Arius’ followers began to use violence to defend their teachings, Alexander wrote a letter to all Christian bishops and the ever-expanding dispute led to the First Council of Nicea.

+ Alexander was the intended president of the Council, but felt he had to recuse himself, as he could not serve as both presiding official and chief accuser of Arius. The Council’s confirmed previous anathemas (condemnations) of Arius and giving Alexander permission to decide on the date of Easter for, asking that the share his decision with the Church in Rome and the rest of Christendom.

+ Most of Alexander’s writings have been lost to us and he died only months after returning home from the Council of Nicea on either February 26 or April 17, 326. He was succeeded by his deacon Athanasius who would continue Alexander’s work against the Arian heresy and who is now honored a Doctor of the Church.

For reflection

Two very bad things are ill-will and unbelief, both of which are contrary to righteousness; for ill-will is opposed to charity, and unbelief to faith; just in the same way as bitterness is opposed to sweetness, darkness to light, evil to good, death to life, falsehood to truth.”—Saint Alexander of Alexandria


Grant, we pray, almighty God, that we may venerate fittingly the memory of the Bishop blessed Alexander, and, as you willed that his word and example should benefit those over whom he presided, so may we always experience the support of his intercession before you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(from The roman Missal: Common of Pastors—For a Bishop)

Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.

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