Saint Athanasius the Great-January 18

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

THE EIGHTEENTH DAY OF THE MONTH OF JANUARY: The Life of Our Father Among the Saints, Athanasius the Confessor, Archbishop of Alexandria
[Abbreviated from Metaphrastes and other sources]

Saint Athanasius the Great, that brilliant, immortal example of virtue, was born in Alexandria, the renowned capital of Egypt. His parents were devout Christians and reared him in piety. From childhood his calling was evident, as the following story makes clear.

One day, young Athanasius was playing on the shore with his friends, mimicking the rites celebrated by God's sacred ministers. The boys elected Athanasius bishop, and he named some of them presbyters and others deacons; whereupon, they fetched a number of pagan children, whom Athanasius baptized in the sea. Over the initiates he pronounced the words of the holy Mystery (Sacrament) as he had heard the presbyter say them in church, then delivered as much of an admonition as a little boy could. At that time our father among the Saints Alexander was Patriarch, and he happened to be standing on a bluff not far away, looking out over the water. He saw the game and was amazed. Straightway, he ordered the children brought to him and asked them what they were doing. At first they were afraid to answer, but after some coaxing began to explain. Singling out the boys who had been baptized, the Patriarch inquired what questions had been put to them, and how they had replied. Having satisfied himself that everything had been done in a manner consistent with the customs of our faith, he took counsel with his clergy, decided that the baptisms were valid, and confirmed them with Chrismation. He then summoned Athanasius' parents and urged them to rear him well and teach him letters. When Athanasius reached a more mature age, the Patriarch said, they should come back and dedicate him to the service of God and His Holy Church.

After Athanasius completed his education, his parents did return to the Most Holy Patriarch Alexander and dedicated him to God, as the Prophetess Hannah had once Samuel. The Patriarch quickly admitted Athanasius to the clergy, and the young Saint, like a fearless soldier, took up arms against the heretics. It is impossible to describe everything Athanasius suffered at the hands of misbelievers, but since it will not do to keep silent, we will describe some of his tribulations and more remarkable deeds.

In those days Arias, a heretic and the servant of the devil, was wreaking havoc with the Church. After being anathematized by the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, excommunicated, and banished, it seemed the treacherous serpent was near his end; but he was in fact secretly inciting his disciples and allies to spread ruinous, insane, and poisonous doctrines everywhere, while himself awaiting an opportunity to strike again. Through his many friends at court, and especially Eusebius, Bishop of Nicomedia, he petitioned the great Constantine to show clemency and permit him to return to Alexandria. The deceiver Eusebius persuaded the ruler that Arius preached nothing contrary to the teaching of the Church, and had been condemned by jealous bishops, not because he had erred regarding the faith, but because of a vain quarrel over words. The Emperor was a trusting, guileless man and did not perceive the heretics' wiles. Believing their false assurances, he ordered everyone to stop wrangling over words, lest an unbridgeable rift develop between the churches. Out of misdirected compassion, he let Arius the heretic go back to Alexandria. This greatly grieved the Orthodox and especially Athanasius the steadfast champion of the traditions of piety. Christ's soldier, at that time an Archdeacon, rushed to drive off the wolf, denouncing the blasphemer in eloquent sermons and divinely inspired writings. He persuaded the Most Holy Archbishop Alexander to write Constantine a letter (which he helped compose) pointing out the Emperor's credulity in believing the heretic's lies and censuring him for permitting Arius to defy the Patristic definition after he had been cast out of the Church by God and the Holy Fathers for rejecting the True faith. Spurred by the miscreant Eusebius, the ruler sent a stern reply, threatening to depose Alexander and defrock Athanasius if they were not silent.

Soon the Most Holy Alexander reposed, and the Orthodox unanimously elected Saint Athanasius as his successor, considering him a vessel worthy to hold the myrrh of Episcopal grace. For the time being the Arians, fearful of open conflict with St. Athanasius, kept silent and contented themselves with secretly scattering tares. Later, however, at the instigation of the devil, they revealed their wickedness and exposed their venomous fangs. The pretext for this was the Most Holy Athanasius' refusal to obey an imperial order in Arius' possession. The decree commanded Athanasius to accept the transgressor into communion...Despite the turmoil, the Saint remained untroubled, chanting with David, "Through a host should array itself against me, my heart shall not be afraid" (Psalm 26)...

Saint Athanasius was persecuted by his enemies and exiled by various emperors...Protected by God, the holy hierarch passed through the crowd and out of the building, escaping in the night to the bank of the Nile. As the Saint was about to board a boat and make for the Thebaid, his admirers caught up with him and with tears in their eyes entreated him to remain. "Are you abandoning us again, Father?" they asked. "Will you leave us like sheep without a shepherd? Who will take your place?"

"Do not weep, children," replied the Saint. "The present disturbance will soon come to an end." With this he sailed away. An officer and a company of barbarian soldiers in a swift vessel followed in hot pursuit with order to slay the Saint, and it was not long before they were closing. Saint Athanasius urged the crew to row faster, but a moment later he received a divine revelation and ordered the boat turned towards Alexandria. The oarsmen were confused and fearful, but the blessed one told them to take heart. They reversed course, and when close to the pursuers, the Saint shouted, "Who are you chasing?"

The barbarians' eyes were clouded so that they could not recognize him, and they answered, "Athanasius! Have you seen him?

The holy Bishop said, "He is trying to outrun you. Hurry and you will catch him." The soldiers continued southward, and as soon as they were out of sight, Saint Athanasius' vessel made for Alexandria at full speed.

Disembarking, the Saint was greeted joyfully by the faithful; notwithstanding, he went into hiding until Julian's death. After the foe of God perished, Jovian, a devout Christian, ascended the throne, and Saint Athanasius was able to resume his duties, guiding the Church wisely. Jovian did not reign for long (only seven months), but died unexpectedly in Galatia. He was succeeded by Valens, who was infected with the plague of Arianism. Again tribulations rocked the Church, since the godless Emperor did not concern himself with diplomacy, or strengthening the army, or conquering barbarians, but only with the spread of error. Orthodox bishops were expelled from their sees if they would not embrace heresy...The Eparch's troops searched the city for the great sufferer St. Athanasius but he slipped away and hid in his family's crypt. For about four months no one knew where he was. Finally, the great Metropolis, grieving because of the Saint's absence and offended by Valen's tyranny, rose in rebellion.

Fearing the outcome of civil war, the Emperor reluctantly allowed Saint Athanasius to return to his See. Christ's aged soldier, veteran of so many battles for Orthodoxy, who had been exiled and forced to flee repeatedly, enjoyed a short period of peace before he was gathered to his fathers: the Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs and Confessors, whose contest he emulated during his lifetime. Saint Athanasius was a bishop for forty-six (46) years, and was succeeded by his blessed friend and companion in suffering, Peter. Taking up his dwelling in heaven, he was crowned with a garland of Light and rewarded with ineffable blessings by Christ the Lord, unto Whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory, dominion, honor, and worship, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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DIVINE SERVICES:

Orthros (Matins) at 9:00 a.m.
Divine Liturgy at 10:00 a.m.

Place of Worship: Saint Andrew

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!'--Saint John Chrysostom

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George