Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Athanasius

I'm doing a little light reading--reading about Arianism. Go figure. Regardless, I've stumbled on a description of a man that is very admirable. If more people could be like this, I think the world would be a better place:

"But the faith of Nicaea, though silenced, was not dead. Athanasius played a leading role: one clear head is enough. He was a whole Church by himself, as certain generals are worth an army. The people recognized him as 'a good Christian and a true bishop.' His mind was clear and could clear other minds. His character was like steel. He was impervious to threats, subtleties, tricks or compromise. He drew fresh strength from every obstacle. He never yielded. In the teeth of the seeming success of the powers and of seemingly unanimous false decisions, in the teeth of the seeming 'dialectic of history' he stood up to defend 'pure quality', the truth. By his intelligent loyalty to the past he shaped the future. His voice was clear and steady and never dismayed, though he was condemned again and again in psuedo-councils."

A couple of phrases from this paragraph appeal to me. "By his intelligent loyalty to the past he shaped the future." This resonates with a passage in Chesterton that I like immensely, and have quoted here before: "Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about." This has direct implications to the book I'm working on, where traditional viewpoints about a particular area of life have been completed turned on their head. I desire, in part, to point out, in intelligent ways, how the past can inform our way of viewing a certain part of modern life today, and to hopefully make a case to defend "'pure quality', the truth," as understood by the church for two millennia, at least one particular area.

I think it's a good thing to have an intelligent loyalty to the past. And all Christians owe a debt of gratitude to Athanasius for defending the faith. It's clear he was a 'good Christian and a true bishop.'

OK. Back to reading.

...and I've come to modify this.

This is the author's conclusion about Athanasius:

"The feat of Athanasius is astounding. Clear-headed, intuitive, and indomitable, he looms across the distance of history like another Abrahan, the man in whom the future resided, and who stood alone."

I think we'll all need to go shake his hand and say thank you when we meet him on the distant shore.

1 comment:

Scott Lyons said...

St. Athanasius is one of my favorites - the whole world had gone after Arius and there he stood, defending orthodoxy and suffering for that defense. And all of us are the recipients of his faithfulness.

I also enjoy the story of St. Nicholas who, unable by argument to stop Arius and his blasphemy, fed him a knuckle sandwich.