Sunday after the sermon and before the Lord’s Table, we reaffirm our
faith through the words of the Nicene Creed. The Creeds are like
capsules condensing elements of our faith into clear, articulate and
memorable statements. What’s easily forgotten, though, are the struggles
and sacrifice of church fathers as they fought to keep the foundational
truths of the Christian faith and to steer the church faithfully, in
keeping with Apostolic teaching.
February 8 marked the 1664th anniversary of the third exile of one of such church fathers. Athanasius was a central figure in the fight against the heresy that led to the Council of Nicaea (out of which the Nicene Creed emerged). It was only his 3rd exile, in AD 356, from his post as Bishop of Alexandria. There will yet be two more. Yes, five exiles under difficult circumstances – false charges, political whims, and the sheer reality that heretical followers sometimes outnumbered the faithful in some regions at the time.
It felt like Athanasius’ main calling was to defend the truth of the Apostolic faith against a subtle but popular heresy of his time, specifically defending faith in the divinity of Jesus Christ and the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. He took Jude’s words seriously: “I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” (Jude 1:3b).
Even after his final reinstatement, he spent the last years of his episcopacy rebuilding from the damage caused by the heresies over those years. After his death, another faithful bishop (Gregory of Nazianzus) called him ‘Pillar of the Church’.
As we remember Athanasius, we are once more roused to faithfulness to the Apostolic teaching and, if need be, to contend for it. The One who entrusted the faith to us has also given us His Spirit, and stands with us through and through.
The Light of Christ Anglican Church
4000 W. Yale Ave.
Denver, CO 80219