The Eternal Word, the Son, was in no way degraded by receiving a human and mortal body. Rather, he deified what he put on; and more than that, he bestowed the gift of his divinity upon our humanity.
St. Athanasius lived when the blood of the Church’s earliest martyrs was still fresh in the memories of Christians—and the intensity of his faith was a tribute to those who had suffered and died rather than recant the apostolic faith. He is described by biographers as being small in stature and stark in appearance with a body that bore clear signs of his rigorously ascetic life. Athanasius was an Egyptian, his skin dark, eyes deep set and piercing, with a mind as penetrating as his gaze.
He did not suffer fools. His disposition challenges our conception of holiness as being nice and well-mannered. Athanasius was more than willing to fight if provoked, and when the Church was threatened he did not just speak up; he shouted.
Providence chose him for high office as bishop of the See of Alexandria, but this appointment would not bring him a comfortable existence or easy honors.
The great issue that was dividing the Church at the time was Arianism, a heresy that purported that the Lord Jesus was less than God—not, as our creed professes, “consubstantial with the Father, God from God and Light from Light”; instead, Christ was akin to something like the demigods of pagan mythology.
Athanasius would have none of this.
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