We probably did not notice that the day before yesterday was the commemoration of Athanasius of Alexandria. He was one of the those North African Bishops that held the church together in the years leading up to the fall of Roman Empire. He was born in 295 and it is hard for us moderns to care about anybody that wasn’t born a few years ago. The African churches held the faith to be so important they actually had councils that got together and formulated the faith and declared that those who did not believe what they believed were doomed. It was called a confession or a statement of what was to be believed. Credo, I believe. There is a creed named after Athanasius that we usually get around to once a year. It boldly says that one has to believe what is confessed in it our “they cannot be saved”. Pretty strong stuff that, especially in todays world where the church seems to be more about affirming and trying to make folks feel good about themselves that giving them the Gospel rightly preached.
Athanasius big deal was that Jesus was of “one substance with Father.” In other words Jesus is God. The Nicene Creed covers that pretty well but another creed named for Athansius goes into the Trinity at great length. Athansius didn’t write it but he was in the midst of the controversies and discussions that caused it to be written.
His story reads like a Hollywood movie and shows that folks back in the day actually took their faith and their confession of faith seriously. His enemies tried to get him arrested by saying he murdered someone. Athanasius tricked them by having the man secretly come into the courtroom and testify that he was indeed alive. He was exiled on a false charge of keeping shipments of grain of getting to Constantinople, a charge that was later found to be false.
He lived a fascinating life and the church remembers his defense of the deity of Jesus Christ.