"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

St Athanasius, bishop and doctor

t Athanasius, known as the champion of orthodoxy. He was a staunch defender of the Trinity and Jesus's divine nature against Arianism, a major theological controversy taught by Arius, more than 1,700 years ago. Arius's teachings were seen as threatening the core belief in the unity of God. To resolve this the First Council of Nicaea was convened by Emperor Constantine in 325 AD. The council decisively rejected Arianism, that denied the divinity of Jesus Christ. The Church today owes a lot to St Athanasius's steadfastness in defending the Nicene Creed which we profess every Sunday mass. He was not martyred but he was exiled five times.

Fast forward to 1,700 years after the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. There is a revival according to studies in the United States of the Arian controversy. Recently a survey was conducted to gather a simple yes or no to the statement: "Jesus was a great tealdche but was not God." More than half of American Catholics agreed. St Athanasius would be spinning in his grave so to speak. St Athanasius is famous for his statement, "God became man so that man might become God." This is the very heart of the Nicene creed that we profess. This professes a God who loved without limits withholding nothing in his loving. But sadly, more and more fail to understand.

I like the gospel today exhorting us to remain in God's love, i.e., to be firm in our belief in what Jesus accomplished. To give us the Father's love which is only possible through Jesus Christ. Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. But we must safeguard our faith, is must remain built in the rock who is Jesus Christ. There is a kind of spiritual complacency that demotes Jesus to the level of teacher or of an inspiring hero and ceases to be Savior. Weak Christology is a house built on sand, and when a storm comes quickly it is swept away. But thanks to the love, Agape that Jesus offers. It is built on rock. But he needs our participation by virtue of our God-given freedom. Let us not refuse the offer of Jesus which is the fullness of Divine love from his Father. Jesus calls to us: As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.

Finally, when Athanasius returned from exile, particularly after his fifth and final exile, he was welcomed back to Alexandria with celebrations. This enthusiastic reception highlighted the strong bond between Athanasius and his flock. He was not alone afterall.

The people of Alexandria not only supported Athanasius spiritually and politically but also risked their own safety to protect him and ensure his teachings prevailed. This support underscores the deep respect and loyalty they felt towards their bishop, despite the ongoing theological controversies and political upheaval. St Athanasius, Pray for us. Fr JM Manzano SJ