May 2 – Memorial for St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor
Athanasius (c. 295) studied the classics and theology in Alexandria, Egypt. He was a deacon, secretary, and student of Bishop Alexander of Alexandria. He attended the Council of Nicaea in 325, where he fought for the defeat of Arianism and the acceptance of the divinity of Jesus. He formulated the doctrine of homo-ousianism which says that Christ is the same substance as the Father; Arianism taught that Christ was different and a creation of the Father, a creature and not part of God.
He became Bishop of Alexandria in c. 328; he served for 46 years. When the dispute over Arianism spilled over from theology to politics, Athanasius got exiled five times, spending more than a third of his episcopate in exile.
He was the biographer of St. Anthony the Abbot. Confessor of the faith and Doctor of the Church, he fought for the acceptance of the Nicene Creed.
- Patron Saint Index
“…we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.”
I recently moved into a new neighbourhood with a very nice Malay lady for a neighbour. She’s quite elderly and, as I soon discovered, very religious. She attends religious classes almost every day and whenever she is at home, I can faintly hear her radio or television playing prayers and religious sermons. We had a chat over the wall one day and the conversation eventually steered into religion. I’m not exactly one for discussing religion, in fact I confess I feel rather awkward about it, so I let her do the talking, which she happily did.
Having read about St Athanasius for this reflection though, I asked myself had I been avoiding talking about religion because I wasn’t comfortable with religious conversations, preferring to respect other people’s rights to religious beliefs and not wanting to get involved in a confrontation? Or was it because I was not able to defend my faith adequately? I had always believed (or hid behind the belief) the old adage that ‘religion is a matter between me and my maker’, but the awful truth is that maybe I don’t know enough about my maker. If you had asked me about say, something food related, I probably would be able to launch into a passionate discussion, setting out the pros and cons and facts till the cows came home. So if I could do that about something I loved, why not about God? I believe in my faith very strongly and I may not be a theologian, but I think I know enough, at least the basics.
While I admit that I could do more to increase my knowledge and appreciation for God, I think there is also one other quality that holds me back.
Again, after reading about St Athanasius, I think I also lack courage. In his entire lifetime, St Athanasius was banished five times and exiled for 17 years because he stood up for his religious beliefs. At one point, he even had to hide in the desert to avoid being killed, and stayed there for six years with a group of monks. Did that diminish his faith? Not at all. Each time he returned, he came back with equal, if not more vigour, and continued his fight for God, even though his opponents continued to heap false charges against him. Each time he was banished, he never gave up, but continued to write letters to encourage his followers, eventually writing his significant theological works. Here was a respectable man of God who never wavered, who persevered and came back each time to courageously defend his faith.
It takes more than just knowledge to fight your corner. It takes courage and conviction and passion to stand up for your beliefs. As the prophet Isaiah said, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” (Isaiah 7:9). I know where my shortcomings are in defending my faith, and it’s time I addressed them. Are you ready to do that too?
(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, I pray for self-awareness to realise where my shortcomings are in defending my faith. I pray for the courage and conviction to fight my corner and not shirk when it comes to standing up for You.
Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for standing up for me, even though I have lacked the courage and wisdom to stand up for my faith in the past.