Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
1 Peter 4:12-14
The fourth century was a great age of debate within the church, not least about the precise nature of Christ. Was he really truly God, or was he less that divine? One of those who argued that Jesus was less than divine was Arius. You may remember him from a few weeks ago - he was on the receiving end of that slap from Santa!
St Nicholas of Myra was one of the many bishops who gathered in Nicea in 325, and they brought with them people to help. One such secretary was a young Athanasius, who attended with his mentor, Bishop Alexander of Alexandria. A theological prodigy, this secretary actually had a hand in writing the creed which is recited in our services. In 328 he succeeded his mentor as Patriarch of Alexandria, which meant he was one of the five leading bishops of the ancient church.
So far, so good. A theological genius and swift promotion, what could go wrong? Arius! Although condemned, his teaching would not go away and so Athanasius had to fight his corner. In fact, so steadfast was he in his belief in the true divinity of Christ that he was exiled five times, each time coming back to resume his office and continue the fight. This is where he got his nickname: Athanasius Contra Mundum or Athanasius Against the World.
In the end some things are true simply because they are true. Majorities, or the beliefs of those in power, cannot change these things. They remain true. The life of Athanasius is a great example of standing firm. The life of Athanasius is a great example!