Feast Day: May 2
Doctor of the Church; Father of Orthodoxy; Patron of Theologians
Born to an Egyptian Christian family in the late 3rd century, Athanasius became the 20th bishop of Alexandria. He is best known for refuting the Arian heresy, which suggested that Christ was made, not begotten, by God the Father.
As a deacon, Athanasius served as Bishop Alexander’s secretary at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. A gifted theologian, Athanasius suggested the term consubstantial — which the Council adopted — to say that Christ was of the same substance as God the Father.
Athanasius was also a strong defender of the Incarnation, and of the Blessed Virgin’s role in salvation history. In a 4th century letter, he wrote that the Eternal Word of God took on human nature from His mother.
“Even when the Word takes a body from Mary, the Trinity remains a Trinity, with neither increase nor decrease. It is forever perfect,” wrote Athanasius, who was exiled at least five times for his defense of orthodox Christian teaching.
Athanasius died in Alexandria on May 2, 373 AD. His relics are venerated in Venice and Cairo.