Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/57

This page needs to be proofread.




class in the Anglican church, that frequent at- tempts have been made to eliminate the Creed from the public service of that Church. The Upper House of Convocation of Canterbury has already affirmed that these clauses, in their prima facie meaning, go beyond what is warranted by Holy Scripture. In \-iew of the words of Our Lord quoted above, there should be nothing startling in the statement of our duty to beUeve what we know is the testimony and teaching of Christ, nor in the serious sin we commit in wilfully refusing to accept it, nor, finally, in the punishments that will be inflicted on those who culpably persist in their sin. It is just this last that the damnatorj- clauses proclaim. From a dogmatic standpoint, the merely historical question of the authorship of the Creed, or of the time it made its appearance, is of secondarj' consideration. The fact alone that it is approved by the Church as expressing its mind on the funda- mental truths with which it deals, is all we need to know.

Jones. The Creed of St. Aihanasius; Jewel, Defence of the Apology (Loudon. 1567); in Works CCambridge, 1848). Ill, 254; Vossius, Dissertationea de Tribus symbolic (Paris. 1693); QrEs- XEL. De Symbolo Athanasiano (1675); Montf.4UCON, Diatribein symbolum Qiticunque in P. G., XXVIII, 1567; Muratori, Erpositw Fidei Catholicx Fortunati with Disquisitio in Anec- dota (Milan, 1698), II; Waterland. A Critical History of the Alhanasian Creed (Cambridge, 1724; O.xford, 1870); Harvey, The History and Theology of the Three Creeds (London. 1854), 11; FrorLKES, The Athanasian Cree</ (London. 1871); LrxiBT, The History of the Creeds (Cambridge. 1887); Swainson, The \ieene Creed and the Apostles' Creed (London. 1875); Omman- NEY, The Athanasian Creed (London, 1875); Idem, A Critical Dissertation on the Athanasian Creed (Oxford, 1897); Burn, The Athanasian Creed, etc., in Robinson, Texts and Studies (Cambridge. 1896); Smith. The Athanasian Creed in The Month (1904). CIV, 366; Schaff, History of the Christian Church (New York, 1903), III; Idem, The Creeds of Christendom (New York. 1884), I, .34; Tixeront. in Dtet. de theol. cath.; LoOFS. in Hauck. Realencyklopddie fur prot. Theol.. s. v. See also the recent discussion by -Anglican writers: Welldon, Crouch, Eliot, Lhckock, in The nineteenth Century (1904- 06).


Athanasius, S.A.I^•T, Bishop of Alexandria; Confes- sor and Doctor of the Church; born c. 296; d. 2 May, 373. [No accepted emblem has been assigned to him In the history of western art; and his career, in spite of its picturesque diversity and extraordinary wealth of detail, seems to have furnished little, if any, material for distinctive illustration. Mrs. Jame- son tells us that according to the Greek formula, "he ought to be represented old, baldheaded, and with a long white beard" (Sacred and Legendarj- Art, I, 339).] Athanasius was the greatest cham- pion of Catholic belief on the subject of the Incar- nation that the Church has ever known and in his lifetime earned the characteristic title of "Father of Orthodoxy", by which he has been distinguished ever since. While the chronologj- of his career still remains for the most part a hopelessly involved problem, the fullest material for an account of the main achievements of his life will be found in his collected writings and in the contemporarj- records of his time. He was born, it would seem, in .Alex- andria, most probably between the years 296 and 298. An earlier date, 293, is sometimes .i-ssigned as the more certain year of his birth; and it is supported apparently by the authority of the "Coptic Frag- ment" (published by Dr. O. von Lemm among the M^moires de I'acadtoie imp^riale des sciences de S. P^tersbourg, 18S8) and corroborated by the un- doubted maturity of judgment revealed in the two treatises "Contra Gentes" and "De Incamatione", which were admittedly written about the year 318, before Arianism as a movement had begun to make itself felt. It must be remembered, however, that in two distinct passages of his writings (Hist. -Ar. , Ixiv, and De S^■n., xviii) Athanasius shrinks from speaking as a witness at first hand of the persecution which had broken out under Maximian in 303; for

in referring to the events of this period he makes no direct appeal to his own personal recollections, but falls back, rather, on tradition. Such reserve would scarcely be intelligible, if, on the hypothesis of the earlier date, the Saint had been then a boy fuUy ten years old. Besides, there must have been some sem- blance of a foundation in fact for the charge brought against him by his accusers in after-life (Index to the Festal Letters) that at the time of his consecration to the episcopate in 328 he had not yet attained the canonical age of thirty years. These considerations, therefore, even if they are found to be not entirely convincing, would seem to make it likely that he was born not earlier than 296 nor later than 298.

It is impossible to speak more than conjecturally oi his family. Of the claim that it was both prominent and well-to-do, we can only observe that the tradi- tion to that effect is not contradicted by such scantj' details as can be gleaned from the saint's writings. Those writings undoubtedly betray evidences of the sort of education that was given, for the most part, only to children and youths of the better class. It began with grammar, went on to rhetoric, and re- ceived its final touches under some one of the more fashionable lecturers in the philosophic schools. It is possible, of course, that he owed his remarkable training in letters to his saintly predecessor's fa\'Our, if not to his personal care. But Athanasius was one of those rare personalities that derive incomparably more from their own native gifts of intellect and character than from the fortuitousness of descent or environment. His career almost personifies a crisis in the history of Christianity; and he may be said rather to have shaped the events in which he took part than to have been shaped by them. Yet it would be misleading to urge that he was in no no- table sense a debtor to the time and place of his birth. The Alexandria of his boyhood was an epitome, in- tellectually, morally, and politically, of that ethnic- ally many-coloured Grueco-Roman world, over which the Church of the fourth and fifth centuries was beginning at last, with tmdismayed consciousness, after nearly three hundred years of unwearjnng propagandism, to realize its supremacy. It was, moreover, the most important centre of trade in the whole empire; and its primacy as an emporium of ideas more commanding than that of Rome or Constantinople, Antioch or Marseilles. Already, in obedience to an instinct of which one can scarcely determine the full significance mthout studying the subsequent developments of Catholicism, its famous "Catechetical School", while sacrificing no jot or tittle of that passion for orthodoxj' which it had imbibed from Pantaenus, Clement, and Origen, had begun to take on an almost secular character in the compre- hensiveness of its interests, and had counted pagans of influence among its serious auditors (Eusebius Hist. Eccl., VI, xix).

To have been borr» and brought up in such an at- mosphere of philosophizing Christianity was, in spite of the dangers it involved, the timeliest and most liberal of educations; and there is, as we have inti- mated, abundant evidence in the saint's writings to testify to the ready response which aU the better influences of the place must have found in the heart and mind of the growing boy. Athanasius seems to have been brought earl}- in life under the immediate supervision of the ecclesiastical authorities of his native city. Whether his long intimacy with Bishop Alexander began in childhood, we have no means of judging; but a storj' which pretends to describe the circumstances of his first introduction to that prelate has been preser\'ed for us by Rufinus (Hist. Eccl., I, xiv). The bishop, so the tale runs, had invited a number of brother prelates to meet him at breakfast after a great religious function on the anniversarj- of the martyrdom of St. Peter, a recent predecessor