For those who read my posts regularly, you are probably aware that I have strong feelings about the current Pope’s opinions and the current division in the Vatican right now.
I have not read the document yet, but given the release of Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, I thought that it would be on a healthy note to review a letter written by St. Athanasius in the year 335.
For those who have never heard of St. Athanasius, he is one of the most important people to have lived ever in the Catholic Church. It was he who along with a small groups of priests and bishops led the charge against the Arian heresy of his time. For those who are unfamiliar, the Arian heresy was a belief first promulgated by the apostate priest Arius which taught that Jesus is not God. In addition, most people who called themselves Christians and who were priests and bishops were Arians.
Yes, once upon a time, most Christians did not believe that Jesus is God. In fact, many “Christians” did not even believe in the Trinity and openly protested the doctrine. Yet make no mistake, as all of the Church Fathers have stated, he who rejects the Trinity supports the Antichrist because he denies the rightful place in and relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to and within the Godhead and as such commits blasphemy like Arius.
St. Nicholas- a.k.a. “Santa Claus”- punching out Arius the heretic. He was one of St. Athanasius’ supporters.
This does not change the fact that Jesus is, was, and will always be God in as much as somebody could change the laws of physics. It is what it is and will always be so because it simply is. That said, it does not mean that people always listen.
The Church has a saying ascribed to St. Athanasius- Athanasius contra mundum– Athanasius against the world– because that was literally what happened. When the majority of Christians has rejected the revealed truths in sacred scripture and tradition, it was St. Athanasius and his supporters who literally stood against the entire Church in proclaiming the truth. For this he was expelled from his archdiocese at least six times, spent a total of 17 years in exile, was excommunicated by the heretical pope Liberius once under Arian pressure, and survived several assassination attempts, not including that he was hated and outcast by most of those in the Church.
Yet in the end, St. Athanasius prevailed, for he stood for truth first. As such, he truly was “Athanasius against the world.”
In the end, Arius the heretic was defeated, although his ideas lived on in the Arabian desert and were finally consolidated along with other heresies in the 7th century by an Arab named Mohammed in his new religion: Islam.
Arius the heretic being devoured in hell, Melchizedek on the right
I do not say lightly (but rather with much trepidation) that the current situation in the Church will go down as one of the great conflicts in the Church and I believe possibly the greatest in Church history yet, surpassing all previous conflicts including the Arian controvery (4th century), the Investiture controversy (11th century), and the Protestant Revolution (16th century).
As such, I feel it is good to review the words of St. Athanasius in a letter he wrote to his flock as bishop (from Our Lady of the Rosary Library Online):
May God console you! …What saddens you …is the fact that others have occupied the churches by violence, while during this time you are on the outside. It is a fact that they have the premises─but you have the apostolic Faith. They can occupy our churches, but they are outside the true Faith. You remain outside the places of worship, but the Faith dwells within you. Let us consider: what is more important, the place or the Faith? The true Faith, obviously. Who has lost and who has won in this struggle-the one who keeps the premises or the one who keeps the Faith?
True, the premises are good when the apostolic Faith is preached there; they are holy if everything takes place there in a holy way …You are the ones who are happy: you who remain within the church by your faith, who hold firmly to the foundations of the Faith which has come down to you from apostolic Tradition. And if an execrable jealousy has tried to shake it on a number of occasions, it has not succeeded. They are the ones who have broken away from it in the present crisis.
No one, ever, will prevail against your faith, beloved brothers. And we believe that God will give us our churches back some day.
Thus, the more violently they try to occupy the places of worship, the more they separate themselves from the Church. They claim that they represent the Church; but in reality, they are the ones who are expelling themselves from it and going astray.
Even if Catholics faithful to Tradition are reduced to a handful, they are the ones who are the true Church of Jesus Christ.