The 20th Pope Athnasius the Apostolic
GOD Planned to prepare this chosen vessel to stand against Arius and the Arians; being Supported by the Spirit and the Truth; to preserve the Faith of the Economical Church concerning the Divinity of Our Master the LORD JESUS CHRIST. Most probably he was born to a religious family in Upper Egypt around 297 AD. He learned the virtues of the Christian life from his father who was a priest.
The family moved to Alexandria ( Probably after the pass away of his father). The 19th Pope Alexandros saw Athnasius while he was looking from the Terrace of the Patriarch. He watched him playing with his friends and imitating the role of a Patriarch that was serving the Sacrament of Baptism. He called him and after having a chat with him, he started to like him. He accepted Athnasius as his disciple and secretary. The LORD was preparing him to serve on a wider and broader level. St Athnasius did not get deeply involved in the administrative aspects of his job, but was focusing on studying science, philosophy, literature and law, His main interest was studying theology from the Patriarch point of view. What filled his heart with flame was that many of his instructors were martyrs. They got the crown of the martyrdom while they were still young. Probably Athnasius was present during their exclusion due to their refusal of changing their hearts towards their faith in the LORD JESUS CHRIST. Hearing their last words was a pushing factor for him to struggle for the preservation of the true Christian faith till death.
His Ascetic life:
St Athnasius lived as a disciple of St Antonius (St Antoni) for sometime. He followed the example of his spiritual father of the ascetic life and his heart was flaming with the love of worshiping, meditation, non fear of death and abandoning the worldly joys. His early spiritual maturity showed in his writing two books before 319 AD:
Against the Pagans and the Incarnation of the LOGOS. In the first he called the Pagans to reject their worshiping the idols and in the second he explained on scientific basis the theological point of view about the DIVINE INCARNATION
During the universal council at Nicea( 325 AD):
It is stated in the tradition that Pope Alexandros ordinated his deacon Athnasius as a priest to grant him the permission to participate in the universal council discussions where he was a shining star as he defeated the Arians who denied the Divinity of the LORD JESUS CHRIST. He manifested his excellency when he stated that “ JESUS CHRIST IS ONE in Essence with the FATHER”.
His ordination as the pope of Alexandria: 2
Saint Athnasius tried to disappear when he felt that the Church authorities ( Eklerios) and the congregation are strongly asking for his ordination as the bishop and the pope of Alexandria after the pass away of pope Alexandros( 328 AD). Only few disapproved his election who were Arians and Melitians (Followers of Melitus who denied his Christian faith during the time of persecution , then tried to persuade the bishops to rebel). He attempted to take the place of the pope and sit on
the papal chair while St Peter the last Martyr was in jail. While he was still 30 years old, St Athnasius was ordinated as a Bishop and Pope of Alexandria and the preached counties. Seven years passed peacefully. He ordained Sam Vermintious as as the bishop of Eskoom in Ethiopia and gave him the name of Bishop ( Anba) Salamaa. This was the beginning of the institution of the Ethiopian Church around 330 AD while some researches mention that this institution was on 357 AD. During that peaceful seven years period , he dropped a papal visit to Upper Egypt. He met with St Bachkomios who was hiding from him till he became sure that the pope did not want to Ordain him to a priesthood rank.
The resistance of the Arians against the Pope:
The Arians and Melitians joined with bishop Yosabius of Nicomedia and plotted to destroy Pope Athnasius who stayed suffering from their evil plans for forty years as illustrated in the following paragraphs:
1- The Emperor Costantin, persuaded by bishop Yosabius, ordered Athnasius to accept Arius on the Church community after Arius pretended that he repented and malicuously wrote his creed that was rejected by Pope Athnasius.
2- The bishops that were followers of Melitus sailed to Nicomedia and presented several charges against the Pope. But two priests who were present at the Emperor porch at that time exposed these bishops and proved the falseness of these accusations. So the Emperor ordered that the Pope should come to him. The Pope proved that all these charges were false. The details of these accusations were :
A) That the Pope broke the Communion cup of priest Eskira and
B) That he killed bishop Arsanius.
The first came to the Pope and presented his repentance and confession said they offered him a bribe to testify falsely and the second was hiding in Soor and was brought in to the Emperor.
3- On the year 335 AD a council in Soor, headed by Yosabius the Cesearian who was pushed by Yosabius the Nicomedian. . They brought a harlot who claimed that Athnasius raped her. One of the Pope's deacons called Timothy talked with her pretending that he was Athnasius.
The harlot boldly said “ You are the one who overpowered me and took away my virginity”. By that all were ashamed. They presented as well to the council the accusations of priest Eskira and bishop Arsanius. Some of the Jews came as false witnesses pretending that they were new Christian believers. When the innocence of the Pope was clear to all, The council members were furiously agitated. The Pope left heading to Constantinople. When Yosabius and his followers felt that they are still in danger, they claimed that the pope hindered the export of wheat from Alexandria to Constantinople. The emperor got furious and sent Pope Athnasius to exile at Trev (February 336 AD). Pope Athnasius boldly told the emperor “May the LORD Judge between you and me”. After the consecration of the church of the Holy Tomb, a second council was held in Jerusalem following the one in Soor. Most of the attendants were Arians who who took the decision that Arius should return to Alexandria catching the chance that the Pope was at exile. Arius traveled to Alexandria surrounded by a multitude of guards. The rebel of the crowd against him forced the ruler to draw him back to Constantinople. The emperor ordered him to come. Yosabius the Nicodian saved no effort in trying to make Arius join the Church community again. This caused a feeling of bitterness to the Pope of Constantinople. When he was forced to accept him , he faithfully prayed to the LORD to solve this problem and left it in HIS Hands. On Arius' way to the church, he died in a public rest room where his bowels poured out of his body. A year later while the emperor was dying on his bed, he gave orders that Pope At hnasius should return from exile and sit on the Papal chair. When the Pope actually returned, he found the whole congregation of Alexandria waiting for him with great joy feeling that as if he is an Angel from above.
4-But Yosabius the Nicomedian did not stop resisting the Pope. He succeeded to convince the emperor to order the replacement of the ruler Theodoros, who was a friend of Pope Athnasius, by Philagius the Capadokian. Philaguis was a previous ruler of Alexandria (335-337 AD). He was a fierce enemy of the Pope. He was a fierce enemy of the Pope. The Arians did destructive deeds and riots in Alexandria, trying to convince the emperor that the presence of Pope Athnasius was the cause of the loss of peace. They accused him of putting his hand on the wheat dedicated for the poor, and that his return to the papal chair is not supported by an ecumenical decision from a universal council. St Antonius (St Antoni) came from the wilderness to support the suffering Pope.
5-During the year 335 AD. Yosabius the Nicomedian was engaged in moving from Nicomedia to Constantinople as the capital of the empire officially moved there. When he finished that task, he dedicated all his time to fight Pope Athnasius.
At the year 338 AD he persuaded the emperor Costantinos to call for a council at Antakia. The council decided to discommunicate the Pope. A multitude of rebels rushed to the church of St Theonas to kill the Pope who escaped. The priests, monks and the whole congregation including the women were subjected to various torments, even some were slained and others imprisoned. After four years Gregory the Capadokian came to the city claiming to be the bishop. He persecuted the church congregation. The monks were motivated. St Antonius sent many letters to the intruding bishop and to some of the officers blaming them for their violent behavior St Bakomios sent two of his monks that were strong in spirit( Zakaros and Tadros) to Support the believers in Alexandria in the absence of the Pope. The Pope traveled to Rome to meet his friend Pope Yolyos. The latter wrote a letter to Yosabius the Nicomedian and his followers as requested by the Rome council during the Pope's visit, the monastic life was established in western countries. The Latin western way of thinking was strongly affected by the theological thoughts of Pope Athnasius. Yosabius men considered Yolyos letter, that proved the innocence of Pope Athnasius, an insult and was touching their dignity. They assembled for a council at Antakia and cleverly they wrote a mocking and threatening letter. On 342 AD. Pope met Costantos the western emperor in Milan. The Arians tried to portrait to his brother Costantinos the eastern emperor that Athnasius was asking the western emperor to call for a universal assembly for all the eastern and western bishops . The Pope confirmed that he did not ask for that, but it was a preceding idea of Costantos long before he met him.
6- During the year 343 AD. both the eastern and western emperors agreed to call for a council in Serdakia( Sophia capitol of Bulgaria)at the border of the two monarchies. The Arians bishops came from the east( Yosabius had passed away) and refused to join the council when they knew that Pope Athnasius and his group were attending. They gathered in Philopolis that was on the border of the eastern kingdom opposite to Serdakia. Yostathius the priest of Sardakia church wrote a letter on the behalf of the Arians to present their apology for not responding to the emperor invitation that came after his victorious return from a battle against the Persians. In their council they banned Hiosios, Yolyos and excommunicated Pope Athnasius.
The fathers at Serdakia council banned eleven Arian bishops. The Arians applied strict rules to prevent Athnasius and his followers from entering Alexandria. The LORD defeated their advice using their own hands. The Arians brought a harlot and sent her to the residence of two monks who were sent by the emperor Costantos
to his brother the eastern emperor. As the harlot entered the room of one of the monks , she saw a respectable elder who was deeply asleep. She screamed , and when the multitude gathered she exposed the evil plan. The Arian bishop of Antakia was excommunicated because of that conspiracy. The conscious of the eastern emperor was motivated and he became aware of the wickedness of the Arians. He gave his ordered that all who were exiled because of them should return. He even sent three letters to Pope Athnasius telling him that he miss him and begging him to sit on his papal chair. The Pope on his way to meet the emperor passed by his friend Yolyos the bishop of Rome who joyfully cheered him. Yolyos wrote a letter to the priests of Alexandria( El Eklirios) congratulating them on thee occasion of the return of their struggling Pope. The man of sorrows( Pope Athnasius) met the emperor then returned back home to be received by his congregation with the utmost joy, after his absence for seven years. During that period the congregation lacked his spiritual providence and bitterly suffered from the persecution of the Arians and Melitians. His return was a real blessing. He ordained many bishops for the non occupied patriarchies. The number of the servants. the voluntary unmarried and the monks multiplied. All worked to compensate the lost spiritually empty years . A civil war started between Magnentios who murdered emperor Costanes and his brother emperor Costantios who was now reigning both the eastern and western monarchies. That three years war had withdrawn the attention of all the authorities. The Arians caught the chance of the murder of emperor Costanes who was Pope Athnasius friend and accused the Pope of having a relation with the killer. When the emperor got rid of Magnentios, he dedicated his time to resistance of the pope due to hating him deeply. He furiously forced both the eastern and western bishops to assemble two councils one in Arel, France and the other in Milan, Italy. The main goal for these two councils was to excommunicate Pope Athnasius and to send him to exile. Some bishops rejected the predisposed decisions and accepted to be subjected to exile as Balinios bishop of Tereve, Lucifer bishop of Sardinia, Yosabios bishop of Frishely , Dosanios bishop of Milan, Italy. Bishop Hosiuos bishop of Kortoba endured the exile as well though he was hundred years old. But Lipirios bishop of Roma endured the exile for two years only, then he surrendered and signed the Arians' document. The soldiers attacked St Theonas Church while the pope was praying with the priests, the monks, the deacons and the congregation. The congregation got furious when they saw the glimmers of the swords inside the church. The Pope wished to be
the last one to leave the church but the priests and monks forced him to leave as the lamps and candles went off and it became dark. . St Athnasius escaped and disappeared for six years. While the emperor was desperately seeking to execute him. The emperor sent George El Kapidoki as a bishop of Alexandria. He brutally collected money from the congregation and forcedly put his hands on the churches. But he did not manage to stay for long. He escaped and returned after thee death of the emperor(361 AD) to be murdered by the Gentiles who hated him. Probably they killed him to steal his money. St Athnasius in his voluntary exile was moving from a monastery to another and his heart full of flaming love to his congregation. He was shepherding his flock through his continuous theologically strong books. His spiritual writings were abundant. He edited the biography of St Antonius( Antoni) and included what St Antonius said about his own escape. He wrote letters to the bishops of Egypt and Libya as well as to bishop Lucifer of Kalarees( Calgary at Sardinia Island west of Italy) and to the Egyptian monks. He wrote four articles that opposed the Arians' thoughts and wrote five theological letters to bishop Sarabamoun of Teemi. He wrote as well letters about the HOLY SPIRIT and a collective book about economical councils. When Yolyanos reigned after the death of Costantenos, St Athnasius appeared in public accompanied by Lucifer of Kaladios and sarabios of farchili, that were exiled at upper Egypt( 362 AD). The pope assembled council on 362 AD, that was called “the assembly of the Saints and Confessors” as all the attendees were returning from exile or were subjected to tortures. That peaceful period did not last for long as Yolyanus felt the threat of Pope Athnasius to the pagans. So he sent a letter to the governor of Alexandria informing him that his order meant the return of those exiled to their countries not to their previous positions. He ordered him to resend Athnasius to the exile outside of Egypt. The Pope took shelter in his father's grave for six months. As the emperor continued to apply pressure on the governor, St Athnasius was forced to leave Alexandria heading to upper Egypt. The ship of the governor's soldiers that were searching for him came across his ship. They asked him if he had seen Athnasius. He replied that he was not far from you. So they rushed to upper Egypt while he returned to Cairo city near Memphis. .Again he restarted to move again between the monasteries of upper Egypt.When Jovian reigned after Yolyanos was murdered, he sent a friendly letter to the Pope asking for his return and he ordered as well the return of all who were at exile. The Pope returned to Alexandria where he called for a council where he wrote a letter that enclosed the Nicean Creed. Then he went to
meet the emperor who welcomed him. On February 364 he returned back to Alexandria carrying with him the emperor's supporting letters. Jovian died on the same month and Valentine took over. He delivered the eastern monarchy to Valens his Arian brother.
8- Valens sent instructions ordering the return of the bishops that were exiled during Yolyanos reign to their posts. The Pope was forced to leave Alexandria to a home at the countryside. Under the pressure of the congregation the Pope returned and sat on his papal chair after about nine months( My635-February366 AD.). All the inhabitants of Alexandria were filled of happiness and joy. The Pope returned from his fifth exile when he was around seventy years old. He shepherded his flock with a flaming zeal spirit. He focused on purifying the country from the blasphemies of the Arians. On 369 AD he assembled a council in Alexandria. Ninety bishops attended and stressed on confirming the true Orthodox faith. He kept on working till he reached the age of seventy five, to leave to the next generations the inheritance of the true Orthodox faith.
O LORD Defeat the enemies of YOUR Church as YOU Purposes and Defeated the good advice of Ahithophel by the prayers of St Athnasius (2S:17:4 & the Basilic Liturgy)
|Arabic biography source of: The 20th Pope Athnasius the Apostolic|
|Translated by: Maged (servant of the LORD)||
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