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Title: Saint Athanasius - The Father of Orthodoxy
Author: Forbes, F. A. (Frances Alice), 1869-1936
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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c. 297-373


By F.A. [Francis Alice] Forbes

"Jesus said to them: Amen, Amen I say to you, before Abraham was
made, I am."
--John 8:58

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the
Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. . . . And the
Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us."
--John 1:14

Nihil Obstat: J.N. Strassmaier, S.J.
              Censor Deputatus

Imprimatur:   Edmund Canon Surmont
              Vicar General
              August 5, 1919

Originally published in 1919 by R. & T. Washbourne, Ltd., London, as
part of the series _Standard-bearers of the Faith: A Series of Lives
of the Saints for Young and Old_.

"Born of the Father before all ages, God of God, Light of Light,
true God of true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the
Father . . . "
--From the Nicene Creed


1.  A Foreshadowing

2.  Arius the Heresiarch

3.  The Great Council

4.  The Calm Before the Storm

5.  False Witnesses

6.  A Royal-Hearted Exile

7.  The Day of Rejoicing

8.  The Invisible Patriarch

9.  A Short-Lived Peace

10. The Last Exile

11. The Truce of God


"I and the Father are one."
--Words of Our Lord (John 10:30)

Chapter 1

THE Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt was expecting company. He stood at
the window of his palace looking down the long road, that at the first
sign of his guests' arrival he might go forth and welcome them. Before
him, like a white pearl in the blue waters of the Mediterranean, lay
the city of Alexandria--"the beautiful," as men loved to call it.
Across the harbor the marble tower of the great lighthouse soared up
into the clear Eastern sky, white as the white cliffs of the Island of
Pharos from which it sprang. It was noonday, and the sunshine lay like
a veil of gold over all.

The Patriarch's thoughts were wandering in the past. He had been
celebrating the anniversary of his holy predecessor Peter, the
previous Bishop, who had won the crown of martyrdom during the
terrible persecution of the Christians not so many years before.
Several of the clergy present had come from afar to assist at the
festival, and these were to be his expected guests.

The time of suffering was past and over, and yet it seemed to
Alexander as if it had all happened yesterday and might happen again
tomorrow. There stood the great palace of the Caesars, where the pagan
emperor had sat in judgment upon the lambs of Christ's flock; there
the famous temple of Serapis, where the Christians had been dragged to
offer incense to the gods; there the amphitheater where they had been
torn to pieces by beasts and slain with the sword for confessing the
Name of Christ. And all through those dark days, firm and steadfast as
the lighthouse on the cliffs of Pharos, had stood the Patriarch Peter,
a tower of strength and comfort to his persecuted children.

A hundred Bishops and more had looked to him as their head, for the
See of Alexandria in the East was second only to that of Rome in the
West, and the burden of responsibility was heavy. But, thanks to the
example of its chief, the Church in Egypt had borne the trial bravely,
and if some had quailed before the torture and the rack and had fallen
away, by far the greater number had been true. Even the unheroic
souls, who had loved their lives better than their God, had not been
lost beyond hope, for they had come back during the lulls in the
storm, begging to be absolved from their sin. And Peter, mindful of
his Master's words that he should not quench the smoking flax nor
break the bruised reed, received them back, after they had done
penance, into the fold of Christ with mercy and compassion.

There were some who had not scrupled to protest against such mercy.
"Were these apostates," cried Meletius, Bishop of Lykopolis, "to be
made equal to those who had borne the burden and the heat of the day?"
And he had rebelled against the decision of the Patriarch and made a
schism in the Church. Even the martyrdom of the holy Peter had not
brought him back to his allegiance: the Meletians were rebels still,
to the crying scandal of Christians and pagans alike.

They were a hard people to govern, these Alexandrians--subtle,
passionate and unstable, ready to follow any preacher of novelties.
Alexander half envied Peter his martyr's crown as he stood musing over
the past.

What was delaying his guests? he wondered, as he looked down the long
road, where there was as yet no sign of them.

On the shore, at a little distance, a group of boys were playing,
their bare legs and white tunics flashing hither and thither as they
ran. One of them, a tall slim lad, whose aureole of ruddy hair seemed
to catch every wandering sunbeam, was evidently directing the game,
for all seemed to look to him for orders. "A leader of men," smiled
the Patriarch to himself, as a vigorous wave of the boy's hand brought
all his companions round him.

They were building some kind of a platform now, on to which he of the
ruddy locks was promptly hoisted, while the others appeared to be
forming a procession.

"A church ceremony," murmured the Patriarch to himself, remembering
his own boyhood days. Presently a little boy advanced solemnly and
presented some kind of a vessel to the youthful bishop, who, with a
magnificent gesture, beckoned to the procession to approach. Then, as
the foremost boy advanced and knelt at his feet, he raised the vessel
and poured some of its contents over his head.

"The baptism of the catechumens!" exclaimed the Patriarch; "but this
looks a good deal too much like earnest!"

Hastily calling a servant, he bade him go down to the shore and bring
up the band of boys who were playing there. Summoned thus hastily to
appear before authority, they approached with some uneasiness, and
there was a certain amount of scuffling among them which resulted in
the appearance of the would-be bishop in the forefront of the
group--and where should a bishop be if not at the head of his flock?

"What were you doing down there on the shore?" asked the Patriarch.

The boy's clear eyes looked at him with interest, but without a
vestige of fear.

"We were playing," he said. "It was the baptism of the catechumens. I
was the bishop, and they"--pointing to his companions--were the

"Are you a Christian?" asked Alexander.

"Yes," answered the boy proudly.

"And these?"


"What did you do?"

"I poured the water on them and said the words."

"What words?"

The boy repeated the formula in perfect Greek.

"Did you pour the water as you said the words?"


The Patriarch's face was troubled.

"It is a dangerous game to play at," he said. "What would you say if I
told you that you had really baptized them?"

The boy looked at him in amazement.

"But I am not a bishop," he said.

The Patriarch could not help smiling.

"Although the bishop usually does baptize the catechumens," he said,
"it is not necessary that it should be a bishop, not even necessary
that it should be a priest."

The boy-bishop looked grave, his companions frightened, the Patriarch

"What is your name?" he asked suddenly, laying his hand on the ruddy

"Athanasius," answered the boy.

"What would you like to be?" he asked.

"A priest," was the prompt answer.

"A bishop perhaps?" asked Alexander with a smile; "you think it is an
easy and a glorious life?"

The boy's eyes looked straight into the Patriarch's.

"The blessed Peter was a martyr," he answered.

"You need much learning to be a priest."

"I love learning," said the boy.

Alexander noted the broad, intelligent brow, the keen eyes and the
clear-cut face before him. His heart went out to this frank and
fearless lad who loved the martyrs.

"Come to me this evening, and we will talk of this," he said, for his
guests were at last to be seen approaching, and his duty lay with

That evening the boy and the Patriarch had much to say to each other
as they walked under the palm trees in the garden of the episcopal
palace. Alexander learned how Athanasius had been brought up in the
Christian Faith under the shadow of the great persecution, among those
who counted it the highest honor to shed their blood for Christ. He
had been well taught in the famous Greek schools of Alexandria and was
full of enthusiasm for the great Greek philosophers and poets. Strong
of will, noble of heart and keen of intellect, the boy was born to
something great--of that the Patriarch felt assured. The Church had
need of such men in these troublous times, when the dangers of heresy
had succeeded to those of persecution.

Alexander at once resolved to take Athanasius into his household and
to bring him up as his own son, an inspiration for which he was often
to thank God in the years to come. The boy soon grew to love the
gentle and holy Patriarch, who could act with such strength and
decision when it was needful for the good of the Church. He was
constantly in touch with men of every rank and country, for Alexandria
was a city where people of all nations and of all creeds met. Pagans,
Jews and Christians lived side by side in their various quarters;
there even existed a set of philosophers who tried to make a religion
for themselves out of an amalgamation of several others.

Athanasius was still very young when he began to act as secretary to
the Patriarch, accompanying him on all his journeys throughout his
vast diocese; and he himself tells us how he stayed for a time among
the monks in the desert of Egypt and how his young soul was set on
fire by the holiness of their lives.

Neither science nor logic nor philosophy offered any difficulty to the
brilliant young scholar, whose knowledge of Scripture and of theology
was to astonish the men of his time. Alexander himself as he grew
older leaned more and more on Athanasius, consulting him, young as he
was, on the most important matters. So the years rolled on, and the
boy grew into manhood, "gentle and strong," as we are told by one who
knew him, "high in prowess, humble in spirit, full of sympathy,
angelic in mind and face." That he would make his mark on the world of
his time, few who knew him doubted; but of the dauntless
soldier-spirit that slumbered behind that gentle mien, of the
steadfast will that no human power could shake, they knew but little.
God's moment had not yet come.

Chapter 2

THE night before the martyrdom of the Patriarch Peter, as he had lain
in prison praying and waiting for that dawn which was to be his last
on earth, there had come to him a few of his faithful clergy. They had
braved many dangers to look once more upon the face of their beloved
Bishop and to obtain his blessing and his last instructions; they had
come also to plead for one who had asked their help.

But a short time before, a certain man called Arius had been
excommunicated by the Patriarch for having joined the schism of
Meletius. He it was who that very day had visited them, beseeching
them with tears to use their influence with Peter to obtain his
pardon. The clerics knew the tenderness of their Bishop's heart and
his readiness to forgive the erring; they were therefore greatly
surprised when their petition met with a stern refusal.

"Never," said Peter. "Arius is separated from the glory of the Son of
God both in this world and in the next."

Then, as Achillas and Alexander, his dearest and most intimate
friends, had drawn him apart to ask the reason for such unusual

"This night," he said, "as I prayed, Our Lord appeared to me in glory,
but His robe was rent from top to bottom. 'Who has treated Thee thus,
my Lord!' I cried, 'and rent Thy garments?'

"'It is Arius,' He replied, 'who has torn My robe, and tomorrow they
will come to you to intercede for him. Therefore I have warned you to
keep him from the fold. But you shall die for Me tomorrow.'"

Then Achillas and Alexander, and they that were with them, prayed once
more with their Bishop, and he blessed them and bade them depart in
peace. And when the morning came, the promise of Christ was fulfilled,
and His faithfu1 servant received the martyr's crown.

Achillas succeeded Peter as Patriarch, and in course of time, yielding
to the entreaties of Arius and deceived by his apparent good faith, he
received him back into the fold and gave him charge of one of the
largest churches in Alexandria in a district called Baukalis.

Tall and striking in appearance, with a certain eloquence and a great
pretense of holiness, Arius soon became a popular preacher. He had
even hoped, it was said, to succeed Achillas as Patriarch; and when,
on the death of Achillas, Alexander was elected to take his place,
Arius' anger and envy knew no bounds. Since he could find no fault
with the conduct of the new Patriarch, whom everyone acknowledged to
be blameless and holy, he proceeded to find fault with his doctrine.
"In teaching that Christ was the Eternal Son of God," said the priest
of Baukalis, "Alexander and his clergy made a great mistake. Since
Christ was the creation of God the Father, how could He Himself be

It was a heresy that struck at the very roots of Christianity.
Alexander remembered, too late, the warning of Peter. Gentle and
peaceful by nature, he tried at first to win Arius by kindness. "Let
him explain his difficulty," he said, "and discuss the question with
theologians"; but all such suggestions were met with pride and
obstinacy. Arius at last sent a haughty statement of his opinions,
which were condemned by nearly all the Bishops of Egypt. He was
therefore deposed and forbidden to preach, but he was not the man to
take his defeat humbly.

Hastening to Caesarea in Palestine, where he had influential friends,
he gave himself out as "the very famous, the much suffering for God's
glory, who, taught of God, has acquired wisdom and knowledge." Many
were seduced by his insidious persuasions, among them Eusebius, the
Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, who, thoroughly taken in by the
deceits and false holiness of the heretic, wrote a letter to Alexander
in his favor.

The Patriarch replied by a detailed account of Arius' teaching and his
trial, giving the reasons why the Synod had thought fit to depose him.
This letter had an effect on the clergy and Bishops of Palestine which
Arius was quick enough to see. He therefore retired into Syria, where
he made great friends with another Eusebius, the clever and crafty
Bishop of Nicomedia, who had gained an unfortunate influence over the

It was now nearly twelve years since Constantine, himself a pagan,
though the son of St. Helena, had prayed to the God of the Christians
to give him the victory over his enemies. His prayers had been heard.
In the brightness of the noonday sky there appeared a sign which
outshone the sun in splendor--the image of the Cross of Christ. "In
this sign thou shalt conquer" was traced in fiery letters across it,
and the Emperor and all his army saw and believed.

With the Cross as standard, Constantine marched against his enemies
and defeated them. From that day forth he became a catechumen and the
protector and friend of the Christians. His first act was to publish
an edict, the Edict of Milan, which gave them full liberty to practice
their religion, build churches and preach. Thus the Church came forth
at last from the dark night of persecution, but her life on earth is
ever a warfare against the powers of evil, and other dangers lay

The Emperor began by making humane laws. He abolished the punishment
of crucifixion out of reverence for the Son of God, who had died upon
the Cross, put a stop to the cruel games of the arena and bettered the
condition of the slaves.

Constantine's nature was really a noble one, but there was much in him
still of the pagan and the barbarian. Unfortunately for himself and
for the world, he fell under the influence of Eusebius, Bishop of

This man, who was said to have apostatized during the persecution of
Maxentius and who had intruded himself, no one quite knew how, into
the See of Nicomedia, had begun by winning the good graces of
Constantia, the Emperor's sister. During the time when Constantia's
husband, Licinius, was at war with her brother, Eusebius was his
staunch friend, upholding him in his rebellion against the Emperor;
but on the defeat of Licinius, the Bishop at once transferred his
friendship to the conqueror, Constantine. Bishop Eusebius resembled
Arius in his want of reverence and of honesty, and had taken Arius'
side against the Patriarch, Alexander, praising openly the teaching of
Arius and declaring that his only wish was that all men should share
his opinions. He had even dared to write in Arius' favor to the
Patriarch, declaring insolently that he had been unjustly deposed.

Alexander was growing old, but the Faith was in peril; it was a moment
for vigorous action. Moreover, at his side, like a faithful watchdog,
stood his secretary, the young deacon Athanasius. Circular letters
were sent to Pope St. Sylvester and to all the Bishops warning them of
the new danger that was threatening the Church. "Since Eusebius has
placed himself at the head of these apostates," wrote Alexander, "it
is necessary that it should be made known to all the faithful, lest
they should be deceived by their hypocrisy."

Eusebius and Arius were both astonished and disgusted at the firm
attitude of the Patriarch. Athanasius was at the bottom of it, they
declared, and they vowed an undying hatred against him. The Emperor
Constantine, who happened at this moment to be visiting Nicomedia,
where he had spent a great part of his youth, heard Eusebius' version
of the story. It was only a question of words, said the wily Bishop;
what was really distressing about it was the spite and the venom with
which the Patriarch of Alexandria had pursued an innocent and holy man
for having dared to differ from him in opinion. Arius was then
presented to the Emperor as a faithful and unjustly persecuted priest,
a part which he knew how to play to perfection.

It was well known to Eusebius that the great desire of Constantine was
to preserve and maintain peace in his empire. If this quarrel were
allowed to go on, said the Bishop, there would soon be strife
throughout the whole of the East, for there was much bitterness
already. On the other hand, Constantine was known to all Christians as
the protector and generous benefactor of the Church. Would it not be
well for him, suggested Eusebius, to use his influence for good and to
write to Alexander, bidding him lay aside this most unchristian
dispute and make peace with Arius and his followers? The Emperor, as
Eusebius had hoped, took alarm at the prospect of disunion in his
dominions. A catechumen himself, and knowing but little of the great
truths of Christianity, he was easily deceived by Eusebius' story and
hastened to take his advice.

It was a scandalous thing, he wrote, that the peace of the Church
should be disturbed for such a trivial matter. Let Alexander and Arius
forgive one another; let them each keep their own opinion if they
chose, but in concord and in quiet. He ended by begging both to give
him peace by making peace among themselves and by putting an end to
all such quarrels.

The letter was entrusted to Hosius, Bishop of Cordova, a confessor of
the Faith, venerated throughout the Church for his wisdom and
holiness. He was to deliver it personally to the Patriarch of

Now, Hosius was a Bishop of the Western Church and had heard but vague
rumors of the doings of Arius and his followers in the East. His first
interview with the Patriarch of Alexandria opened his eyes to the
importance of the matter. It was no question of a war of words or a
difference of opinion--Christianity itself was at stake; the Emperor
must be warned, and warned at once. A letter was therefore written by
the two Bishops, assisted probably by Athanasius, in which the Emperor
was earnestly begged to take steps to summon a universal Council of
the Church to decide the question. It was dispatched to him by a
trusty messenger and in due time reached his hands.

Constantine, who was really anxious to do what was right, appealed to
the Pope, St. Sylvester, to unite with him in summoning a Council. To
the Bishops who were too poor to undertake a long journey with the
usual attendance of clergy, the Emperor offered the necessary means.
He undertook also to house and provide for the members of the Council
as long as it lasted. The town of Nicea in Bithynia, about twenty
miles from Nicomedia, was chosen as the meeting place. It was hoped by
all devout Christians that peace and unity in the Church would be the

Chapter 3

IN the early summer of the year 325 the Council of Nicea met. Three
hundred eighteen Bishops were present, besides a multitude of priests,
deacons and acolytes. It was like the Day of Pentecost, said the
people: "men of all nations and of all tongues."

Many bore the glorious marks of the sufferings they had endured for
Christ; others were wasted with long years of prison. There were the
hermit Bishops of Egypt, Paphnutius and Potamon, who had each lost an
eye for the Faith; Paul of Neo-Caesarea, whose muscles had been burned
with red-hot irons and whose paralyzed hands bore witness to the fact;
Cecilian of Carthage, intrepid and faithful guardian of his flock;
James of Nisibis, who had lived for years in the desert in caves and
mountains; Spyridion, the shepherd Bishop of Cyprus, and the great St.
Nicholas of Myra, both famed for their miracles.

Among the Bishops of the West were Theophilus the Goth, golden-haired
and ruddy, who had won thousands to the Faith; and Hosius the
Spaniard, known as "the holy," who had been named by the Pope as his
representative; together with the two Papal Legates, Vito and Vincent.
Among those of the Eastern Church were the venerable St. Macarius,
Bishop of Jerusalem, and St. Amphion, who had been put to the torture
in the reign of Diocletian.

Last but not least came the aged Patriarch of Alexandria, the chief
prelate of the Eastern Church, who had brought with him as his
assistant the young deacon Athanasius.

Of the 318 Bishops present, seventeen, headed by Eusebius of
Nicomedia, were in sympathy with Arius. They were but a small number,
it is true, yet Eusebius was the adviser of Constantine and the friend
of his sister Constantia. He relied on his influence with the Emperor
and his well-known powers of persuasion.

*   *   *   *   *

The day has come for the opening of the Council. The Bishops and
clergy are assembled in a great hall which has been prepared for this
purpose. In the center, upon a splendid throne, lies a copy of the
Four Gospels, symbol of the presence of Christ in the midst of His
Church. At the upper end a small gilt throne has been erected for the
Emperor, while the Bishops and the clergy sit on seats and benches
running the whole way around the hall.

A quick whisper suddenly breaks the silence: "The Emperor!" and the
whole assembly rises to its feet. Few of those present have seen the
man whose name is on every lip, a Caesar and a Christian!

Alone and unattended, with bent head and humble mien, the Emperor
crosses the threshold. A man of noble presence and of royal dignity,
he wears the robe of Imperial purple blazing with gold and precious
stones; the Imperial crown is on his head. There are some there who
have seen that Imperial purple before, but under what different
circumstances--"Hail, Caesar; those about to die salute thee!"

He advances slowly and with faltering footsteps between the ranks of
Bishops standing to do him honor. Constantine the Great, the conqueror
of the Roman world, trembles in the presence of these intrepid
Confessors of the Faith who bear upon them the marks of the conflict.
In the midst of that august assembly he, the catechumen, is as a
little child. He will not even take his seat upon the throne prepared
for him until the Bishops urge him to do so.

The Emperor speaks to them with deference and courtesy. It is not for
him, he says, to dictate to them, for here he is but fellow servant
with them of a glorious Lord and Master. They had met to preserve
peace and concord in the Church and to put an end to all causes of
strife. Let them do what they can to that end.

There are two men in that assembly on whom all eyes are bent. One of
them is about sixty years of age, tall, thin and poorly clad, as one
who leads an austere life. A wild shock of hair overshadows his face,
which is of a deathly pallor; his eyes are usually downcast, owing to
a weakness of sight. He has a curious way of writhing when he speaks,
which his enemies compare to the wriggling of a snake. He is given to
fits of frenzy and wild excitement, but has withal, when he chooses, a
most winning and earnest manner, fascinating to men and women
alike--Arius the heresiarch.

The other, seated on a low seat beside the Patriarch of Alexandria, is
slight, fair and young; only his broad brow and keen, earnest eyes
betray something of the spirit within; he shows no excitement. Serene
and watchful, silent yet quick in his movements, he is like a young
St. Michael leaning on his sword, ready to strike for the truth when
the moment shall come--Athanasius the deacon.

The heresiarch is called upon to explain his doctrines. His discourse
is long and eloquent. He uses to the utmost his powers of fascination.
He tries to hide the full meaning of his words under beautiful
expressions, but his meaning is clear to all--"Jesus Christ is not

The Fathers and Confessors of the Faith, stricken with horror at the
blasphemy, cry out and stop their ears. The indignation is universal.
Eusebius and his party are in consternation. Arius has been too
outspoken. He has stated his opinions too crudely; such frankness will
not do here; he is no longer among the ignorant. Eusebius himself
rises to speak and, with the insinuating and charming manner for which
he is famous, tries to gloss over what Arius has said.

The Son of God is infinitely holy, he says, the holiest of all the
creations of the Father and far above them all. Very, very close to
the Father Himself, so close that He is very nearly God. As a matter
of fact, he declares, the Arians believe all that the Church teaches.

A letter is produced and read by one of the prelates; it was written
by Eusebius himself to a friend. Full of heresy, it shows most clearly
the double-dealing of the Arian Bishop and his party. The indignation
breaks out afresh, and the letter is torn to shreds in the presence of
the Council. Even Eusebius is abashed, but there are others to take
his place. The Arians continue the argument.

Silent and watchful at his post sits the young man who is destined to
be the champion of the Faith through all the troublous years to come.
He has not spoken yet, but now Alexander makes him a sign. The sword
flashes from its scabbard; woe to those on whom its blows shall fall!
In a few words, sharp and clear as diamonds, Athanasius tears to
pieces the veils in which the Arians had shrouded their true meaning.
"Who has deceived you, O senseless," he asks, "to call the Creator a

He is the champion of Christ, the champion of the truth. The Bishops
marvel at his words, which are as of one inspired; they thank God who
has raised up so strong a bulwark against error. Alexander's eyes are
aglow; it is for this that he has lived; he knew how it would be. His
long life's work is nearly at an end; he can go now in peace.
Athanasius is at his post.

But it is time to put an end to the discussion; Arius and his opinions
are abhorred by everyone. A profession of Faith is drawn up by Hosius,
the representative of Pope St. Sylvester, and presented for all to
sign. It establishes forever the Godhead of Christ. To this day it is
the profession of Faith of the whole Catholic world--the Nicene Creed.

"Born of the Father before all ages, God of God, Light of Light,
true God of true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the
Father . . ."

The Emperor has listened earnestly to the discussion, following it as
well as he can with his limited knowledge of doctrine. He approves the
profession of Faith with his whole heart; let it be presented to all
to sign.

But first--one moment--this heresy must be stamped out once and
forever or there will be trouble in the days to come. An addition must
be made before the signatures are affixed. It runs thus: "And if any
say, 'There was a time when God was not; or if any hold that the Son
is not of the same substance with the Father, or is . . . like a
created being,' the Holy Catholic Apostolic Church condemns him, as it
condemns forever Arius and his writings."

The text is then presented to the Bishops to sign. All are content but
the seventeen Arians. The Emperor expresses his entire satisfaction
with the decisions of the Council; he will uphold the law of the
Church with the law of the State, he declares, and those who rebel
will be punished.

The ranks of the Arians begin to waver; several Bishops sign the
Creed; soon there are only five left--Eusebius at their head.

The Emperor speaks of banishment.

The argument is a powerful one. Eusebius wavers. He receives a message
from Constantia bidding him give way; resistance is useless. He signs
the profession in company with Theognis of Nicea, his friend.

Arius, with several of his supporters, is then condemned to
banishment, and his writings are to be burned publicly. The minds of
all are at rest. Several other matters of less importance are settled
satisfactorily. The Council is at an end.

But Constantine has not finished with the Bishops. Today begins the
twentieth year of his reign, a day kept with great rejoicing by the
Roman Emperors. A banquet has been prepared at the palace; he claims
the honor of entertaining the Confessors and Fathers of the Faith.

Times have changed indeed. The soldiers of the Imperial Guard salute
with drawn swords the guests of the Emperor as they pass between them
into the palace--that Imperial Guard who in other days, which many
there remember, had dragged the Christians to torture and to death.

The Emperor receives them with veneration, kissing devoutly the scars
of those who have suffered for the Faith. The banquet over, he begs
their prayers and loads them with gifts, giving to each of the Bishops
a letter to the governor of his province ordering a distribution of
wheat to the churches for the use of the poor.

The hearts of all are full of joy and thankfulness. Taking leave of
the Emperor, they return, each man to his own country. The Council of
Nicea is over.

But there were two in whose hearts there was neither joy nor peace nor
thankfulness; they were Eusebius of Nicomedia and Theognis of Nicea.
Were they to return to their sees and confess themselves beaten? It
would be a bitter homecoming. The officials of the palace were well
known to Eusebius. He bribed the librarian to let him see once more
the famous document that had just been signed by so many Bishops.
Then, seizing a moment when the guardian's back was turned, the two
Arians deleted their names from the profession of Faith and, returning
home, continued to teach the doctrines which the Church had condemned.
They counted on the protection of Constantia and her influence with
the Emperor, but they were mistaken.

Three months after the Council of Nicea, Eusebius and Theognis were
deposed by Alexander and the Bishops of Egypt, who elected Catholic
prelates in their stead. The Emperor supported the decision of the
Church, pronouncing a sentence of banishment on the rebels. "Eusebius
has deceived me shamefully," he wrote to the faithful in Nicomedia.

Who could foresee that the Emperor, whose eyes were at last opened to
the perfidy of his friend, would before long allow himself to be
deceived more shamefully still by the very man whose dishonesty he had

Chapter 4

WITH the enemies of the Church in exile, for a time there was peace.
The heathen came flocking from every side to embrace the Faith. Pagan
temples were overthrown and Christian churches were erected in their
place. The Emperor himself built no less than eight in Rome, under the
direction of Pope St. Sylvester, and furnished them with all that was
required for the worship of God.

But Constantine was a stranger in the capital of his kingdom; he had
spent his youth at the court of Nicomedia, and looked upon the East as
his home. Rome, moreover, had tragic associations for him. It was
there that he had caused his young son Crispus, falsely accused of
treason by his stepmother Fausta, to be put to death. The young Caesar
had been brave and upright and a favorite with all. Too late did his
father learn that he was innocent. Fausta paid the penalty for her
evil deed, but her death could not give life to the innocent victim.

Constantine resolved, therefore, to build himself an Imperial city in
the land which he loved, far from the scene of the tragedy. He laid
its foundations in Byzantium and gave it the name of Constantinople,
or the city of Constantine. Everything was done to make the new
capital the most magnificent city in the world. Works of art were
brought from afar, the most skillful artists and builders were
assembled from all the cities of Europe and of the East, enormous sums
of money were spent, Christian churches were built; but Constantine
could not give to his Imperial city what was wanting to himself--a
pure and steadfast faith. Constantinople was destined to be the home
of every heresy.

In the meantime the holy Patriarch Alexander had gone to his rest. As
he lay on his deathbed he called for his beloved Athanasius, but there
was no reply. Athanasius had fled from the city, fearing from certain
words of the old man that he would be chosen to succeed him.

"Athanasius!" called the Patriarch once more.

There was one present who bore the same name, a not uncommon one in
the East; they brought him to the bedside of the dying Bishop, but his
eyes looked past him into space.

"Athanasius!" he called once more, "you think you can escape, but it
shall not be so." And with these words he died.

The same thought had been in the hearts of all. Athanasius was known
for his zeal and learning, his mortified life and his ardent love of
God. He was young, it was true, but he was wiser than many older men.
When the Bishops of the Church assembled to elect their new Patriarch,
the whole Catholic population surrounded the church, holding up their
hands to Heaven and crying, "Give us Athanasius!" The Bishops asked
nothing better. Athanasius was thus elected, as St. Gregory tells us,
by the suffrages of the whole people and by the choice of the Bishops
of the Church.

It was a heavy burden to be laid on the shoulders of a young man
scarcely thirty years of age. There were trials and combats ahead
before which, if Athanasius had seen them, even his bold and undaunted
spirit might have quailed. But the will of God, once made known to
him, was accepted bravely. He would bear the burden with all the
courage of his strong heart until the time came to lay it down.

The first few years of Athanasius' rule were years of peace during
which he devoted himself to the work he loved, the conversion of the
pagans and the visitation of his huge diocese, the Patriarchate of
Alexander. He traveled from city to city confirming and strengthening
the Church and making friends with the holy men over whom he had been
called to rule.

One day, when he had been but a few months Patriarch, a message was
brought to him from a stranger who wished to speak with him. His name
was Frumentius, and he had traveled from a distant country. Athanasius
was presiding at a meeting of Bishops. "Let him be brought in," he
said, "and let him tell us what he desires." The stranger was a man of
noble bearing and gentle manners. He had a wondrous tale to tell. He
and his brother Ædesius, left orphans at an early age, had been
adopted by an uncle who was a learned man and a philosopher. Desiring
greatly to undertake a voyage to Abyssinia to study the geography of
the country and unwilling to interrupt the education of his two young
charges, he took them with him, that they might continue their studies
under his care. His work finished, he set sail for home with the two
boys, but the boat, having put into a port for provisions, was set
upon by savages, and everyone on board was killed.

Now, it happened that the boys had landed and were reading together
under a tree on the shore. The savages had pity on their youth and,
instead of killing them, carried them off and presented them to their
King as slaves. The boys, who were intelligent and lovable, soon
gained the affections of their barbarian master. Arrived at manhood,
they were given positions of trust in the kingdom and loaded with
every honor. Frumentius, the elder, was especially beloved by the
King, over whom he gained a great influence for good. But the King
fell sick and, being near to death, called his wife, to whom he had
left the guardianship of his young son. "Let Frumentius help you in
the government," he said; "he is wiser and more faithful than any in
the kingdom."

The Queen Mother accordingly appointed Frumentius as the tutor of the
young King, and Governor of the State, while his brother Ædesius was
given a less important position. Frumentius, whose earnest desire was
to see the land that he governed Christian, summoned all the Christian
merchants who came to trade in the country and, giving them presents,
begged them to build houses of prayer and to do their utmost to win
the barbarians to the Faith. There were many conversions, and by the
time the young King had reached his majority, several Christian
communities were scattered throughout the State.

His task being now at an end, Frumentius asked leave to return to his
own land with his brother Ædesius. They had a hard task to persuade
the King and the Queen Mother to let them go, but at last they

Frumentius, whose heart was yearning over the country to which he owed
so much, had come straight to the Patriarch of Alexandria to beg of
him that he would send a Bishop to preside over the growing number of
churches in Abyssinia and to preach the Faith in the districts where
it was not yet known.

The Patriarch and the Bishops had followed the story with the greatest
interest. When Frumentius ceased speaking, there was a moment of
silence, broken suddenly by Athanasius himself.

"Who is more worthy of such a ministry," he cried, "than the man who
stands before us?"

The suggestion was approved by all. Frumentius was ordained by the
Patriarch, who gave him his blessing and bade him return to his
mission. He was honored as a Saint in Abyssinia, where he labored
zealously all his life for Christ. Ædesius, his brother, became a
priest also and helped in the good work.

Athanasius, as we have already seen, had spent a part of his youth
with the monks of the desert. It was his proudest boast that he had
acted as acolyte to the great St. Antony. He resolved, therefore, to
visit the district known as the Thebaid, where St. Pachomius, the
father of monasticism in the East, had founded many monasteries and
drawn up a rule for the monks.

Pachomius had been one of a body of young soldiers seized against
their will and forced to fight in the wars between Constantine and
Maxentius. It happened one day during a journey that they landed at
Thebes in Egypt, where they were treated with harshness and cruelty.
Hungry, poorly clad and miserable, the young soldiers were lamenting
their ill fortune when a party of strangers approached them from the
town, welcoming them as friends and brothers and giving them food,
garments and all that they so badly needed.

"Who are these good men?" asked Pachomius of a bystander.

"They are Christians," was the answer. "They are kind to everyone, but
especially to strangers."

"What is a Christian?" persisted the young soldier.

"A man who believes in Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, and does
good to all," was the reply.

Pachomius reflected for a few minutes and then withdrew a little way
from his companions. "Almighty God, who have made Heaven and earth,"
he cried, lifting his hands to Heaven, "if You will hear my prayer and
give me a knowledge of Your Holy Name, and deliver me from the
position in which I am, I promise You that I will consecrate myself to
Your service forever."

Not long after, Pachomius was set free and, seeking out a Christian
priest, received Baptism and instruction. Then, going at once to the
cell of an old hermit called Palemon, famous for his holy and
mortified life, he knocked at the door of his hut.

"Who are you, and what do you want?" asked the old man, opening his
door a few inches.

"I am called Pachomius, and I want to be a monk," was the answer.

"You cannot be a monk here," said Palemon. "It is a hard thing to be a
true monk, and there few who persevere."

"Perhaps so," replied Pachomius; "but all people are not alike."

"I have already told you," repeated the old man, "that you cannot be a
monk here. Go elsewhere and try; if you persevere you can come back."

"I would rather stay with you," said Pachomius.

"You do not know what you are asking," answered Palemon. "I live on
bread and salt; I pray and do penance the greater part of the
night--sometimes the whole night through."

Pachomius shivered, for he was a sound sleeper, but he replied
sturdily enough:

"I hope in Jesus Christ that, helped by your prayers, I shall

Palemon could resist him no longer. He took the young man to live with
him and found him a humble and faithful disciple. After some years,
the two hermits went together to the desert of the Thebaid and began
the work to which God had called Pachomius, for Palemon died soon

Many monasteries were founded, and men flocked to the desert to give
themselves to God. They slept on the bare ground, fasted continually
and cultivated the barren earth or made baskets and mats of the coarse
reeds that grew in the marshes, selling them for the profit of the
poor. Twice during the night the weird blast of the horn that summoned
them to prayer broke the vast silence of the desert.

Hearing of the arrival of Athanasius, Pachomius came down from his
lonely monastery of Tabenna, surrounded by his monks; but he hid
himself among them from humility, or from the fear that Athanasius
would do him too much honor. The Saint, however, detected the Saint,
and they were soon firm friends. To the Patriarch, the monks of Egypt
represented all that was best and strongest in the national spirit. On
these men he knew he could rely, and his hopes were not disappointed.
The solitaries of the desert, to a man, would be faithful to
Athanasius during the years of trial that followed.

Indeed, wherever Athanasius went throughout his vast diocese, the
hearts of all loyal and noble men went out to him instinctively. He
was a precious gift of God to Egypt--a precious gift of God to the
whole Catholic Church.

Chapter 5

THE storm of persecution which was to fall with such fury upon St.
Athanasius was already gathering.

Constantia, the Emperor's favorite sister, who had always been
strongly in favor of the Arians, became very ill. The priest who
attended her on her deathbed, a friend and tool of Eusebius of
Nicomedia, induced her to persuade Constantine, who visited her
continually during her illness, that Arius and his friends had been
unjustly condemned and that the judgment of God would fall on him and
his empire in consequence. Constantine, always easily influenced by
his immediate surroundings, began to waver. Constantia soon died, but
the Arian priest continued the work that had been so successfully
begun. Arius believed all that the Church believed, he pleaded; let
him at least be allowed to come into the presence of the Emperor; let
him have a chance to prove his innocence.

Although Constantine had heard with his own ears the blasphemies of
the heresiarch, although he had approved so heartily of the decision
of the Council which condemned him and had enforced it with the power
of the State, he gave way before the persuasions of this stranger.

"If Arius can assure me that he believes the profession of Faith set
forth by the Council of Nicea," he said, "he may return."

The good news was instantly made known to the heretic and his friends,
and Arius hastened to Constantinople, where he was admitted into the
Emperor's presence.

"Is it true that you believe what the Church teaches?" asked

"I take my solemn oath that I believe what I hold in my hand," replied
Arius, unfolding the Nicene Creed.

In the hollow of his palm was concealed a statement of his own false
doctrines, but this the Emperor could not know. He professed himself
satisfied, and thus the seed was sown which was to bring forth bitter
fruit during centuries to come.

With Arius recalled, there was no longer any reason why Eusebius and
Theognis, who declared that they shared his opinions, should remain in
banishment. Once in Constantinople, Eusebius regained all his old
influence over the Emperor.

From that day forth, the Constantine of the heavenly vision, the
Constantine of the Council of Nicea, noble, wise and humble,
disappears from the pages of history, and a man changeable, capricious
and uncertain takes his place.

The first act of Eusebius and Theognis was to drive out the Catholic
Bishops who had been elected to replace them in their sees; the second
was to look about them to see who was likely to stand in their way.
Eustathius, the Bishop of Antioch, an intrepid defender of the Faith,
must be gotten rid of at once, they decided, and they proceeded to plot
his ruin.

They started for Jerusalem to visit--or at least, so they said--the
beautiful Church of the Holy Cross which the Emperor had just built.
On their way home, they announced that they would stay for a short
time at Antioch, and they invited all the Bishops who were likely to
be friendly to meet them there in council. They were received with the
greatest courtesy by Eustathius, who did all that he could to make
their visit pleasant. They had, however, bribed an abandoned wretch of
the town to enter while the council was sitting and accuse Eustathius
before all present of a scandalous crime.

Affecting to be greatly grieved and horrified at the accusation, they
deposed Eustathius and elected an Arian in his place, silencing those
who opposed their unjust and unlawful conduct by declaring that they
acted by command of the Emperor. Constantine was then appealed to, but
in vain. The Arians were all-powerful.

The next obstacle to be removed was Athanasius, but Eusebius was
clever enough to realize that this would be no easy task. Athanasius
was not only the chief Bishop of the Eastern Church, but one who had
defeated the Arians several times before on their own ground.

He began by writing a letter to the Patriarch in which he informed him
that Constantine, having learned that the views of Arius were quite
correct, had been pleased to recall him from banishment. It was only
just and fair, therefore, that Athanasius should receive him into
communion; Eusebius, indeed, had reason to know that the Emperor would
be greatly displeased if he refused to do so.

Athanasius' reply to this threatening message was short and decided.
Neither threats nor persecution, he said, would induce him to go
against the decrees of the Council of Nicea. Arius had been condemned
by the universal Catholic Church; by that decision all true Catholics
must stand.

Eusebius was not at all discouraged. He wrote to the Emperor and told
him how lightly the Patriarch had treated his wishes. "Athanasius is
much too young for such a responsible position," he wrote, "and is of
a quarrelsome and obstinate temper. He is the last man in the world to
fill a post which, if peace is to be kept in the Church, requires the
greatest tact and charity." Perhaps, he suggested, if the Emperor
himself were to write to him, he might be made to see the matter in a
different light. A threat of banishment is always a powerful argument.

On receiving this letter, the Emperor--to his shame, be it said--wrote
to the Patriarch as follows: "Being informed of my pleasure, admit all
who wish to communion with the Church. If I hear of your standing in
the way of any who seek it, I will send at once those who will depose
you from your see."

The reply of the Patriarch was firm and courageous. "It is impossible,"
he answered, "for the Catholic Church to hold communion with those who
deny the Divinity of the Son of God and who are therefore fighting
against Him."

Eusebius was absent when the letter arrived, and the changeable
Constantine was favorably impressed by its noble and fearless tone;
the matter was therefore dropped.

Eusebius, still determined on the Patriarch's ruin, looked about him
for a tool. He found the Meletians always troublesome and ready to
join in a plot against those in authority. Three of them, appearing
suddenly at Nicomedia where Constantine was then staying, accused
Athanasius of having usurped the Royal power by levying an unlawful
tax upon the people. Unfortunately for the success of this little
plot, there were present at Court at that moment two priests of
Alexandria who were able to prove to the Emperor that the Patriarch
was completely innocent. Constantine even wrote a letter to Athanasius
telling him of the false charge brought against him, severely blaming
those who had made it and inviting him to come himself to Nicomedia.

This was not at all what Eusebius wanted. He could not prevent the
arrival of Athanasius; he therefore set to work once more to prejudice
Constantine against him before he came. The Meletians were pressed
into service again, and accused the Patriarch of treason. He had sent
a purse of gold, they said, to a certain rebel, who had stirred up a
rising against the Emperor. But when Athanasius appeared at Nicomedia,
he was able to prove that the story was a falsehood; and, to the
disgust of Eusebius and his party, he returned to Alexandria bearing a
letter from the Emperor fully establishing his innocence and the
perfidy of his accusers.

Rumors of what was passing had even reached St. Antony in his desert
solitude, and the old man, on hearing of all that his friend and
disciple had had to suffer, came down from his mountain cave to praise
him for his courage and to speak to the people.

"Have nothing to do with the Arians," he said; "you are Christians,
and they say that the Son of God is a creature." Crowds came flocking
to see the old man, for all had heard of his miracles and of his
holiness. He blessed them all and exhorted them to hold fast to the
true faith of Christ, so steadfastly upheld by their Patriarch, after
which, having done the work he had come to do, he returned to his

The Arians were still plotting. Some time before, when Athanasius had
been visiting that part of his diocese called the Mareotis, he had
heard that a certain Ischyras, who gave himself out as a priest
although he had never been validly ordained, was causing scandal. He
celebrated, so people said, or pretended to celebrate, the Holy
Mysteries in a little cottage in the village where he lived, in the
presence of his own relations and a few ignorant peasants. Athanasius
sent one of his priests, called Macarius, to inquire into the matter
and to bring the impostor back with him.

Macarius, on his arrival, found Ischyras ill in bed and unable to
undertake the journey. He therefore warned one of his relations that
the sick man had been forbidden by the Patriarch to continue his
so-called ministry, and departed. Ischyras, on his recovery, joined
himself to the Meletians, who, urged on by the Arians, were moving
heaven and earth to find a fresh charge against Athanasius. On hearing
his story, they compelled him by threats and by violence to swear that
Macarius had burst in upon him while he was giving Holy Communion in
the church, had overturned the altar, broken the chalice, trampled the
sacred Host underfoot and burned the holy books. They reported that
all this had been done by order of the Patriarch.

Once more Athanasius had to defend himself, and once more he
triumphantly cleared himself of the accusation brought against him.

In the first place, as he proved to the Emperor, there was no church
in the village where Ischyras lived. In the second, the man himself
had been ill in bed. In the third, even if he had been up and well, he
could not have consecrated, since he had never been validly ordained.
Ischyras himself, not long after, escaping from the hands of the
Meletians, swore in the presence of thirteen witnesses that he had
been induced by threats to bear witness to the lie.

But the failure of this plot was only the signal for hatching another.
A certain Meletian Bishop called Arsenius, whom Athanasius had deposed
for refusing to obey the decrees of the Council of Nicea, was induced
to hide himself away in the desert. The Meletians then gave out that
he had been murdered by order of the Patriarch, who kept his withered
hand for purposes of magic. A wooden box was even produced containing
a hand which was said to be that of the dead man.

Constantine seems to have believed the story, for he summoned
Athanasius to come to Antioch to stand his trial, at which Eusebius
and Theognis of Nicea were to preside. Athanasius did nothing of the
sort. He sent trusty men into the desert to make a diligent search for
the missing Arsenius, who, after some difficulty, was found. The fact
was made known to the Emperor, who wrote once more to the persecuted
Patriarch, affirming his innocence and threatening the Meletians with
severe punishment if they invented any more calumnies against him.
Arsenius himself, having repented of his part in the matter, asked
pardon of Athanasius and promised obedience for the future.

Chapter 6

ATHANASIUS had prevailed once more over his enemies, but Eusebius was
always at the Emperor's side and knew how to play upon his weakness.
Was it possible, he asked, that so many and such various charges could
be brought up against a man if he were innocent? Athanasius was clever
and had many friends, he continued, who were ready to swear that black
was white for his sake. Let him be forced to appear alone before his
accusers, and the Emperor would soon find out the truth. As a matter
of fact, such charges could only be dealt with by a council; let one
be held at once, and let Athanasius be summoned to attend.

Constantine fell into the trap. A council was summoned, and letters
were sent to Alexandria. Athanasius, however, clearly saw that he
could expect no justice in the midst of his enemies, and for a long
time refused to leave his see. In the meantime the place of meeting
had been changed from Caesarea to Tyre, and Athanasius was accused by
Eusebius of having obstinately resisted the Emperor's orders. His
reasons, they added, were plain to all; conscious of his guilt, he
dared not face the assembly. The Emperor threatened to send and bring
him by force if he did not come. Further resistance was useless, so he
set out for Tyre.

It was a strange Council. Of the sixty Bishops present, nearly all
were Arians and open enemies of Athanasius. The Meletians were also
present. Jailers were at the doors instead of deacons. The priest
Macarius, to whose innocence Constantine himself had testified, was
brought in guarded by soldiers and loaded with chains. Athanasius
himself was obliged to stand as a criminal before his judges. A few of
the Egyptian Bishops who were present loudly protested against such
behavior, but their protests were insultingly set aside.

The old charges were brought up one by one. Athanasius was accused of
being violent and cruel in conduct, a perpetual center of strife. To
this he answered that the trial was not a fair one, considering that
nearly all who were present were his enemies.

The affair of Ischyras was then brought up, but nothing could be

Lastly, a Meletian Bishop told, with thrilling and tragic details, the
story of the cruel murder of Arsenius.

"Here is the very hand of the murdered man," he concluded, producing
and opening the famous box. A cry of well-feigned horror burst from
the Arians.

"Did any of you know Arsenius?" asked Athanasius calmly. Several rose
to their feet. "Then, behold my witness," said the Patriarch, signing
to a priest who stood near the door.

A man was brought in whose face and figure were hidden in a long
cloak, which Athanasius drew slowly away. It was Arsenius himself who
stood before them!

"Here is one hand," continued the Patriarch, drawing it out from the
cloak, "and here is the other. I presume that to no man God has given
more. Perhaps those who maintain that that severed hand is the hand of
Arsenius can show us where it was affixed."

There was a moment of general confusion, during which the Meletian who
had so graphically told the story of Arsenius' murder concluded that
prudence was the better part of valor and hastily disappeared from the
assembly. But the Arians were never at a loss. It was by magic, they
declared, that Athanasius had caused the dead man to appear in their

It was useless to continue the argument against such persistent
injustice. Athanasius left the Council abruptly and set out for
Constantinople to place himself, a stern and accusing figure, in the
Emperor's way as he rode out from his palace.

Constantine, recognizing who it was, tried to pass in silence, but
Athanasius stood firm.

"The Lord judge between me and you," he said solemnly, "if you take
the part of my enemies against me."

The Emperor halted. "What do you wish?" he asked.

"Let me be tried by a lawful council, or let me meet my accusers face
to face in your presence," said Athanasius.

"It shall be done," replied Constantine.

The Arians, meanwhile, had declared Athanasius guilty of all the
charges brought against him and had deposed him from his see. They
were congratulating themselves on the success of their enterprise when
they received an alarming letter from the Emperor accusing them of
concealing the truth and bidding them come at once to Constantinople.
Several of them, seized with fear, returned to their homes; a few
others, who were bolder, headed by Eusebius and Theognis of Nicea, set
out for the Imperial city. They made their plans on the way. Once
arrived, instead of bringing up the old charges, they accused
Athanasius of having prevented the sailing of the grain vessels from
Alexandria to Constantinople in order to cause a famine. It was a
clever trick. Constantine was extremely touchy about the prosperity of
his new city and had just condemned to death a friend of his own for
the same crime. He turned on Athanasius in anger.

"How could I, a poor man and a Bishop, do such a thing?" asked the

"You are rich enough and powerful enough for anything," retorted
Eusebius bitterly.

As for Constantine, he declared that he would uphold the decisions of
the Council. Athanasius deserved to lose his life, but he would show
indulgence. He therefore banished him to Treves in Gaul, and the
Arians triumphed.

There was mourning and lamentation in Alexandria and throughout all
Egypt when the tidings came. Many appeals were made for justice, but
in vain. Even St. Antony, though he wrote to Constantine, could not
move him. One thing alone the Emperor would not do in spite of all the
persuasions of the Arians--appoint a successor to the absent
Patriarch. Athanasius, indeed, continued to govern the diocese from
his distant exile, writing continually to his Bishops and clergy,
exhorting them to stand fast in the Faith and reminding them that the
road to consolation lay through affliction.

Eusebius, in the meantime, was trying to force Alexander, the aged
Bishop of Constantinople, to admit Arius to communion. Although ninety
years old, he stood firm, and neither threats nor persuasions could
move him. The Emperor was at last induced to fix a day on which
Alexander was to receive the heretic or be driven from his see.

The Bishop appealed to Heaven. He ordered a seven days' fast
throughout his diocese, during which the faithful were to pray that
God would prevent such a sacrilege. On the eve of the appointed day,
the aged prelate, having heard that Arius had arrived in the town,
prostrated himself on his face before the altar. "Lord," he prayed,
"if Arius must be received to communion in this church tomorrow, take
me, I beseech Thee, from this world. But if Thou hast pity on Thy
Church, suffer not, I pray Thee, that such a thing should be."

Arius at that very moment was being escorted in triumph around the
city by his followers. Suddenly the heresiarch turned pale and
trembled. He did not feel well, he said; he would rejoin them
presently. The time passed, and he did not return. At last they went
to look for him. It was but a dead body which they found, a sight
before which even they turned pale. Arius had been overtaken by a
sudden and horrible death.

The fate of the heresiarch made a great impression on the Emperor, who
had himself but a short time to live. During his last illness he was
haunted by the thought of Athanasius. His eldest son, Constantine II,
who held his court at Treves, was a firm friend of the exiled Bishop;
the dying Emperor sent him a secret message to restore Athanasius to
his see. He then received Baptism at the hands of Eusebius of
Nicomedia, and died a few days later.

Constantine's empire was divided between his three sons, Constantine,
Constans and Constantius. The two former, who were staunch friends of
Athanasius, would die within twelve years of their father. Then
Constantius, who had inherited all the weakness and none of the good
qualities of Constantine the Great, and was, moreover, the tool of the
Arians and the bitter enemy of those who were true to Athanasius,
would be left master of the whole Roman Empire. One of the first acts
of Constantine II was to bring Athanasius back to Alexandria. He had
been absent for over two years, and the rejoicings attending his
return were great. They were not to last long, however, for Egypt and
the East made up that part of the Empire which had been left to
Constantius, who was completely in the toils of Eusebius.

Now, Eusebius had long been coveting the see of Constantinople; he
therefore proceeded, with the Emperor's assistance, to depose the
rightful Bishop and to install himself in his place. He was, as he
thought, in a position to carry all things before him, when
Athanasius, firm and undaunted as ever, appearing suddenly on the
scene, upset all his plans. Both Constantine and Constans were
Athanasius' friends, and Constantius was not strong enough to resist

Eusebius determined to take a bold step--he would appeal to the Pope,
and he promptly set to work to compose a letter which was a
masterpiece of deceit.

"Athanasius has been deposed by a Council of the Church," he wrote.
"His return was therefore unlawful." An account of all the charges
brought against the Patriarch at the Council of Tyre followed. "Ink
does not stain the soul," observed Eusebius lightly, as lie after lie
took shape upon the paper.

The letter was sent to Rome by three trusty friends, but Pope Julius
was not so easily deceived. He knew more about the matter than the
Arians thought--so much, indeed, that the chief of the three envoys
left suddenly during the night, fearful of what might come to light on
the morrow. The two others, losing their heads completely, agreed to
meet Athanasius at a synod at which the Pope himself should preside.

Eusebius was beside himself when he heard of this arrangement. To
appear in some Western town, with no Emperor to back him up, and to
urge against Athanasius, in the presence of the Pope, charges which he
knew to be false, was a program which did not appeal to him at all.
Taking the law into his own hands, he called a council of his friends
and elected an Arian called Gregory in Athanasius' place.

Even if the Patriarch had been rightly deposed, the Egyptian Bishops
alone could have elected his successor; but Eusebius and his party had
long since ceased to care for right or justice. Theodore, the Governor
of Egypt, was known to be a good Catholic and friendly to Athanasius.
He was therefore removed, and an apostate called Philagrius, notorious
for his violence and cruelty, was put in his place. The first act of
this man was to publish an edict stating that Gregory was the
Patriarch of Alexandria and that Athanasius was to be treated as an
enemy. With armed troops he then took possession of the city churches,
while Gregory, with a strong escort of soldiers, made his entrance
into the town. All who resisted were imprisoned, scourged or slain. To
prevent further bloodshed, Athanasius left Alexandria and set out for
Rome. The first news that he heard on reaching Italy was that his
friend and patron Constantine II was dead.

Chapter 7

IT was an evil day for Alexandria. Most of the Egyptian Bishops
refused to acknowledge Gregory and were instantly arrested. Some were
banished, some tortured, some imprisoned. St. Potamon, who had
narrowly missed martyrdom during the persecution of Diocletian, was
scourged with rods until he died. The many cruelties of the usurper
made him so hateful to the Alexandrians that, after four years of
tyranny, he was killed by the mob in a sudden outbreak of fury.

Athanasius, in the meantime, had made his way to Rome, where he was
received by St. Julius I as a champion of the Faith. The case should
be tried in his own presence, the Pope declared; but it was impossible
to get the Arians to Rome. Excuse followed excuse, pretext followed
pretext. Eusebius, the head of the Arian party, died at last in his
usurped see, but his spirit survived in his followers. They drew up a
creed of their own and sent it to the Pope, who rejected it at the
Council of Milan. The Nicene Creed was the confession of Faith of the
Catholic Church, he said. But the Nicene Creed, which proved so fully
the divinity of Christ, was just what the Arians would not accept.

A fresh Council was called at Sardica, at which they were at last
induced to be present. But when Athanasius was proved innocent, and
the Bishops whom the Arians had banished appeared to bear witness to
the violence and cruelty with which they had been treated, the Arians
abruptly left the Council and returned to Philippopolis. Here they
formed a council of their own, in which they not only excommunicated
Athanasius, but had the impudence to "excommunicate" Pope Julius

The Council of Sardica, at which were present the orthodox Bishops of
Italy, Spain, Gaul, Africa, Greece, Palestine and Egypt, was very well
able to get on without them. The innocence of Athanasius was finally
established, the Arians and their creed condemned. A circular letter
was then written to all the Churches, informing them of what had
passed, and legates were dispatched to the two Emperors, Constans and

Constantius dared not resist. Urged by his brother, who did his best
to show the conduct of the Arians in its true light and threatened him
with civil war if he persisted in upholding them, he sent letters to
Alexandria ordering that Athanasius should be honorably received.
Gregory had met his death a short time before, so there was no
obstacle to Athanasius' return.

The Alexandrians, in the meantime, had received a letter from Pope
Julius in praise of their Patriarch. "If precious metals," he wrote,
"such as gold and silver, are tried in the fire, what can we say of so
great a man, who has been through so many perils and afflictions, and
who returns to you having been declared innocent by the judgment of
the whole Synod? Receive, therefore, beloved, with all joy and glory
to God, your Bishop Athanasius."

Never had Alexandria seen such rejoicings. The people thronged forth
from the city to meet their exiled Patriarch, singing hymns of
rejoicing, waving branches of trees and throwing rich carpets upon the
road along which he was to pass. Every little hill was crowded with
people thirsting for a sight of that beloved face and figure. It was
six years since they had seen him, and what had they not suffered
during his absence?

As for Athanasius, his one thought, as usual, was to establish his
people in the Faith. Those who had been led astray by the Arians were
pardoned and received with the greatest charity. The weak ones who had
given in through fear were strengthened with tender forbearance. Those
who had been Athanasius' enemies were greeted as friends on their
first sign of repentance. For the time, the Arians were defeated; they
could do nothing. Constans was too strong for them.

The present moment was the Patriarch's, and he determined to use it to
the full. The Bishops of Egypt gathered around him; widows and orphans
were provided for, the poor housed and fed and the faithful warned
against false doctrines. The churches were not large enough to hold
the crowds that flocked to them. It was a time of peace which God
vouchsafed to His people to strengthen them for the coming storm.

New Bishops were consecrated, men of holy life who could be trusted.
Even the monks in their distant monasteries received inspiring letters
from their Patriarch, stirring them up to realize the ideals of the
spiritual life and to pray for the peace of the Church. For in the
midst of all his labors Athanasius still found time to write--letters
against the Arians, treatises in defense of the Faith and on the
religious life, brilliant, strong and convincing. It was necessary to
be vigilant, for the Arians were everywhere trying to seduce men by
their false doctrines, teaching that Christ was not God. Letters from
Athanasius were a powerful weapon in defense of the truth.

So the years passed in incessant prayer and labor, until the whole of
Egypt was strong and steadfast in the Faith. "The Saints of the fourth
century were giants," says a modern writer, "but he of Alexandria was
the greatest of them all."

The time was coming in which his work was to be tried as gold in the
fire. Constans was killed in battle, leaving Constantius master of the
whole empire. It was a moment for misgivings; but for some time the
new Emperor seemed favorably disposed, even going so far as to assure
Athanasius of his friendship. It was a friendship which might well be

Pope Julius had also died and had been succeeded by Liberius. One of
the first acts of Constantius was to write to the new Pope, offering
him handsome presents and urging him to condemn Athanasius. Letters
from the Arians containing all the old charges followed, but in vain.
Liberius refused with indignation both presents and requests.

A fresh persecution broke out. Athanasius, it is true, was not
molested, but his enemies were only waiting for a pretext to attack
him. This pretext they soon found.

At Easter of the year 354, the churches of Alexandria were so crowded
with worshippers that there was scarcely room to breathe. It was
proposed to Athanasius that he should hold the Easter services in a
large church that had been lately built but was not yet dedicated.
Athanasius hesitated to do this without leave, as it was built on the
Emperor's property, but he was at last persuaded by the people to
yield. The Patriarch Alexander had done the very same thing, they
urged, in the Church of St. Theonas on just such an occasion; in a
case of necessity it was certainly lawful. But they had counted
without the Arians, who instantly accused Athanasius of having usurped
the royal authority.

The Patriarch, in his famous "Apology to Constantius," stated the
reasons for his act, but it was useless; other false charges were
scraped up against him, and his doom was sealed. In the spring of the
next year, Constantius, who was now master of both the East and the
West, succeeded by force of persecution in inducing the members of a
large council, which he had had summoned at Arles in France, to
condemn Athanasius as guilty. The Emperor himself was present with his
troops and threatened with drawn sword those who resisted his will.
The Bishops who refused to sign were scourged, tortured or exiled; the
Pope was banished to Berea, where he was treated with harshness and

In the winter of the next year, a General called Syrianus came to
Alexandria with a large army. He was an Arian, and the people
suspected a plot. Athanasius asked him if he brought any message from
the Emperor; Syrianus replied that he had none. He was then reminded
that Constantius had promised to leave Alexandria in peace. To this he
agreed, but gave no reason for his presence. Things went on as usual
for three weeks, when the blow that all had been expecting fell.

It was midnight, and the Bishop was holding a vigil service in the
Church of St. Theonas, when suddenly shouts and cries broke the
silence of the night. Syrianus with five thousand men had surrounded
the building, determined to take the Patriarch, alive or dead.

In the dim light of the sanctuary Athanasius sat on the Bishop's
throne, calm and unmoved in the midst of the tumult. "Read the 135th
Psalm," he said to one of the deacons, "and when it is finished, all
will leave the church." The words rang out through the building with
their message of hope and confidence and were answered by the people:

"Praise the Lord, for He is good: for His mercy endureth forever.

"Praise ye the God of gods: for His mercy endureth forever."

Those who were nearest the Bishop pressed him to escape. "The
shepherd's place is with his flock," he answered firmly.

Hardly was the Psalm ended when the soldiers rushed in with drawn
swords. Many of the people fled; others were trampled underfoot or

Athanasius sat still, his hands folded in prayer. Again they urged him
to flee. "Not until all have left the church," he replied.

In desperation, the clergy and monks ended by taking the matter into
their own hands. Seizing Athanasius in their arms, they bore him out
of the church, passing right through the midst of the soldiers, who
were searching everywhere for the Patriarch. It seemed, indeed, as
Athanasius himself said later, as if God had covered their eyes.

Into the darkness of the winter's night he fled, an exile and a
fugitive once more.

Chapter 8

IT was indeed the hour of darkness, and it seemed as if the powers of
evil were let loose upon the world. The Arians, with the Emperor on
their side, were carrying everything before them. Nearly all the
Bishops who had upheld the Nicene faith were in exile or in prison.

St. Antony, over a hundred years old, was on his deathbed. His monks,
crowding around the dying Saint, groaned over the evil days that had
befallen the Church.

"Fear not," replied the old man, "for this power is of the earth and
cannot last. As for the sufferings of the Church, was it not so from
the beginning, and will it not be so until the end? Did not the Master
Himself say, 'They have persecuted Me, they will persecute you also'?
Did not the 'perils from false brethren' begin even in the lifetime of
those who had been the companions of Christ? And yet, did not the
Master Himself promise that, although she must live in the midst of
persecution, He would be with His Church forever and that the gates of
Hell should not prevail against her?"

With these words of hope and comfort on his lips, St. Antony passed to
his reward, and they laid him in his lonely desert grave. His coat of
sheepskin, given him by Athanasius long years before, he sent with his
dying blessing to the Patriarch, who cherished it as his most precious

The Alexandrians had not given in without a struggle. They had
protested openly against the violence of Syrianus, proclaiming
throughout the city that Athanasius was their true Patriarch and that
they would never acknowledge another. It was of no use; a new reign of
terror began in which all who refused to accept the Arian creed were
treated as criminals. Men and women were seized and scourged; some
were slain. Athanasius was denounced as a "runaway, an evildoer, a
cheat and an impostor, deserving of death." Letters came from the
Emperor ordering all the churches in the city to be given up to the
Arians and requiring the people to receive without objections the new
Patriarch whom he would shortly send them.

As time went on, things grew worse. The churches were invaded; altars,
vestments and books were burned and incense thrown on the flames. An
ox was sacrificed in the sanctuary; priests, monks and nuns were
seized and tortured; the houses of the faithful were broken into and
robbed. Bishops were driven into exile and their sees filled by
Arians, those who were ready to give the most money being generally
chosen. Some of them were even pagans; the people were ready to bear
any suffering rather than hold communion with them.

When the Emperor Constantius considered that the resistance of the
Alexandrians had been sufficiently broken, he addressed them in a
conciliatory letter.

Now that the impostor had been driven out, he said, he was about to
send them a Patriarch above praise. They would find in the venerable
George of Cappadocia the wisest of teachers, one who was fit in every
way to lead them to the kingdom of Heaven and to raise their hearts
from earthly to heavenly things.

The "venerable" George was not unknown to them by repute, at least. He
had begun his career as seller of pork to the Roman army. It was a
position in which a clever man might have made a comfortable fortune.
But George was not a clever man, and he was in too great a hurry to
get rich. Such impudent dishonesty as his could not pass unnoticed; a
precipitate flight alone saved him from a State prison. He was said to
have been ordained a priest by the Arians before he was even a
Christian. In that case he was no priest, but a useful tool in their
hands, for he was capable of anything.

Ignorant and unlettered, he had studied neither theology nor the
Scriptures; he was, moreover, a man of bad life, heartless, cruel and
greedy. His aim both as Patriarch and as pork-butcher was to make
money--as much and as quickly as possible. This was the "wise teacher
who was to raise them from the things of earth to those of Heaven."
The faithful, with true instinct, prepared for the worst.

They had not long to wait. Even Gregory had been humane compared with
George of Cappadocia. Monasteries were burned down; Bishops, priests,
virgins, widows--all, in fact, who were faithful to the Church--were
insulted, tortured or slain. Many died in consequence of the treatment
they had received; others were forced into compliance. The troops of
the Emperor, with an Arian at their head, were there to do George's

The new Patriarch, undisturbed by the sufferings of his victims, was
busy enriching himself. Gradually he got control of all the trades in
the city; he even made himself chief undertaker and passed a law by
which those who dared to bury their dead in a coffin not of his
providing could be severely punished. That his coffins cost a small
fortune was only to be expected. At the end of two years he had
exhausted the patience of the Alexandrians, pagans and Christians
alike. There was a popular rising, in which the Patriarch, not having
the qualities of a hero, fled for his life. For the next three years
he wandered about in the East, lending a hand to every Arian scheme.

In the meantime, where was Athanasius? No one knew or, at least, so it
seemed. He had vanished into the darkness of the night. He was
invisible, but his voice could not be silenced, and it was a voice
that moved the world. Treatise after treatise in defense of the true
Faith; letter after letter to the Bishops of Egypt, to his friends and
to the faithful--was carried far and wide by the hands of trusty
messengers. The Arians had the Roman Emperor on their side, but the
pen of Athanasius was more powerful than the armies of Constantius.

"God will comfort you," he wrote to his people in Alexandria on
hearing that the churches were in the hands of the Arians. "If they
have the temples, you have the Faith of the Apostles. If they are in
the place, they are far from the Faith; but you, even if you are cast
out from the churches, possess the Faith in your hearts. Which is the
greater, the place or the Faith? The place is good only when the Faith
of the Apostles is taught there; it is holy only when it is the home
of holiness."

Rumor said that Athanasius was in hiding in the Thebaid among the
monks. The Arians searched the desert foot by foot to find him, but in
vain. The monks themselves might have thrown some light upon the
matter, but they were silent men, given to prayer and labor; they did
not seem to understand what was asked of them, even when questioned
with a dagger at their throats.

Silent but faithful, their sentinels were everywhere, watching for the
enemy's approach. Athanasius was always warned in time and led by
trusty guides to another and a safer place. Sometimes it was only by a
hair's breadth that he escaped, but for six years he eluded his
enemies. There was not one of the monks who would not gladly have laid
down his life for him. He lived among them as one of themselves, and
they learned more from him of the religious life than they could
teach. As mortified as the holiest among them, always serene and
forgetful of self in the midst of hardships and danger, forced
sometimes to hide for months in the mountain caves where his only food
was what the faithful could bring him, his one thought was the Church.
The Arians had made Constantius their spiritual head. They had given
him that title of "Eternal" which they had denied to the Son of God.
Their Bishops and teachers were everywhere; but Athanasius, like
Antony, leaned strongly on Christ's promise.

It would have been madness to return openly to Alexandria while
Constantius lived, but several times during those dreadful years
Athanasius visited the city in secret and at the risk of his life. In
hiding, with a price on his head, he was as formidable an enemy to the
Arians as he would have been at Alexandria. His spirit was abroad
among the people, encouraging them to persevere, cheering them when
downcast, comforting and consoling them in suffering. Though absent,
he was their Father and their Bishop still. His voice reached even to
distant Gaul, where it encouraged St. Hilary of Poitiers and others,
who were striving, even as he was, against heresy.

The Arians were behaving in their usual way--"always slippery, always
shuffling," as one who knew them asserted.* At one council, having
been accused of denying the Divinity of Christ, they had said: "Let
anyone who says that Jesus Christ is a creature like unto other
creatures be anathema" (accursed). At another which followed it
closely--for the Arians and Constantius held a council every few
months to gain their ends--they openly stated that Jesus Christ was
not God, but a creature. Someone present who had been at the previous
council reminded them of the statement they had made on that occasion.
"We never meant that Jesus Christ was not a creature," they retorted,
"only that he was a different kind of creature from the others!"

* The Arians, seeing that their original doctrines were offensive to
all Catholic consciences, had now taken up the position known as
"Semi-Arian." The Son was like the Father, they declared, though not
of one substance with Him.

In the meantime, as things had quieted down a little in Alexandria,
George of Cappadocia resolved to return and see if he could not make a
little more money. He was received in an ominous silence, for he was
held in abhorrence almost as much by the pagans as by the Christians.
A few days later the news reached the city that Constantius was dead
and that his nephew Julian had succeeded him as Emperor.

The moment of reckoning had come. George was seized by the pagan
population and literally torn to pieces; his body was burned and its
ashes scattered to the winds. Thus perished Constantius' "prelate
above all praise," and it was not likely that the new Emperor would
take much trouble to avenge his death.

Julian, known as "the Apostate," had been a pupil of Eusebius of
Nicomedia and a model of youthful piety; but the Christianity of which
Eusebius was a living example had struck but shallow roots. Later he
went to Athens, where St. Basil and St. Gregory, the two great doctors
of the Church, were his fellow students. "What a viper the Roman
Empire is cherishing in its bosom!" exclaimed Gregory, no mean judge
of character, "but God grant that I prove a false prophet."

No sooner was Julian crowned Emperor than he threw off the mask and
openly declared himself a pagan. The temples of the gods were now
rebuilt, sacrifices were offered, and wealth and honors were given to
all the Christians who would apostatize.

An edict was published allowing the people to practice whatever
religion they chose and recalling everybody who had been banished
during the reign of Constantius. This seemed generous, but Julian did
not believe in persecution; its results in the past had only been to
strengthen the Christians in their faith. His methods were different.
Privileges were granted to the pagans which were denied to the Church;
the Galileans, as Julian called the Christians, were ridiculed, and
paganism was praised as the only religion worthy of educated men.

The results were not what the Emperor had expected, and he complained
bitterly that there were so few who responded to his efforts to
enlighten them. As for the Church, she knew at least what she had to
expect; an open enemy is less dangerous than a false friend.

Chapter 9

ATHANASIUS was quick to take advantage of the decree which allowed the
banished Bishops to return to their sees. On the way to Alexandria he
stopped to talk over matters with other noble exiles who, like
himself, had suffered for the Truth. Many of the faithful had been
compelled by force or induced by threats or persuasion to accept the
creed of the Arians; what was to be done in order that these weak ones
might be brought back to the Faith?

Athanasius and those who with him had been ready to give their lives
for the Truth being, like all brave and noble men, gentle and
compassionate, they resolved to make it as easy as possible. They
announced that absolution would be given freely to all who accepted
the Creed of Nicea. Those who had fallen away were mostly good men and
true believers who had yielded in a moment of weakness or of fear, or
who had been deceived by the protestations of the Arians. They had
been thoroughly miserable, but now the proclamation of Athanasius set
them free from what had seemed like a bad dream. The Pope himself
expressed his approval of Athanasius' forbearance, and the Bishops of
the West hastened to follow his example.

In other places, Antioch and Constantinople especially, Arianism had
taken deeper root. These were the strongholds of heresy, where the
spirit of Eusebius of Nicomedia still prevailed. Men of his stamp were
not likely to be ready to enter into communion with that Athanasius
whom they had looked upon for years as their mortal enemy, nor was it
to be expected that they would allow the true Faith to prevail without
a struggle. It was thanks to Athanasius and his untiring efforts that
Egypt and Alexandria were still, in the main, true to the Catholic

We can imagine the joy with which the Alexandrians received their
exiled Patriarch after his six years' absence. They had been worthy of
their Bishop, for they too had made a brave fight for the Faith. Blood
had been shed for Christ, and much had been suffered by the Catholics;
they could face their Patriarch without shame. Many pagans who had
watched the behavior of the Christians under persecution now came
forward and asked to join the Church, among them some Greek ladies of
noble family whom Athanasius himself instructed and baptized.

News of this reached the ears of the Emperor Julian, who was already
furious at the influence that this Christian Bishop of Alexandria was
exercising throughout the whole empire. He had hoped that Athanasius'
return from exile would have been a cause for division among the
people, instead of which it had been the signal for everyone to make
peace with his neighbor. Never, he foresaw, as long as the voice of
this undaunted champion of the Catholic Church was ringing in the ears
of his subjects, would paganism triumph.

There were others who saw the matter in the same light. These were the
magicians, diviners, fortune-tellers, all the servants of idolatry who
had risen up at Julian's bidding and were swarming in Alexandria as
everywhere else. The presence of Athanasius in their midst, they
complained to the Emperor, was the ruin of their trade. Even their
charms would not work as long as he was near them. There would soon
not be a pagan left in the city if he were allowed to remain.

The Patriarch had been barely eight months in Alexandria when the
Governor of Egypt received a message from his royal master. "Nothing
that I could hear of would give me greater pleasure," he wrote, "than
the news that you have driven that miscreant out of the country."

Soon after, the Alexandrians themselves were addressed. "We have
allowed the Galileans," wrote Julian, "to return to their country, but
not to their churches. Nevertheless, we hear that Athanasius, with his
accustomed boldness, has replaced himself on what they call his
'episcopal throne.' We therefore order him to leave the town at once
or take the consequences."

The Governor of Egypt, who knew the affection of the Alexandrians for
their Patriarch, dared not take any steps against him; the citizens in
the meantime had addressed a letter to the Emperor, begging him to
reconsider the matter and to leave Athanasius in his see. This only
served to anger Julian the more.

"I am painfully surprised that you Alexandrians," he wrote, "who have
the great god Serapis and Isis his Queen for your patrons, should ask
permission to keep such a man in your midst. I can only hope that
those of the citizens who are wiser have not been consulted and that
this is the action of a few. I blush to think that any of you could
call himself a Galilean. I order Athanasius to leave not only
Alexandria, but Egypt."

The Governor also received a curt message.

"If the enemy of the gods, Athanasius, remains in Egypt after the
kalends of December," it ran, "you and your troops shall pay a hundred
pounds in gold. The gods are despised and I am insulted."

Julian, however, had not much confidence in the Governor, or in the
Alexandrians either. In order to make things doubly sure, messengers
of his own were sent to Alexandria with orders to put the Patriarch to

The people were inconsolable, but Athanasius comforted them. "This
time it is only a passing cloud," he said; "it will soon be over."
Then, recommending his flock to the most trusted of his clergy, he
left the city, an exile once more. It was not a moment too soon.
Scarcely had he vanished when the messengers of Julian arrived.

"Where is Athanasius?" they asked; but a grim silence was the only

The Patriarch, in the meantime, had reached the Nile; on the banks of
the river a boat was waiting; he entered it, and they rowed swiftly
upstream toward the Thebaid.

It was a dangerous moment, but the faithful were watching. A message
was brought to the fugitives that soldiers of the Emperor who had
orders to seize and kill the Saint had learned his whereabouts and had
sworn to overtake him. They implored him to land and take refuge in
the desert.

"No," said Athanasius; "turn the boat's head and row toward
Alexandria." They thought he was mad, but dared not disobey his

"He who is for us is greater than he who is against us," he said,
smiling at their terrified faces. Presently the Imperial boat came in
sight, rowing hard in pursuit of the fugitive.

"Have you seen Athanasius? Is he far off?" they shouted, as the little
boat drew near.

"He is quite close," answered the Patriarch calmly; "press on."

The crew bent to their oars, the skiff was soon out of sight, but
needless to say they did not find their prey. As for Athanasius, he
continued his journey to Alexandria, where he landed once more,
remaining there for a few days in hiding before he set out for the
deserts of the Thebaid.

"The enemy of the gods" had been gotten rid of--for a time, at least,
but Julian had still to wait for the triumph of paganism. The gods
themselves seemed to be against him. Never had a year been so unlucky
as that which followed the banishment of Athanasius. There were
earthquakes everywhere; Nicea and Nicomedia were reduced to ruins and
Constantinople severely damaged. An extraordinary tidal wave swept
over the lower part of the city of Alexandria, leaving shells and
seaweed on the roofs of the houses. Famine and plague followed, and it
was remarked that the famine seemed to dog the steps of the Emperor
wherever he went. People dreaded his arrival in their city; at
Antioch, where he stayed for a considerable time, the sufferings were
terrible. Julian ordered sacrifices to the gods. So many white oxen
were slain that it was said that soon there would be none left in the
empire; but still things did not improve.

Julian had begun by being tolerant, but disappointment was making him
savage. It was all the fault of the Galileans, he declared. He ordered
the Christian soldiers in his army to tear the Cross from
Constantine's sacred standard, and he put them to death when they
refused. Many Christian churches were closed, and the sacred vessels
of the altar seized and profaned. Those who dared resist were
imprisoned or slain. Wine that had been offered to the gods was thrown
into the public wells and fountains, and all the food that was sold in
the markets was defiled in the same way. Two of his officers who
complained of this profanation were put to death--not for their
religion, Julian hastened to explain, but for their insolence.

The Emperor posed as a philosopher. His long, dirty nails and ragged,
uncombed hair and beard were intended to impress his subjects with the
wisdom of a man so absorbed in learning that he was above such things
as cleanliness. Unfortunately, they had just the opposite effect, and
the people made fun of him. They laughed at his sacrifices, where he
was often to be seen tearing open with his own hands the bleeding
victim to see if he could read inside the signs of success or failure.
They laughed at his writings in praise of the gods, where he
represented himself as receiving compliments from them all. They
laughed at his short stature, at his narrow shoulders and at the huge
steps he took in walking, as if, they said, he had been the near
relation of one of Homer's giants.

Julian revenged himself upon them in his writings satires in which
Constantine, the first Christian Emperor, was especially held up to
ridicule. The Galileans were at the bottom of this as of all other
contradictions, he declared, and continued to vent his spleen upon the
Christians. It was the last stand of ancient paganism before it died
out forever.

Chapter 10

IT was not safe for Athanasius to remain long in the neighborhood of
Alexandria, for the pagans were now having it all their own way. Two
of the bravest and most faithful of his clergy had been seized and
exiled, and Julian's troops were searching everywhere for the
Patriarch. Athanasius made his way to the Thebaid, where he was
received with all the old enthusiasm. Under cover of the night, he
came up the river to Hermopolis, intending to stay there for some time
to preach to the people. The banks of the river were crowded with
bishops, monks and clergy who had come out to welcome their Father.

Athanasius landed and, mounted on an ass led by Theodore, Abbot of
Tabenna, proceeded to the town escorted by a vast throng of people
carrying torches and singing hymns of praise. Here he dismounted, and
the monks asked him for his blessing.

"Blessed indeed and worthy of all praise are these men who carry
always the cross of the Lord," he replied.

After having stayed for some time at Hermopolis, he went with the
Abbot Theodore to his monastery of Tabenna, where he was already
beloved by all. He took the keenest interest in everything that
related to the religious life, even to the work of the humblest
brother. "It is these men, devoted to humility and obedience," he
would often say, "who are our fathers, rather than we theirs."

Round about him lay the great cities of ancient Egypt--"Thebes of the
Hundred Gates" and Memphis, the old capital of the kingdom--cities of
the dead whose glories had already passed away. The glory that these
men had come to seek in their humble monasteries was one which is
eternal. The things of this world were small and fleeting to those who
lived in the thought of eternity.

It was a country full of holy memories. On the banks of that Nile that
flowed so tranquilly among the ancient cities of Egypt, Moses himself
had stood lifting hands of prayer for the deliverance of his people.
Later, the Salvation of the world Himself had come to dwell for a time
beside it, sowing the seeds that were now bringing forth so great a

It was midsummer, and Athanasius was at Arsinoe when the news came
that the enemy was on his track once more. The Abbot Theodore, who was
visiting the Patriarch, persuaded him to embark in his covered boat
and to return with him to Tabenna. Tide and wind were against them;
the monks had to land and tow the boat; progress was slow, and the
soldiers of Julian were not far off. Athanasius was absorbed in
prayer, preparing for the martyr's death that, this time at least,
seemed very near.

"Fear not," said one of the monks called Ammon, "for God is our

"I have no fear," answered Athanasius; "for many long years I have
suffered persecution, and never has it disturbed the peace of my soul.
It is a joy to suffer, and the greatest of all joys is to give one's
life for Christ."

There was a silence during which all gave themselves to prayer. As the
Abbot Theodore besought God to save their Patriarch, it was suddenly
made known to him by a divine revelation that at that very moment the
Emperor Julian had met his death in battle against the Persians, and
that he had been succeeded by Jovian, a Christian and a Catholic. At
once he told the good news to Athanasius, advising him to go without
delay to the new Emperor and ask to be restored to his see.

In the meantime they had arrived in safety at Tabenna, where the monks
had assembled with joy on hearing of Athanasius' approach. Great was
their sorrow when they learned that he had only come to bid them
farewell. They gathered around him weeping, begging that he would
remember them in his prayers. "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem," cried
Athanasius in the words of the Psalmist, "let my right hand be
forgotten." The Emperor Jovian had been an officer in the Roman Army,
where his cheerful good nature had so endeared him to the soldiers
that he was proclaimed Emperor immediately on Julian's death. There
was no need to plead for justice with such a man; scarcely had
Athanasius arrived in Alexandria when he received a cordial letter
from the Emperor himself.

"Jovian--to Athanasius, the faithful servant of God," it ran. "As we
are full of admiration for the holiness of your life and your zeal in
the service of Christ our Saviour, we take you from this day forth
under our royal protection. We are aware of the courage which makes
you count as nothing the heaviest labors, the greatest dangers, the
sufferings of persecution and the fear of death. You have fought
faithfully for the Truth and edified the whole Christian world, which
looks to you as a model of every virtue. It is therefore our desire
that you should return to your See and teach the doctrine of
salvation. Come back to your people, feed the flock of Christ and pray
for our person, for it is through your prayers that we hope for the
blessing of God."

Another letter followed shortly afterward from the Emperor, asking
Athanasius to tell him plainly what was the true faith of the Catholic
Church and inviting him to visit him at Antioch.

The faith of Nicea was alone to be believed and held, replied the
Patriarch; it was that of the whole Catholic world, with the exception
of a few men who still held the doctrines of Arius. Nevertheless, he
thought it prudent to accept the Emperor's invitation and set out
shortly afterward for Antioch. It was well that he did so, for the
Arians were already on the spot. They had brought with them a man
called Lucius in the hope that they would be able to induce Jovian to
name him Patriarch of Alexandria in place of Athanasius.

"We are Alexandrians," they declared, "and we beseech your Majesty to
give us a Bishop."

"I have already ordered Athanasius to return to his See," was the

"We have proofs against him," they said; "he was condemned and
banished by Constantine and Constantius of blessed memory."

"All that was ten or twenty years ago," answered the Emperor; "it is
too late to rake it up again now. Besides, I know all about it by whom
he was accused and how he was banished. You need say no more."

The Arians persisted. "Give us whomever you like as Patriarch," they
said, "as long as it is not Athanasius. No one in the town will hold
communion with him."

"I have heard a very different story," said Jovian; "his teaching is
greatly appreciated."

"His teaching is well enough," they retorted, "but his heart is full
of malice."

"For his heart he must answer to God, who alone knows what is in it,"
replied the Emperor; "it is enough for me if his teaching is good."

The Arians at last lost patience. "He calls us heretics!" they
exclaimed indignantly.

"That is his duty and the duty of all those who guard the flock of
Christ" was the only reply they got.

The Emperor received Athanasius with the deepest respect and listened
eagerly to all he had to say on the subject of the true Faith.

After a short stay in Antioch, the Patriarch returned to Alexandria,
where he related to the people the success of his enterprise and spoke
much in praise of the new Emperor. Their joy was not destined to be
lasting. Jovian had been but a few months on the throne when he died
suddenly on his way from Antioch to Constantinople. He was succeeded
by Valentinian, who, unfortunately for the peace of the Church, chose
his brother Valens to help him in the government, taking the West for
his own share of the Empire and leaving the East to his brother.

Valens, who was both weak and cruel, had an Arian wife and declared at
once in favor of the Arians. The East was once more to be the scene of
strife and persecution. The Emperor, who had not yet been baptized,
received the Sacrament at the hands of Eudoxius, the Arian Bishop of
Constantinople, a worthy successor of Eusebius, who, in the middle of
the ceremony, made Valens take an oath that he would remain faithful
to the Arians and pursue the Catholics with every rigor.

The Emperor thus won over, the Arians began to persecute and slander
those who were faithful to the Church; several were even put to death.
The Catholics, in desperation, resolved at last to send an embassy to
Valens to ask for justice, eighty priests and clerics being chosen to
make the petition.

The Emperor, who pretended to listen patiently to their complaints,
had given secret orders to Modestus, the Prefect of the Pretorian
Guard, to put them all to death. Modestus was as cruel as his master;
but even in Nicomedia, where Arius and Eusebius had been so active in
preaching heresy, the bulk of the people remained true to the Faith of
Nicea. Such a wholesale slaughter of innocent ecclesiastics would be
almost certain to cause a rising; the thing must be done secretly.

Summoning the doomed men to appear before him, Modestus informed them
that the Emperor had sentenced them to banishment. Glad to suffer
something for the Faith, they received the news with joy and were
promptly embarked on a ship which was supposedly to carry them to the
country of their exile. The crew, however, had received their orders
from Modestus. They set the ship on fire and escaped in the only boat,
leaving the eighty martyrs to perish in the flames. After this, it was
evidently useless to appeal to Valens for justice.

The Governors of the different provinces soon received orders to drive
out all the Bishops banished by Constantius who had returned during
the reign of Julian. The people of Alexandria, however, protested that
Athanasius had not returned in the reign of Julian but had been
personally recalled by Jovian. The Governor of Egypt dared not insist,
for the citizens had gathered in force, determined to defend their
Bishop; but he warned the Emperor of the Catholic spirit of the

A few days later, Athanasius left the city to stay for a short time in
a country house in the neighborhood. It was a providential thing that
he did so. That very night the Governor, with a body of armed troops,
broke into the church where the Patriarch was usually to be found at
prayer. They searched everywhere and were much astonished to find that
their prey had escaped them. Athanasius, in the meantime, warned by
friends, had concealed himself in his father's tomb, a fairly large
vault, where a man might remain for some time in hiding. The secret
was well kept by the faithful, who brought food to the Patriarch
during the night and kept him informed of all that was passing in the
city. For four long months he remained in concealment: at the end of
which time the Governor, fearing an outbreak among the people--for the
whole of Egypt was in a ferment--persuaded Valens to let him return in
peace to his see.

Chapter 11

ATHANASIUS was back once more in the midst of his people. This time
they were determined to keep him at any cost, as they gave the Arians
to understand a year later when Lucius, the man who had been
recommended to Jovian as a suitable Patriarch, ventured to make his
appearance in Alexandria. No sooner did the people hear of his arrival
than they surrounded the house where he was lodging, and it would have
gone ill with him had not the Governor, with an armed troop, rescued
him and hurried him out of Egypt. The roar against him that arose from
the multitude as he was escorted by a strong guard out of the city
completely cured him of any desire to return, and Athanasius was left
in peace for the remaining years of his life.

He had grown old, and his strength was failing, but his soul, still
young and vigorous, was undaunted and heroic as ever. The seven last
years of his rule at Alexandria were no more years of rest than those
which had gone before. He was one of the few bishops still living who
had been present at the Council of Nicea. The whole Catholic world,
West as well as East, venerated him as a Confessor of the Faith and
looked to him for advice and help.

His pen was still busy. One of his first acts on his return to
Alexandria was to write the life of St. Antony of the Desert, a last
tribute of love and gratitude to the memory of his dear old friend.
The book was eagerly read; we are told in the Confessions of St.
Augustine how two young officers of the Imperial army, finding it on
the table of a certain hermitage near Milan and reading it, were so
inspired by enthusiasm for the religious life that they embraced it
then and there.

In the other parts of the Eastern empire Valens and the Arians were
still at work, and persecution was raging as of old. Many of the
persecuted Bishops looked to Athanasius for the comfort and
encouragement which they never sought in vain. He was always ready to
forget the past and to make advances even to those who had been his
bitterest enemies. Let them only accept the Creed of Nicea, he said,
and he would admit them to communion.

There was a splendid chivalry about the man who could so generously
hold out the right hand of fellowship to those who had never ceased to
plot his ruin. The triumph of truth and the salvation of souls was his
first, and indeed his only thought; everything else could be safely
forgotten. Unfortunately, it was not so with the leaders of the
Arians, and they refused to respond to his appeal. There were,
however, among them good men who had been deceived into signing false
creeds and who were beginning to see things in their true light. Many
of these were received back into the Church and became true and firm
friends of the Patriarch, who was always more ready to see the good in
his fellowmen than the evil.

God had not given to everyone the clear instinct and the wide learning
of an Athanasius. It was sometimes really difficult to see where the
truth lay, for the Arians always tried to conceal their real doctrines
from those who would have shrunk from them in horror. Their old trick
of declaring that they believed all that the Church believed had led
many astray. For misled men such as these, honest and true of heart,
Athanasius had the greatest compassion and sympathy; they could always
count on his help.

He carried the same large-mindedness into the affairs of his
government. A certain Bishop of Libya having grown too old to carry
out his duties to the people's satisfaction, they asked that he should
be replaced by a younger and more capable prelate. But they had not
the patience to wait till the affair was settled. Siderius, a young
Christian officer stationed in the province, had won the hearts of all
by his virtue and wisdom; he, and none other, they resolved, should
take the place of the old man. A Bishop called Philo was accordingly
persuaded to consecrate Siderius, a thing he had no right to do, as
the Patriarch had not been consulted; neither were there two other
Bishops present, as was required for a lawful consecration.

The news of this irregular proceeding came in due time to the ears of
Athanasius, who sent someone to inquire into the matter. Finding,
however, that Siderius was worthy in every way of the position in
which he had been placed, he ratified the choice of the people and
showed much favor to the young Bishop.

Yet a few years later he was ready to brave the Emperor's anger by
excommunicating the Governor of Libya, a man whose cruelty and evil
deeds had made him hateful to all. As the man was a native of
Cappadocia, Athanasius wrote to St. Basil, the Archbishop of Caesarea
in Cappadocia, to tell him what he had done. St. Basil replied that he
had published the excommunication throughout his diocese and forbidden
anyone to hold communion with the unhappy man. He asked Athanasius to
pray for him and his people, for the Arians were hard at work among

Valens, in the meantime, had decided that the whole empire must be
Arian and was trying to obtain his end by force. Arian prelates
arrived in Caesarea, and Modestus, Prefect of the Pretorian Guard,
informed the Archbishop that he must admit them to communion under
pain of banishment. St. Basil, having resisted the order, was brought
up before the Prefect's tribunal.

"Why will you not accept the Emperor's religion?" asked the latter.
"Do you think it is a small thing to be of our communion?"

"Although you are Prefects and powerful people," answered the
Archbishop, "you are not to be more respected than God."

"Do you not know that I have power to drive you into exile, even to
take your life?" cried Modestus in a rage.

"I am God's pilgrim," was the answer; "all countries are the same to
me, and death is a good gift when it brings me to Him for whom I live
and work."

"No one has ever spoken so boldly to me before," replied Modestus,

"You have probably never met a Christian Bishop before," said Basil,
"or he would certainly have answered you as I have done. In all other
things we are meek and obedient, but when it is a question of God's
worship, we look to Him alone. Threats are of no use, for suffering in
His service is our greatest delight."

"Would you not like to have the Emperor in your congregation?" asked
Modestus. "It would be so easy. You have only to strike that word
'consubstantial' out of your creed."

"Gladly would I see the Emperor in my church," said Basil; "it is a
great thing to save a soul; but as for changing my creed, I would not
alter a letter for the whole world."

The persecution continued, and Basil addressed himself once more to
Athanasius, asking for prayers and guidance. "We are persuaded," he
wrote, "that your leadership is our sole remaining comfort in our
distress. By the power of our prayers, by the wisdom of your counsels,
you are able to carry us through this fearful storm, as all are sure
who have in any way made trial of your goodness. Wherefore cease not
to pray for our souls and to stir us up by letters; if you only knew
how these benefit us, you would never let pass an opportunity of
writing. If it were given to me, through your prayers, once to see
you, to profit by your gifts and to add to the history of my life a
meeting with such a great and apostolic soul, surely I should consider
that the loving mercy of God has given me a compensation for all the
ills with which my life has been afflicted."

In 366 Pope Liberius died and was succeeded by Pope St. Damasus, a man
of strong character and holy life. Two years later, in a council of
the Church, it was decreed that no Bishop should be consecrated unless
he held the Creed of Nicea. Athanasius was overwhelmed with joy on
hearing this decision. The triumph of the cause for which he had
fought so valiantly was now assured.

Athanasius' life was drawing to an end. Five years later, after having
governed his diocese for forty-eight years--years of labor, endurance
and suffering--he passed peacefully into the presence of that Lord for
whose sake he had counted all his tribulations as joy.

From his earliest youth Athanasius had stood forth as the champion of
Truth and defender of the Faith--a gallant warrior who had not laid
down his arms until the day of his death. Where a weaker man would
have lost courage, he had stood firm; suffering had only served to
temper his spirit, as steel is tempered by the fire. Among men who
were capable of every compromise he had remained loyal and true, and
few have been more loved or hated than he. To his own people he was
not only their Bishop, but a Saint, an ascetic, a martyr in all but
deed; above all, he was an intensely lovable personality, whose very
greatness of soul only made him more compassionate. To the outside
world he was a guiding light, a beacon pointing straight to God and
Heaven. He was a living example of the truth that a man may be
large-minded and yet strong; that he may hate error, yet love the
erring--stand like a rock against heresy, yet be full of compassion
for heretics.

Scarcely was Athanasius dead when he was honored as a Saint. Six years
after his death, St. Gregory Nazianzen speaks of him in one breath
with the patriarchs, prophets and martyrs who had fought for the Faith
and won the crown of glory. His influence is with us to this day, his
memory lingers in the words of that Nicene Creed which was his war
cry; for it is largely owing to his valor that we possess it still.
And through all his works breathes the same spirit--the spirit that
nerved him to fight and suffer--an intense love and devotion to Him
who was the Lord and Master of his life--Jesus Christ, the same
yesterday, today and forever.

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