Out of those forty-seven years, he spent twenty in persecutions and exiles, and in deserted, secret places . . .
The Holy Hierarch Athanasius, Archbishop of Alexandria
In the third century, in Alexandria, there lived a remarkable boy, named Athanasius. Once, while playing on the seashore, some Christian children decided to baptize their pagan friends. Athanasius was chosen to be the "bishop", and he performed the Sacrament of Baptism just like it is done in church, word for word.
The Patriarch Alexander, who had been watching them, called the children, and their parents, and acknowledged that the baptisms were valid, performed according to all the church rules. He became the spiritual father of the young Athanasius, for he sensed a great, blessed power in the boy, who was destined to become a great pillar of Orthodoxy.
Athanasius helped the patriarch to expose the heretic Arius. He even took the floor at the Council of Nicea, and delivered a fiery speech that was approved by the Orthodox fathers of the cathedral.
The Arians, who had been condemned, showed their hatred for the newcomer, both openly and in secret, and vowed to take their revenge on him.
When the holy patriarch Alexander died, Athanasius was unanimously chosen to be his successor. At first Athanasius refused, considering himself to be unworthy, but at the request of all the Alexandrians, he became the head of the Alexandrian church.
For forty-seven years St. Athanasius governed the Alexandrian church, but those years were difficult, full of afflictions and persecutions. The Arians plotted against him, and several times they tried to kill the saint. But, protected by God, he continued to care for his manifold flock.
Out of those forty-seven years, he spent twenty in persecutions and exiles, and in deserted, secret places. There was a time when he was the only Orthodox bishop, but he didn't lose the battle in the struggle with the Arians. Relentlessly denouncing them, he wrote treatises against them. The Alexandrian Christians would always await his return from exile, and he always returned to them.
St. Athanasius left behind him a great legacy of spiritual writings and didactic works, which are beneficial for every Christian. And his memory, as that of a great father of the church, who performed great deeds for the protection of Orthodoxy, has been passed down by grateful Christians throughout the centuries.
The fifteenth of May is the feast day of the Holy Hierarch Athanasius, Archbishop of Alexandria.
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