The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4

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St. Athanasius

Anthanasius was born at Alexandria about 297 A. D., and died in 373 A.D. As an archdeacon and the attendant of the bishop Alexander; he took a prominent part against the Arians at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A. D. From that time during his whole life he struggled for the doctrine of Christ’s essential divinity and eternal coexistence with the Father, and his importance as a theologian is that he developed this idea. Five times he was sent into exile and five times returned to power by the swing of the pendulum-like church politics of the Eastern emperors, but he lived to see his idea conquer, and it is to-day an essential part of the Catholic creed.

Exposition of the Faith.

We believe in one unbegotten God, the omnipotent Father, the Creator of all things visible and invisible, who exists of His very Self; and in the one only begotten Word, the Wisdom, the Son, born of the Father without beginning and from eternity: the Word not spoken nor thought of, nor an emanation from the Perfect, nor a division or projection of the impassive nature; but the Son perfect in Himself, living and doing, the true image of the Father, equal in honor and glory: for this, he says, is the will of the Father, "That as they honor the Father, so they may honor the Son also;" true God from the true God, as John says in the general epistles, "And we are in Him that is true, even in His Son, Jesus Christ: this is the true God, and everlasting life;" omnipotent from the omnipotent, for all things which the Father commands and rules, the Son commands and rules likewise,who is whole from the whole and like to the Father, as the Lord Himself says: "Who seeth Me seeth the Father." But He was born in a way not to be explained, and not to be understood. For "who can declare His generation?" that is, no one can. When at the end of the ages He had descended from the bosom of the Father, He took upon Himself from the undefiled Virgin Mary, our manhood Jesus Christ, whom He delivered up to suffer for us of His own will, as the Lord says: "No man taketh My life from Me. I have power to lay it down, and have power to take it again." In this manhood He was crucified and died for us; He rose from the dead, and was taken up into heaven. Being made the beginning of ways for us, while on earth He showed us light for darkness, salvation for error, life for the death, and entrance into paradise, from which Adam was cast out, and into which He again entered through the thief, as the Lord says: "This day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise," into which also Paulus himself entered. He has also prepared for us an ascent up to heaven, whither the Lord-man has gone as precursor for us, and where He shall judge the living and the dead.

2. We believe also in the Holy Spirit, searching all things even the deep things of God, and we say anathema to all teachings contrary to this. Neither do we think of a Son-Father as the Sabellians do, saying that He is one but not the same essence thus destroying the existence of the Son. Neither do we attribute to the Father the body destined to bear suffering which He took upon Himself for the salvation of the whole world. Neither is it right to think of three persons divided from each other, as is the case with men because of the nature of their bodies, lest we believe in a plurality of gods, as do the heathen; but just as a river which flows from a spring is not separated from it, although there are in fact two visible things and two names, so the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father; but the Father is the Father of the Son, and the Son is the Son of the Father. For just as the spring is not the river, nor is the river the spring, but both are one and the same water which flows from the spring into the river, so the divinity flows from the Father into the Son without change or division. Hence the Lord said: "I came out from the Father and I am come." For He is ever with the Father, being in the bosom of the Father, nor was the bosom of the Father ever void of the divinity of the Son, for He says: "I was with him as one setting in order." Nor do we think of Him as made or created, or sprung from nothing, who is God the Creator of all things, the Son of God, the existent from the existent,the single from the single, whose equal glory and power was begotten from eternity of the Father: for he who seeth the Son, seeth also the Father. For all things were created through the Son, but He Himself was not created, as Paul teaches in these words: "In Him were all things created and He is before all." But he says not that He was created before all things. The phrase "was created" refers to "all things," but the words "is before all" refers only to the Son.

3. He is then the perfect offspring of the Perfect, begotten before all the hills, that is, before all natural things endowed with reason and intelligence, just as Paul elsewhere calls Him "the first-born of all creation." But when he called Him the first-born he meant not that He was not the creature, but the offspring of the Father. It is contrary to His divinity to call Him a created thing. For all things were created by the Father through the Son, but the Son Himself was begotten of the Father from eternity, whence God the Word is the first-born of all creation, immutable from the immutable. So the body which He assumed for our sakes was a created thing, as Jeremiah says, according to the edition of the seventy translation: "The Lord created for us for a planting a new salvation, in which salvation men shall go about." But Aquila interprets it: "The Lord created a new thing in woman." Now the salvation created for us for a planting which is new, not old, for us and not before us, is Jesus, who as Saviour became man; indeed the word Jesus is sometimes rendered salvation, sometimes Saviour. But salvation is from the Saviour, just as illumination from light. So the new salvation created from the Saviour, as Jeremiah says, created a new salvation for us, or as Aquila puts it: "The Lord created a new thing in woman," that is, in Mary. For there was nothing new created in the woman, except the body of the Lord, which the Virgin Mary bore without intercourse, as is said in the proverbs concerning the person of Jesus: "The Lord created Me a beginning of His ways for His works." It does not say, He created Me before His works, lest anyone should refer this to the divinity of the Son.

4. Both things therefore which are said of the created thing, are written of Jesus according to the body. But the Lord’s manhood was created as the "beginning of ways," which He manifested to us for our salvation. In Him we have access to the Father through Him; for He is the way which leads to the Father. But a way is a physical thing which is discerned with the eyes, and so also is the Lord’s manhood. Therefore, the Word of God, which is not created, but begotten, created all things. For nothing has been or can be created equal or similar toHim, but it is the work of the Father to beget, of the workman to create. So the thing made and created is that body which the Lord bore for us, as Paul says: "Which was begotten for us, wisdom from God, and sanctification and righteousness and redemption;" although the Word, the Wisdom of the Father, was and is before us and before every created thing. But the Holy Spirit which proceeds from the Father, is always in the hands of the Father who sends, and of the Son who bears it, by whom He has filled all things. The Father, therefore, who continues to exist, so to speak of Himself, bore and did not create the Son as we have said, as a river from a spring, a branch from a root, brightness from light, things which nature herself knows to be indivisible; through Him be glory to the Father and power and majesty before all ages and unto all the ages of ages. Amen.

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Chicago: "St. Athanasius," The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4 in The Library of Original Sources, ed. Oliver J. Thatcher (Milwaukee, Wisconsin: University Research Extension Co., 1907), 72–74. Original Sources, accessed November 29, 2022, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=2LEKF7BWBLKLNV5.

MLA: . "St. Athanasius." The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4, in The Library of Original Sources, edited by Oliver J. Thatcher, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, University Research Extension Co., 1907, pp. 72–74. Original Sources. 29 Nov. 2022. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=2LEKF7BWBLKLNV5.

Harvard: , 'St. Athanasius' in The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4. cited in 1907, The Library of Original Sources, ed. , University Research Extension Co., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, pp.72–74. Original Sources, retrieved 29 November 2022, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=2LEKF7BWBLKLNV5.