5 Short Excerpts from the Theology of St. Athanasius the Great


On the Holy Trinity:

“The apostles were not interested in the images and analogies of plurality found in Scripture, nor in reconciling plurality and unity. But they certainly were concerned to explain, through the medium of Scripture, how the Lord Jesus relates to the one God, his Father, in the Spirit. This basic scriptural grammar of Trinitarian theology—that the one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, made known in and through the Spirit—is preserved in the most abstract discussions of the fourth century, in the creeds of Nicaea and Constantinople, and in liturgical language. Yet this fundamental grammar is overlooked when the point of these discussions is neglected and the resulting formulae are taken in abstraction, as referring to an “immanent” Trinity—one God existing in three Persons—which is then presupposed and superimposed upon the scriptural revelation. At this point, it is not enough simply to assert the identity of the “economic” Trinity and the “immanent” Trinity, or to emphasize that the “economic” basis of our knowledge of the Trinity—that it is only through the revelation of the Son in and through the Spirit that we can speak of God as Father—must correspond to how the Trinity actually is in “immanent” terms. These two dimensions of Trinitarian theology, economic and immanent, should never have been separated, even if they are subsequently reunited. That Trinitarian theology results from reflecting on how the crucified and exalted Lord Jesus Christ reveals the one and only God as Father, in and through the Holy Spirit, who also enables adopted sons crucified with Christ to call upon the same God as Father, means that Trinitarian theology has less to do with the heavenly existence of three divine persons than with this new manner of confessing the one God—as Father, in the Son, by the Holy Spirit. (Nicene Faith, I:7-8)”

On the Image of the eternal Word who would become Man:

“For God Maker of all and King of all, that has His Being beyond all substance and human discovery, inasmuch as He is good and exceeding noble, made, through His own Word our Saviour Jesus Christ, the human race after His own image, and constituted man able to see and know realities by means of this assimilation to Himself, giving him also a conception and knowledge even of His own eternity, in order that, preserving his nature intact, he might not ever either depart from his idea of God, nor recoil from the communion of the holy ones; but having the grace of Him that gave it, having also God’s own power from the Word of the Father, he might rejoice and have fellowship with the Deity, living the life of immortality unharmed and truly blessed. For having nothing to hinder his knowledge of the Deity, he ever beholds, by his purity, the Image of the Father, God the Word, after Whose image he himself is made. He is awe-struck as he contemplates that Providence which through the Word extends to the universe, being raised above the things of sense and every bodily appearance, but cleaving to the divine and thought-perceived things in the heavens by the power of his mind. For when the mind of men does not hold converse with bodies, nor has mingled with it from without anything of their lust, but is wholly above them, dwelling with itself as it was made to begin with, then, transcending the things of sense and all things human, it is raised up on high; and seeing the Word, it sees in Him also the Father of the Word, taking pleasure in contemplating Him, and gaining renewal by its desire toward Him; exactly as the first of men created, the one who was named Adam in Hebrew, is described in the Holy Scriptures as having at the beginning had his mind to God-ward in a freedom unembarrassed by shame, and as associating with the holy ones in that contemplation of things perceived by the mind which he enjoyed in the place where he was— the place which the holy Moses called in figure a Garden. So purity of soul is sufficient of itself to reflect God, as the Lord also says, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Gent. 2)”

On the path of Saints:

“It is a fact, brothers and sisters, that the path of the saints in this life is one full of troubles. They either endure the pain of longing for that which is to come, like the one who said, ‘Woe is me that I have such a long pilgrimage’ (Ps. 120:5, LXX) or they are distressed by their longing for the salvation of others, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, ‘I am afraid that whey I come to you, God may humble me and cause me to weep and mourn over many who have sinned and not repented of impurity, fornication and licentiousness which they have practiced.'”

On the fall from Heaven:

"And once more, if the devil, the enemy of our race, having fallen from heaven, wanders about our lower atmosphere, and there bearing rule over his fellow-spirits, as his peers in disobedience, not only works illusions by their means in them that are deceived, but tries to hinder them that are going up (and about this the Apostle says: According to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience); while the Lord came to cast down the devil, and clear the air and prepare the way for us up into heaven, as said the Apostle: Through the veil, that is to say, His flesh [Heb. 10:20]— and this must needs be by death— well, by what other kind of death could this have come to pass, than by one which took place in the air, I mean the cross? For only he that is perfected on the cross dies in the air. Whence it was quite fitting that the Lord suffered this death. For thus being lifted up He cleared the air of the malignity both of the devil and of demons of all kinds, as He says: I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven; and made a new opening of the way up into heaven as He says once more: Lift up your gates, O you princes, and be lifted up, you everlasting doors."


Of Antony’s vision concerning the forgiveness of his sins:

". . .For once, when about to eat, having risen up to pray about the ninth hour, he perceived that he was caught up in the spirit, and, wonderful to tell, he stood and saw himself, as it were, from outside himself, and that he was led in the air by certain ones. Next certain bitter and terrible beings stood in the air and wished to hinder him from passing through. But when his conductors opposed them, they demanded whether he was not accountable to them. And when they wished to sum up the account from his birth, Antony’s conductors stopped them, saying, ‘The Lord has wiped out the sins from his birth, but from the time he became a monk, and devoted himself to God, it is permitted you to make a reckoning.’ Then when they accused him and could not convict him, his way was free and unhindered. And immediately he saw himself, as it were, coming and standing by himself, and again he was Antony as before. Then forgetful of eating, he remained the rest of the day and through the whole of the night groaning and praying. For he was astonished when he saw against what mighty opponents our wrestling is, and by what labours we have to pass through the air. And he remembered that this is what the Apostle said, ‘according to the prince of the power of the air [Ephesians 2:2.]’ For in it the enemy has power to fight and to attempt to hinder those who pass through. Wherefore most earnestly he exhorted, ‘Take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day [Ephesians 6:13],’ that the enemy, ‘having no evil thing to say against us, may be ashamed [Titus 2:8].’ And we who have learned this, let us be mindful of the Apostle when he says, ‘whether in the body I know not, or whether out of the body I know not; God knows [2 Corinthians 12:2].’ But Paul was caught up unto the third heaven, and having heard things unspeakable he came down; while Antony saw that he had come to the air, and contended until he was free."

Sources:

http://www.orthodoxchurchquotes.com/category/sayings-from-saints-elders-and-fathers/st-athanasius-the-great/

https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/st-athanasius-the-great-theologian-of-the-cross/

https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/st-athanasius-the-creation-of-humanity-in-the-image-of-the-image/ 


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