Memorial of St. Athanasius

Image: Aurora over Holy Name of Mary Church, Tsiigehtchic
Acts 7.51-8.1  |  Ps 31  |  Jn 6.30-35

Today we celebrate the memorial of Anthanasius, 4th century Saint and Doctor of the Church. Anthanasius is known as the defender of the faith against Arianism, the heresy which taught that Jesus was not eternal, like God the Father, but rather, created by the Father and adopted as his Son.

At the First Council of Nicea, Anthanasius vigorously debated against Arius upholding the Church’s belief in the eternal divinity of Christ thus allowing for the first unified doctrine of Christian belief, the Nicene Creed, which is still used to this day as a benchmark for our faith.

The Creed that we say every Sunday at Mass certainly has it’s benefits. It’s nice when things are spelled out for us so neatly as to keep us humbly unified and together as we say the same words. It’s easy to forget that sometimes the things we take for granted were not always so clear cut. However unless we really pay attention to what we say and really reflect on what it is that we say we believe neither the Creed nor any other doctrine will  have much effect in our life.

In the Gospel today we find the crowd of people discerning what to believe about Jesus who had just fed 5000 people with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. They had wanted to follow Jesus immediately because of what they had seen but Jesus challenged them and said that would be too easy, too clear cut. He encouraged them to look deeper and seek food that does not perish but instead is eternal. He wanted them to go beyond the superficial and to really see what God was doing in their midst.

At Sr. Fay’s house in Tuktoyaktuk the bread maker is always going. There is always a warm loaf of fresh bread for whenever anyone drops in and the kids pop over after school. The delicious bread is a wonderful sign of hospitality. But the bread is not the main course. The bread is not the reason that Sr. Fay is in Tuktoyaktuk. With the bread comes conversation, people share their stories and faith is developed. Bread is only the introduction to the beginning of a deeper relationship with God.

For Christians it is the same with the Creed. We learn it as children as we prepare to receive first Communion or, as Adults in the process of RCIA, its words are explained to us. But if it remains only words that are recited it will have little meaning. We are meant to take the words into our heart and understand their meaning as more then just a ritual that we share on Sundays.

The power of those words, when fully understood, are seen in St. Stephen in the first reading today. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, stands before the authorities and shares his vision of Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father in heaven. Stephen was willing to give his life for that vision, for his belief in the risen Christ. How many of us recite the Creed with that kind of conviction?

 

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