Tag Archives: Saint Hilary

January 14th – Fourth Century Tensions


Hilary of Poitiers, celebrated today, saw by 350 AD that new tensions entering Christianity’s structured practices were serious complicating anyone’s attempt to appreciate its message. He wrote to the emperor Constantius, whose family made bishops an empire-wide magistrate system (welcomed by some), asking him at least to stop encouraging Arian accounts of God. The new structure was unimaginable a century before. Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, was executed by the governor. Hilary, in Gaul, admired Cyprian. He had seen the great difference between those who learn to obey God’s Spirit and those who do not. Some Christians gladly go beyond a routine of persevering in piety. Like the second rudder in Ammon’s imagery, they want an unworldly patience to keep them close to the divinity of Christ.

Stories told about holy men and bishops raising the dead were told, stressing powers present in the heart and mind of Christ, and made available to others through key church members. Athanasius’ writings against Arius, a couple of decades earlier, had sketched his sense of the divine reality present in Christ, but these had not been a sufficiently full depiction of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. Hilary and others aimed to provide a better view of the Trinity. They insisted that God can always bypass human distortions of what a community of faith should be like.

God’s call to the Gentiles should feel different, he said, from the previous call to Israel. Eusebius’ Arian sympathy with planning orderliness to please rulers was a mistake.


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10th January – Christians from the Past


When we pray regularly at home, in communities or a liturgical setting, we use certain prescribed forms of prayer such as the memorials or feast days of holy men and women. The selection of people recalled in this way may be fairly small. Some people like to attend a liturgy on the day when a favourite saint will be mentioned. Yet the account summarised may be just a couple of lines: where they lived, the year of their death and some key event in their life. If the event was a doctrinal debate, we might hear few details, and come away with no understanding of the hotly-argued faith issues, so prominent in that person’s experience.

Next Sunday can be an opportunity to learn about St. Anthony of Egypt, and ways in which he possibly resisted doctrinal views of the Alexandrian priest Arius. It being a Sunday, however, he will not be mentioned in churches. Then, on Wednesday 13th January, we might hear about Hilary of Poitiers, living in France (called Gaul) fifty years after Anthony, who also spoke and wrote passionately about problems relating to followers of Arius. Would our own sense of God benefit from more input? For monastic communities, the week includes more than just morning and evening prayer. 11th January offers a reading from the vivid fourth century preacher, Maximus of Turin.

How can we rejoice in dissimilar patterns, then, of discovering how faith has been put into words? What resources will deepen our attentiveness to God?


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