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The Ordination of Saint Hilary. From a 14th century manuscript.

The Ordination of Saint Hilary. From a 14th century manuscript.

The world often tells us that in order to keep from making waves we would do well to GO ALONG, TO GET ALONG. Today, January 13th is the Feast Day of Hilary of Poitiers and early father of the Church and a central figure in the struggle against Arianism and one who refused to heed the call of compromise or capitulation.

The Arian heresy was named after Arius, an early figure in the Church who claimed that Jesus was not, in fact, God but appeared to be of ‘like substance’ to God.

Arianism , had it gone unchecked, would have undone the doctrine of the Trinity as wel know it and would have rendered the Nicene Creed an historical anomaly rather than what it is, and enuring statement of belief in the nature of God as three distinct, equal and coexistent persons.

One of the hallmarks of Hilary’s contributions to the resolution of the Arian Heresy, was his ability to maintain relationship and credibility as a person and intellectual interlocutor with folks across the spectrum. His realtively calm demeanor, without compromising his beliefs in the face of enormous pressure to denounce the Trinitarian view, is one of his remembered as one of his most outstanding qualities. Though he was thoughtful, gentle, humble, and pastoral; he was no pushover theologically or in his commitment to the Truth as revealed in the Church. He endured exile and maintained faith in his position that Jesus was both fully human AND fully divine.

He was not alone in his endurance, but still remains and example of quiet confidence and faith in the face of secular pressure on the Church to compromise on its beliefs in order to consolidate power and avoid conflict. In many ways it was his commitment to the doctrine of the Trinity as the divine embodiment of mutuality in relationships that I suspect sustained him in the darkest hours and gave him the faith to endure to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Some 80 years later, the Council of Chalcedon (451 CE) affirmed his position as one of orthdoxy and we remain Trinitarian Christians to this day due to Hilary and others of his ilk who had the courage of the convictions and the spiritual strength to stand on them, believing that God would set all things in order in God’s time. Thanks be to God for Hilary…might the Church learn from him the virtue of patience in the face of our ongoing conflicts, assured that God’s love is not dependent upon our being ‘right’.

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