From his authorship at the tender age of 20 of the profound theological work, On the Incarnation, to his pivotal role in the First Ecumenical Council, Athanasius is one of the most intriguing figures in Constantinian Christianity. This volume provides a sympathetic and winsome introduction to the life of the beloved Saint Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria. The author, Michael Molloy, serves as Assistant Pastor at St. John Orthodox Cathedral in Eagle River, Alaska.
Molloy tells the story of Athanasius' life in a compelling way. So many aspects of Athanasius' life are intriguing—his influential role at the Council of Nicea; the slander and false accusation he suffered at the hands of the Arians; his on-again, off-again relationship with the Roman emperor Constantine; his persistence through five exiles; his identification with Egyptian monastic life; and the intense loyalty he evoked from the Alexandrian Christians and from Egyptian monastics such as the well-respected hermit Antony. One cannot help but be struck by the incredible price that Athanasius paid in defending orthodoxy against the Arian heresy. In all, Athanasius spent about 18 years in exile away from his beloved Alexandria.
In addition to tracing Athanasius' life, the author includes helpful appendices which describe the political, cultural, economic, and ecclesial background of Alexandria and Upper and Lower Egypt in Athanasius' day, as well as articles describing in greater detail the practice of monasticism and the life of the Roman emperor Constantine. Also included are two brief excerpts from Athanasius' Letter to Marcellinus, "A Guide for the Use of the Psalms," and "The Importance of Chanting the Psalms." As the author mentions in the Preface, it is helpful to read the appendices first in order to have a better understanding of the historical background of Athanasius' life and times. In the early pages of the book, Molloy also provides the reader with a helpful chronology of Athanasius' life, along with an excerpt from Saint Gregory Nazianzen's oration in praise of Athanasius, "On the Great Athanasius," and an "Aposticha of Vespers for Saint Athanasius" by a contemporary author.
Scholars may be disappointed at the paucity of documentation and the lack of application of critical historiographic methodology, but this is an excellent book to introduce Athanasius to a lay audience.