Excerpt of St. Athanasius' Letter to the Bishops of Egypt

Discussion in 'Liturgical / Scriptural meditations/Other' started by Rose, Jun 2, 2017.

  1. Rose

    Rose Well-Known Member

    To the Bishops of Egypt.




    Chapter I.

    1. Christ warned His followers against false prophets.
    All things whatsoever our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as Luke wrote, ‘both hath done and taught,’ He effected after having appeared for our salvation; for He came, as John saith, ‘not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.’ And among the rest we have especially to admire this instance of His goodness, that He was not silent concerning those who should fight against us, but plainly told us beforehand, that, when those things should come to pass, we might straightway be found with minds established by His teaching.

    For He said, ‘There shall arise false prophets and false Christs, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, the very elect shall be deceived. Behold, I have told you before.’ Manifold indeed and beyond human conception are the instructions and gifts of grace which He has laid up in us; as the pattern of heavenly conversation, power against demons, the adoption of sons, and that exceeding great and singular grace, the knowledge of the Father and of the Word Himself, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. But the mind of man is prone to evil exceedingly; moreover, our adversary the devil, envying us the possession of such great blessings, goeth about seeking to snatch away the seed of the word which is sown within us. Wherefore as if by His prophetic warnings He would seal up His instructions in our hearts as His own peculiar treasure, the Lord said, ‘Take heed that no man deceive you: for many shall come in My name, saying, I am he; and the time draweth near; and they shall deceive many: go ye not therefore after them.’

    This is a great gift which the Word has bestowed upon us, that we should not be deceived by appearances, but that, howsoever these things are concealed, we should all the more distinguish them by the grace of the Spirit. For whereas the inventor of wickedness and great spirit of evil, the devil, is utterly hateful, and as soon as he shews himself is rejected of all men,—as a serpent, as a dragon, as a lion seeking whom he may seize upon and devour,—therefore he conceals and covers what he really is, and craftily personates that Name which all men desire, so that deceiving by a false appearance, he may thenceforth fix fast in his own chains those whom he has led astray. And as if one that desired to kidnap the children of others during the absence of their parents, should personate their appearance, and so putting a cheat on the affections of the offspring, should carry them far away and destroy them; in like manner this evil and wily spirit the devil, having no confidence in himself, and knowing the love which men bear to the truth, personates its appearance, and so spreads his own poison among those that follow after him.

    2. Satan pretending to be holy, is detected by the Christian.
    Thus he deceived Eve, not speaking his own, but artfully adopting the words of God, and perverting their meaning. Thus he suggested evil to the wife of Job, persuading her to feign affection for her husband, while he taught her to blaspheme God. Thus does the crafty spirit mock men by false displays, deluding and drawing each into his own pit of wickedness.
    When of old he deceived the first man Adam, thinking that through him he should have all men subject unto him, he exulted with great boldness and said, ‘My hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people; and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there is none that shall escape me or speak against me.’ But when the Lord came upon earth, and the enemy made trial of His human Economy, being unable to deceive the flesh which He had taken upon Him, from that time forth he, who promised himself the occupation of the whole world, is for His sake mocked even by children: that proud one is mocked as a sparrow. For now the infant child lays his hand upon the hole of the asp, and laughs at him that deceived Eve; and all that rightly believe in the Lord tread under foot him that said, ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds: I will be like the Most High.’

    Thus he suffers and is dishonoured; and although he still ventures with shameless confidence to disguise himself, yet now, wretched spirit, he is detected the rather by them that bear the Sign on their foreheads; yea, more, he is rejected of them, and is humbled, and put to shame. For even if, now that he is a creeping serpent, he shall transform himself into an angel of light, yet his deception will not profit him; for we have been taught that ‘though an angel from heaven preach unto us any other gospel than that we have received, he is anathema.’

    3. And although, again, he conceal his natural falsehood, and pretend to speak truth with his lips; yet are we ‘not ignorant of his devices,’ but are able to answer him in the words spoken by the Spirit against him; ‘But unto the ungodly, said God, why dost thou preach My laws?’ and, ‘Praise is not seemly in the mouth of a sinner.’ For even though he speak the truth, the deceiver is not worthy of credit. And whereas Scripture shewed this, when relating his wicked artifices against Eve in Paradise, so the Lord also reproved him,—first in the mount, when He laid open ‘the folds of his breast-plate,’ and shewed who the crafty spirit was, and proved that it was not one of the saints, but Satan that was tempting Him. For He said, ‘Get thee behind Me Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.’ And again, when He put a curb in the mouths of the demons that cried after Him from the tombs. For although what they said was true, and they lied not then, saying, ‘Thou art the Son of God,’ and ‘the Holy One of God;’ yet He would not that the truth should proceed from an unclean mouth, and especially from such as them, lest under pretence thereof they should mingle with it their own malicious devices, and sow these also while men slept.

    Therefore He suffered them not to speak such words, neither would He have us to suffer such, but hath charged us by His own mouth, saying, ‘Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheeps’ clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves;’ and by the mouth of His Holy Apostles, ‘Believe not every spirit.’ Such is the method of our adversary’s operations; and of the like nature are all these inventions of heresies, each of which has for the father of its own device the devil, who changed and became a murderer and a liar from the beginning. But being ashamed to profess his hateful name, they usurp the glorious Name of our Saviour ‘which is above every name,’ and deck themselves out in the language of Scripture, speaking indeed the words, but stealing away the true meaning thereof; and so disguising by some artifice their false inventions, they also become the murderers of those whom they have led astray.
     
  2. Admin

    Admin Moderator Staff Member


    Perfect description of the language spoken by modernist bishops and priests. They become the murderers of those whom they (lead) astray... God help us!

    ..
     
    Rose likes this.
  3. Rose

    Rose Well-Known Member

    Additional Excerpt of St. Athanasius' Letter to the Bishops of Egypt:

    8. Words are bad, though Scriptural, which proceed from bad men.
    Such are the machinations of these men against the truth: but their designs are manifest to all the world, though they attempt in ten thousand ways, like eels, to elude the grasp, and to escape detection as enemies of Christ. Wherefore I beseech you, let no one among you be deceived, no one seduced by them; rather, considering that a sort of judaical impiety is invading the Christian faith, be ye all zealous for the Lord; hold fast, every one, the faith we have received from the Fathers, which they who assembled at Nicæa recorded in writing, and endure not those who endeavour to innovate thereon. And however they may write phrases out of the Scripture, endure not their writings; however they may speak the language of the orthodox, yet attend not to what they say; for they speak not with an upright mind, but putting on such language like sheeps’ clothing, in their hearts they think with Arius, after the manner of the devil, who is the author of all heresies. For he too made use of the words of Scripture, but was put to silence by our Saviour. For if he had indeed meant them as he used them, he would not have fallen from heaven; but now having fallen through his pride, he artfully dissembles in his speech, and oftentimes maliciously endeavours to lead men astray by the subtleties and sophistries of the Gentiles. Had these expositions of theirs proceeded from the orthodox, from such as the great Confessor Hosius, and Maximinus of Gaul, or his successor, or from such as Philogonius and Eustathius, Bishops of the East, or Julius and Liberius of Rome, or Cyriacus of Mœsia, or Pistus and Aristæus of Greece, or Silvester and Protogenes of Dacia, or Leontius and Eupsychius of Cappadocia, or Cæcilianus of Africa, or Eustorgius of Italy, or Capito of Sicily, or Macarius of Jerusalem, or Alexander of Constantinople, or Pæderos of Heraclea, or those great Bishops Meletius, Basil, and Longianus, and the rest from Armenia and Pontus, or Lupus and Amphion from Cilicia, or James and the rest from Mesopotamia, or our own blessed Alexander, with others of the same opinions as these;—there would then have been nothing to suspect in their statements, for the character of apostolical men is sincere and incapable of fraud.​

    9. For such words do but serve as their cloak.
    But when they proceed from those who are hired to advocate the cause of heresy, and since, according to the divine proverb, ‘The words of the wicked are to lie in wait,’ and ‘The mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things,’ and ‘The counsels of the wicked are deceit:’ it becomes us to watch and be sober, brethren, as the Lord has said, lest any deception arise from subtlety of speech and craftiness; lest any one come and pretend to say, ‘I preach Christ,’ and after a little while he be found to be Antichrist. These indeed are Antichrists, whosoever come to you in the cause of the Arian madness. For what defect is there among you, that any one need to come to you from without? Or, of what do the Churches of Egypt and Libya and Alexandria stand so much in need, that these men should make a purchase of the Episcopate instead of wood and goods, and intrude into Churches which do not belong to them? Who is not aware, who does not perceive clearly, that they do all this in order to support their impiety? Wherefore although they should make themselves dumb, or although they should bind on their garments larger borders than the Pharisees, and pour themselves forth in long speeches, and practise the tones of their voice, they ought not to be believed; for it is not the mode of speaking, but the intentions of the heart and a godly conversation that recommend the faithful Christian. And thus the Sadducees and Herodians, although they have the law in their mouths, were put to rebuke by our Saviour, who said unto them, ‘Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God:’ and all men witnessed the exposure of those who pretended to quote the words of the Law, as being in their minds heretics and enemies of God. Others indeed they deceived by these professions, but when our Lord became man they were not able to deceive Him; ‘for the Word was made Flesh,’ who ‘knoweth the thoughts of men that they are vain.’ Thus He exposed the carping of the Jews, saying, ‘If God were your Father, ye would love Me, for I proceeded forth from the Father, and am come to you.’ In like manner these men seem now to act; for they disguise their real sentiments, and then make use of the language of Scripture for their writings, which they hold forth as a bait for the ignorant, that they may inveigle them into their own wickedness.
     
  4. Scarlet Pimpernel

    Scarlet Pimpernel Active Member

    Great quotes! Useful across the centuries.
    What was so fitting and appropriate 1700 years ago, applies perfectly today.
    The Catholic faith is timeless.
     
  5. Rose

    Rose Well-Known Member

    Excerpt, continued:

    11. No profit to do right in one way, if we do wrong in another.

    If they do this from ignorance they must be charged with rashness, because they affirm positively concerning things that they know not; but if they dissemble knowingly, their condemnation is the greater, because while they overlook nothing in consulting for their own interests, in writing about faith in our Lord they make a mockery, and do anything rather than speak the truth; they keep back those particulars respecting which their heresy is accused, and merely bring forward the language of the Scriptures. Now this is a manifest theft of the truth, and a practice full of all iniquity; and so I am sure your piety will readily perceive it to be from the following illustrations.

    No person being accused of adultery defends himself as innocent of theft; nor would any one in prosecuting a charge of murder suffer the accused parties to defend themselves by saying, ‘We have not committed perjury, but have preserved the deposit which was entrusted to us.’ This would be mere child’s play, instead of a refutation of the charge and a demonstration of the truth. For what has murder to do with a deposit, or adultery with theft? The vices are indeed related to each other as proceeding from the same heart; yet in respect to the refutation of an alleged offence, they have no connection with each other. Accordingly as it is written in the Book of Joshua the son of Nun, when Achan was charged with theft, he did not excuse himself with the plea of his zeal in the wars; but being convicted of the offence was stoned by all the people. And when Saul was charged with negligence and a breach of the law, he did not benefit his cause by alleging his conduct on other matters. For a defence on one count will not operate to obtain an acquittal on another count; but if all things should be done according to law and justice, a man must defend himself in those particulars wherein he is accused, and must either disprove the past, or else confess it with the promise that he will desist, and do so no more. But if he is guilty of the crime, and will not confess, but in order to conceal the truth speaks on other points instead of the one in question, he shews plainly that he has acted amiss, nay, and is conscious of his delinquency.

    But what need of many words, seeing that these persons are themselves accusers of the Arian heresy? For since they have not the boldness to speak out, but conceal their blasphemous expressions, it is plain that they know that this heresy is separate and alien from the truth. But since they themselves conceal it and are afraid to speak, it is necessary for me to strip off the veil from their impiety, and to expose the heresy to public view, knowing as I do the statements which Arius and his fellows formerly made, and how they were cast out of the Church, and degraded from the Clergy. But here first I ask for pardon of the foul words which I am about to produce, since I use them, not because I thus think, but in order to convict the heretics. ...

    21. To make a stand for the Faith equivalent to martyrdom.

    Wherefore I exhort you, keeping in your hands the confession which was framed by the Fathers at Nicæa, and defending it with great zeal and confidence in the Lord, be examples to the brethren everywhere, and shew them that a struggle is now before us in support of the Truth against heresy, and that the wiles of the enemy are various. For the proof of a martyr lies not only in refusing to burn incense to idols; but to refuse to deny the Faith is also an illustrious testimony of a good conscience. And not only those who turned aside unto idols were condemned as aliens, but those also who betrayed the Truth.

    Thus Judas was degraded from the Apostolical office, not because he sacrificed to idols, but because he proved a traitor; and Hymenæus and Alexander fell away not by betaking themselves to the service of idols, but because they ‘made shipwreck concerning the faith.’ On the other hand, the Patriarch Abraham received the crown, not because he suffered death, but because he was faithful unto God; and the other Saints, of whom Paul speaks, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephtha, David and Samuel, and the rest, were not made perfect by the shedding of their blood, but by faith they were justified; and to this day they are the objects of our admiration, as being ready even to suffer death for piety towards the Lord. And if one may add an instance from our own country, ye know how the blessed Alexander contended even unto death against this heresy, and what great afflictions and labours, old man as He was, he sustained, until in extreme age he also was gathered to his fathers. And how many beside have undergone great toil, in their teachings against this impiety, and now enjoy in Christ the glorious reward of their confession! Wherefore, let us also, considering that this struggle is for our all, and that the choice is now before us, either to deny or to preserve the faith, let us also make it our earnest care and aim to guard what we have received, taking as our instruction the Confession drawn up at Nicæa, and let us turn away from novelties, and teach our people not to give heed to ‘seducing spirits,’ but altogether to withdraw from the impiety of the Arian madmen, and from the coalition which the Meletians have made with them.