"When I first opened his On the Incarnation I soon discovered by a very simple test that I was reading a masterpiece....Only a master mind could, in the fourth century, have written so deeply on such a subject with such classical simplicity." C. S. Lewis During the fourth century, controversy raged in the church regarding the nature of Jesus Christ. On one side were the Arians, led by the Bishop Arius, who argued that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were materially separate from one another. They believed that Jesus had been created out of "non-existence" and thus was not on the same level of divinity as God the Father. In response, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, wrote On the Incarnation, a staunch defense of the full divinity and full humanity of Christ. In simple language and with Scripture as a guide, he argued for the eternal nature of the Trinity and that Jesus Christ is not a creation of God the Father but has existed from the very beginning. Athanasius celebrates the redeeming work that came forth through the God-man, Jesus Christ, and His eternal existence and essential unity with the Father. Ultimately, Athanasius was exiled five times by four different Roman emperors due to his defense of the Trinity, but he remained faithful to his beliefs. Today, On the Incarnation is often included on lists of books every Christian should read. "The greatest man of his age and one of the greatest religious leaders of any age, Athanasius of Alexandria rendered services to the Church the value of which can scarcely be exaggerated, for he defended the faith against almost overwhelming odds and emerged triumphant." Alban Butler, Author, Butler's Lives of the Saints
Written between the mid-fourth and late sixth centuries to commemorate and glorify the achievements of early Christian saints, these six biographies depict men who devoted themselves to solitude, poverty and prayer. Athanasius records Antony's extreme seclusion in the Egyptian desert, despite temptation by the devil and visits from his followers. Jerome also shows those who fled persecution or withdrew from society to pursue lives of chastity and asceticism in his accounts of Paul of Thebes, Hilarion and Malchus. In his Life of Martin, Sulpicius Severus describes the achievements of a man who combined the roles of monk, bishop and missionary, while Gregory the Great tells of Benedict, whose Rule became the template for monastic life. Full of vivid incidents and astonishing miracles, these Lives have provided inspiration as models for centuries of Christian worship.
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