Fr Paul Schenck on the Feast of Athanasius: Defenders of Life Against the World
Athanasius vigorously defended the divine personhood of Christ, even when it seemed the majority of the Church had accepted Arius's error. Athanasius contra mundum - it was Athanasius against the world! So it is in our pro-life effort today. The denial of the personhood of the preborn child is a denial of the sanctity of human life and the dignity of the human person who is created unique and unrepeatable in the image of God.
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P>HARRISBURG, PA (Catholic Online) - My Jewish father and I had a more than thirty year conversation focused on the Incarnation - Dad would say, "I can accept Jesus as a son of God, but not God the Son." - he could not accept that the Infinite God could restrain himself in the form of finite man.
As he was dying, I prayed a Rosary each night at the foot of his bed for his conversion. I kept Holy Water by his bedside all during his illness and finally, after an hour's face to face talk, Dad surrendered his opposition to the Incarnation and requested baptism. I baptized him, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, just 24 hours before his death!
The Letter to the Hebrews says, "When Christ came into the world; he said, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me." That, or this Body was the whole key to salvation, to eternal life, to the whole meaning of life itself. In the infamous Roe V Wade decision, Justice Harry Blackman admitted his and the majority of the Court's ignorance of the meaning, even the definition of life. Blackman wrote -
We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.
Now today we know, with certainty, that a new human life comes into existence at conception, which is when a human male sperm unites with a human female oocyte (egg), and two sets of chromosomes become one new set.
Based on universally accepted scientific criteria, a new cell, the human zygote, comes into existence at the moment of sperm-egg fusion, an event that occurs in less than a second. This is now the point in the development of man's knowledge. It is the battle over this truth that we are currently engaged in.
Saint Athanasius was the champion in a similar contest over truth. The followers of an Egyptian priest named Arius promoted the false doctrine that Christ was not God come in the flesh, that he was created and not co-eternal, not consubstantial with the Father, in other words, less than God. Denying God in the flesh was a denial of the Gospel, a forfeiture of the Truth.
Athanasius vigorously defended the divine personhood of Christ, even when it seemed the majority of the Church had accepted Arius's error. Athanasius contra mundum - it was Athanasius against the world!
So it is in our pro-life effort today. The denial of the personhood of the preborn child is a denial of the sanctity of human life and the dignity of the human person who is created unique and unrepeatable in the image of God.
At times it seems the whole world has bought the lie, has embraced the fallacy, has followed the error. But that's no reason to give up - Athanasius contra mundum!
I'd like to propose a new motto for this Feast of Saint Athanasius, this Pro-Life pilgrimage in Washington and throughout the world -
Vita defensores contra mundi!
Defenders of Life against the world!
"The Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.And I know that his commandment is eternal life.So what I say, I say as the Father told me."
Fr. Paul Schenck, a Priest of the Diocese of Harrisburg, PA., is the founding Director of the National Pro-Life Center (NPLC) on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Center gives the Justices of the Supreme Court, their high level staff, members of the federal judiciary, members of the US Senate and other public policy makers the information, education and inspiration they need to better form their consciences so they will make better decisions. He is a Champion of the Pro-Life movement.
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