2cornucopias

Hilary of Poitiers 315-365

In 03 Nicean Fathers on 2011/11/08 at 1:31 AM

Hilary belonged to a Roman noble pagan family. He received a complete classical education but when upon encountering the Holy Scriptures, he found the goal of his quest.  His study of the Word of God led him to abandon idolatry and be baptized.

His encyclopedic knowledge and zeal for his faith led him to be chosen to lead the well established and large Christian flock in the city of Poitiers, Gaul.

Arianism had caused serious damage in various regions of the Roman empire and had begun to make fast inroads in Gaul, disturbing the Church with internal divisions. When pressure to condemn Athanasius was brought to bear on the Western bishops who would not do so, and many caved in, Hilary was Athanasius’ most constant defender and supporter.

Bishop Hilary is the source of the most authentic information on the Arian heresy and the countering of it by the Church.  As the most powerful defender of orthodox doctrine against the variations of Arianism, he is known as the “Hammer of the Arians”

When one of the heretical bishops called an illegal council to proclaim his erroneous position, Hilary courageously appeared to defend orthodoxy.  However, he was not permitted to speak because most of the attending bishops were Arians.  Hilary countered them by circulating an orthodox statement which he sent to all the bishops of Gaul.  This caused Hilary to be denounced to the Emperor who was protective of Arianism.  Emperor Valens denounced Hilary as the precursor of the Antichrist  and exiled him to distant Phrygia, but the undaunted faithful believer spent his exile time studying and writing.  In his work on Synods he analyzed the content of the professions of faith the heretical bishops made.  While he condemned the Arian deviations, he showed them that the problems were rather due to wording than to ideas  and this led the gradual changes which turned the tide.

Eventually, Hilary returned to Gaul and gathered a synod of bishops in Paris, who after repenting of having gone astray, humbly apologized to Hilary and confessed their faith with the Nicene Creed.  So, in 361 Hilary was able to re-enter his see of Poitiers triumphantly.  There he was visited by Martin, the saintly bishop of Tours who had been his disciple.  The Arian Bishop of Arles who had masterminded the persecutions against Hilary was deposed and Hilary was never exiled again.

Having fought error with actions, words and pen, this brilliant and energetic paragon of orthodoxy rightfully joins defenders of the faith like Athanasius, Basil, the two Gregorys and the great Augustine.

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