Jan. 13: ST. HILARY OF POITIERS BY POPE BENEDICT XVI
Born at Poitiers, St. Hilary (315-368) was a scholar and a leading defender of the Church against the Arian heresy; he was sometimes referred to as the “Hammer of the Arians.” So great was the respect in which he was held by the citizens of Poitiers that about 353, he was elected bishop. He wrote twelve books about the Holy Trinity as well as commentaries on St. Matthew’s Gospel and the Psalms.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
To sum up the essentials of his doctrine, I would like to say that Hilary found the starting point for his theological reflection in baptismal faith. In De Trinitate, Hilary writes:
Jesus has commanded us to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (cf. Mt 28:19), that is, in the confession of the Author, of the Only-Begotten One, and of the Gift. The Author of all things is one alone, for one alone is God the Father, from whom all things proceed. And one alone is Our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things exist (cf. 1 Cor 8:6), and one alone is the Spirit (cf. Eph 4:4), a gift in all. . . . In nothing can be found to be lacking so great a fullness, in which the immensity in the Eternal One, the revelation in the Image, joy in the Gift, converge in the Father, in the Son, and in the Holy Spirit.De Trinitate 2, 1
For this reason the Son is fully God without any gaps or diminishment. “The One who comes from the perfect is perfect because he has all, he has given all” (ibid., 2, 8). Humanity finds salvation in Christ alone, Son of God and Son of man. In assuming our human nature, he has united himself with every man, “he has become the flesh of us all” (Tractatus super Psalmos 54, 9); “he took on himself the nature of all flesh and through it became true life, he has in himself the root of every vine shoot” (ibid., 51, 16). For this very reason the way to Christ is open to all – because he has drawn all into his being as a man -, even if personal conversion is always required: “Through the relationship with his flesh, access to Christ is open to all, on condition that they divest themselves of their former self (cf. Eph 4: 22), nailing it to the Cross (cf. Col 2: 14); provided we give up our former way of life and convert in order to be buried with him in his baptism, in view of life (cf. Col 1: 12; Rom 6: 4)” (ibid., 91, 9).
Fidelity to God is a gift of his grace. Therefore, St Hilary asks, at the end of his Treatise on the Trinity, to be able to remain ever faithful to the baptismal faith. It is a feature of this book: reflection is transformed into prayer and prayer returns to reflection. The whole book is a dialogue with God.
I would like to end today’s Catechesis with one of these prayers, which thus becomes our prayer:
“Obtain, O Lord”, St Hilary recites with inspiration, “that I may keep ever faithful to what I have professed in the symbol of my regeneration, when I was baptized in the Father, in the Son and in the Holy Spirit. That I may worship you, our Father, and with you, your Son; that I may deserve your Holy Spirit, who proceeds from you through your Only Begotten Son… Amen” (De Trinitate 12, 57).
May I serve you by making you known
From a treatise of St. Hilary of Poitiers
Let us pray.
Give us grace, almighty God, to understand aright and faithfully maintain your Son’s divinity, which Saint Hilary so steadfastly upheld.Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.Amen.
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