Saint Alexander of Alexandria: Reflections on Saints this week, February 2017
Doctor of the Church – Patriarch of Alexandria – Key figure at Council of Nicaea
Alexander was a pious Egyptian youth who became Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt in 313. He lived in a turbulent time when many questioned or denied the Catholic Faith handed down to them from the apostolic age. The saint upheld the divinity of Jesus Christ by excommunicating those that preached Arianism, a heresy that stated Jesus Christ was not consubstantial – or one – with God. The first Council of Nicaea in 325 upheld his decision – and the confession that Jesus is consubstantial with God has been passed down to us and is still proclaimed in the Creed at Mass every Sunday.
ACN support for the formation of priests and Sisters as well as the training of catechists
The charity continues to provide support for those answering their call to the priesthood or consecrated life as well as those proclaiming the Catholic Faith as lay-catechists. The charity supports Catholics in Egypt with catechetical material, including ACN’s Child’s Bible. The lay-catechists help Catholics youngsters in Egypt to deepen their faith in the preparatory course leading up to them making their First Communion. These young Christians are then supported to develop their understanding of the Church’s teachings when they receive the sacrament of Confirmation.
The generosity of ACN’s benefactors is helping the Church in the land where St Alexander stood firm for the Faith – and has provided the parish of New Minya with a minibus to assist the parish priest’s pastoral duties at the Church of the Resurrection. He said: “Without the bus we could do nothing, there is not a bus connection with the city as this is a very new neighbourhood”.
Minya city has a population of five million people of the 83.9 million in Egypt. Although Egypt is home to the largest Christian community in the Arab world, these Coptic Christians are only 5 percent of the Egyptian population including the Catholic Church which only has a 0.1 percent presence.
The minibus will transport the 160 Coptic Catholic families, the sick and elderly from the surrounding area for a journey up to 12 miles (20 kilometres) to their nearest Church to celebrate the sacraments and build a Christian community.
The Suffering Church today
But Egypt’s Christian community lives under the shadow of persecution.
Daesh (ISIS) killed 26 Christians including six children and injured dozens in a suicide bomb attack at St Peter and St Paul Coptic Orthodox Church in December 2016.
Coptic Catholic Bishop Kyrillos William spoke to ACN after the attack: “We are very upset. It was only on Tuesday [20 December 2016] that the Coptic Church received the twenty-sixth martyr of the latest attack, a ten-year-old girl who had died of her injuries.”
Despite the atrocity, the bishop added: “However, at the same time, we are seeing a deep trust in God and great strength.”
Bishop William also spoke of his fears of further extremist attacks. Unfortunately, in January 2017 four Egyptian Christians had their throats cut by extremists within a ten-day period. See article here
Nearly 150 ACN’s projects in 2015/2016 supporting the Suffering Church in Egypt
Aid to the Church in Need supports the Church in Egypt with projects including the retypesetting and printing of catechists books for the Diocese of Alexandria as well as the purchase of 1,000 Bibles for pastoral formation.
In the Diocese of Thebes and Luxor, the charity is supporting the renovation of churches including the Coptic Catholic Cathedral.
The saint upholds the divinity of Jesus Christ
The Catholic Church continues to proclaim the faith found in the New Testament that Jesus is the Son of God as revealed in John 10:24-38:
…Jesus answered them... “The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness to me… and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.”
…“I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these do you stone me?”… Jesus answered them… ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
However Arius denied the Son as being one essence with God – not consubstantial with the Father – and so denied the divinity of Jesus Christ.
St Alexander of Alexandria excommunicated Arius for denying Jesus Christ’s divinity. The saint’s interpretation of this oneness in the Trinity was subsequently upheld by the Church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that: “God is unique; there is only one God… in nature, substance and essence.” The Catechism adds: “At the same time Jesus gives us to understand that he himself is ‘the Lord’. To confess that Jesus is Lord is distinctive of Christian faith. This is not contrary to belief in the One God.” The Catechism continues: “Nor does believing in the Holy Spirit as ‘Lord and giver of life’ introduce any division into the One God… the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; three persons indeed, but one essence, substance or nature entirely simple”.
Our Knowledge of the life of St Alexander of Alexandria is limited to insights of his call to the apostolate and the fact of his perseverance. As with many saints we are unaware of many events that happened during their lives. However this serves to fix our attention all the more firmly upon these two attributes. We then naturally turn in thought to our own vocation and our own end.
ACN invite you to join us and pray for persecuted and suffering Christians around the world and for priests, Sisters and lay-catechists passing on the teaching of the Church to the faithful.
John Pontfex @ACNJohnPontifex
Head of Press & Information
Aid to the Church in Need | United Kingdom