Memorial of Saint Athanasius, Bishop and Father of the Church

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors...” (Acts of the Apostles 7:51.)

Saint Augustine of Hippo comments on this verse from the First Reading during today’s Mass:

“Therefore when he sent the Holy Spirit, he manifested him visibly in two ways, as a dove and as fire; as a dove upon the baptized Lord, as fire upon the assembled disciples. Here we saw a dove upon the Lord; there parted tongues upon the assembled disciples; in the one, simplicity is shown, in the other, fervor. For there are those who are said to be simple, and they are indolent; they are called simple, but they are lazy. Not such a one was Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit. He was simple, because he harmed no one; he was fervent, because he reproached the impious. For he did not keep silence before the Jews; his are those fiery words, “Stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you have always resisted the Holy Spirit.” Great vehemence! He rages, but as a dove without bile. For, in order that you may know that he raged without bile, they who were ravens, when they heard these words, immediately ran for stones [to use] against the dove. Stephen began to be stoned; and he, who but a little before was raging and boiling spirit, as if he had attacked his enemies, and as if he had assailed them with violence by those fiery and blazing words as you have heard, “Stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears,” so that he who heard these words might think that Stephen, if he were allowed, wished them immediately annihilated — when the rocks were coming on him from their hands, on his knees he said, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” He adhered to the unity of the dove. For earlier his master, on whom the dove descended, had done that; hanging on the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Tractate on the Gospel of John, 6.)

Almighty, ever-living God,
Who raised up the Bishop Saint Athanasius
as an outstanding champion
of Your Son’s divinity,
mercifully grant, that,
rejoicing in his teaching and protection,
we may never cease to grow
in knowledge and love of you.
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.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen