Athanasius of Alexandria: A welcome in the land of the humble

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Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 12:32-34

“When we die we will leave [temporal riches] behind to those we do not want to have them. Why then wouldn’t we give them up for righteousness’ sake in order to inherit a kingdom? Don’t let the desire to possess things take hold of you. For what do we gain by acquiring things we cannot take with us? Why not get the things we can take with us instead — namely wisdom, justice, self-control, courage, understanding, love, kindness to the poor, faith in Christ, freedom from wrath, and hospitality? If we possess these things, they will prepare a welcome for us in the land of the humble.”

Athanasius of Alexandria (296-373) in Life of Anthony, 17, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, second series, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980) 200-201.

Today marks the first Sunday of Advent. My theme will be “Advent in Alexandria” as I will spend 12 of the 24 days of Advent in Egypt and post meditations from saints from this key city in the days of the early church.

Athanasius was one of the four doctors of the Eastern Church. He got that title for significant contributions in theology and doctrine in his teaching and writing. He was prolific and influential in combating heresy. This guy was the model of perseverance and endurance in suffering. He was exiled five times by order of four different Roman Emperors and served as bishop for some 45 years, from 328-373.

Why start with this quote from him? Advent is about preparing for Christ’s coming. We prepare by following His explicit instructions, and regarding possessions He said to share them with those in need. Don’t let “the desire to possess” stop you. Remember, Jesus said, “Do not be afraid.” Store them securely as a welcome in “the land of the humble” as instructed. With whom will you share this Advent in preparation for His coming?