At every Divine Liturgy we sing or say the Nicene Creed, so called because the first part of the Creed was adopted by the Fathers of the First Ecumenical (General) Council held in the city of Nicea in the year 325 AD. In that Creed we say “I believe in One God, the Father All-Mighty…. And in one Lord Jesus Christ,.. true God of true God… begotten not made, of one essence with the Father,” to express the basis of the Orthodox Church.
In the beginning of the fourth century AD St. Athanasius was a deacon and assistant of the Patriarch of Alexandria. At that time there was a priest in Alexandria named Arius who believed that Jesus Christ was not quite God. Arius was willing to say that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, our Savior and the Redeemer, but was not quite God. This caused a storm of controversy in the church between those who believed Jesus is “true God of true God” and those who believed that Jesus is just a special creature of God. Because of this controversy, which was threatening to split the church, the Emperor Constantine called a council of bishops to meet in the city of Nicea in 325 AD. St. Athanasius was there as assistant to the Patriarch of Alexandria. After intense debates the Fathers of the council agreed to adopt the Nicene Creed which says Jesus Christ is “true God of true God… of one essence with the Father.” Arius was condemned. However, even after this decision the controversy continued, the church was split and new emperors came to the throne who supported Arius. St. Athanasius himself became Patriarch of Alexandria in 328 and was Patriarch for forty-five years. Of those 45 years he was in exile for 17 of them, at the orders of four separate emperors. Nevertheless, St. Athanasius defended the Orthodox doctrine of the divinity of Christ as proclaimed at the council, by word and in numerous writings. St. Athanasius and those who agreed with him triumphed at the second ecumenical council in 381 and the Nicene Creed was affirmed and enriched. St. Athanasius of Alexandria was one of the great defenders of Orthodoxy and at great personal cost greatly contributed to the Orthodoxy of the church.
Troparion — Tone 3
You were a pillar of Orthodoxy, Hierarch Athanasius, supporting the Church with divine
doctrines; you proclaimed the Son to be of one Essence with the Father, putting Arius to
shame. Righteous father, entreat Christ God to grant us His great mercy.
Kontakion — Tone 2
You planted the dogmas of Orthodoxy and eradicated the thorns of false doctrine; you
propagated the seeds of the Faith watered with the rain of the Spirit. Therefore, we praise you, Righteous Athanasius.