Saturday, January 13, 2007

January 13: Hilary, Bishkp of Poitiers, 367

Today many remember and thank God for the life and witness of Hilarius or Hilary (c. 300367). Hilary was bishop of Poitiers ('pictavium') and considered an eminent doctor of the Western Christian Church. He was sometimes referred to as the malleus Arianorum ("hammer against Arianism") and the “Athanasius of the West”. His name comes from the Greek word for happy or cheerful, the same root as English "hilarious". His saint's day is observed on January 13th.

He holds the highest rank among the Latin writers of his century prior to St. Ambrose. Designated already by Augustine of Hippo as "the illustrious doctor of the churches"; he by his works exerted an increasing influence in later centuries; and by Pope Pius IX he was formally recognized as universae ecclesiae doctor (i.e. Doctor of the Church) at the synod of Bordeaux in 1851.

Hilary's day in the Roman calendar is January 13, from which the name of Hilary term is derived at Oxford University and other institutions.

Editions of his writings were produced by Erasmus (Basel, 1523, 1526, 1528). An English translation by E. W. Watson appears in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Several of his works have appeared in Sources Chretiennes (i.e. commentaries on Psalm 118 and St. Matthew, his attack on the emperor Constantius, on the Mysteries and most recently, in three volumes, on the Trinity).

He was, perhaps, mentioned by Augustine as being the author of Ambrosiaster.

A vita of Hilary was written by Venantius Fortunatus c.550 but is not considered reliable. More trustworthy are the notices in Jerome (De vir. illus. 100), Sulpicius Severus (Chron. ii. 39-45) and in Hilary's own writings.

Thomas S. Buchanon in Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christiainity, gives us a glimpse asto how Hilary thought as a Christian:

The fourth-century saint Hilary of Poitiers once pointed out that just as a coin is made by taking a piece of metal and stamping the icon of Caesar upon it, man is stamped with an icon of God. In some of us, this icon is blurry, like that of a coin whose image has been obscured through abrasive contact with other objects over the years. In others—the saints—the stamp of God is like the image on a freshly minted coin.

You may wish to give this prayer to God for Hilary, who was an icon of God:

Eternal Father, whose servant Hilary steadfastly confessed your Son Jesus Christ to be true God and true man: We beseech you to keep us firmly grounded in this faith; that we may rejoice to behold his face in heaven who humbled himself to bear our form upon earth, even the same your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.


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