Doctor of the Church, patron saint of children with disabilities
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Hilary of Poitiers. Bishop and Doctor.
He shone like a clear star alongside of the great champions of the Nicene Creed, – Athanasius, Basil, and the two Gregories. Among the teachers of the West of his day lie was beyond dispute the first and bore a strong resemblance to Tertullian, both in disposition and scientific method. He employed an elegant Latin style. His parents were Pagans, and of high social standing. Hilary enjoyed fine facilities for education. In the introduction to his treatise on the Trinity he describes the stages a Pagan pass through in reaching the knowledge of God, which heathen philosophy reveals dimly, Christianity clearly. This description evidently depicts his own experience. He had reached the years of manhood when he professed Christianity. A statement of uncertain value speaks of his wife and daughter as following him. About the year 350 the popular voice called him to the bishopric of Poitiers.
Hilary was one of the most conspicuous and original characters of early Christianity. His distinguishing characteristics were fidelity to the church creed, acuteness in argument, and resolution in action. He knew no fear. He wielded a keen sword when he defended apostolic truth against heretics or vindicated the prerogatives of the Church against the encroachments of the civil power. Yet, when the differences concerned non-essentials, he displayed a conciliatory disposition. His power lay essentially in his thorough acquaintance with the Scriptures. His earliest literary labor was a Commentary on Matthew, and one of the latest an Exposition of the Psalms. His other exegetical works are lost. Much to be regretted is the loss of his collection of hymns which the Spanish churches used.
His work on the Trinity is a scriptural confirmation of the philosophic doctrine of the divinity of Christ and is of permanent value. It was not a mere restatement of traditional orthodoxy, but a fresh and living utterance of his own experience and study. In the discussion of the co-essentiality of the Son, Hilary lays emphasis on the Scripture titles and affirmations, and especially on his birth from the Father, which he insists involves identity of essence. In the elaboration of the divine-human personality of Christ, he is more original and profound. The incarnation was a move went of the Logos towards humanity in order to lift humanity up to participation in the divine nature. It consisted in a self-emptying of himself, and the assumption of human nature. In this process lie lost none of his divine nature; and, even during the humiliation, he continued to reign everywhere in heaven and on earth. Christ assumed body, soul, and spirit, and passed through all stages of human growth, his body being really subject to pain and death. Redemption is the result of Christ’s voluntary substitution of himself, out of love, in our stead. Between the Godman and the believer there is a vital communion. As the Logos is in the Father, by reason of his divine birth, so we are in him, and become partakers of his nature, by regeneration and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
The Christology of Hilary is full of fresh and inspiring thoughts, which deserve to be better known than they are. He was created a doctor of the Catholic Church by Pius IX., at the synod of Bordeaux, 1851
Today let’s remember St. Hilary of Poitiers, and as he did, always enhance our fidelity to our church and creed.
Heaven is our goal.
Sources: Semisch, “HILARY, Bishop of Poitiers,” Philip Schaff, ed., A Religious Encyclopaedia or Dictionary of Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical Theology, 3rd edn., Vol. 2. Toronto, New York & London: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1894. pp.922-923.