Saint Hilary, Father
and Doctor of the Church
Taken from Magnificat magazine, September 2004.
Persecution of the Church can assume various forms. When Constantine, converted by the miraculous apparition of the Cross in 312, toppled the pagan Caesars from their throne and by the Edict of Milan proclaimed religious liberty, Christian could suppose itself assured of eternal peace. Nothing of the sort occurred: the normal condition of the militant Church is not tranquility but combat. The time marking the conclusion of the ten persecutions pagan had undertaken---attacks that had continued for three centuries from Nero to Diocletian and produced millions of Martyrs--also marked the beginning of the persecutions of Arianism [essentially the denial of the Divinity of Christ, albeit in ambiguous terms], more dangerous because of their duplicity and dissembling. It was against these that God raised up in France the great Saint whom we will present here. Saint hilary was a contemporary of Saint Athanasius, who undertook a similar combat in the East.
AINT Hilary was born in Poitiers of an ancient noble family of Gaul at the start of the 4th century. His father, a patrician, counted senators among his forebears. Hilary himself states that he was raised in idolatry and that it was by degrees that God led him to knowledge of the true Faith. He writes as follows:
Amid so many diverse systems and opinions concerning God, my troubled soul attempted to find Him by the only way that can lead to Him. I considered as certain that the eternal and Divine Being is necessarily simple and unique, that no principle exists other than in Him ... I was weighing these and many other thoughts in my mind when I found the Books which the Hebrew religion calls the work of Moses and the prophets. I read the testimony God bears concerning Himself: I AM WHO AM. Then He added, This is what you shall tell the children of Israel: HE WHO IS, hath sent me to you. [Exodus 3:14] I admired this perfect definition, which translates the incomprehensible notion of God by the expression best adapted to human understanding. God shows that these words, "He Who is," are the only ones which worthily attest to His inalterable eternity.
Other Divine attributes were disclosed to Hilary, such as God's immensity and sovereign beauty:
My soul discovered the character of that beauty in the texts of the Scripture. The greatness of Divine works and the beauty of creatures make the Creator visible; the One from Whom so many beauties emanate is very beautiful. And if the work so greatly surpasses our understanding, how greatly will not the excellence of the Divine artist surpass it? We must therefore acknowledge that God is beautiful with a beauty that we perceive, without being able to comprehend it.
Hilary had consequently found the living God, but his soul was still troubled. He found peace and the answer to his anguish when he read the Gospel texts which demonstrate the fulfillment of the ancient promises through the Incarnation of the Word:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God ... And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us [St. John 1:1, 14] ... With this, my mind learned more about God than I had ever hoped it might. My soul, trembling and troubled, gladly embraced the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, called by faith to a new birth, a heavenly regeneration, which it was now free to obtain. St. Hilary, On the Trinity, Bk. I, nos. 1-12.]
Hilary was a Christian from that moment on. At the time of his conversion, he had a wife and a daughter by the name of Apra. [Her name is inscribed in the Martyrology.] He easily won them for Christ and they were Baptized together. From then on, Hilary began to study religion with tireless application, becoming so perfect a Christian that his reserve, charity and zeal made him an example even for Churchmen. When the Bishop of Poitiers passed away around 350, leaving that Church [diocese] without a pastor, the people elected Hilary to succeed him. His wife consented to see him only at the altar and to love him thereafter as a sister.
It was a very difficult period for the episcopacy. Arianism had already begun to divide the Church and the world. Even Constantine, who had become a Christian, had not been able to shield himself from its subtleties. While not professing its doctrine, he had protected its partisans; he banished St. Athanasius, and found bishops who were courtiers more than apostles and who, while not agreeing with error, did not always have the courage to defend the truth.
His son Constantius openly declared himself for Arianism while claiming to be favorable to Christianity in the empire. Misled and apparently captivated by three Arian bishops---Ursacius, Valens, and Saturninius of Arles---Constantius oppressed true Catholics by making himself master and judge of the Faith with all the weight of his despotic authority. Intruders were established by force on episcopal sees in place of legitimate bishops, schisms were fomented and Arian councils assembled; those who resisted the heretical faction were jailed, fined and banished. The Church appeared to be on the verge of ruin, the true Faith threatened with extinction. According to Saint Jerome, it was especially in the East that there was virtually no one left who had not contracted the spiritual plague.
After the Council of Milan in 355, the error threatened to spread into France, which had escaped the contagion until then. Scorning seductions and dangers, Hilary pitted himself against the torrent and did his best to stop it. In concert with the other bishops of Gaul, who had remained faithful for the most part, he broke communion with the Arian bishops by a public decree and a letter to the emperor; this letter was courageous but also conciliatory, for Hilary still supposed in Constantius a certain sincerity. He wrote to him in these terms:
It is no longer with words but tears that we entreat you to put an end to the iniquitous oppression that is weighing upon the Church at this moment, to stop the intolerable persecutions and bloody outrages which false brothers are heaping upon us. In short, please give orders to the governors, magistrates and judges In your provinces obliging them to confine themselves within the limits of their powers, to stop instituting legal proceedings against bishops and Churchmen on dogmatic matters, and employing violence or banishment against Innocent persons of holy life and wholesome faith. The disasters will never be repaired, the divisions and schisms will never vanish except on this one condition. Listen to the voice of the oppressed multitudes who cry to you: "I am Christian and not Arian, I do not wish to lend my name to heresy. Death rather than yielding to human power and apostatizing from the faith!"
Do you not understand that it is the height of injustice to tear lawful pastors from the flocks of Jesus Christ? You say that you want peace. In that case, do not oblige the faithful in conscience to an Impossible alliance between truth and error, darkness and light. Peace, If one can call the triumph of brutality and force by that name, exists only for those who aid and abet Arianism. They alone have freedom to propagate the venom of their errors everywhere. Meanwhile, the most illustrious of the pontiffs, venerable bishops whose holiness and courage are admired all over the world, are languishing in exile, relegated to the desert, deported to barbarian nations. [Saint Hilary denounces the violence exercised against Saint Athanasius and other holy confessors, and requests the recall of bishops banished for their adherence to the faith of Nicea.]
This letter and a refutation of Arianism, sent by Saint Hilary in 356 to a council assembled in Beziers by Saturninus of Arles, earned him a sentence of banishment. To rid themselves of this learned and intrepid adversary, the Arian bishops obtained an order from the emperor for his exile to Phrygia, four thousand kilometers distant from his diocese. Banishment under Constantius consisted in living in a faraway city or fortress where the exile did both know anyone, which he could not leave, and where he was closely watched and treated with greater or lesser severity by the administration, following the emperor's orders. Thus it was hoped that the illustrious bishop would be reduced to impotence and inactivity. Nothing of the sort occurred.
From his exile, Hilary continued to govern his diocese through his priests, for the bishops of Gaul did not want an intruder to take over the see of Poitiers. In his enforced retreat, he also wrote his Twelve Books on the Trinity, in which he presents a masterful exposition of Catholic dogma and pursues the Arian errors with burning argumentation. "Banished though we may be," he wrote, "we will speak with books; and the Word of God, which cannot be held in captivity, will make holy excursions everywhere."
Let us point out, however, that Saint Hilary undertook this exposition on the Trinity solely as an obligation of conscience, not out of a penchant for writing or polemics. Quite the contrary, he deeply deplored having to "explain mysteries is is not permitted to scrutinize."
Book II of his Treatise begins thus:
It suffices for faith that God has explained Himself with these words consigned to His Gospel. He said to His Apostles, Go and teach all nations, Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world. [ St. Matthew 28:19-20] What clearer statement could we ask for than this formula of salvation? What more do we need? And what obscurities and ambiguities could remain after such an explicit declaration? Everything that emanates from so perfect a source has the seal and the fullness of perfection.
The terms are formal: the order of the Persons is determined, their nature expressed with precision. But the heresy and impiety of blasphemers oblige us to go beyond the law, to follow them along the precipitous pathways they have opened, treat of things that are above human speech and attempt to explain mysteries it is not permitted to examine. And whereas we ought to limit ourselves to believing and living in conformity with what we are commanded to practice, adoring the Father and the Son, meriting the gifts of the Holy Ghost, we find ourselves obliged to employ our feeble human reasoning, to seem to make ourselves guilty because others are. There are far too many rash men who scorn the simplicity of the words of the Gospel and substitute their arbitrary concepts for its infallible decisions, warping its meaning with strange interpretations of what it says. The error of heresy does not come from Scripture itself, but from the way it is understood; it is the derived sense that constitutes the crime, not the words ...
From all eternity, God is all that He is. And because from all eternity He is a Father, from all eternity He engenders in His bosom an only-begotten Son, equal to His Father, Who alone knows His Father well, as He alone knows His Son well ... How is this generation accomplished? I know not: I do not try to conceive it; the very Angels do not know it any more than I do. The mystery was not revealed to the world, the prophets and the Apostles did not ask to penetrate it. It is the duty of faith to believe this mystery, and at the same time believe that it is incomprehensible. Let us stop betraying our ignorance. O curious man! You want to know the generation of your Creator, and you do not even know that of the creature. For tell me: how did you receive being, how do you give it to others; how did you receive life, intelligence, taste, sight, hearing and the other senses? You cannot reply. You do not know what happens within yourself, and you would claim to know what happens in God? It is therefore in Scripture that we must seek what we have to know about it. 
The faithful bishops answered Hilary's book with a profession of faith, which they sent to the exile for his consolation. Hilary soon published another writing, On the Synods or On the Faith of the Orientals, addressed to the bishops of France and England. With this he was working for peace and unity. In this book, the author makes an exposition of the formulas of faith made by the Orientals since the Council of Nicea. He excuses, everything that does not bear the stamp of bad faith, justifies everything that is not obviously opposed to holy doctrine. Such meekness was of a nature to effect a reunion, but error lost none of its obstinacy; the Arians persisted in the formula of faith they had drawn up in Sirmium.  What is more, it indisposed several bishops whose zeal exceeded the bounds of charity. Lucifer of Cagliari openly blamed the moderation of the Bishop of Poitiers, who proceeded to justify it with an apology, or rather with simple marginal notes appended to his work. Saint Hilary writes as follows:
Obstinacy in a design adopted on impulse is often extreme, and the desire to oppose everything that resists us never slackens when the will is not subject to reason and when, instead of investigating, we think only of finding reasons to support what we have gotten into our head and of employing all our knowledge to maintain what we desire to think. Thus the matter, which is disguised, pivots on the name rather than on the essence of the thing, and it is no longer a question of what is true, but of what we want to be true.
In other words, men of bad faith who oppose the truth will not yield to any argument, no matter how obvious, for the man of bad faith does not seek the light in any way. He is only interested in what he has gotten into his head, in what he wants, and he will defend it even with absurdities and lies.
Thus it was that from his place of exile, the banished shepherd moved the world with his writings. When Hilary heard that a council was to be held in Constantinople, he wrote to the emperor again. After complaining of the injustice of his accusers, who had caused him to be sentenced to banishment not for any crime on his part but by a conspiracy of contentious men, he asked to be heard in the council, to defend Catholic doctrine:
If I am deserving of exile and have done anything unworthy---I do not say of the sacred character of the episcopate, but even of the piety of the simplest believer---I will ask not for the grace to be maintained in the duties of the priesthood, but rather to grow old in penance among the laity ... However, in a cause which concerns the salvation of the world and in which silence would be criminal, let me be granted a public discussion where the interests of the faith may not be left without defenders. Does that right not belong to you, to me, to every Catholic? You desire to know the faith, but your desire is not always fulfilled. You question men who preach their own concepts and not in the least the words of Divine truth, and who commit the whole world to a circle of ever-recurring errors.
Why not hold to the simple profession of faith sworn in Baptism, which consists in recognizing the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost without disguise, without innovation? But they elude, vary and reverse the natural meaning of the words established in the Sacrament of regeneration. Once someone has indulged in these innovations, he no longer knows what to believe, either the ancient doctrine or the new one, and faith becomes the belief of the moment, no longer that of the Gospel. There are as many creeds as there are opinions, as many diverse doctrines as personal fantasies.  We know all too well how many of these professions of faith have been devised since the Council of Nicea. They have reached the point of contesting even the essence of God Himself by ceaselessly adding one novelty after another, by disputing about authors and writings, by creating problems with things that everyone agreed upon, by condemning and anathematizing one another.
And where are the disciples of Jesus Christ? Virtually nowhere. We are swept here and there by all the winds of these competing doctrines. The ones preach to deceive, the others listen for their ruin. The faith we had yesterday is no longer that of today. Today they want nothing to do with consubstantial,  tomorrow they re-establish it; along comes a third one, then a fourth who alters and modifies as he pleases, without either condemning or approving. Amid such uncertainties there is no more faith, not any more in works than in the heart.
The only grace I ask of Your Majesty is that you deign to grant me an audience in the presence of the council now gathered in Constantinople, engaging myself to prove and explain the faith of the Church by employing no other words but those of Jesus Christ, of Whom it is my honor to be the exile and the priest. A precious treasure may be found in an earthen vessel: God was willing to borrow the organ of a few fishermen to profess His oracles. Prince, you seek the faith; you will not find it in new creeds, but in the deposit of the books dictated by the Lord. It is not in the commentaries of philosophy, but in the Gospel.
Constantius did not deign to reply. Four years went by in that exile until, by an admirable permission of Providence, the Saint was able to go to a council assembled in Seleucia in 360. The emperor Constantius having given a general command to summon all the bishops to attend it, his officers either forgot or pretended to forget that the Bishop of Poitiers was in disgrace, and they summoned him to the Council.
Hilary's unexpected arrival at the Council was a great surprise for everyone and caused keen displeasure to the Arian bishops, who had everything to fear from the presence of a man of his stature. The proceedings of that assembly were conducted in great disorder and extreme confusion. The debate between Arians and Semi-Arians became so embittered that both parties hastened to Constantius to influence him in their own favor. Saint Hilary followed them to Constantinople and asked the emperor to authorize him to hold, in his presence, a public discussion with his adversaries.
At first Constantius consented to this request, but Ursacius, Valens and Saturninus of Arles rightly feared that their ignorance and ill will would be brought to full light in a public discussion. They accordingly persuaded the emperor to send Hilary back to his Church in Poitiers under the pretext that his flock was in urgent need of its pastor. Therefore, upon the request of his very enemies, the banished Saint was able to return to his diocese after four years in exile.
Saint Jerome reports that the Church of Gaul gave Hilary a triumphal welcome. Upon learning of his return, young Martin, a soldier fresh out of military service who was to become the great Bishop of Tours, came to stay with the confessor and receive training in combat for the faith. He lived for a long time under Saint Hilary's spiritual direction and then went to Tours, where he founded the first monastery of men ever to flourish in the transalpine provinces. Under Saint Martin's guidance, these monks became the missionaries of northern Gaul, especially of the country people.
Hilary's first concern on returning from banishment was to repair the damages caused by Arianism. With his influence, he saw to it that Saturninus of Arles and Palermo of Perigueux were deposed. As for the other bishops who had wavered, he asked only for a disavowal of their behavior. His pastoral indulgence incurred protests from certain zealots, but it delivered France from the Arian heresy.
Hilary had already written twice to Constantius, veiling the freedom of his reproaches in respectful forms. Seeing that these writings had produced no effect, he wrote a third time, and now his episcopal frankness set aside all consideration. We do not know if Constantius ever read this letter, for he died in 361, shortly after it was written. Saint Hilary begins by explaining the fact that for the past five years, he and all the other bishops of Gaul had avoided all communication with Saturninus, Ursacius and Valens in order to allow them the option of returning to better sentiments. Then he writes:
If I now break the silence I have kept for so long, I cannot be accused of remaining silent out of indifference or speaking out of anger. The only interest that motivates me is that of Jesus Christ. O my God, why did You not permit that I be born in the era of Decius or of Nero? Upheld by Your almighty grace and by the mercy of Your Divine Son Jesus Christ, with what ardor would I have faced tortures for the confession of Your name! ... There was no ambiguity concerning the character of those persecutors ... We would have appeared before the torturers with intrepid assurance, and Your faithful people would have walked fearlessly in our footsteps under a common banner.
But here we are dealing with an enemy that does not show itself, that advances only behind a mask, that proceeds only by trickery and seduction. This is Antichrist under the name of Constantius, armed not with the whip but with flattery, not with sentences of proscription but with hypocritical maneuvers. This persecution does not fill dungeons from which a man emerges delivered from all the ills of the present life; rather, it opens palaces Into which a man enters to crawl in shameful servitude. It does not endanger life but the soul. It does not threaten its victims with the sword but seeks to corrupt the faith with the attraction of rewards ... It professes Jesus Christ only the better to betray Him, speaks of unity only to trouble the peace ... O divine Jesus, Your name is upon its lips, but all Its actions have no other purpose than to divest You of Your Divinity ...
I will speak openly to you, O Constantius, with the same words I would have spoken to Nero, Declus and Maximinus! You are making war on God and His Church; you are the enemy of His saints whom you persecute, you are unleashing your fury against the apostles of Jesus Christ, undermining the foundations of the Christian Faith. Your tyranny is discharged not only against men but against God. Outwardly you affect a Christian appearance, but you append your name to the list of the persecutors of Christianity ... You demolish the faith with your works opposed to the faith ... You reserve bishoprics for your accomplices; you substitute bad bishops for good ones ... Among the Orientals, you cleverly foment divisions which separate them, employing every resource of trickery at once, discrediting the ancient traditions, supporting the new doctrines, lending yourself to every excess of barbarity, your only precaution being that of denying us the honor of Martyrdom ...
Your persecution and its refinements leave us with far fewer means of escaping it, ---and make you far more criminal ... Your barbarous policies succeed all the better for it ... You cleverly profit from the lessons you received from your father; that master in murderous theories has taught you how to vanquish without combat, kill without executioners, persecute without shame, deliver blows without showing the hand that strikes, play at Christianity without believing in it, deceive with an appearance of clemency, and act according to your whims but without being found out. Fortunately, the Only-begotten Son of God, Whom you are persecuting in my person, has given me the grace not to let myself be misled by these seductive appearances. He has taught me that not everyone who says, "Lord! Lord!" shall enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only those who truly obey the will of the Father in Heaven . [St. Matthew 7:21]
Saint Hilary's letter goes on to mention the oppression employed in Trèves against the venerable Paulinus, in Milan against the priests and faithful, in Rome against Pope Liberius, in Toulouse against the ecclesiastics and deacons of that city. And once more he applies himself to the task of proving the Divinity of Jesus Christ, Whose principal miracles he recalls.
If we were tempted to regard Saint Hilary's vehemence as excessive, it should suffice to quote Ammianus Marcellinus, a pagan historian who describes Constantius in very severe terms after considering his qualities and faults: "Placing good and evil, justice and injustice on equal footing, Constantius certainly surpassed Caligula, Commodius and Domitian in cruelty; his ferocity would equal that of Gallienus." [The emperors were cruel tyrants and persecutors of the Christians.] The same author demonstrates that Constantius was "more curious to examine the mysteries of Christianity than to reconcile differences of opinion, fanning the flames of dispute instead of working to extinguish them, eternally obliging bishops to hold councils in which he attempted to subject their conscience to his whims." On the occasion of one of these councils, Sulpicius Severus  reports that the bishops of Gaul would not use the means of transport the emperor had placed at their disposal, preferring to travel in hardship and at their own expense rather than, out of gratitude, oblige themselves towards an enemy of the faith.
Saint Hilary was also concerned with the situation in Italy. After the death of Constantius, Julian permitted the banished bishops to re-enter their dioceses. Eusebius of Vercelli  profited from this favor and was able to accomplish the pacification of his region in the same spirit as Hilary. The difficulty lay in Milan; its bishop, Auxentius, was an Arian. When Auxentius welcomed emperor Valentinian I, the successor of Julian the Apostate, to his episcopal city, he took great care to turn him against Hilary and Eusebius, calling them calumniators because they had accused him of Arianism. To enlighten the conscience of Valentinian who had maintained Auxentius in his post, Hillary obtained the favor of holding a conference between Auxentius and himself in the presence of ten bishops and other high officials. Auxentius opted for deceit, delivering an ambiguous profession of faith that satisfied Valentinian, and Hilary was ordered to leave Milan. This was the occasion for writing his book against Auxentius, in which Hilary stigmatizes his intrigues in the name of peace, for the purpose of winning the good graces of the secular power:
The word "peace" has something imposing about it, and men do well to speak of unity. But can there be any outside of the Church and the Gospel, outside of Jesus Christ? There can be no true peace and sincere unity except in the doctrine of the Church and in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Who doubts this? These have been the constant object of our wishes and efforts, and we have never stopped working to bring them back into our midst. Unfortunately, our sins have not yet allowed us to achieve this. Today, behind the mask of false piety and the banner of evangelical preaching, many endeavor only to destroy the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Let us deplore the woeful times in which we live.
They want God to have need of the protection of men, and the Church of Jesus Christ to be in absolute need of the backing of the world.  They invoke it; they clamor for it. Answer me, you who have declared yourselves in favor of such a system! To what human sanctions did the Apostles appeal in order to preach the Gospel? From what powers did they receive help when they proclaimed the name of Jesus Christ and made almost all the nations of the world desert the cult of idols for the worship of the true God? Did they go to the courts and palaces of princes to seek any titles of recommendation? No, they sang the hymn of thanksgiving in the depths of dungeons, in fetters that bound their hands ... Was it with imperial ordinances that Saint Paul, exposed as a spectacle to all the world, assembled a Church for Jesus Christ? ...
These founders of our faith knew only how to work with their hands to earn a living. They knew only the gloomy hovels where they gathered their timid flock, and it was from these that they set out upon the conquest of the world, visiting and subjecting cities, countrysides and entire nations all at once, never concerning themselves with senatorial edicts or royal power. The more they were forbidden to preach the name of Jesus Christ, the more did they redouble their ardor in proclaiming it. But now, alas, Divine faith needs the support of the great men of this world, and Jesus Christ has no power because intrigue is pleased to seek protectors for Him. 
Shortly after his return from banishment, Hilary learned that a nobleman was soliciting his daughter Apra's hand in marriage. On this occasion he wrote her a moving letter, brimming over with sweetness and poetry, to persuade her to reject the proposal and choose an incomparable spouse he had found for her, whose charms he described without yet telling her his name. He concludes the letter in this fashion:
Answer me after consulting your heart, and tell me what reply I am to give this prince. Once I know your decision, I will tell you the name, the will and the power of this young man. In the meantime I send you two hymns, which you shall sing morning and evening in remembrance of your old father. However, if your youth makes it impossible for you to understand the meaning of this letter and the hymns that accompany it, consult your mother; for I know that above all, she wishes to see you begotten for God. I miss you dearly, beloved daughter. May this great god to Whom you owe your life keep you now and forever.
Apra consecrated her life to jesus Christ and died in the odor of sanctity some years later.
Saint Hilary regularly explained Holy scripture to the faithful in the form of homilies which he later compiled into treatises. Of these teachings, there remain to us some commentaries on the Psalms and on the Gospel of Saint Matthew; they are full of theological science, but especially of unction and practical counsels. While we admire Hilary's genius and dialectical power in his works of controversy or pure doctrine, the bishop's paternal allocutions to his faithful congregations show how meekness and firmness, tenderness and energy were combined in his great soul. Here are a few extracts:
GOD WANTS OUR LOVE
"God requires our love, He demands it. Does He gain anything from it? No. It is solely in our own interest, out of goodness, to give us the means to merit the reward He attaches to loving and serving Him. Goodness in God is like light in the sun, heat in fire, perfume emanating from incense; these qualities serve not them but others.
"Happy the man who fears the Lord. [Psalm 111:1] The prophet does not say, 'Happy the man who obeys out of a sentiment of fear,' but, 'Happy the man who acts out of a heartfelt attachment, an affectionate will.' Fear leads us to avoid neglecting the precepts whose transgression would be detrimental to us: attachment is far more perfect; it fixes the will in obedience.
"We must not fear God because many have been struck by lightning, others have perished in earthquakes and still others have been buried beneath ruins, because faith has no merit in a fear prompted by a thousand outward accidents. In the faithful soul, fear of the Lord consists entirely in love ... Now, the chief duty of our love for Him is to obey His precepts, live according to His maxims, believe in His promises."
LIVING WITHOUT CHAINS
"There is nothing cramped, nothing taut in a Christian soul. It is the passions that restrict us. Thus many sinful souls have no room, are too confined for God to remain in them. Everything is difficult for them. Their conscience, weighed down by their sinful affections, is not able to expand.
"The Lord is my portion, [Psalm 118:57] says the holy Psalmist. Few people would say as much with similar assurance. In order for the Lord to be truly our portion, we must renounce the world and all that clings to the world. Whether we be in the chains of ambition, love of wealth or pleasure, or preoccupied with the concerns of our temporal affairs, it is no longer the Lord that we have taken as our portion, it is the things of the earth, it is the passions of which we are the slaves.
"What are the vanities from which the Psalmist asks the Lord to turn away His gaze? All of those in which men find their advantage. Especially those in which curiosity feeds on shows or combats in the arena; those that consist in the pursuit of fine garments, in the glitter of gold and precious stones. So then, shall I not find greater delight in watching the course of the stars than from the racing of horses, in singing the Lord's praises than from corrupting myself with the vain performances of deceitful entertainment?"
THE DUTY OF HUMILITY
"What could be emptier and more wretched than pride and presumption? An individual whose fortune made him insolent had only scorn for those with less; suddenly cast into misfortune, however, he saw himself reduced to imploring pity from the very ones he had looked upon with disdain. Another never forgave anyone; he was regarded as a blameless man, but then he fell into deplorable excesses, to the point of leaving little hope for his conversion. Let these lessons teach us not to flare up rashly against our neighbor. And if we see him doing something reprehensible, let us correct him without bitterness. That is the duty of humility and mistrust of self, which is the best guarantee of fidelity. Let us beware of coloring our advice and observations with the testy tone of censure and bad humor.
"Christian humility requires a certain amount of courage. Even in the respect we are commanded to show towards one and all, we must be able to maintain the total freedom of the children of God, which places us above persons in high places, and above a cowardly compliance with authority that would have us act counter to our conscience."
"What I bless and admire most in God is not so much that He created Heaven, for He is almighty; nor that He founded the earth, for He is strength itself; nor that He gave life to man, for He is the principle of life: it is that He is merciful although He is just, clement although He is king, patient although He is God.
"God is not a tyrant Who judges men with inexorable harshness. He is regardful of the weakness of their nature. He does not measure their frailty and inconstancy by the immutability of His Divine substance. But being essentially just and merciful, He asks of man only what He knows is in proportion to his strength.
"God does not seize the occasion of crime to punish it the very moment it is committed. He is most willing to consider how weak is the one who commits it. He waits, He defers His vengeance to give the guilty party time to return to Him through penance. What an excellent disposition of justice and mercy!"
Saint Hilary, who gives us a wonderful example of both invincible firmness and forbearance, passed away in 368. Gregory of Tours mentions many basilicas raised in his honor and numerous miracles worked at his grave. Saint Hilary had the gift of miracles even during his lifetime. Saint Augustine called him "the illustrious doctor of the churches and generous defender of the faith," and Saint Jerome styled him "the Rhone of Latin eloquence." Pius IX declared him a Doctor of the Church.
Sources: Marie-Nicolas Silvestre Guillon, Bibliothèque choisie des Pères de l'Église grecque et latine (Mequignon-Havard: Brussels, 1828), Vol. V; Abbé Auguste Body, Les Vies des Saints (Bonnes Lectures: Lyons, 1907); Fathers Baudot and Chaussin, O.S.B., Vies des Saints et des Bienheureux (Letouzey: Paris, 19351; M. J. Collin de Plancy, Grande Vie des Saints (Louis Vivès: Paris, 1872).
1. "He was extremely fearful that by undertaking an explanation of the Church's faith concerning the mystery of the Trinity, he would fail in some point; that is what made him adopt the attitude of refraining from any personal thoughts on this point, following step by step what the Apostles had said. In everything, he bases himself on their authority and on that of the prophets, taking care to show the cases in which the Arians and other heretics misused their oracles in order to attack the faith of the Church." (D. Ceillier, Life of Saint Hilary, Vol. V, p. 55)
2. Sirmium was a city in Illyria (present-day Slavonia). This formula was refuted by Saint Phebadius.
3. Bossuet remarks, "Thus all the law will be mutilated, and we will see, as the great Saint Hilary said, as great a variety in doctrine as we will see in morals, and as many kinds of faith as there are different inclinations." (Works, "Sermon on the Second Sunday in Advent," Vol. II, p. 98)
4. Arius denied that Jesus Christ was God and consubstantial with the Father. This heresy was condemned by the Council of Nicea in 325.
5. Sulpicius Severus was a Christian historian (360-420); he is the author of a Life of Saint Martin, to which he owes his renown.
6. Vercelli is a city in the Piedmont, northern Italy.
7. Here "the world" means all that is temporal and secular.
8. Book against Auxentius, published in 365. This was Saint Hilary's last polemical work.