Saint Alexander of Alexandria, Bishop
St. Alexander, the successor of St. Achillas in the see of Alexandria, is chiefly celebrated for the determined resistance he offered to the heresy which Arius, and Alexandrian priest, first began openly to propagate during his episcopate. Alexander was a man of apostolic doctrine and life, charitable to the poor, and full of faith, zeal and fervour. He admittedd to the ministry by preference those who had sanctified themselves in solitude, and was happy in his choice of bishops throughout Egypt. It seemed as though the Devil, enraged at the disrepute into which idolatry was falling, had endeavoured to repair his losses by fomenting this new and impious heresy of Arius, who taught not only that Christ was not truly God, but also that the Son was a creature, that there was a time when He did not exist, and that He was capable of sinning. Some of the orthodox were disposed to be scandalized by the forbearance of St. Alexander who, being one of the mildest of men, at first made use of gentle methods and by kindly expostulations and sound argument sought to bring Arius back to the true faith. As his efforts proved ineffectual and the Arian faction grew in strength, the bishop summoned Arius to appear in an assembly of the clergy, where being found to be obstinate and incorrigible he was excommunicated. At a council held in Alexandria, Arius was again tried, his sentence of excommunication being confirmed by the bishops who were present. St. Alexander wrote a letter to Bishop Alexander of Constantinople and a circular epistle to the other bishops of the Church, giving them an account of the heresy and of the condemnation of the heretic, the only two communications that have survived from his large correspondence on the subject.
In due course, in the year 325, the first oecumenical council assembled at Nicaea to deal with the matter, Pope St. Silvester being represented by legates. Arius was himself present, and both Marcellus of Ancyra and the deacon St. Athanasius, whom St. Alexander had brought with him, exposed the falsity of the new doctrines and completely confuted the Arians. The heresy was emphatically and finally condemned, and Arius and a few others banished by the Emperor Constantine to Illyricum. St. Alexander, after this triumph of the faith, returned to Alexandria, where he died two years later, having named St. Athanasius as his successor.
We have no proper biography of St. Alexander, but Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret supply a good deal of information. See the Acta Sanctorum, February, vol. iii; and also DCB., vol. 1, pp.79-82, and Hefele-Leclercq, Conciles, i, pp. 357 seq. and 636, note.
Butler's Lives of The Saints, Herbert J. Thurston, S.J. and Donald Attwater
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