Saint of the Day – St. Hilary of Poitiers – January 13
St. Hilary of Poitiers was born to a non-Christian family in the early years of the 4th century. He was from a noble family and received an excellent education. On his own, he began a search to understand the fundamental questions of existence, including the source of the created world and his place within it. He found answers to his some of his questions in the story of Moses and the burning bush, with God’s self identification as “I am Who I Am.” Answers to the questions about God’s plan and purpose for people were found in the Gospels, particularly the Prologue of the Gospel of John.
Through his studies of Scripture, he became a Christian. By this time he was also married and had a daughter. He was elected bishop of Poitiers around 350 AD. This was a time in which the Arians were quite influential, having even converted the emperor, Constantius. Hilary refused to join in the condemnation of Athanasius and was sent into exile in the East. While in exile, he continued to speak out against Arianism and wrote many scholarly works in defense of traditional Christian understandings of the Trinity and other points of Christian faith.
Eventually, Hilary was allowed to return to Poitiers. He’d been causing too much trouble with his teaching and preaching in the East! When he returned home, he continued to teach and preach. He also began writing hymns. Although hymns had been a part of Christian life since its earliest years, his are the first we have with a known author.
Hilary died in Poitiers in 367 or 368. He was named Doctor of the Church in 1851 by Pope Pius IX.
A quote from his work on the Trinity:
“For one to attempt to speak of God in terms more precise than he himself has used: — to undertake such a thing is to embark upon the boundless, to dare the incomprehensible. He fixed the names of His nature: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Whatever is sought over and above this is beyond the meaning of words, beyond the limits of perception, beyond the embrace of understanding.”