Hilary of Poitiers
The Ordination of Saint Hilary. From a 14th-century manuscript.
|"Malleus Arianorum" and the "Athanasius of the West;" Bishop, Confessor and Doctor of the Church|
|Born||c. 300 AD
Pictavium, Gaul (modern-day Poitiers, France)
|Honored in||Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
January 14 (in some local calendars and pre-1970 General Roman Calendar)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hilaire de Poitiers.|
Hilary (Hilarius) of Poitiers (c. 300 – c. 368) was Bishop of Poitiers and is a Doctor of the Church. He was sometimes referred to as the "Hammer of the Arians" (Latin: Malleus Arianorum) and the "Athanasius of the West." His name comes from the Latin word for happy or cheerful. His optional memorial in the Roman Catholic calendar of saints is 13 January. In the past, when this date was occupied by the Octave Day of the Epiphany, his feast day was moved to 14 January.
Hilary was born at Poitiers either at the end of the 3rd or beginning of the 4th century A.D.. His parents were pagans of distinction. He received a good education, including what had even then become somewhat rare in the West, some knowledge of Greek. He studied, later on, the Old and New Testament writings, with the result that he abandoned his Neo-Platonism for Christianity, and with his wife and his daughter (traditionally named Saint Abra), was baptized and received into the Church.
So great was the respect in which he was held by the citizens of Poitiers that about 350 or 353, although still a married man, he was unanimously elected bishop. At that time Arianism was threatening to overrun the Western Church; to repel the disruption was the great task which Hilary undertook. One of his first steps was to secure the excommunication, by those of the Gallican hierarchy who still remained orthodox, of Saturninus, the Arian Bishop of Arles, and of Ursacius and Valens, two of his prominent supporters.
About the same time, he wrote to Emperor Constantius II a remonstrance against the persecutions by which the Arians had sought to crush their opponents (Ad Constantium Augustum liber primus, of which the most probable date is 355). His efforts were not at first successful, for at the synod of Biterrae (Béziers), summoned by the emperor in 356 with the professed purpose of settling the longstanding disputes, Hilary was banished by an imperial rescript, along with Rhodanus of Toulouse to Phrygia, where he spent nearly four years in exile.
While in Phrygia, however, he continued to govern his diocese, while he found leisure for the preparation of two of the most important of his contributions to dogmatic and polemical theology: the De synodis or De fide Orientalium, an epistle addressed in 358 to the Semi-Arian bishops in Gaul, Germany and Britain, expounding the true views (sometimes veiled in ambiguous words) of the Eastern bishops on the Nicene controversy; and the De trinitate libri XII, composed in 359 and 360, in which, for the first time, a successful attempt was made to express in Latin the theological subtleties elaborated in the original Greek. The former of these works was not entirely approved by some members of his own party, who thought he had shown too great a forbearance towards the Arians; he replied to their criticisms in the Apologetica ad reprehensores libri de synodis responsa.
He also during this time attended several synods, including the council at Seleucia (359) which saw the triumph of the homoion party and the forbidding of all discussion of the divine substance. In 360, he tried unsuccessfully to secure a personal audience with Constantius, and to address the council which met at Constantinople in 360. When this council ratified the decisions of Ariminum and Seleucia, Hilary responded with the bitter In Constantium, an attack on the Emperor Constantius as Antichrist and persecutor of orthodox Christians. His urgent and repeated request for a public discussion with his opponents, especially with Ursacius and Valens, proved at last so inconvenient that he was sent back to his diocese, which he appears to have reached about 361, within a very short time of the accession of Emperor Julian.
On his return in 361, Hilary was occupied for two or three years in combating Arianism within his diocese. In particular, he aimed to persuade clergy that the homoion confession was merely a cover for traditional Arian subordinationism. Under Hilary's influence a number of synods were held in Gaul which condemned the creed promulgated at Council of Ariminium (359).
In 364, extending his efforts once more beyond Gaul, he impeached Auxentius, bishop of Milan, and a man high in the imperial favour, as heterodox. Summoned to appear before Emperor Valentinian I at Milan and there maintain his charges, Hilary was mortified to hear the supposed heretic giving satisfactory answers to all the questions proposed. His denunciation of Auxentius as a hypocrite did not save him from an ignominious expulsion from Milan.
In 365, he published the Contra Arianos vel Auxentium Mediolanensem liber, in connection with the controversy; and also (but perhaps at a somewhat earlier date) the Contra Constantium Augustum liber, in which he pronounced that lately deceased emperor to have been the Antichrist, a rebel against God, "a tyrant whose sole object had been to make a gift to the devil of that world for which Christ had suffered."
Among Hilary's earliest writings, completed some time before his exile in 356, is his Commentarius in Evangelium Matthaei, an allegorical exegesis of the first Gospel. This is the first Latin commentary on Matthew to have survived in its entirety. Hilary's commentary was strongly influenced by Tertullian and Cyprian, and made use of several classical writers, including Cicero, Quintilian, Pliny and the Roman historians.
His expositions of the Psalms, Tractatus super Psalmos, for which he was largely indebted to Origen, were composed some time after his return from exile in 360. Already in Jerome's day the work was incomplete, and it is not known whether Hilary originally commented on the whole Psalter. Now extant are the commentaries on Psalms 1, 2, 9, 13, 14, 51-69, 91, and 118-150.
The third surviving exegetical writing by Hilary is the Tractatus mysteriorum, preserved in a single manuscript first published in 1887.
Hilary's major theological work was the twelve books now known as De Trinitate. This was composed largely during his exile, though perhaps not completed until his return to Gaul in 360.
Various writings comprise Hilary's 'historical' works. These include the Liber II ad Constantium imperatorem, the Liber in Constantium inperatorem, Contra Arianos vel Auxentium Mediolanensem liber, and the various documents relating to the Arian controversy in Fragmenta historica.
Hilary is sometimes regarded as the first Latin Christian hymn writer, and according to Jerome he produced a liber hymnorum. Three hymns are attributed to him, though none are indisputable.
A vita of Hilary was written by Venantius Fortunatus c. 550 but is not considered reliable. More trustworthy are the notices in Saint Jerome (De vir. illus. 100), Sulpicius Severus (Chron. ii. 39-45) and in Hilary's own writings.
Recent research has distinguished between Hilary's thought before his period of exile in Phrygia under Constantius and the quality of his later major works.
Reputation and veneration
Among 4th-century Latin writers earlier than Ambrose, Hilary holds first place. Augustine of Hippo called him "the illustrious doctor of the churches", and his works continued to be highly influential in later centuries. Pope Pius IX formally recognized him as Universae Ecclesiae Doctor in 1851.
In the Roman calendar of saints, Hilary's feast day is on 13 January, 14 January in the pre-1970 form of the calendar.
From his writing St. Hilary's symbol came to be three books and a quill pen.
The following of Saint Hilary developed in association with that of St. Martin of Tours as a result of Sulpicius Severus' Vita Sancti Martini and spread early to western Britain. The villages of St Hilary in Cornwall and Glamorgan and that of Llanilar in Ceredigion bear his name.
In the context of English educational and legal institutions, Saint Hilary's festival lies at the start of the Hilary Term which begins in January. The name Hilary term is given in Oxford University to the term, beginning on 7 January, that includes his feast.
- Michael Walsh, ed. Butler's Lives of the Saints. (HarperCollins Publishers: New York, 1991), 12.
- "Calendarium Romanum" (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1969), p. 85
- Hunter, p.302.
- Hunter names the date as 350. David G Hunter, ‘Fourth-century Latin writers’, in Frances Young, Lewis Ayres and Andrew Young, eds, The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature, (2010), p302
- The reasons for this banishment are obscure. Traditionally it was assumed that Hilary was exiled for refusing to subscribe to the condemnation of Athanasius and the Nicene faith, but more recently several scholars have suggested that political opposition to Constantius and support of the usurper Silvanus may have led to Hilary's downfall. David G Hunter, ‘Fourth-century Latin writers’, in Frances Young, Lewis Ayres and Andrew Young, eds, The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature, (2010), p302
- Sulpicius Severus, Chronicum 2.45
- Hunter, p.303.
- The evidence for this event is from Hilary, Contra Arianos vel Auxentium Mediolanensem liber, an address to Nicene bishops describing his unsuccessful effort to charge Auxentius with heresy.
- Jerome, Vir Ill 100; David G Hunter, ‘Fourth-century Latin writers’, in Frances Young, Lewis Ayres and Andrew Young, eds, The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature, (2010), p303
- Vir Ill 100
- Hunter, p.304.
- "Saint Hilary of Poitiers", St. Hilary's Episcopal Church; Hisperia, California
- Farmer, David Hugh (1997). The Oxford dictionary of saints (4. ed. ed.). Oxford [u.a.]: Oxford Univ. Press. ISBN 0-19-280058-2.
- Carl Beckwith, Hilary of Poitiers on the Trinity: From De Fide to De Trinitate (New York and Oxford, 2009).
- J. Doignon, Hilaire de Poitiers avant l'exil. Recherches sur la naissance, l'enseignementet l'épreuve d'une foi épiscopale en Gaule au milieu du IVé siècle, EAA, Paris 1971.
- Hunter, David G. "Fourth-century Latin writers", in Frances Young, Lewis Ayres and Andrew Young, eds, The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature, (2010)
- Rondeau, Marie Josèphe (1962). "Remarques sur l'anthropologie de saint Hilaire". Studia Patristica (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag). 6 (Papers presented to the Third International Conference on Patristic Studies held at Christ Church, Oxford, 1959, Part IV Theologica, Augustiniana, ed. F. L. Cross): 197–210.
- P.T. Wild, The divinization of man according to Saint Hilary of Poitiers, Mundelein, Illinois 1955.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Hilarius, St". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
- The Life and Miracles of St. Hilary of Poitiers, Bishop, Doctor of the Church and Hammer of the Arians
- Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, Vol. IX St Hilary of Poitiers: introduction and texts
- Opera Omnia
- "St. Hilary of Poitiers". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- (French) See also patristique.org
- BENEDICT XVI: Saint Hilary of Poitiers General Audience Wednesday, 10 October 2007
- The works of Hilary in chronological order.
- Life of SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS, in BTM .