Recently I was passing through the Houston Airport, and I stopped at its Hard Rock Cafe for lunch and some “rock relic” gazing. They had a guitar on the wall from Blue Oyster Cult, and I was immediately reminded of “Godzilla” which is my favorite BOC tune for its lyrics as well as its searing solo riffs. Anyway, I snapped a quick picture of the guitar, and it now makes me think of today’s saint, Athanasius (sometimes referred to as “the Great”) who died on this date in 373, and who is famous for many things, but especially affirming courageously the divinity of Christ contra mundum (against the whole world) which had swallowed whole the Arian Heresy denying the divinity of Christ, even though the Council of Nicea in 325 declared it. Strange times indeed!
There are many rumored accounts, bolstered by pious tradition, regarding whether St. Athanasius actually said “It’s me against the world!” Probably more accurate is the account below of Pope Liberius’ conversation with the Emperor Constantius (as recorded in the Catholic Encyclopedia):
Theodoret has preserved the minutes of an interview between “the glorious Liberius” and Contstantius, which were taken down by good people, he says, at the time. Liberius refuses to acknowledge the decision of the Council of Tyre and to renounce Athanasius… Epictetus, the young intruded Bishop of Centumcellæ, interposes, saying that Liberius only wanted to be able to boast to the Roman senators that he had beaten the emperor in argument. “Who are you”, adds Constantius, “to stand up for Athanasius against the world?” … Liberius demands that all shall subscribe the Nicene formula, then the exiles must be restored, and all the bishops must assemble at Alexandria to give Athanasius a fair trial on the spot.
The fact that so many clergy and laypeople back then doubted the divinity of Jesus Christ seems hard to process, but in a way not. I think that as soon as we practically live in a way that doesn’t accord with the Gospel we are on our way to a kind of practical Arianism, an offshoot of practical atheism (living as if God didn’t exist) as easily as anyone in St. Athanasius’ days. When we commit ourselves to Christ and the Gospel, it can, indeed, seem that we are alone, exiled, or seen as “reverently irrelevant”. That can bother us, and sometimes we might give in to the pressure of being more popular or successful. But that is why God gives us saints, like Athanasius, who are willing to witness to the Truth (and the Way and the Life) “against the world,” which maybe can seem as frightening as Godzilla, a monster who rises to show us how the power of the world can turn against us. In the end, we must listen to Jesus, who tells the Apostles time and again “Do not be afraid!” and “I have overcome the world!”
But back to music… “Godzilla”, by Blue Oyster Cult, has perhaps the greatest didactic lyric ending of all time: “History shows again and again how Nature points out the folly of men…” When I saw them in high school, the drummer kept throwing drum sticks at the Godzilla robot on the stage. How courageous, and pure rock and roll… Enjoy!