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May 2

The month of Mary: A Marian Month

Saint of the day:
Saint Athanasius

Patron Saint of Theologians, faithful Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians

Saint Athanasius’ Story

Athanasius led a tumultuous but dedicated life of service to the Church. He was the great champion of the faith against the widespread heresy of Arianism, the teaching by Arius that Jesus was not truly divine. The vigor of his writings earned him the title of doctor of the Church.

Born of a Christian family in Alexandria, Egypt, and given a classical education, Athanasius became secretary to Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria, entered the priesthood and was eventually named bishop himself. His predecessor, Alexander, had been an outspoken critic of a new movement growing in the East—Arianism.

When Athanasius assumed his role as bishop of Alexandria, he continued the fight against Arianism. At first, it seemed that the battle would be easily won and that Arianism would be condemned. Such, however, did not prove to be the case. The Council of Tyre was called and for several reasons that are still unclear, the Emperor Constantine exiled Athanasius to northern Gaul. This was to be the first in a series of travels and exiles reminiscent of the life of Saint Paul.

After Constantine died, his son restored Athanasius as bishop. This lasted only a year, however, for he was deposed once again by a coalition of Arian bishops. Athanasius took his case to Rome, and Pope Julius I called a synod to review the case and other related matters.

Five times Athanasius was exiled for his defense of the doctrine of Christ’s divinity. During one period of his life, he enjoyed 10 years of relative peace—reading, writing, and promoting the Christian life along the lines of the monastic ideal to which he was greatly devoted. His dogmatic and historical writings are almost all polemic, directed against every aspect of Arianism.

Among his ascetical writings, his Life of St. Anthony achieved astonishing popularity and contributed greatly to the establishment of monastic life throughout the Western Christian world.








San Zaccaria (Saint Zacharias)

Campo San Zaccaria

30122 Venice, Italy

*The remains of St Athanasius and St Zacharias, the father of St John the Baptist,
are enshrined on the right side of the nave.

*Saint Athanasius was a passionate defender of orthodoxy during the Arian crisis in the 4th century.
As a result, he suffered exile on numerous occasions.
Nevertheless, by the end of his life he was able to return to Alexandria and died
in peace surrounded by his clergy at the age of seventy-seven. It is unclear how his relics arrived in Venice.

St Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral

Al Abbasiya, Cairo, Egypt

*In 1968 Pope Paul VI gave some of the Venetian relics of St Mark
to the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria.  
They are now kept at this church in Cairo.

*A similar situation happened in 1973 when some relics of St Athanasius were likewise
returned to the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria.  These relics are also kept at this same church.

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  • 1 whole chicken, meat cut into 6 bone-in pieces, neck and ribcage reserved

  • 1 large yellow onion, quartered

  • 5 pods green cardamom, cracked

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste

  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • About 2 tbsp. Cloves from 1 medium head garlic, minced to a coarse paste

  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges, for serving

  • 1 tbsp. ground coriander

  • 1 packet (15 oz.) frozen molokhia leaves, thawed and chopped if needed

  • 3-4 cups cooked white rice, for serving


  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, add the chicken pieces and enough cold water to cover; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium-low and let simmer, skimming occasionally, 30 minutes. Add the onion, cardamom, bay leaves, and 2 teaspoons salt and continue to simmer until the chicken is fully cooked and tender, 20-30 minutes more.

  2. Meanwhile, preheat a broiler to high heat. Using tongs, remove the chicken pieces to a large baking sheet or oven-safe platter and set aside until cool enough to handle. Rub the pieces all over with 1 tablespoon butter, season with more salt and black pepper, and broil until the skin is browned, 4-6 minutes. Remove and set aside while you prepare the soup.

  3. Place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl, and strain the stock (discard the solids). Measure out 5 ½ cups and set aside any remaining stock for another use.

  4. In a medium pot, melt the remaining tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add the garlic, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, and the coriander. Cook, stirring occasionally, until very fragrant and the garlic is beginning to brown, 5-6 minutes. Quickly add the reserved 5 ½ cups stock and bring the mixture back up to a simmer. Add the molokhia, stirring to incorporate. Bring the mixture back up to a low boil, then simmer until the broth is smooth and slightly viscous and the garlic no longer tastes raw, about 5 minutes. (Take care not to overcook the soup, which will cause the leaves to fall to the bottom of the soup.)

  5. Divide the rice among 6 individual bowls, then ladle in some of the hot stew. Top each with a piece of chicken and serve immediately with lemon wedges for squeezing.

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