Today is the Feast Day of S. Hilary of Poitiers, a.k.a. Malleus Araianorum, or ‘the Hammer of Arians.’ Hilary was born in around 300 in Poitiers, Gaul. He married, and had at least one daughter, Abra, who herself went on to become a Saint. Legend has it that Hilary and his family were originally pagans, but Hilary was always an avid reader, and he literally read himself into the Faith – first embracing salvation by good works, then monotheism, and eventually Christianity via the New Testament.
In around 353, Hilary was unanimously elected as Bishop by the citizens of Poitiers. Very quickly, he came into conflict with powerful Arian forces within the Church. Arianism, to cut a long story short and oversimplify things ridiculously, was the heresy that claimed that Jesus was a nice bloke but not God incarnate. They were a powerful lobby within the Church at the time, and they managed to get Hilary exiled from his See.
Hilary, unlike some clerics we could name, did not waste his time in exile on silly pursuits like gardening and making cakes. He wrote a couple of weighty treatises refuting Arianism, and travelled around Italy and Asia Minor asserting the truth of Orthodoxy and trying to bring Arians back to the full faith. In fact, he caused so much trouble in Constantinople that the Arians there had him sent back to Poitiers – and thus his exile was ended for the same reason that it was begun.
His own people loved him, and so did his best student Martin, who went on to become S. Martin of Tours. But Hilary was by no means universally popular. The Golden Legend tells the story of an Arian Pope called Leo who called Hilary “a cock, and not the son of a hen.” We have no idea what he meant. Mind you, the Pope soon got his come-uppance, as he died Elvis-style on the toilet, when “by the conduit of his nether part [he] voided out all the entrails of his body.” Nice.
Moving swiftly onwards …
All this talk of hammering the Arians reminds us that the Vicar has been displaying some strange (or should we say, stranger) behaviour of late, and has frequently been spotted wandering around the garden with a hammer and a kettle of boiling water. We were beginning to wonder whether she was a serial killer, but thus far all her aggression seems to have been taken out on the ice in the bird bath.
Thankfully, this violent attitude seems to be melting away with the snow, and today the birds have been happily bathing and drinking without any intervention from the Vicar. Meanwhile, the Diocese has finally realised that she is completely bonkers, and has published a warning on their website, in the form of a picture of the Holy Wellies.
We, on the other hand, would not stoop so low, and so instead we present a couple of snaps of the Church in the snow.