Athanasios the Great was born in 295 AD. from poor but virtuous parents, which deprived him of the possibility of higher studies. But the all-good God endowed him with rich spiritual qualities. He receives elementary education and then studies on his own to reach the highest levels of knowledge and wisdom.
From a very young age he showed his inclination towards the Church. At the age of 25, he was ordained a deacon by the Patriarch of Alexandria, Alexander, whom he followed at the First Ecumenical Council in 325 AD, in Nicaea, Bithynia. He emerges as a pioneer in the condemnation of the heretical teaching of Arius.
In 328 AD and at the age of 33 he was solemnly elected patriarch of Alexandria. From this position he faces a terrible war on the part of the heretical followers of Arius. But the saint, thanks to his great spirituality and fervent faith in God, manages to emerge victorious from all these trials, even from the five exiles that were imposed on him, as the emperor Constantine II was a follower of Arianism. He fell asleep in peace in 373 AD.
Saint Cyril lived during the reign of Theodosius the Younger and was born in Alexandria in 370 AD. from wealthy parents of the Greek society of the city. Cyril, the nephew of the archbishop of Alexandria Theophilos, received a great theological education, so that he subsequently became his uncle’s successor on the archbishopric throne of Alexandria.
When the Third Ecumenical Council took place in 431 AD. in Ephesus, Cyril was its president and contributed to the destruction of the misdeeds of the impious Nestorius, for the sake of the most holy Miss Our Lady.
With many spiritual achievements to his credit, Cyril peacefully surrendered his spirit to the Lord on June 27, 444 AD, after having been patriarch for about 32 years. St. Anastasios of Sinai rightly called him “the seal of the Fathers”.
The Church wanted to twin the memory of its two Great Fathers and Archbishops of Alexandria, Athanasios the Great, a protagonist against Arianism, and Saint Cyril, a protagonist against Nestorianism, and set their commemoration on January 18.