St. Hilary Episcopal Church
The Shrine of St. Hilary, Poitiers, France
“There is no space where God is not; space does not exist apart from Him. He is in heaven, in hell, beyond the seas; dwelling in all things and enveloping all. Thus He embraces, and is embraced by, the universe, confined to no part of it but pervading all.”
-St. Hilary de Poitiers
Saint Hilary of Poitiers
St. Hilary lived c.315-367, the "Athanasius of the West." We do not have many particulars of his early life, but we do know that he was born into a pagan home, was married, and had a daughter named Apra. As an adult he was converted to Christianity. All of which took place in Poitiers, a city in central France which was then called Gaul.
St. Hilary had a great interest in theological concerns. He became a preacher, and about 353AD was chosen Bishop of Poitiers. He is often referred to as Hillarius. He seemed to be a man of a kindly and charitable disposition, but this did not keep him from vigorously defending the Church against Aryanism. Embroiled in this famous controversy, he made some enemies who succeeded in getting him exiled to Phrygia in Asia Minor
While in exile he visited many eastern churches, learning new things about the Church Universal. It was here that he wrote a theological work called "On The Trinity." From this writing St. Hilary's symbol came to be three books and a quill pen. He also wrote "History of Synods." His presence was dreaded by many in the East and eventually he was sent back to Poitiers.
St. Hilary brought back from the eastern churches many wonderful hymns which were sung in the various churches there. We have no record of authors who wrote hymns in the western churches at that time. Greek hymns were probably sung. We have a few Latin hymns from the early Church but no one's name was attached to them until St. Hilary's. Perhaps some of his first hymns were translations from the Greek, but soon he began writing his own hymns in the Latin language. For this reason he has come to be known as the Father of the Latin hymn. The Pentecost hymn text "This Joyful Day's Return" (Episcopal Church Hymnal 1982, #223/224) is attributed to Hilary of Poitiers.
Hilary was proclaimed a "Doctor of the Church" in 1851. His feast day, January 13, gives his name to the spring term at English Law Courts as well as at Oxford and Durham Universities.
St. Hilary was known throughout France as a great preacher and author. Martin of Tours was attracted by his sermons, and as a young man came to Poitiers to hear him, remaining for some time as Hilary's disciple.