St. Hilary of Poitiers was born around the beginning of the fourth century to pagan parents in Gaul (modern day France). He was well educated, married and had a daughter. After studying the bible, he abandoned Neo-Platonism and he and his family were baptized.
He was so highly respected in the city of Poitiers that in A.D. 353 the people unanimously elected him as bishop. At the time, Arianism was widespread in the West and protected by the Emperor Constantius. Despite this, St. Hilary would become known as the Hammer of the Arians because of his stalwart defense of Orthodoxy in such an environment.
In A.D. 356 he was summoned before the Synod of Biterrae where he was banished to Phrygia. This banishment, however, only lasted four years because St. Hilary was so effective at defending Orthodoxy against Arianism that the emperor found it was more convenient to have him re-instated in Poitiers, farther away from the capital than the saint’s exile in Phrygia.
St. Hilary was heavily influenced by Alexandrian theologians such as St. Athanasius and, indeed, has been called the Athanasius of the West. He is highly regarded in Western Christendom, where is was made a Doctor of the Church in 1851 by Pope Pius IX following in the footsteps of St. Augustine of Hippo who called St. Hilary “the illustrious doctor of the churches.”
He died around A.D. 368. His feast day is January 13. Of interest, Oxford has given his name to the term that begins in January — Hilary term.
In the coming days, I will proceed through St. Hilary’s homily on the First Psalm paragraph by paragraph. I will provide the text of the paragraph (or part of the paragraph in the case of some of the longer ones) and then speak to what St. Hilary has to say. Tomorrow I will provide the text for several different translations of the First Psalm so that we can all familiarize ourselves with it. There are enough paragraphs in the Homily to take up every day until December 23rd. I will finish up on the 24th with some final thoughts.