Athanasius the Great is a much heralded saint of both the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. Liturgical denominations also hold him in high esteem for his defense of the doctrine of Christ being of the same substance as God the Father (First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea 325 AD) and creating the list of books which became canonized as the New Testament. As the Patriarch of Alexandria and Africa, he was exiled by heretical emperors five times. One of the things that kept him grounded in good and bad times was his humility.
According to the Ethiopian Synaxarion, Athanasius wore an unusual garment during the feast of Pascha (Easter), Theophany (Epiphany), and the Ascension*. It was made of mule’s hair and came from the monk, Abba Pawli (Paul). Pawli was a good friend of Anthony the Great, the father of the Desert Fathers and an advisor to the Patriarch. For his support during the First Ecumenical Council, Athanasius gave a garment to Anthony from Emperor Constantine. As Pawli was near death, he asked Anthony to be buried in this. As the great monk returned, he saw the mule hair clad monk reposed with angels surrounding him singing of his holy life. Anthony dressed Pawli in the requested garment and removed the mule haired cloak. Visiting Alexandria, Anthony gave Athanasius the humble garment as he told him of the holy life of the lesser known monk.
Sadly, it is not uncommon for people who rise in employment, job status, and clerical offices to become arrogant. People who are “beneath us” are often ignored and marginalized. No one on earth was higher than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Yet, He humbled himself and was obedient to an insulting form of death, crucifixion (Philippians 2:1-11). He took on human flesh and died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:6-11). Patriarch Athanasius knew the scriptures and carried himself likewise. Humility is a daily calling for us as well. Listen to the lowly for words of wisdom. Identify with righteous teachers of all levels.
*Ethiopian Synaxarion, Yekatit 02 (February 9th), pgs. 330-334