My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 17th of January, Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church
Commemorates Our Righteous and God-bearing
ANTHONY THE GREAT.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Fourth Tone
EMULATING the ways of Elias the zealot, and following the straight
paths of the Baptist, O Father Anthony, thou madest of the wilderness
a city, and didst support the world by thy prayers. Wherefore intercede
with Christ our God that our souls be saved.
Kontakion Hymn. Second Tone
THOU leftest behind all earthly cares and turbulence, and leddest a
life of stillness and tranquility, emulating John the Baptist in every
way, O most righteous one. Wherefore, we acclaim thee with him,
O first of the Fathers, Father Anthony.
Anthony (Antonios), our great father, was born in Egypt, during the reign of the most impious Decius (249-251 A.D.). His parents were Christians who raised him in piety. He was modest, shy, and honest. He had no dealings with others apart from his kinsfolk. He did not wish to learn letters, because of the rough behavior of the lads at school. By nature, he was guileless and had no desire to keep company with other children or engage in their games. His desire was to conduct his life according to those words that have described the Patriarch Jacob; that is, he was a simple, natural, and unaffected man, dwelling in a house [Genesis 25:27]. Anthony had the desire to attend church frequently with his parents, to whom he was obedient. He listened attentively to the Holy Scripture, keeping in his heart the exhortations and admonitions from which he benefited. He was neither idle in his parents’ house, nor negligent amid moderate affluence, he did not pester his parents for varied or luxurious fare, nor was this o source of pleasure to him. His manner of life showed discernment and understanding.
When Anthony was about eighteen or twenty, his parents reposed. He was left with the care of not only his parental estate but also one little sister. Now it was not six months after the death of his parents that he continued his perfect attendance at church. On one occasion, as he was going in church, he communed with himself as he walked, and reflected upon how the Apostles left all and followed the Christ, even as did the martyrs and other venerable Saints. He then meditated upon those words in the Acts of the Holy Apostles, about how the first Christians sold their possessions and brought and laid them at the Apostles’ feet for distribution to the poor [Acts 4:34-35]. He thought how great was the blessing of such, and how great a hope in the heavens [Colossians 1:5] was laid up for them who had in this wise obeyed the voice of Christ.
As he entered the church, it happened that the Gospel was being read. The words of Jesus to the rich men sounded in his ears: "IF THOU ART WILLING TO BE PERFECT, GO AND SELL THY POSSESSIONS, AND GIVE TO THE POOR, AND THOU SHALT HAVE TREASURE IN HEAVEN, AND COME AND KEEP ON FOLLOWING ME" (Matthew 19:21]. Upon hearing this admonition, the holy Anthony perceived those words of the Sacred Gospel as a message to himself. After reflecting upon these words, he deemed them not to have been pronounced as a matter of chance, but instead that the righteous notion he had about the Apostles might be confirmed. He forthwith departed from the church and donated to his neighbors, those who were poor, all of the beautiful property which he had inherited from his forefathers. He did not wish that either he or his sister should be encumbered or troubled with the care of the land’s cultivation, but that they might labor unhindered in spiritual contests. The remainder of the movable estate and possessions was sold. Anthony received a considerable sum of money from the sale, and which proceeds went to the poor. He did, however, retain a sufficient amount for the needs of his sister, for he deemed her more vulnerable on account of her gender and age.
On another occasion, when it was Sunday, Anthony went to church. He inclined his ear carefully to hear what would come forth for him. Then the Gospel words of the Lord to His Disciples were read aloud: "DO NOT BECOME ANXIOUS FOR THE MORROW" [Matthew 6:34]. He thereupon went out and gave way among the poor whatever else remained. He spoke to his sister lovingly, regarding truth and the fear of God. He brought her around to his way of thinking, that is, RENUNCIATION OF THE WORLD FOR THE SAKE OF CHRIST. He then entrusted her to the care of certain virgins living there. Anthony then began his ascetic course in a place close to his house, where he built a cell. At that time, there were neither monasteries in Egypt nor any who knew OF THE INNER DESERT. If one wished to give attention to his soul, he practiced the ascetical life alone, usually not far from his village. Anthony, therefore, betook himself a sufficient distance from the village, sot hat he might be apart from the habitation and conversation of men.
Now there was in the neighboring village a certain blessed solitary who had taken up THE ASCTICAL LIFE from his youth. Anthony had observed this man and desired to emulate his conduct and deeds; for "IT WAS GOOD TO BE ZEALOUS IN A GOOD THING ALWAYS" [Galatians 4:18]. If he heard of any other righteous men pursuing such a mode of life, as a wise bee which hovers and rests over flowers, Anthony went and strenuously sought out such persons. He disciplined himself, and his resolve grew daily, lest his thoughts should wander to his previous inheritance and the remembrance of his kin. He directed all his energies to spiritual practices that he might be a pure offering to God. He also labored with his own hands, because he heard the Apostle say, "THIS WE COMMAND YOU, THAT IF ANYONE IS NOT WILLING TO WORK, NEITHER LET HIM EAT" [2 Thessalonians 3:10]. With a small amount from the wages he received, he provided for himself, while the remainder he donated to the poor. He PRAYED CONTINUALLY, FOR HE HAD HEARD THE INJUNCTION TO "BE PRAYING UNCEASINGLY" [1 Thessalonians 5:17]. He also gave all his attention TO THE READING OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURE, lest anything should escape him. Thereupon, not one word fell to the ground. He retained everything in his memory, which came to serve him in place of books.
He was beloved by all and loved all. He subjected himself in sincerity to the righteous anchorites he visited, learning thoroughly where each surpassed him in zeal and discipline. He hearkened to them in everything and showed them much love and reverence. He in no way had high thoughts about himself nor vied with another. He toiled in his ascetic labors in such a way AS NOT TO MAKE OTHERS ENVIOUS OF HIM, rather, they rejoiced and gave thanks to God Who wrought mightily in him. He was called by then a lover of God, that is, THEOPHILOS. Some loved him as a brother, and others as a son.
The devil, who hates and envies what is good, could not endure seeing such eagerness and diligence in one so young. He saw Anthony’s perfection and therefore endeavored to war against the Saint, in a manner he was wont to effect against other young men. He first attempted to thwart his asceticism with the remembrance of the care and concern of his little sister, he whispered to Anthony about his former wealth, he reminded him reminded him of those sweet and delightful things of the table, he warned him of the toil and suffering entailed with striving for virtue and the rough path that lay ahead, he called to Anthony’s mind the infirmity of the flesh and bodily sicknesses, and other such ailments. The devil, however, saw for himself that he was vanquished by the great faith and firm resolve of the venerable one.
This was Saint Anthony’s first encounter against the devil, or rather this was the triumph of Christ working in Anthony; for Christ "CONDEMNED SIN IN THE FLESH, IN ORDER THAT THE ORDINANCE OF THE LAW MIGHT BE FULFILLED IN US, WHO WALK NOT ACCORDING TO THE FLESH, BUT ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT" (Romans 8:3). The holy man, however, neither relaxed nor neglected his rule. He knew from the Holy Scripture that the ways of the enemy were diverse and wily. He knew that though the enemy had been vanquished for a time, he would not desist. He would look for other opportunities or some small negligence on Anthony’s part to gain a foothold and overwhelm him. Saint Peter clearly taught that our "ADVERSARY, THE DEVIL, AS A ROARING LION, WALKETH ABOUT. SEEKING WHOM HE MIGHT DEVOUR" (1 Peter 5:8). Anthony also learned that we must put on the FULL ARMOR OF GOD, in order to stand against the wiles of the devil" [Ephesians 6:11]. [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD