THE ASCETIC AND MONASTIC LIFE OF SAINT ANTHONY THE GREAT (Part II)

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

THE ASCETIC AND MONASTIC LIFE OF SAINT ANTHONY THE GREAT (Part II)

Kathisma I. Mode pl. 4.

When you fettered your soul with the love for Christ
and you clearly detested all things mundane, you lived
in the wilderness and the mountains. And tasting then
of the tree of knowledge, you shone forth angelically
as a mystic of secrets, righteous Father most glorious.
Therefore, you transcended the dark cloud of the carnal
within you and drove away the demons’ darkness, O
blessed one, first and chief of monastics.
Intercede with Christ our God, that He grant forgiveness
of offenses to those who keep your all-holy memory
with faith and love.

Kathisma III. Mode pl. 4.

You withdrew from the tumult of daily life, and you took up
your cross and denied yourself, and you dedicated yourself
entirely to the Lord. You attained a spiritual state, out of flesh
and world, and you became conversant with the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, you inspired zeal for God in the people.
You emptied the cities and populated the wilderness, O God-
bearer Anthony. Intercede with Christ our God, that He grant
forgiveness of offenses to us who lovingly honor and celebrate
your memory.

Exaposteilarion. Mode 3.

You led an Angelic life, as though you were incorporeal,
although you were in the body. And you shined on the
whole world resplendently, for you shone forth like an ever-
shining star, O Anthony, the God-bearer, the beauty of Ascetics,
and the pride and joy of Monks, and the glory of the Fathers.

Stichera. Mode pl. 4.

Father of Fathers, Saint Anthony, your soul was moved by desire
and insatiable love for Christ, so you searched for Him alone in the
desert and wilderness, where you avoided all tumults and the noise,
and thus conversed with Him one to one, alone, united noetically,
also filled with Uncreated Light, with which now illuminate the souls
of us who honor you.

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The devices of the evil one are manifold. Reflecting upon this, Anthony reckoned that although the devil had not deceived his heart by bodily pleasure, still the adversary would lay snares to catch him by other means, for the devil’s love is sin. He, therefore, engaged upon a more severe mode of life. His readiness to serve God made every labor easy to bear. Many marveled at how Anthony was able to endure toils easily. On account of his zeal, he participated in all-night vigils, not once or twice, but many times. He ate once daily, after the setting of the sun, or sometimes once in two days, and often even in four. His fare consisted of only bread and salt. His beverage was a limited amount of water. His bedding consisted of one rush mat, but he many times slept on the bare ground. He would anoint himself with oil. Each day he began his life of ascesis anew, as he had done at the beginning.

Anthony then went out to the sepulchers. They were located some distance from the village. He entered and took up his abode therein that he might continue his ascetic struggle. He bade an acquaintance of his to bring him a morsel of bread from time to time. Anthony then had this same man shut and lock the door of that sepulcher, leaving him alone to pray. The enemy became frantic at this juncture, surmising that in but a short time Anthony would fill the desert with the ascetic discipline. Thereupon, the devil came one night with a company of his minions. They administered such a thrashing to the Saint that he was left lying on the ground from his wounds and excessive pain. He was half-dead, with little breath remaining in him. Indeed, the enemy so cut him with stripes that Anthony lay on the ground speechless from the excessive pain. He later said that the pain inflicted had been so excessive that no blows inflicted by man could ever have caused him such suffering.

Nevertheless, by the Providence of God–for the Lord never overlooks those who hope in Him–the next day, his acquaintance came with allotted loaves. He opened the door to the sepulcher, only to find Anthony lying on the ground as one dead. that man raised up Anthony and carried him to the main church in their village, and laid him on the ground. When his kindred and neighbors learned of his brutal beating, they came running in grief. At about midnight, the Saint regained consciousness. He looked about and saw that all of them were slumbering, with the exception of that acquaintance who attended to him. Making a gesture that he carry him to the sepulcher without waking anyone. The man carried Anthony to the sepulcher and shut the door after him. As Anthony lay there, he kept constant in prayer. He would have stood, but he had not the strength from the wounds he sustained from the demons.

Now the Lord was not forgetful of the Venerable Anthony’s contests but instead was at hand to help him in his battle. The Saint then looked up and beheld the roof, as it were, to have been opened. A ray of light came down upon him. Then the demons suddenly dispersed and vanished, the pain of his body forthwith ceased, and the chamber was again whole. There was no sign or trace of the wounds sustained. After he recovered somewhat and rejoiced in that revelation, he lifted up his voice and entreated the Lord, saying, "O Lord, I give thanks to Thee for Thy gracious help. Where wert Thou, O my most sweet Jesus? Why didst Thou not appear at the beginning to halt my pain and tribulations?" And a voice came to him: "Anthony, I was here, but I waited to look upon thy fight. Therefore, since thou hast endured and triumphed, not being worsted or broken with sadness in thy tribulations, I will ever be a succor to thee. I will make thy name known throughout the world." After he had heard this, Anthony arose and prayed. He received such strength that he perceived that he had more power in his body than formerly. He was then about thirty-five years old.

With the passage of time, his fame reached other solitaries in Egypt. Monks, seculars, and men of distinction came in large numbers to see him. Some monks came who were committed to emulating his deeds, while others were wishful to imitate his discipline. They called out to him but he answered not. Then, Anthon, as from a shrine or divine sanctuary, came forth as one initiated in the mysteries and filled with the Spirit of God. This was the first time in twenty years that he was seen outside of the fortress. They observed his dignified bearing and the beauty of his countenance, which had not altered. He urged them to remember the good things to come and the loving-kindness of God toward us ‘Who indeed spared not His own Son, but deliverable Him up for us all’ (Romans 8:32). The holy man persuaded many to embrace the solitary life, which resulted in cells rising in the mountains. Therefore, the desert was colonized by monks, who came forth from their own people, and enrolled themselves for citizenship in the heavens.

Then on one day, when the brethren has assembled, they besought the holy man to speak to them words of salvation. He spoke to them in the Egyptian language, that is, Coptic, as follows: "SUFFICIENT ARE THE SCRIPTURES FOR OUR INSTRUCTION, BUT IT IS A GOOD THING TO ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER IN THE FAITH WITIH SOUL-SAVING WORDS. THEREFORE, YOU, AS CHILDREN, CARRY THAT WHICH YOU KNOW TO YOUR FATHER; AND I, AS YOUR ELDER, SHALL SHARE WITH YOU WHAT KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE HAVE TAUGHT ME.

Let this be the first rule for you and the common aim of all of you my children, that none should weaken or become fainthearted in his commitment to the ascetic way of life he has chosen. Let no one say, ‘I have lived in this ascetic discipline way of life for a long time. Rather, each should strive to renew his experiencess and zeal daily, as if he were just starting out. Consider our human life and its shortness when compared to the ages to come. Our time here is as nothing when compared to Everlasting Life."

Saint Athanasios the Great, who knew him personally and wrote his life. Because of the press of the faithful, who deprived him of his solitude, he was enlightened by God to journey with certain Bedouins, until he came to a mountain in the desert near the Red Sea, where he passed the remaining part of his life. Saint Athanasios says of him that "his countenance had a great and wonderful grace. This gift also he had from the Savior. For if he were present in a great company of monks, and any one who did not know him previously wished to see him, immediately coming forward he passed by the rest, and hurried to Anthony, as though attracted by his appearance. Yet neither in height nor breadth was he conspicuous above others, but in the serenity of his manner and the purity of his souls."

So passing his life, and becoming an example of virtue and a rule for monastics, he reposed on January 17th in the year 356 A.D., having lived altogther some 105 years. [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]

___________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George



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