ST. ANTHONY, ABBOT
Patriarch of monks.
AV prayer & text.
Called the Patriarch of Monks, St. Anthony (251-356) retired to the desert when he was eighteen years old. He was the first abbot to form a stable rule for his family of monks dedicated to the divine Service. He led an austere life which was always consciously directed to the better service of God.
He is generally considered as the founder and father of organized Christian monasticism, although he himself preferred to live the life of a true hermit, apart from any community, in the deserts of Egypt. Most of the known facts about this famous “Desert Father” are derived from the biography by St. Athanasius (ca. 296-373), the “Father of Orthodoxy.” In such book, it recounts that:
“Saint Anthony was the storehouse of fasting, and of prayer, and of ascetic labours, and of patient endurance, and of love, and of righteousness, which is the mother of them all, but towards those who were young monks like himself he was not envious, except in one matter only, that is to say, he would not be second to any of them in fair works. And he contrived in every possible manner not to give offence to the wicked man; on the contrary, he wished that those who were yoked together with him might be drawn to his opinion by his solicitude and by his graciousness, and that they might make progress in their career. And he toiled in his labours in such a manner that they were not only not envious of him, but they rejoiced in him and gave thanksgiving for him. Now by reason of these triumphs every man used to call him “Theophilus,” which is, being interpreted, “God-loving,” and all the righteous gave him this name; and some of them loved him like a brother, and some of them like a son.
And when the Enemy, the hater of the virtues and the lover of evil things saw all this great perfection in the young man, he could not endure it, and he surrounded himself with his slaves, even as he is wont to do, and began to work on Anthony. At the beginning of his temptings of the saint he approached him with flattery, and cast into him anxiety as to his possessions, and solicitude and love for his sister, and for his family; and for his kinsfolk, and the love of money and lusts of various kinds and the thought of the rest of the things of the life of this world, and finally of the hard and laborious life which he lived, and of the weakness of body which would come upon him with the lapse of time; and in short, he stirred up in him the power of the thoughts so that by means of one or other of them he might be flattered, and might be made to possess shortcomings and be caught in the net through his instigation. Now when the Enemy saw that his craftiness in this matter was without profit, and that the more he brought temptation unto Saint Anthony, the more strenuous the saint was in protecting himself against him with the armour of righteousness, he attacked him by means of the vigour of early manhood which is bound up in the nature of our humanity. With the goadings of passion he used to trouble him by night, and in the daytime also he would vex him and pain him with the same to such an extent that even those who saw him knew from his appearance that he was waging war against the Adversary. But the more the Evil One brought unto him filthy and maddening thoughts, the more Saint Anthony took refuge in prayer and in abundant supplication, and amid them all he remained wholly chaste. And the Evil One was working upon him every shameful deed according to his wont, and at length he even appeared unto Saint Anthony in the form of a woman; and other things which resembled this he performed with ease, for such things are a subject for boasting to him….”
Thank God that with his grace and St. Anthony’s struggle and correspondence, our saint remained faithful to God and his vocation.
Dear brethren in Christ, as we celebrate today the memorial of the Patriarch of monks, let us pray for the holiness, apostolic zeal and fidelity of all who have received their vocation to the monastic life and let us imitate St. Anthony’s generosity in following God’s call to prayer, sacrifice and holiness.
O God, who brought the Abbot Saint Anthony to serve you by a wondrous way of life in the desert, grant, through his intercession, that, denying ourselves, we may ever love you above all things. Through our Lord.
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Fr. Rolly A.
PHOTO SOURCE: The Holy Family with St. Anthony, Abbot in http://radioteopoli.tumblr.com/image/48782399224
QUOTE SOURCE ON EXCERPT ON ST. ANTHONY’S LIFE: https://www.ewtn.com/saintsholy/saints/A/stanthonytheabbot.asp