Day Twenty-six: St. Athanasius: Life of Anthony: Chaps. 51-60

Who: Bishop of Alexandria; Confessor and Doctor of the Church; born c. 296; died 2 May, 373 AD. He was the main defender of orthodoxy in the 4th-century battle against the Arianism heresyCertain writers received the title “Doctor” on account of the great advantage their doctrine had on the whole Church, Athanasius especially for his doctrine on the incarnation.

What: The biography of Anthony the Great’s life, which helped to spread the concept of Christian monasticism, particularly in Western Europe.

Why: From the letter’s own prologue: “The life and conversation of our holy Father, Anthony: written and sent to the monks in foreign parts by our Father among the Saints, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria.” They wanted an accurate account of his life so they imitate his life and teaching.

Advertisement

When: Somewhere between 356 and 362 AD

You can find today’s reading on page 131 here: lentfatherscomplete.pdf

Today we pick up at the start of a new chapter in Anthony’s life. He’s just relocated to a new mountain further in the Egyptian desert with the aid of the Saracens and with what is described as a ‘divine love’, Anthony was moved to love the area he found. But it soon became a small burden to him as people would seek him out and look to visit him, or to bring him bread. This area was a three day and night trek from where he previously lived, so the thought of other people taking this treacherous journey concerned him dearly. Eventually, after asking some to bring him corn and seeds, he managed to till the ground to be able to make his own bread and grow his own herbs to save others from needing to bring him food.

Sometimes the wild animals would ruin his garden looking for food and water, but at one point Anthony gently captured an animal and said to it, “Why do you hurt me, when I hurt none of you? Depart, and in the name of the Lord come not nigh this spot” and as though they could understand his words, no longer did the animals come back!

Not against flesh and blood

Advertisement

By this point in time, Anthony was an old man and some of the other believers who had served him, would bring olives and oil and other supplies once a month. Upon visiting him they would sometimes witness strange things going on as spiritual events formed against Anthony, as though soldiers and beasts were attacking him, but he would be seen praying against them and the demons fleeing.

They “heard tumults, many voices, and, as it were, the clash of arms … and [Anthony] also fighting as though against visible beings” since he wrestled not against ‘flesh and blood’ “but against opposing demons” as Athanasius learned from those who visited him during these times.

At other times, demons would make appearances to try and bring fear and to shake his trust in Christ, or they would cause all the hyenas nearby to come and surround Anthony. But, not fearing the Evil One and having his mind set on Christ, he rebuked them and commanded they leave in the name of the Lord if they were sent by demons, which they did and he was then left alone.

Anthony visits the other monks

Some time later, the other monks enquired of Anthony and wanted him to come and visit them, so he set off on the journey with those who came to him. On their way through the desert, their water ran out and they were still some way from any water source, and so the men despaired and let their camel go, and sat on the ground unable to move. Anthony, seeing the danger, went a short walk away to pray to the Lord for help, and immediately, water sprang up where he was standing! So they filled their bottles, found the camel and went on their way refreshed and restored.

Advertisement

On arriving at the the cells of the other monks, Anthony rejoiced in seeing their earnestness and was also happy to find that his sister had become the leader of the nuns in her old age.

During this time, Anthony gave some teaching to the monks and hermits who were living there which were his guidelines for his discipline:

Believe on the Lord and love Him; keep yourselves from filthy thoughts and fleshly pleasures, and as it is written in the Proverbs, be not deceived "by the fullness of the belly." Pray continually; avoid vainglory; sing psalms before sleep and on awaking; hold in your heart the commandments of Scripture; be mindful of the works of the saints that your souls being put in remembrance of the commandments may be brought into harmony with the zeal of the saints.

He also encouraged them to live by the words of Paul in Ephesians 4:26, where he said not to let the sun go down on your anger. Anthony interpreted this further to mean not just anger, but any sin which was committed so that before the end of the day you have set things right with others or have prayed and repented to the Lord. Even further still, he would teach that in order to control our thoughts so that we let nothing sinful enter our mind (ie. “take every thought captive” – 2 Cor 10:5), that the monks should write down every thought they have as though they were to read them out loud to one another at the end of the day. Through seeing what we think and with the idea of others knowing it, the shame ought to keep us in check and help to strengthen our minds against evil thoughts, “thus fashioning ourselves we shall be able to keep the body in subjection, to please the Lord, and to trample on the devices of the enemy”.

Miracles of healing that the Lord did through Anthony

Advertisement

Anthony would spend a lot of his time praying with those who suffered, and sometimes those with illnesses would receive healing. But he taught not to boast if they were, and not to mutter if they weren’t, but to rejoice in all things and to be patient because “healing belonged neither to him nor to man at all, but only to the Lord” and God would do good to those he chose, when he chose to, and “those who were healed were taught not to give thanks to Anthony but to God alone”.

At one time, a man named Fronto, an Officer of the Court, came to Anthony with a terrible disease where he “used to bite his own tongue and was in danger of injury to his eyes” and sought prayer. On seeing him, Anthony sent him away saying that on his departure he would be healed. But the man remained for a few days, so Anthony went again to him and told him that he wouldn’t get what he wanted until he went on his way back to Egypt, so the man left and upon seeing Egypt, suddenly he received his healing as Anthony had said, “which the Saviour had revealed to him in prayer”.

Another time a woman from Busiris Tripolitania came to him who was paralysed and had strange fluid issues coming from her eyes, nose and ears. Her parents had heard of Anthony and because they had read the Gospels of when Jesus healed the woman who had been bleeding for many years, they took her to the monk seeking prayer for healing too. On arriving at the place where the monks were staying, some of Anthony’s companions went to find him and tell him about the girl, but on coming to him, he already knew about her and her condition. He told them to go back to the girl and they will find her healed, since “the accomplishment of this is not mine, that she should come to me, wretched man that I am, but her healing is the work of the Saviour”. Anthony always made sure to place the glory where it belonged and never to take any credit for himself in these things.

At another time, two monks were travelling through the desert, and their water supplies ran dry. One of them died and the other was on the brink of death when Anthony, during prayer, it was revealed to him that this was happening, so he sent two men to that location with water to save the monk.

Advertisement

One other time when Anthony was sitting and praying, he looked up and saw a man in a vision, being taken upwards towards many who were joyful at his arrival. Wondering what this was, he prayed and enquired of the Lord, who responded by telling him it was the soul of “Amun, the monk at Nitria” being taken up into the presence of the Father, for he had died. The companions of Anthony, seeing the amazed expression on his face, asked what he was seeing, and he explained that Amun had died. This monk lived about thirteen days travel away and was well known to the monks where Anthony was staying.

Amun had often stayed with them, and was known for the signs which the Lord had performed through him also. One of these which is recollected here was of a time when he had to cross the river Lycus with a companion of his. To avoid the shame of seeing the other naked while swimming, Amun went first while his friend Theodorus stayed a little distance away. But he became afraid of having to become naked, even of seeing himself that way, that while pondering on this and how he should approach the situation, he suddenly found himself on the other side of the river standing by Amun!

If that wasn’t surprising enough, he noticed that Amun wasn’t even wet and so he asked how it was possible, but Amun refused to tell him. Theodorus grabbed his feet and wouldn’t let him go until he explained it, so Amun swore him to secrecy until after his death and told him that he had not even touched the water as the Lord had carried him across the river in a similar way that Jesus allowed Peter to walk on water. Now that Amun had died, Theodorus recalled the story to the other monks.

About thirty days later, some men from Nitria arrived to tell the news of the death of Amun, and those who met them enquired of the time of death and saw that it was at the very moment when Anthony had seen the vision from the Lord, and they all marvelled and rejoiced at the things the Lord did through Anthony.

Advertisement

That’s all from today’s reading, but wow what a lot to take in! The Lord surely did some amazing things through his servant Anthony which in turn caused many to come to faith after hearing his reputation for his dedication to the Lord and the wonders worked through him.

I hope this inspires you to seek the Lord more and to persevere more with your faith and the discipline of living as Jesus commanded us and as the Apostles taught us via their letters.

 

Subscribe to Updates
Subscribe to:

Have something to say? Leave a comment below.

Leave a comment   Like   Back to Top   Seen 87 times   Liked 0 times

Subscribe to Updates

If you enjoyed this, why not subscribe to free email updates ?

Subscribe today and get a 10% discount code for the online shop!

Subscribe to Blog updates

Enter your email address to be notified of new posts:

Subscribe to:

Alternatively, you can subscribe via RSS

‹ Return to Blog

We never share or sell your email address to anyone.

I've already subscribed / don't show me this again

Recent Posts

The Resurrection as a historical event

| 29th April 2017 | Easter

Table of Contents Jesus was raised bodily – and historically The resurrection is what makes Christianity unique! Evidence from Paul The mystery of the resurrection The nature of the resurrection The resurrection is more than physical What with Easter still ringing in our ears, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the topic of resurrection, but from a historical standpoint and why we can trust it as a real, world-changing event. So, what really is the resurrection? How will we be resurrected, and what does it mean for us that Jesus rose again? Let’s explore what this means for us as Christians, and see what the Scriptures say. Jesus was raised bodily – and historically Let’s look at the way Jesus was resurrected first, since he is the “firstfruits” of the resurrection (1 Cor 15:20-23). The historical, bodily resurrection of Christ is central to our faith. Without it, we may as well pack up and go home, which Paul makes clear to the Corinthian church: 1 Corinthians 15:12-15 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. I saw a survey recently about this very topic, which suggested that a worrying amount of self-identifying Christians in Britain don’t believe that the resurrection of Jesus happened at all! Fewer than one-in-three Christians in Britain believe “word-for-word” the Biblical story of Jesus rising from the dead … A survey for the BBC carried out to mark Palm Sunday found that 23 per cent of those calling themselves Christians “do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead” at all. [Source: telegraph.co.uk] The resurrection is what makes Christianity unique! Despite the misinformation that circulates on the internet, Jesus isn’t just a carbon-copy of previous “dying and rising gods” from Egypt and Greece – mainly because none pre-date Christianity! The consensus among modern scholars — nearly universal — is that there were no dying and rising gods that preceded Christianity. They all post-dated the first century. [Source: y-jesus.com] It’s this uniqueness and reality which impacts our lives and changes us from within, because the “Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells” in us (Rom 8:11)! Think about that for a moment. The power that raised Christ from the dead – that incredible force of God; the very life giving Spirit of the universe, dwells in US! Christians might do all those [good works], but that is not the core of their faith. It is the result of their faith. They do those things as the musician plays music or the athlete plays his sport. They do those things because they are talented and it gives them joy. So the Christian does these good things because he has been filled with the Spirit of the risen Jesus Christ and he does those things with joy because he wants to. [Source: patheos.com] Recently, the Shroud of Turin has been in the news again, as it has been recently authenticated again, which shows that it may not be a medieval forgery or piece of art! If you’ve not heard of this “Shroud of Turin”, it’s an ancient burial cloth which bears the image of a man who has been crucified, obviously meaning to be of Jesus. It attracts attention because of its unique nature and that it appears to be a negative image somehow imprinted on the cloth in an inexplicable way: Giulio Fanti of Padua University ... In 2012 … concluded that an electrical charge in the form of radiation is what likely caused the man’s image to be imprinted on the Shroud. He has also dated the Shroud to th...

Lent Day 40: Leo the Great: Sermon LXXII: ON THE LORD'S RESURRECTION, II

| 15th April 2017 | Lent

Day Forty: St. Leo the Great: Sermon LXXII: ON THE LORD'S RESURRECTION, II Who: Leo the Great, also known as Pope St. Leo I (the Great), was Pope from 440-61 AD. Place and date of birth unknown; died 10 November, 461. Leo's pontificate, next to that of St. Gregory I, is the most significant and important in Christian antiquity, as he tried to  combat the heresies which seriously threatened church unity even in the West, such as Pelagianism. What: A sermon on the Gospel, incarnation and resurrection of our Lord. Why: To encourage the Church in the power of the incarnation and the true faith and the nature of Christ and to give a new meaning to Passover in light of Jesus When: Between 440 and 461 AD You can find today’s reading on page 195 here: lentfatherscomplete.pdf   Here we are, at the final day of Lent. I hope you've found it an interesting journey through Church History, covering various authors and topics from the first four centuries of the Church. And what better way to end this series than with a sermon on the resurrection! “The whole of the Easter mystery, dearly-beloved, has been brought before us in the Gospel narrative”, Leo declares as the opening statement of this sermon. What is this Easter mystery? “The cross of Christ, which was set up for the salvation of mortals” which is both a “mystery and an example” for us to follow. It's “a sacrament where by the Divine power takes effect” and “an example whereby man's devotion is excited” to be “inseparably united to” Christ, who is “the Way that is of holy living, the Truth of Divine doctrine, and the Life of eternal happiness (Jn 14:6). Christ took our nature upon Him for our salvation In the beginning, when the “whole body of mankind had fallen”, our merciful God had purposed in himself to make a way to reconcile “His creatures made after His image [...] through His only-begotten Jesus Christ”. Leo goes on to say that if we had not fallen from how God made us, we'd have been happy; but now we can be happier if we remain in what he has remade us to be through his Spirit. Jesus was “excluded [from] all taint of the sin which has passed upon all men”, that taint being “weakness and mortality, which were not sin, but the penalty of sin”. The “Redeemer of the World” suffered these things for our sake, “that they might be reckoned as the price of redemption”. In us is the “heritage of condemnation”, but in Christ is the “mystery of godliness” (1 Tim 3:16) Through the enemy, Jesus had “His spotless flesh” tortured. Because of this, because Jesus willingly went to die for us, now “believers in Him might find neither persecution intolerable, nor death terrible, by the remembrance that there was no more doubt about their sharing His glory than there was about His sharing their nature”. Set your minds on things that are above Following on with the previous thought, Leo goes on to explain that, “in Christ we are crucified, we are dead, we are buried; on the very third day, too, we are raised”; which is why Paul writes to the Colossians, Colossians 3:1-4So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. We achieve this raising by the power of Christ with us, who lifts us up, because he is with us, as he promised: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). This in itself fulfills the promise that his own name means, prophesied by Isaiah when he said, they “ ... shall name him Immanuel” (Isa 7:14), which means “God with us”. But even in Christ's ascending, he has not forsaken us, because even though he sits at “the right hand of God” (Acts 2:32-33), he...

Lent Day 39: Leo the Great: Sermon XLIX (On Lent XI)

| 14th April 2017 | Lent

Day Thirty-nine: St. Leo the Great: Sermon XLIX (On Lent XI) Who: Leo the Great, also known as Pope St. Leo I (the Great), was Pope from 440-61 AD. Place and date of birth unknown; died 10 November, 461. Leo's pontificate, next to that of St. Gregory I, is the most significant and important in Christian antiquity, as he tried to  combat the heresies which seriously threatened church unity even in the West, such as Pelagianism. What: A sermon on the season of Lent as the Easter festival approached. Why: To encourage the Church to fast during this season in order than they may put away temptations and overcome their vices, to be guided by God in all things. When: Between 440 and 461 AD You can find today’s reading on page 191 here: lentfatherscomplete.pdf   Today's reading is a Lenten sermon from Pope Leo I that he preached in the run up to the Easter festival, in which “the greatest and most binding of fasts is kept, and its observance is imposed on all the faithful without exception; because no one is so holy that he ought not to be holier, nor so devout that he might not be devouter.” Lent is a time of self-reflection and discipline, a time where we look at the life of Jesus and mourn his death as the disciples did, before we realise the reality of the resurrection which comes in a few short days. “Who is there who would not wish for additions to his virtue, or removal of his vice?” Leo asks rhetorically, referring to the benefits of the Lenten fast and discipline. “Blessed, therefore, is the mind that passes the time of its pilgrimage in chaste sobriety, and loiters not in the things through which it has to walk”. Leo refers this back to what Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 as a way of living in such a way that we don't get too caught up in this life and this world that we forget about the divine promise and the life we are called to live. Matthew 7:14For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it. “...although that which [the flesh] desires is short-lived and uncertain, yet men endure toil more willingly for the lust of pleasure than for love of virtue”, which leads to the why the wide road is filled with unnumbered people who chase after the visible. But the narrow path, for those who prefer the eternal, unseen things, is few and far between, but by hope we will be saved (2 Cor 4:18; Rom 8:24). Satan robbed of all his tyrannic power It is during this season, Leo goes on to say, that Satan is “consumed with the strongest jealousy and now tortured with the greatest vexation” due to the great number of people fasting to renew their faith and discipline in following Christ. Even those who had slipped into worldly cares, become lukewarm or were just weak in faith, “furnished [themselves] with spiritual armour” and renewed their enthusiasm! Through Jesus's victory on the cross, many people turned to faith, and so Satan was “driven from the hearts of those he once possessed” and was stripped of his power over such people. But as James wrote, “all of us make many mistakes” (James 3:2), so we must all be willing to forgive one another, in order that we don't violate the holy command in the Lord's prayer which we bind ourselves to, where it says, “forgive those who sin against us” (Luke 11:4); if during this time, Satan brings temptations or divisions amongst the Church. Our duties during Lent Leo goes on to say that we must strive to be peacemakers because they will be blessed and “called children of God” (Matt 5:9), so especially now, any discord or enmity between other believers should be rectified and reconciled; otherwise, “let no one think to have a share in the Paschal feast that has neglected to restore brotherly peace”! Aside from forgiveness and reconciliation amongst ourselves, Leo also says that our fast-times should be “fat and abound” with regards to almsgiving and care of the poor. “Let...

Lent Day 38: Leo the Great: Sermon XXI (On the Nativity Feast I)

| 13th April 2017 | Lent

Day Thirty-eight: St. Leo the Great: Sermon XXI (On the Nativity Feast I) Who: Leo the Great, also known as Pope St. Leo I (the Great), was Pope from 440-61 AD. Place and date of birth unknown; died 10 November, 461. Leo's pontificate, next to that of St. Gregory I, is the most significant and important in Christian antiquity, as he tried to  combat the heresies which seriously threatened church unity even in the West, such as Pelagianism. What: A sermon on the Nativity at Christmas time, about the incarnation of the Word of God. Why: To explain the incarnation and preach the Good News of our Lord and Saviour becoming man for our sake so that we may be saved and born again. When: Between 440 and 461 AD You can find today’s reading on page 189 here: lentfatherscomplete.pdf   Today's reading is a Christmas sermon from Pope Leo I. This may seem totally out of place during Lent and you may be wondering why this was included, but there is some sense and logic going on here! This reading marks the beginning of the final three days of Lent, and the topics covered all work together in the build up to the glorious resurrection of Christ. This sermon reading deals with the first coming of our Lord as a baby, the mighty Word of God incarnated as a small and fragile child to save the world. Tomorrow’s sermon goes over aspects of Lent itself, in which we celebrate and remember the life and ministry of Jesus; and then finally, the last sermon is on the resurrection where we celebrate Christ’s triumph over death and sin which is what Easter is all about. So in short, these sermons cover the major points in the life of Jesus, which is quite fitting to close this series with. Celebrating Christmas is to celebrate “the birthday of the Life, which destroys the fear of mortality and brings to us the joy of promised eternity”. "There is for all one common measure of joy, because as our Lord the destroyer of sin and death finds none free from charge, so is He come to free us all." Through his birth, Jesus has “taken on him the nature of man, thereby to reconcile it to its Author” by defeating the devil and death (Gal 4:4). And so it was, “the Word of God, Himself God, the Son of God”, the one who was in the beginning with God; the one by which all things came into being (Jn 1:1-3), came with the purpose of saving us from “eternal death” by “bending Himself to take on Him our humility”. By doing this, the Word did not “decrease in His own majesty”, but he remained “what He was and [assumed] what He was not”. This was so that he “might unite the true form of a slave to that form in which He is equal to God the Father”; this then joined “both natures together by such a compact that the lower should not be swallowed up in its exaltation nor the higher impaired by its new associate”. Without detriment, the nature of God came together with the nature of man in one person; “inviolable nature was united with possible nature, and true God and true man were combined to form one Lord”. This Lord is our Mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2:5) due to his dual nature, and because of this, he “could both die with the one and rise again with the other”. “For unless He were true God, He would not bring us a remedy, unless He were true Man, He would not give us an example.” “By the mystery of Baptism you were made the temple of the Holy Ghost”, and through that act we put off the old man, and thus “obtained a share in the birth of Christ” and became “a partner in the Divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). So even though this was a sermon about the Nativity, it was more focused on the nature of the incarnation and how that relates to us with regards to salvation. We were purchased for a price, the “money is the blood of Christ” which brings salvation to all of the world. Let us go forth towards the resurrection in confidence at what Christ has done for us, working out our salva...