Day Twenty-nine: St. Athanasius: Life of Anthony: Chaps. 81-94

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 144 here: lentfatherscomplete.pdf

Here we are at the end of the Life of Anthony in the final chapters of Athanasius’ biography, and the final chapters of Anthony’s life at the grand old age of 105! By this point in his life he had become widely renowned and respected far and wide, so much that judges and rulers would come and seek his advice on things, or sought out encouragement in their faith. Many looked up to Anthony as a father figure, even the emperor Constantine Augustus, and his sons Constantius and Constans the Augusti, who “wrote letters to him, as to a father, and begged an answer from him” since they themselves had come to the faith. Despite rulers and kings writing to him and seeking his advice, Anthony thought nothing of it and didn’t allow himself to become puffed up with pride over the status of men.

After meeting and seeing the various people who would visit, Anthony would retreat to the “inner mountain” where he resided and spent much of his time in prayer. It was here that those who accompanied him would often see that Anthony was “wrapped in a vision” and would not speak or move.

Anthony foresees persecution

Advertisement

At one time while Anthony was working, he fell into a trance with loud groans and trembling. Those with him “trembling and terrified, desired to learn from him what it was” that he saw, and after a while, Anthony explained that persecution was coming upon the Church from the Arian heretics. Athanasius interjects here to say that two years after Anthony saw these things, the “plunder of the churches took place, when [the Arians] violently carried off the vessels” from the churches along with “the heathens” who they also conscripted to help them. But Anthony encouraged his brothers and told them that things would be put right and everything would be restored in the end, and to avoid the teaching of the Arians in the meantime, “for their teaching is not that of the Apostles, but that of demons and their father the devil”.

How Anthony was used by the Lord

Here it is stated that although many great signs and wonders were done through the hands of Anthony, he never let this go to his head and always pointed to Christ as the reason and source of all the wonders. He would often teach on faith from the words of Jesus; that if you have only faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains and that nothing shall be impossible (Matt 17:20), and that if you ask the Father for anything in the name of Jesus, it shall be given (John 16:23), such as casting out demons, healing the sick and raising the dead (Matt 10:8).

He did this so that when he prayed for people, he “healed not by commanding, but by prayer and speaking the name of Christ. So that it was clear to all that it was not he himself who worked, but the Lord who showed mercy by his means and healed the sufferers”.

Persecutions from Arian sympathisers

At another point, a General Balacius came against the Christians who didn’t hold to the Arian view of Jesus (the doctrine which states that the Son had a beginning and wasn’t eternally with the Father always). He was so ruthless that he “beat virgins, and stripped and scourged monks”! Anthony took it upon himself to write to this man with a prophetic warning telling him to cease his persecutions, otherwise wrath would come on him very shortly since “it is on the point of coming upon” him already. He ignore the warning, and only eight days later, died from an unusual horse riding accident where one of his regular steeds, which was known to be a mild-mannered and temperate horse, suddenly bucked him off and bit through his leg which led to his death.

Advertisement

This served as a warning to all who were cruel or who may have planned to inflict punishment on the Christians, and many people sought out Anthony to hear him speak, or to receive prayer, with a lot of people turning from their worldly ways and dedicating themselves to the monastic life.

The death of Anthony

Anthony had learned “from Providence” (meaning either he learned it from God or just felt it was near because he was 105 years old), that his end was near and so he went out to see the monks in the “outer mountain” to bid them farewell and give them one last exhortation before he left them, “as though sailing from a foreign city to his own”. He encouraged them to remember all he taught them, to keep in the discipline and to “observe the traditions of the fathers, and chiefly the holy faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, which you have learned from the Scripture”. The monks “wept, and embraced, and kissed the old man” and he advised them on how to bury him, since the Egyptians liked to wrap their dead and display revered men in their homes as a display. Anthony instructed them that since Jesus was buried in the ground, that that was the only proper way to treat the dead; not to display them.

So he left for the inner mountain where he had his two companions promise to bury him secretly, and then he lay down and died with a smile upon his face, “as though he saw friends coming to him and was glad because of them”.

Athanasius closes his record of Anthony’s life by praising the type of life he lived and how he lived it purely for God from his youth.

This is the end of Anthony's life in the body and the above was the beginning of the discipline. Even if this account is small compared with his merit, still from this reflect how great Anthony, the man of God, was. […]  Read these words, therefore, to the rest of the brethren that they may learn what the life of monks ought to be; and may believe that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ glorifies those who glorify Him. … Amen

I feel like I'm parting ways with an old friend after reading about St Anthony in so much detail over these last few days, his life story has definitely had an impact on me and given me things to consider and areas I want to be more disciplined in.

Subscribe to Updates
Subscribe to:

Have something to say? Leave a comment below.

Leave a comment   Like   Back to Top   Seen 37 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

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...

Lent Day 37: Leo the Great: Letter XXVIII (called the "Tome")

| 12th April 2017 | Lent

Day Thirty-seven: St. Leo the Great: Letter XXVIII (called the "Tome") 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 defence of the twofold nativity and nature of Christ against the false teaching of a priest called Eutyches. It is a doctrinal letter sent by Pope Leo I in the year 449 to Flavian, Patriarch of Constantinople, on the Church's teaching about the person of Christ. Why: An apologetic defending the faith to ensure sound teaching is passed on and understood by all to affirm that Christ has two natures, human and divine, united in the one divine Person of the Son of God. When 3 June, 449 AD You can find today’s reading on page 182 here: lentfatherscomplete.pdf   Today's reading is a defence of the faith against certain things that a priest called Eutyches was teaching, written by Pope Leo I. Eutyches was speaking against the teaching of the Archbishop of Constantinople, Nestorius, who said that the human experiences of Christ were only part of the ‘the man’ which was distinct from the ‘God the Word’ part of Jesus. To combat this, Eutyches went too far in the other direction and declared that Christ was "a fusion of human and divine elements" which created a new, single nature in Jesus, rather than a twofold nature which the Creeds declare. This actually led to himself being declared a heretic also for this belief! Now Leo is writing against the teaching of Eutyches because it seems that he was unwilling to accept any correction to his doctrine. “But what more iniquitous”, Leo says,  “than to hold blasphemous opinions, and not to give way to those who are wiser and more learned than ourself?” Leo is quite scathing actually, and doesn’t hold back on denouncing the man or his teaching: Now into this unwisdom fall they who, finding themselves hindered from knowing the truth by some obscurity … thus they stand out as masters of error because they were never disciples of truth... He goes on to wonder how Eutyches could not have been corrected by others or more in depth study, or even want to change his view when even the the Creeds say otherwise, which is the measure by which all heresies are defeated. [Has he] not even grasped the rudiments of the Creed? And that which, throughout the world, is professed by the mouth of everyone who is to be born again … By which ... the devices of almost all heretics are overthrown. The Creed He goes on to quote the statements of the Creed, which is confessed by all the Churches, to make his point and contrast with what Eutyches said and taught, which was commonly accepted as the fundamentals of the faith: He is God from God , Almighty from Almighty, and being born from the Eternal one is co-eternal with Him; not later in point of time, not lower in power, not unlike in glory, not divided in essence: but at the same time the only begotten of the eternal Father was born eternal of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. Leo goes through many instances in the New Testament, from the Gospels to Paul's letters, to Old Testament prophecies, to really point out that Jesus was the Word made flesh – and truly flesh, not some deception. If Eutyches had read all these things closely, “then he would not speak so erroneously as to say that the Word became flesh in such a way that Christ, born of the Virgin's womb, had the form of man, but had not the reality of His mother's body”, which sounds a lot like Docetism, the heresy which was around much more a couple of centuries earlier. Instead, and in contrast to this, the commonly accepted doctrine on the nature of Jesus is explained by Leo as being, “without de...