Day Twenty-two: St. Athanasius: Life of Anthony: Chaps. 11-20

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 112 here: lentfatherscomplete.pdf

Today we will see what began as a simple desire for personal growth with God, eventually became one of the most influential movements within not only early Christianity, but the faith as a whole.

Anthony is regarded as the father and founder of desert monasticism, and today we will see how it all started.

Advertisement

The old hermit that Anthony met previously, he asked to go into the desert with him to dwell, “more eagerly bent on the service of God”. The old man declined due to his age, but also because “there was no such custom” of living in the desert, so Anthony left on his own to live in the mountains and the devil attacked him again.

Twenty years of solitude

After going into the desert, Anthony arrived at the Nile and found an abandoned fort on the other side of the river, where he set up camp to live, surviving only on bread which was brought to him by some friends every so often.

Anthony spent twenty years alone in this fort, save for the demonic attacks he suffered. At one point they were so much that the villagers thought he was under physical attack from men, but discovered him alone and in prayer, singing praises and hymns to God.

When two decades has passed, he finally left the fort to find a great crowd had amassed waiting for him so they could learn of his discipline.

Advertisement

On seeing Anthony, though, they were all amazed because he had the “habit of body as before, and was neither fat, like a man without exercise, nor lean from fasting and striving with the demons”; and being full of the Spirit, “through him the Lord healed the bodily ailments of many present, and cleansed others from evil spirits” and with godly wisdom he countless counselled many various people in need.

He began preaching from Romans 8:32 about how God didn’t hold anything back, but gave up even his only Son, and continued “exhorting all to prefer the love of Christ before all that is in the world”, which led many to prefer the solitary life of devotion to God than to their worldly pleasures, and eventually caused many groups to gather “even in the mountains, and the desert was colonised by monks, who came forth from their own people, and enrolled themselves for the citizenship in the heavens”.

To me, that seems pretty amazing! That such conviction could fall on so many people to die to self and truly live a live devoted to God at the expense of the world – it’s inspiring I think, and not something you see a great deal of happening today to that kind of level (in the Western Church at least, and not en masse).

Monastic communities form

As more monks gathered in the desert, they came to Anthony to hear what he could teach them, and he gave basic rules, saying that  “the Scriptures are enough for instruction, but it is a good thing to encourage one another in the faith, and to stir up with words”, and to take what you learn and pass it on to others and to keep strong in their devotion to God so that they may gain their inheritance of eternal life when they pass from this life.

Nor let us think, as we look at the world, that we have renounced anything of much consequence, for the whole earth is very small compared with all the heaven …  Therefore let the desire of possession take hold of no one, for what gain is it to acquire these things which we cannot take with us?

He encouraged his followers to not grow weary of their devotion and discipline, but to keep their focus right, similar to what Paul wrote in Col 3:2 about setting your mind on things above, and again, in Phil 3:14, about pressing on towards the goal and heavenly prize of Christ. To “die daily” (1 Cor 15:31) to self and keep pressing on in Christ.

“Wherefore having already begun and set out in the way of virtue, let us strive the more that we may attain those things that are before”, Anthony taught, not to “feel regret and to be once more worldly-minded”, basing his interpretation and teaching on Luke 9:62.

Contrasting entering the Kingdom of God with how other nations attain the things they want, Anthony uses the example of the Greeks. They cross seas to gain knowledge, but believers have no need to do that, since Jesus had already said that “the kingdom of heaven is within you” (Luke 17:21), so we “have no need to depart from home for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, nor to cross the sea for the sake of virtue”.

Advertisement

His encouragement here, I think, is that no matter where we are, and whatever capacity we have (or don’t have), we have no excuse nor reason to not do the work of the Kingdom which Jesus has assigned us all to do in the Great Commission. Reading this now reminds me of my favourite Scripture, which I’ll end today’s post with:

Acts 20:24

But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace.

 

Contribute on Patreon

Enjoying this? Consider contributing regular gifts for this content on Patreon.
* Patreon is a way to join your favorite creator's community and pay them for making the stuff you love. You can simply pay a few pounds per month or per post that a creator makes, and in return receive some perks!

Subscribe to Updates
Order my new book today from Amazon or fortydays.co.uk

Subscribe to:

Have something to say? Leave a comment below.

Leave a comment   Like   Back to Top   Seen 100 times   Liked 0 times

Subscribe to Updates

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

Order my new book today from Amazon or fortydays.co.uk

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

40 Days with the Fathers: Companion Texts OUT NOW!

| 08th May 2019 | Early Church

40 Days with the Fathers: Companion Texts is now available to buy as Paperback or Kindle! I am happy to say that the new book is now available in paperback and Kindle format on Amazon! Other eBook formats will be available soon as it rolls out. This book is the companion to my other book (40 Days with the Fathers: A Daily Reading Plan), and includes twenty-three Early Church texts in full—including all additional footnotes from the original editors and translators so that you can get as close as possible to reading these ancient texts without needing to know ancient Greek or Latin. It's structured in such a way to read a chapter a day over a 40 day period which will help digest these long texts, and also serve as an easy introduction to what is often the more scholarly/academic side of things. Order your copy today to get the Paperback at the special low price of £19.99 (RRP: £21.99)! In the UK? Go to Amazon.co.uk In America or worldwide? Go to Amazon.com Thank you for your interest and support of my work! Luke J. Wilson...

40 Days with the Fathers: Source Texts Companion Book

| 02nd March 2019 | My Books

Available soon will be a companion book that will include all of the source texts in full, which I had hoped to get out in time for Lent, but it’s unlikely to be ready in time this year. So if you have my book and would like to read along each day with the Church Fathers as well, I’ve compiled a list of online sources where you can read the original texts. If you don’t have the book and would like it, you can order it now from Amazon and still get it in time for Lent by clicking the following link: Amazon.com; or if you would like to pledge some support towards my book writing in return for some nice perks, you can do so on my Patreon page: https://patreon.com/LukeJWilson. If you would like to be notified of the release of the new Companion Book, you can sign up to the mailing list at the top of the homepage at https://fortydays.co.uk.  Day One: The Didache http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0714.htm Day Two & Three: Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0101.htm Day Four: Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0136.htm Day Five: Ignatius, Epistle to the Ephesians http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0104.htm Day Six: Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0105.htm Day Seven: Ignatius, Epistle to the Trallians http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0106.htm Day Eight: Ignatius, Epistle to the Romans http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0107.htm Day Nine: Ignatius, Epistle to the Philadelphians http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0108.htm Day Ten: Ignatius, Epistle to the Smyrnæans http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0109.htm Day Eleven: Epistle to Polycarp http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0110.htm Day Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen: Justin Martyr, First Apology http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0126.htm Day Eighteen, Nineteen, Twenty: Cyprian, On the Unity of the Church http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/050701.htm Day Twenty-one to Twenty-nine: Athanasius, Life of Anthony http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2811.htm Day Thirty: Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures XIX http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310119.htm Day Thirty-one: Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures XX http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310120.htm Day Thirty-two: Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures XXI http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310121.htm Day Thirty-three: Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures XXII http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310122.htm Day Thirty-four: Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures XXIII http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310123.htm Day Thirty-five, Thirty-six: Ambrose of Milan, Concerning the Mysteries http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3405.htm Day Thirty-seven: Leo the Great, Letter XXVIII (the Tome) http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3604028.htm Day Thirty-eight: Leo the Great, Sermon XXI http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/360321.htm Day Thirty-nine: Leo the Great, Sermon XLIX http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/360349.htm Day Forty: Leo the Great, Sermon LXXII http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/360372.htm ...

The Reformation: A Sound-Bite History (Book Review)

| 14th February 2019 | Book Review

This short little book on the Reformation and some of the leading men who helped to kick-start it and continue to fan its flames has been very enjoyable to read. It really is a “sound bite history” as the chapters are short and snappy, and really only cover the absolute basics of each of the Reformers lives. The book has seven chapters, with six of them dedicated to an individual who had a pivotal role in the beginnings of the Reformation: Martin Luther, John Wycliffe, John Huss, John Calvin, Hugh Latimer and George Whitefield. The Reformation:A Sound-bite History I found it to be very educational and easy to read and digest; gleaning just enough information to be easily remembered without it feeling like a heavy and dull historical study. Though, it being written by someone who is a Baptist, if you're well read enough in church history you will likely notice some of the Baptist bias towards certain doctrines that are mentioned as being held by some of the Reformers which grate against typical Baptist views. For example, the frequent implication that anyone who still held to some form of “real presence” in the Eucharist hadn't come to the 'pure Gospel truth' yet (despite this being consistent with historical Christianity prior to the Roman Catholic Church’s specific doctrine of transubstantiation). "Widespread ignorance of church history of one reason why the church often falls into errors which it has fallen into before." But aside from those minor issues, the book did well to not feel like it was pushing a certain viewpoint on you and was just trying to give a decent overview of the historical settings and people involved. Well worth a read, whether you are a Protestant OR a Roman Catholic! I gave this book four stars.  Buy the book here....

Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up (Book Review)

| 30th January 2019 | Book Review

Straight off, this book will challenge you in your thinking and quite possibly in your practice and outworking of life as a Christian—especially if you are from an evangelical/Baptist/non-denominational background. Will the Real HereticsPlease Stand Up The book starts of taking you carefully through some of the practices and beliefs of the early church and those who knew the Apostles personally. It all feels very hopeful and like you're being led onward in a journey towards a certain goal, much of which I'm sure you'll find agreeable in what Bercot points out as discrepancies between early Christianity and today. Then we get to a few points about the Reformation. Some of the critique I think was a little harsh and not necessarily accurate, painting a fairly negative picture of Martin Luther. Some of the points raised were a fair statement against some of the doctrine and theology that came out of the Reformation period (such as Luther being heavily influenced by Augustine's theology more than earlier church fathers). After the high of the first few chapters, these chapters came as a bit of a punch in the gut. I would also recommend looking up all of Bercot's claims as there does sometimes seem like there is a strong bias of opinion coming through certain chapters, which takes away from the feel of the book trying to give an objective look at the topic at hand. But that aside, Bercot leads you back on this journey, aiming to uplift you once again with hope as he takes you towards a positive look at the Anabaptists. I knew before reading the book that Bercot is an Anabaptist himself, so I was wary that this book might just end up being advertisement for that denominational group as the new modern answer for getting back to early Christian practices. Whilst there are positive points made for the early Anabaptist movement being as close as possible to the early second century church, Bercot isn't shy to criticise the group in its modern form as having lost their zeal and passion for the Gospel. After trying to re-inspire you with the hope that it is somewhat possible to restore early Christianity, as the Anabaptists did, before the Church “married itself to the world” as Bercot claims (and I agree with), he finishes off by asking the reader the question of “what now?” and whether we restore the Church to its former glory. Bercot seems to believe so if only the Church would return to simplicity of holiness and pick up its cross and revolutionary banners again “from where the early martyrs left them”. This book is definitely a call to arms in the holiest sense; a call for us all to re-examine ourselves and our churches to see if what were living, believing and practicing is still in line with the New Testament church which the early Christmas bore witness to. Well worth the read for anyone who takes their faith seriously. Buy the book here. Bonus: Francis Chan's "Letters to the Church" Letters to the Church I've also just finished reading this book by Francis Chan before starting Real Heretics. Although it's not dealing with the Early Church aspect of looking at the primitive Church, it still looks at similar questions of how can we get back to a simpler, more pure faith that the Apostles and Jesus began. It's definitely a challenging book and had struck me right where I needed it to. It's helped verbalise some of the questions and issues I've had for the last few years myself any the current form and format of "church". Though Chan is primarily speaking to an American Evangelical audience, much of his points and criticisms still speak well to my British/UK Evangelical experience. If you've felt disgruntled or at odds with how we "do" church in some places, this book may well inspire you to see things differently and to maybe even enact some changes yourself in your local community — even more so if you are a local church leader in some capacity. Well worth the read, and works well to read befo...