St Anthony, Abbot – 17 Jan
Saint Anthony, the celebrated Father of Monks, was born in Egypt around the year 250. After his parents died he distributed his property to the poor and, beginning a life of penance, withdrew into solitude. He attracted disciples and laboured on behalf of the Church, giving support to believers during the persecution of Diocletian and assisting Saint Athanasius against the Arians. He died in 356.
When Anthony was about eighteen or twenty years old, his parents died. Not six months after his parents’ death, as he was on his way to church for his usual visit, he began to think of how the apostles had left everything and followed the Savior, and also of those mentioned in the book of Acts who had sold their possessions and brought the apostles money for distribution to the needy. This was all in his mind when, entering the church just as the Gospel was being read, he head the Lord’s words to the rich man: “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor – you will have riches in heaven. Then come and follow me.” It seemed to Anthony that it was God who had brought the saints to his mind, and that the words of the Gospel had been spoken directly to him. Immediately he left the church, and gave away to the villagers all the property he inherited, about 200 acres of very beautiful and fertile land. He sold all his other possessions, as well, giving to the poor the considerable sum of money he collected. However, to care for his sister he retained a few things. He gave himself up to the ascetic life, not far from his own home. He did manual work because he had heard the words: “If anyone will not work, do not let him eat.” He spent some of his earnings on bread and the rest he gave to the poor. Seeing the kind of life he lived, the villagers and all the good men he knew called him the friend of God, and they loved him as a son and brother. – from the Life of Saint Anthony by Saint Athanasius
Saint Anthony told his monks: When, therefore, they demons come by night to you and wish to tell the future, or say ‘We are the angels,’ give no heed, for they lie…. But if they shamelessly stand their ground, capering and change their forms of appearance, fear them not, nor shrink, nor heed them as though they were good spirits. For the presence either of the good or evil by the help of God can easily be distinguished. The vision of the holy ones is not fraught with distraction: ‘For they will not strive, nor cry, nor shall anyone hear their voice’ (Matthew 12:19; Isaiah 42:2). But it comes quietly and gently that an immediate joy, gladness, and courage arise in the soul. For the Lord who is our joy is with them, and the power of God the Father. – Ambrose:
The days are coming when men will go mad; and, when they meet a man who has kept his senses, they will rise up against him, saying, “You are mad, because you are not like us.” – Saint Anthony