Introductory Note:

January 17 is St. Anthony the Abbot’s feast day, and one of our favorite Church Fathers is joining us today to help us celebrate.

Some of you may remember that Chris Hall led us through Athanasius’s Life of Antony in the 2015-16 season of the Renovaré Book Club. So, today’s excerpt may feel like a visit with an old friend—or rather two old friends.

St. Anthony offers his fellow monks some wise counsel on the practice of examen—showing them how reflecting on their spiritual lives will both keep them from sin and promote love. Enjoy!

Renovaré Team

Excerpt from The Life of Antony and the Letter To Marcellinus

So after cer­tain days he went in again to the moun­tain. And hence­forth many resort­ed to him, and oth­ers who were suf­fer­ing ven­tured to go in. To all the monks there­fore who came to him, he con­tin­u­al­ly gave this pre­cept: Believe in 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.’

And espe­cial­ly he coun­seled them to med­i­tate con­tin­u­al­ly on the apos­tle’s word, Let not the sun go down upon your wrath’ (Eph­esians 4:26). And he con­sid­ered this was spo­ken of all com­mand­ments in com­mon, and that not on wrath alone, but not on any oth­er sin of ours, ought the sun to go down. For it was good and need­ful that nei­ther the sun should con­demn us for an evil by day nor the moon for a sin by night, or even for an evil thought. That this state may be pre­served in us it is good to hear the apos­tle and keep his words, for he says, Try your own selves and prove your own selves’ (2 Corinthi­ans 13:5).

Dai­ly, there­fore, let each one take from him­self the tale of his actions both by day and night; and if he have sinned, let him cease from it; while if he have not, let him not be boast­ful. But let him abide in that which is good, with­out being neg­li­gent, nor con­demn­ing his neigh­bors, nor jus­ti­fy­ing him­self, until the Lord come who search­es out hid­den things ‚’ as says the blessed apos­tle Paul. For often unawares we do things that we know not of; but the Lord sees all things. Where­fore com­mit­ting the judg­ment to Him, let us have sym­pa­thy one with anoth­er. Let us bear each oth­er’s bur­dens’ (Gala­tians 6:6); but, let us exam­ine our own selves and has­ten to fill up that in which we are lacking. 

And as a safe­guard against sin let the fol­low­ing be observed: Let us each one note and write down our actions and the impuls­es of our soul as though we were going to relate them to each oth­er. And be assured that if we should be utter­ly ashamed to have them known, we shall abstain from sin and har­bor no base thoughts in our mind. For who wish­es to be seen while sin­ning? Or who will not rather lie after the com­mis­sion of a sin, through the wish to escape notice? As then while we are look­ing at one anoth­er, we would not com­mit car­nal sin, so if we record our thoughts as though about to tell them to one anoth­er, we shall the more eas­i­ly keep our­selves free from vile thoughts through shame lest they should be known. Where­fore let that which is writ­ten be to us in place of the eyes of our fel­low her­mits, that blush­ing as much to write as if we had been caught, we may nev­er think of what is unseem­ly. 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.’

This was the advice he gave to those who came to him. And with those who suf­fered he sym­pa­thized and prayed. And oft-times the Lord heard him on behalf of man; yet, he boast­ed not because he was heard, nor did he mur­mur if he were not. But always he gave the Lord thanks and besought the suf­fer­er to be patient, and to know that heal­ing belonged nei­ther to him nor to man at all, but only to the Lord, who does good when and to whom He will. The suf­fer­ers there­fore used to receive the words of the old man as though they were a cure, learn­ing not to be down­heart­ed but rather to be long-suf­fer­ing. And those who were healed were taught not to give thanks to Antony but to God alone.

From Anthana­sius’s The Life of Antony, in the pub­lic domain via New Advent.

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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