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.

Image: Albrecht Dürer, St Anthony Reading, 1519

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