Someone asked Abba Anthony, “What must one do in order to please God?” The old man replied, “Pay attention to what I tell you: whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes; whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of holy scripture; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it. Keep these three precepts and you will be saved.”
++++Anthony of Egypt
— Always have God before your eyes
Thomas Merton said,” The spiritual life is first a matter of keeping awake to God ” This echoes the words of Anthony when he tells us to always have God before us. To live in constant awareness of God is more than most of us really accomplish. We say prayers or have prayer time but then God is set aside. The goal of the contemplative should be to live awake to the presence of God no matter what surroundings we are in at the time. In being awake we know that God is always with us. He lives in us and introduces himself through us to others in the world. This precept allows us peace in our lives and gives us the blessing of helping others find that peace as well. Let us practice keeping God before our eyes. Perhaps the best way to keep God before our eyes is to practice meditation every day. We can live a life of presence.
Many of you have been reared in churches that often refer to the scripture as a sword, authority or light. The Psalmist tells us, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” These terms and that verse indicate that holy scripture will lead us where we must go. The Bible is a beacon or guide that allows us to defeat enemies and find our way. Holy scriptures light our dark paths so that we might not stumble. Anthony conveys to us one of the keys of a life well lived is to perform in accordance with holy scripture. In order to perform in accordance with scripture, we must read and study the word with consistency. Let us never allow ourselves to step away from the habit of regular reading of the scriptures so that we may live as they instruct.
—Have stability of place
Today’s monks take a vow of stability. Most of you who read this will never become a part of a monastic community. Many of us will not only not live in community but will be required to move to make our living. How do we find stability? We begin to find it by not always believing that the next job, the next house is where we need to be. We must develop a sense of blooming where we are planted. There is another way. Scriptures say, “That we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error.” (Ephesians 4:14) By reading and studying scripture we can develop a stability of belief. We can be longstanding in our belief because we know why and what we believe. We can all have stability.
The constant awareness of the presence of God, a consistent pattern of living in accordance with the scripture and a stability of mind will carry us in a direction that charts toward the kingdom of God. Anthony gave us these precepts almost 2000 years ago and they are as true now as they were then. Let us strive to keep these precepts before us as we attempt to navigate the challenges that this life sends our way. These three simple ideas will improve our lives beyond our expectation.
Lord, allow me to see you as I seek you this day. Lead me to study your word enough so that it may truly guide me and bless me with the stability of mind that allows me to be capable of having stay power. In these things I ask your spirit to guide and protect me. May all my attempts to find you and connect with you end as I see your face. I pray this and all else in the name of Jesus my Messiah.