Category Archives: Abba Anthony

Relaxation and God

A hunter in the desert saw Abba Anthony enjoying himself with the brethren and he was shocked. Wanting to show him that it was necessary sometimes to meet the needs of the brethren, the old man said to him, ‘Put an arrow in your bow and shoot it.’ So he did. The old man then said, ‘Shoot another,’ and he did so. Then the old man said, ‘Shoot yet again and the hunter replied ‘If I bend my bow so much I will break it.’ Then the old man to him, ‘It is the same with the work of God. If we stretch the brethren beyond measure they will soon break. Sometimes it is necessary to come down to meet their needs.’ When he heard these words “the hunter was pierced by compunction and, greatly edified by the old man, he went away. As for the brethren, they went home strengthened.

——Abba Anthony

It is a novel thought for most people that relaxation and rest are an important part of life. The average American works 11 hours more per week that they did in 1970. That is a somewhat startling little fact. I wonder how much more we are really accomplishing than we were forty seven years ago. Without a doubt the rise in use of pain killers, sleeping pills and people who suffer depression are linked to our lack of rest. The number of prescriptions for sleeping pills alone, grew 30 times over between 1994 and 2007. Hospitalization for clinical depression has been on the rise since 1975.

Why is this happening?

The wise man of the desert pointed this out to the hunter, and it changed the hunter’s life. We need to rediscover the value of rest, and to acknowledge that it is necessary for physical and spiritual wellbeing. God knew this when  He gave us the Sabbath. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. The Hebrew word Sabbath literally means “to cease.” Just as God rested from His creation work, we are to rest from our day-to-day occupations and refocus on what’s really important. It’s a day to push the reset button. Anthony and God were on the same page here. All of us need to “relax the bow” before it snaps.

Plan a personal SABBATH, you need it!


Prayer

Lord give me that courage to pause. The world threatens me if I dare to think that I can take time to renew my body and my faith. Long ago you gave us the command to do so. Too often we see your commands as chores rather than pathways to blessings. Help us to see the bright pathway that is illuminated by Sabbath rest.

Amen

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The Great Work of Man

Abba Anthony said to Abba Poemen, “This is the Great Work of a man: always to take the blame for his own sins before God and to expect temptation to his last breath.” He also said, “Whoever has not experienced Temptationtemptation cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” He even added, “Without temptation, no one can be saved.” Abba Pambo asked Abba Anthony, “What ought I to do?” and the old man said to him, “Do not trust in your own righteousness, do not worry about the past, but control your tongue and your stomach

—-Abba Anthony of the Desert

There are several very biting suggestions made here by the old Monk. Perhaps we can use his advice to bring us a little closer to God. I am convinced that all men seek closeness to God. Some call this closeness getting in touch with their inner bein., Others may call it karma, but I just call such closeness prayer, and prayer allows me to know  God. He is my creator, friend and redeemer.

Our first step is to take blame for our own sins. A good expression for this is “owning up.” We live in a world of excuses and explanations, but raw truth is always best. I confess to being amused when I heard the expression”alternative facts” this past week. Anthony tells us to simply take blame for our own failures. The scripture says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” That is the beginning of our path to heaven and peace on this earth.

He reminds us to expect temptation every day of our lives. On face value that is very depressing, but temptation drives us to the grace of God. The scripture reminds us that we have all sinned but it also says,“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Simply put, temptation drives us to a choice – God or self satisfaction. God created us with a free will and salvation is a choice, a serious and demanding choice that we all have to make. Our easy, comfortable and pleasure seeking world resists the concept of choices that limit our “freedom.” For those that choose Jesus, there is no greater freedom to be had.

Allow me to chase the “sin rabbit” for just a moment. God offers forgiveness and the world offers forgiveness. There is, however, an astounding difference between God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of the world. Convicted felons Forgive-Forgetwho have served their time and even expressed genuine remorse for their crimes are excluded from voting and holding public office, have limited credit privileges, can be denied a job,cannot serve on some juries, and are excluded from other rights in ways that vary from state to state. They have served their time, but their crime is not forgotten. ALL of us, whether we admit it or not , are unable to forget the sins (we may forgive and even move on) of those that have offended u., Only God can do that. God’s offer of forgiveness and salvation is the one that we can’t pass up. No one, I mean no one, offers such a gift but God.God says, “For I will be merciful towards their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” God is so good to us!

Now back to the monk, “do not trust your own righteousness but control your tongue and stomach” The tongue has the ability to destroy others and ourselves. When we utter a false wittiness against some we have the potential of denying that person so much. With our tongues we can cause people to lose their relationships, reputations and in some cases their lives. In World War Two there was an expression,”Loose lips sink ships.” The importance of keeping confidences and telling the truth cannot be underestimated. Control of the stomach is an analogy for controlling our carnal nature. We should think before we use our bodies in ways that dishonor ourselves and God. Control your carnal nature or it will be the end of you.

Work-of-Man

The great work of man is to trust God and control our nature with the tools He provides. I found a poem that calls this an act of wisdom.


He, in whose bosom wisdom’s seed is sown,

To waste a single day was never known;

Either he strives to work God’s will,

Or else exalts the cup, and works his own.

Omar Khayyam


Prayer

O Lord as I embark on my great work this day I do so fully aware of my dependence on you. Walk with me and keep me aware of your company. Rebuke when I need rebuking. Give me encouragement when I am down. Most of all remind me when I have moved into my own path while forgetting your path. In doing these things you give me the richness of your grace and the benefit of your remarkable love.

Amen

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Finding a Way

One day some old men came to see Abba Anthony. In the midst of them was Abba Joseph.   Wanting to test them, the old man suggested a text from the Scriptures, and, beginning with the youngest, he asked them what it meant. Each gave his opinion as he was able.  But to each one the old man said, ‘You have not understood it.’ Last of all he said to Abba Joseph, ‘How would you explain this saying?’ and he replied, ‘I do not know.’ Then Abba Anthony ‘Indeed Abba Joseph has found the way, for he has said: “I do not know.”

—-Abba Anthony of Egypt

The current events of our day demand that presidential candidates know everything. As a result, these candidates say things that are not well thought out, and even reckless. People lie on their resumes because they feel they must do so in order to get ahead. The world we have created is one that encourages everyone to be more, do more than is realistic. That demand has been the downfall of many who could function in a world that accepts and respects, “I don’t know.”

“I do not know.” These are four most difficult words. Admitting these words has been difficult for people since the beginning, since we are created with a “must know” nature. All men run from mystery, and yet God is a mystery. He calls us to believe what we have not seen. We are led to serve without knowing the results of our service. Be attentive to the voice of the Spirit that calls us to action, even the things that remain a mystery to us.

The old monk helps us find a way in the here and now to the mystery of God. The “I do not know” is the way that we express our belief in that unknowing mystery of God. We are surrounded by atheists and doubters who have demanded concise and quick answers about the God we worship. We are first and foremost a people of faith. As the writer of Hebrews tells us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” Proclaim your faith and live your life in the joy of not having all the answers.

PRAYER

Dear Lord ,I do not know why there is so much evil in the world. I do not know why I fail to love you and my neighbor as much as I should. I do not know why prayers that seem so necessary go unanswered. I do not know why the scripture is full of mysteries. It is in that sort of unknowing that I cry out to you in faith.

Amen

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Three Precepts

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 the Holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live do not easily leave it. Keep these three precepts and you will be saved.”

—–Antony of Egypt


  • ALWAYS HAVE GOD BEFORE YOUR EYES

This statement begs the question, how do we always have God before our eyes? God is before our eyes when we worship and pray. The monk is telling us that our lives should be bathed in worship and prayer. In these practices we can find the face and heart of God.

  • WHATEVER YOU DO, DO IT ACCORDING TO THE TESTIMONY OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES

The Psalmist writes, children sing -“the Bible is a lamp unto my and a light unto my path.” The monk advises that this simple instruction is one of the keys to pleasing God. Today’s world seems to have neither light nor path. Antony steers us to the lighted path of Holy Scripture.

  • WHATEVER PLACE YOU LIVE DO NOT EASILY LEAVE IT.

Monks call this one stability. Our transient, temporary society is floundering for lack of stability. Marriages crumble, jobs are abandoned, work goes unfinished, all because we are not willing to commit ourselves to being in for the long haul. Pleasing God requires that we develop stay power – the type that settles us in long enough to walk through the valley that precedes the mountain.

The words of this monk of old can take us a long way today.


God-Before-your-Eyes-Quote

Prayer

Lord help me to know how to live this day. May I have the unction to keep you before my eyes in the midst of the many distractions of this life. Help me to look to the scriptures when confusion and disarray come my way. Let your scriptural light- light my way. Allow me to find peace in the place that you have provided for me. In finding that peace, I then can become a blessing to others.

Amen

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The Art of Pleasing God

“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 the holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it.  Keep these three precepts and you will be saved.”

—sayings of the Desert Fathers

Abba Anthony gives us three simple, and yet difficult principles, that we must do to please God. Monk in prayer 1

  • Always have God before your eyes
  • Live in harmony with scripture
  • Have stability of place in your life

The challenge is to keep God before our eyes when our sight is so cluttered with the saga of life. Additionally, we are called to live with the scripture as the ever present guide for our lives. As if that were not enough, we are then instructed to “stay put” even when things are tough. Our world tells us quite clearly to keep focused on the earthly, while perhaps giving some attention to God, and to move on whenever life gets uncomfortable. Perhaps if we all developed a vision of God and followed that vision where we are planted, we would find that peace that eludes us.

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