Tag Archives: Abba Anthony

Breaking the Bow

8-16-17

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 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 said 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 of the Desert

From the beginning there have always been people who have viewed the Christian life as a life of drudgery. This type of life that has no room for fun or laughter. The hunter in our saying was shocked to see that monks could have fun, after all, monks were supposed to be serious and reverent. Monastic (Christian) life just has to be extremely hard, difficult and exhausting. There can be no room for laughter or relief. Abba Anthony taught the hunter the necessity of diversion and relief by challenging him to test his bow beyond its endurance. Every person, every machine, has its limits. When those limits are exceeded a breakdown can occur. Just as the hunter’s bow had its breaking point if rest was not given, so do we. What are some “take aways” from this saying?

  • Don’t judge people by your preconceived opinions.
  • Don’t neglect your need for down time.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  • Don’t force your body to endure beyond its capacity.
  • God wants you to laugh.
  • God wants you to meet people where they are.
  • God wants you to strengthen people.

Let us not make the mistake of lording over people that God sends our way. Show them that you are kind and generous, but most of all, that you are genuine. We can accomplish so much more for the kingdom when we allow ourselves to be genuine and vulnerable. Then the world sees Christians as their friends who want the best for them. Too often, the world sees the followers of Jesus as demanding, harsh and a rule driven sort of people. The world is truly looking for the “good news” and we can give it to them. People are strengthened and renewed by laughter and kindness and that is the calling of a Christian to bring light and life to the world.

Do something that is burden easing for someone this week.


Prayer

My Lord, help me to spread your grace to those around me. Help me to be a person of light to all I encounter. I pray that You will plant in me the secret of being a burden lifter for those you have entrusted to my influence. May my world be filled with laughter and joy.

Amen

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Filed under Abba Anthony, Desert Fathers

I Do Not Know

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

Monastery of Saint Anthony, Egypt

Monastery of Saint Anthony, Egypt

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

“I do not know.” These are the four most difficult words to say in our society. Admitting these words has been difficult for people since the beginning. 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 to the things that remain mystery to us.

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Filed under Antony of Egypt, Desert Fathers

Hope in Exile

 

It happened one day that one of the brethren in the monastery of Abba Elias was tempted.   Cast out of the monastery, he went over the mountain to Abba Anthony. The brother lived near him for a while and then Anthony sent him back to the monastery from which he had been expelled. When the brothers saw him they cast him out yet again, and he went back to Abba Anthony saying, ‘My Father, they will not receive me.’ Then the old man sent them a message saying, ‘A boat was shipwrecked at sea and lost its cargo; with great difficulty it reached the shore; but you want to throw into the sea that which has found a safe harbor on the shore. ‘When the brothers understood that it was Abba Anthony who had sent them this monk, they received him at once.

—-Sayings of the Desert

This saying deals with a very difficult dilemma. I am going to assume that the brothers who expelled the monk had a legitimate reason to do so. When people live in community, or attend the same church, there are times that personalities clash, mistakes are made, and the boredom of sameness hits. In all these situations there is usually a more guilty party that pays the price of the conflict, but there should be a desire for reconciliation. Abba Anthony reminds us in this saying that we are all potential victims of a personal or spiritual shipwreck. Further he tells us we would never turn our backs on the victims of a true shipwreck that comes to our shores. The real key to the saying is this; when someone asks to be reconciled with the community, we must give them a chance at redemption. Permanent exile, or expulsion, is not the way of the Christian.

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Filed under Antony of Egypt, Christian Living, Church, Church Conflict, Community, Desert Fathers

Finding Space for God

Monk in cellAbba Anthony said, ‘just as fish die if they stay too long out of water, so the monks who loiter outside their cells or pass their time with men of the world lose the intensity of inner peace.  So like a fish going towards the sea, we must hurry to reach our cell, for fear that if we delay outside we will lose our interior watchfulness.’

 —–Sayings of the Desert Fathers

Commentary

I would venture to say that very few of us that will read this are monks. Nevertheless, the challenge is very clear. Christians who spend the bulk of their time seeking pleasure from material things will find themselves in spiritual distress. Take the lesson from the wisdom of the fathers, and spend some time each day in the things of God.

Prayer

Jesus our peace, if our lips keep silence, our heart listens to you and also speaks to you. And you say to each one of us: surrender yourself in all simplicity to the life of the Holy Spirit; for this, the little bit of faith you have is enough. Amen

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Filed under Advent, Advent Devotional, Antony of Egypt, contemplative, Desert Fathers, Monasticism, Uncategorized

Pleasing God

Haarlem, Netherlands, Church of Saint Anthony

Haarlem, Netherlands, Church of Saint Anthony (Photo credit: Multerland………)

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

Commentary

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

Prayer

Lord God, help us to see you in all that we do. Guide us by divine revelation each day of our lives. Help us to find true peace in the place you have given us. In these things we can find you in your fullness and grace. After all, that is what our journey is all about. We humbly ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

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Filed under Advent, Advent Devotional, Antony of Egypt, Christian Living

The Donkey Died

Some brothers came to find Abba Anthony to tell him about the visions they were having, and to find out from him if they were true or if they came from the demons.  They had a donkey, which died on the way.  When they reached the place where the old man was, he said to them before they could ask him anything, ‘How was it that the little donkey died on the way here?’ They said, ‘How do you know about that, Father?’ And he told them, ‘The demons showed me what happened.’ So they said, ‘That was what we came to question you about, for fear we were being deceived, for we have visions which often turn out to be true.’ Thus the old man convinced them, by the example of the donkey, that their visions came from the demons.

……sayings of the Desert Fathers

The age old question for us is: How does the devil lead us? In this somewhat complicated saying the Abba leads his followers to believe that they can be led by the evil one. Many people see “visions from God” that are not from God at all. Today, as it was then, we must be on our guard when with put God into our claim. When the scripture tells us to approach Him with “ fear and trembling” we are to take heed of those words. Our society is all too quick to assign things to God, or to the devil, when they are really just our own ramblings. Be very careful when you call on either that you have the discernment necessary to make such a decision.

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Filed under Antony of Egypt, Christian Living, Desert Fathers, Evil, Sin

Ascend to God

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 temptation cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. ‘He even added, ‘Without temptations no-one can be saved.’

Jacob’s Ladder

 

—-Sayings of the Desert Fathers

In a world where TV networks hire “spin doctors” to make the story turn in the “right” direction,  it is no wonder we fail to acknowledge our weaknesses and failures. After all, this problem must be somebody else’s fault. It is no wonder that Anthony called it

the great work of life. All of us have someone to blame for our sin and shortcomings. It is our childhood, the boss, the job, the teacher or if all else fails, just everyone. That’s bad enough, but the best is yet to come. We are to expect temptations throughout our lives – no relief, no time out. They are part of the human condition. Temptations are what form us into the children of God. Our challenge is to ascend to God and walk the path he has set before us.

 

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Filed under Antony of Egypt, Christian Living, contemplative, Desert Fathers, Missional Living

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. 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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Antony of Egypt, Christian Living, Desert Fathers, Missional Living, Monasticism