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 said, “I saw the snares that the enemy spreads out over the world and I said groaning, ‘What can get through from such snares?” Then I heard a voice saying to me, “Humility.”
He also said, “Some have afflicted their bodies by asceticism, but they lack discernment, and so they are far from God.”
▪▪▪▪Anthony of the Desert
The wise ABBA gives us three distinct tasks that we all must face. We often try to go through the Christian life with ease and lack of complication. Some turn to rules or codes to keep them on the straight and narrow. Others seek super spirituality or spiritual superiority to ease them and comfort them in their Christian walk. The wisdom of the desert tells us that there is a simplicity in these tasks. Let’s just think about what this really means.
The first task as told by ABBA Anthony is not trust our own righteousness. We live in the world and a time that holds our own opinions and conclusions in the highest esteem. The wise father tells us to reexamine this. He goes on to say that we should put our past behind us. We will never repair, fix, or totally rebuild or relive our past. Our calling as Christians is to put the past behind us by filtering it through grace. That being said, we have a tremendous obstacle to overcome. The control of the stomach and the tongue is our greatest challenge. The stomach is representative of the carnal appetite we al
l possess and even take pride in at times. The tongue is the agent of that carnal appetite that builds the ego, creates the story, and makes us the masters of our own fate. We can try to lie our way, bluff our way, and allude our way into fulfillment. We are challenged with the task of overcoming self-righteousness.
The journey through this world is full of snares and traps. We create and search for ways to avoid the snares them. A snare is defined as a trap for catching birds or animals, typically one having a noose of wire or cord. As we follow our own ego and self-righteousness, we can be lured into a noose that we can never escape. Desert wisdom instructs us that the answer to this problem is humility. Humility is the ability to give up self and begin a life free from pride and arrogance. Such a life allows us to turn ourselves toward God and his grace and love. Do you hear the call of humility in your life or is it drowned out by the noise and confusion of the world that surrounds you? Developing a sense of humility is a key task to living the Christian life with victory and satisfaction .
The third task is to avoid becoming rabidly, unreasonably, super religious ABBA Anthony tells us that there are people who are beset by asceticism. They have afflicted their bodies with punishing fasts , self-flagellation and other practices that have not truly accomplished the objective of the aesthetic life. They have failed to discern the ultimate reason for all of these practices. Our spiritual practices should be seeking God and trying to develop a relationship with him. It does not matter how many times we fast , how disciplined we are or how much we suffer, our true task is to move closer to God. Being super pious or super religious will not get us there. We must live out the entire gospel in our lives. Discernment of the spiritually appropriate is a task of the Christian life.
The three tasks are:put aside self-righteousness, develop godly humility, and develop mature spiritual discernment. We should look for ways to master these tasks. Always remember that we will never totally master spirituality in this life. Every day we need to seek the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.
“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”
Lord, everyday we strive to come closer to knowing the unknowable, to change the unchangeable and to see the unseeable.
Guide us in the tasks that are necessary to move closer to you. Help us to be patient enough, humble enough and wise enough to stay on the pathway that leads to your kingdom.
These things are only made possible by you and the grace you bestow upon us.