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 Discerner of Spirits – St. Anthony The Great

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The Philosopher

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PostSubject: Discerner of Spirits – St. Anthony The Great   Wed Feb 18, 2009 3:04 am

St. Anthony was an Egyptian, born c. 251 of noble Christian parents who provided well for their son's future by educating him in the fear of God. His parents left this world when Anthony was 18 or 20, and he inherited a substantial fortune in terms of earthly wealth. But although he was at the age most attracted by fortune's delights, he aspired only to amass the riches of virtues.

Anthony was reflecting one day upon how the Apostles had forsaken all to follow after Christ. when he heard in church the words of the Gospel: "If thou wishest to be perfect, go and sell everything thou hast...and come and follow Me" (Matt. 19:21). Thus confirmed in his desire to do likewise, Anthony sold his estate and distributed the money to the poor, persuading his younger sister to be likeminded, he gave her into the care of some virgins.

Now free of all earthly attachments, the young man began to lead a life of great abstinence and self-denial on the outskirts of his village. He gave his mind no occasion to think back upon the affairs of this world but led it into a desert that it might be occupied with thoughts of pleasing God alone. He delighted in visiting the dwellings of righteous men and studying their virtuous habits which he proceeded to adopt for himself, exercising himself in their practice. Indeed, he was like a bee which gathers nectar from various blossoms and creates out of it a fragrantly sweet honey. With his concentrated desire Anthony rapidly ascended the ladder of perfection. The enemy, however, could not endure to behold the likeness of Christ shining forth from this creation of dust and ashes, and he determined to destroy this 'house of virtue. '

That night, as Anthony was still lying on the ground recovering, a hoard of demons shook the walls of the sepulchre and rushed in to terrorize the Saint. For this purpose they had taken on the forms of hideous wild beasts--hissing snakes, roaring lions, ferocious wolves, a bull which threatened to gore the victim. But Anthony was not frightened by what he perceived to be mere spectral creatures, and he made bold to mock his enemy's impotence: "What is the use of all this vain uproar? If ye have power to hurt, why don't you? But you can't, for the Lord is my shield and my wall of safety." The demons could only gnash their teeth in reply.

When Anthony had thus manfully proven himself as a champion athlete in the spiritual arena, he was granted to experience the comforting presence of the Lord. Lifting his eyes heavenward he saw a roof-curtain drawn aside and a ray of light descending upon him. Straightway the demons vanished, and Anthony felt his bodily pains melt away. Consoled by this outpouring of Divine Grace, he rested briefly from the fatigue of battle before addressing his Master aloud:

"Lord, where wast Thou when these sufferings and tribulations came upon me? Why didst Thou not help me?" He heard a voice in reply:

"I was here, Anthony, but I wanted to witness your combat. Having seen that you withstood your adversary without retreating, I shall from now on be your Helper and shall make your name celebrated far and wide as My faithful servant."

Anthony spoke of the evil and impure thoughts they try to instigate and of the fearful appearances they assume, of their pretention in foretelling future events. "Sometimes, too, they appear in the habit of monks, and talk very religiously in order to gain our confidence and then to seduce us." At the same time, he encouraged the brethren not to fear when they came under attack, but to fortify themselves by faith and the sign of the Cross: "If they find us rejoicing in the Lord, and meditating or conversing on divine things, then demons have no power over the Christian...for when they see the soul secured by such thoughts, they turn away deeply ashamed of themselves."

Besides his extraordinary skill in discerning spirits, St. Anthony had other gifts --of healing, of casting out demons, of foretelling future events. And although he was illiterate he readily outwitted many philosophers. Once, when some 'wise' men came thinking to mock his Christian faith, St. Anthony brought forward several people who were troubled with demons, and said, "Can you heal these men by your reasoning? or by any art or magic, calling upon your idols?" The Saint then called upon the name of Christ and marked the demoniacs with the sign of the Cross, a first, second and third time. Immediately the men were healed of their insanity, and the philosophers departed amazed by the miracle and by Anthony's wisdom.

Crowds flocked to this heavenly-born physician of the Egyptian desert, and no one left without being enriched from St. Anthony's store of gifts. "For who," writes St. Athanasius, "went to him in sorrow, and did not come back rejoicing? Who went to him in anger, and was not converted into a friend? What poor man met him, with a dejected heart, who, after he saw and heard him, did not go away despising riches and content with poverty? If a monk was remiss, he excited him to diligence. If a young man went to the mountain and beheld Anthony, he straightway renounced pleasure and embraced a life of temperance. Whosoever came to him, tempted by a demo n, was relieved; or if troubled with evil thoughts was tranquilized."

Even when St. Anthony had attained the heights of perfection, he never hesitated to learn from someone else. Nor did he, in his humility, ascribe his spiritual gifts to his own achievements, but exhorted those who benefited by his prayers to thank God Who is the source and cause of all that is good.

St. Anthony reached the venerable age of 104, still sound in mind and body notwithstanding his severe mode of life, Foreseeing the approach of death, he gave a final word of instruction to the brethren, warning them to beware of schismatics and the Arian heretics, and urging them to diligently guard their hearts and not to fear the demons. He died in peace after a short illness, welcoming his journey into eternity as et foreigner returning to his homeland. His life, once hidden in the desert, became famed throughout the Roman Empire, not on account of worldly wisdom or riches or political power, but because of his profound piety, towards God, to Whom he brought glory and honor.

"He who fights monsters should see to it that in the process, he does not become a monster. And when you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you." - Nietzche

Last edited by Miro on Sun Apr 19, 2009 10:55 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Discerner of Spirits – St. Anthony The Great   Wed Feb 18, 2009 5:47 am

Great post Miro! Very Happy

I have never head of this man, and thanks to you I am looking forward to learning more of him.

Good job!

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