Memorial of Saint Anthony, Abbot

Today is the feast day of St. Anthony of the Desert.  Anthony grew up in a wealthy family in Egypt.  After the death of his parents, he discerned to follow the evangelical counsel of the Lord to sell everything he owned and to give it to the poor (Mt 19:21).  He went to the desert for a life of harsh asceticism and prayer.  He is regarded as the father of Christian monasticism when he instructed interested seekers to form a collective of hermits.

The wisdom of the early desert fathers and mothers come through brief stories.  The stories contain their responses to their pupils’ questions, who were eager to learn about the holiness cultivated from their way of life.  The brevity of the stories complements the simplicity of the truths that are contained within.  The way of life for the desert hermits, like Anthony, demonstrate the difficulty in living by the simple truths of our Christian faith.

One story is worth mentioning that is attributed to St. Anthony.

An Archer once saw Saint Anthony taking his ease with his brethren and was displeased at the sight.

Anthony said to him: ‘Put an arrow to your bow and shoot!’ 

The archer did so, but when he was ordered to do the same thing a second and third time, he said: “If I go on doing this, my bow will break!”

Anthony: “So it is with us as we do God’s work.  If we stretch ourselves unduly, we are quickly broken, so it is good for us to relax from our rigors from time to time.”[1]

Anthony’s example is not one that everyone has to mimic.  Each person has a unique call to holiness from God.  However, one feature of his life is a balm to the busy-ness and noise that surrounds our lives: the need for silence and rest.  When we find both, we are forced to confront the soft voice of God that gets drowned out through a normal hectic schedule.

How do I carve out time for rest and silence in my daily routine?  When I have heard God in silence or rest?

[1] Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints, Volume I, trans. William Granger Ryan (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1993), 94.

January 17th, 2017