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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. IV:
Life of Antony. (Vita Antoni.): Section 7

Early Church Fathers  Index     

7. This was Antony’s first struggle against the devil, or rather this victory was the Saviour’s work in Antony 1005 , ‘Who condemned sin in the flesh that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit.’ But neither did Antony, although the evil one had fallen, henceforth relax his care and despise him; nor did the enemy as though conquered cease to lay snares for him. For again he went round as a lion seeking some occasion against him. But Antony having learned from the Scriptures that the devices 1006 of the devil are many, zealously continued the discipline, reckoning that though the devil had not been able to deceive his heart by bodily pleasure, he would endeavour to ensnare him by other means. For the demon loves sin. Wherefore more and more he repressed the body and kept it in subjection 1007 , lest haply having conquered on one side, he should be dragged down on the other. He therefore planned to accustom himself to a severer mode of life. And many marvelled, but he himself used to bear the labour easily; for the eagerness of soul, through the length of time it had abode in him, had wrought a good habit in him, so that taking but little initiation from others he shewed great zeal in this matter. He kept vigil to such an extent that he often continued p. 198 the whole night without sleep; and this not once but often, to the marvel of others. He ate once a day, after sunset, sometimes once in two days, and often even in four. His food was bread and salt, his drink, water only. Of flesh and wine it is superfluous even to speak, since no such thing was found with the other earnest men. A rush mat served him to sleep upon, but for the most part he lay upon the bare ground. He would not anoint himself with oil, saying it behoved young men to be earnest in training and not to seek what would enervate the body; but they must accustom it to labour, mindful of the Apostle’s words 1008 , ‘when I am weak, then am I strong.’ ‘For,’ said he, ‘the fibre of the soul is then sound when the pleasures of the body are diminished.’ And he had come to this truly wonderful conclusion, ‘that progress in virtue, and retirement from the world for the sake of it, ought not to be measured by time, but by desire and fixity of purpose.’ He at least gave no thought to the past, but day by day, as if he were at the beginning of his discipline, applied greater pains for advancement, often repeating to himself the saying of Paul 1009 : ‘Forgetting the things which are behind and stretching forward to the things which are before.’ He was also mindful of the words spoken by the prophet Elias 1010 , ‘the Lord liveth before whose presence I stand to-day.’ For he observed that in saying ‘to-day’ the prophet did not compute the time that had gone by: but daily as though ever commencing he eagerly endeavoured to make himself fit to appear before God, being pure in heart and ever ready to submit to His counsel, and to Him alone. And he used to say to himself that from the life of the great Elias the hermit ought to see his own as in a mirror.


Footnotes

197:1005

Rom. 8:3, 4Rom. viii. 3 and 4.

197:1006

Eph. vi. 11.

197:1007

1 Cor. ix. 27; Ath. (with many fathers and uncials) appears to have read ποπιάζω, the reading which is followed by the Authorised Version.

198:1008

2 Cor. xii. 10.

198:1009

Phil. iii. 14.

198:1010

1 Kings xviii. 15.


Next: Sections 8-10

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