Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Abba Anthony 3

The first two sayings record Abba Anthony questioning his own life. With the third saying we see Abba Anthony taking the role of elder, giving a word in response to a question. Now if I were a true disciple seeking a word from an elder, I would listen, then spend a few years putting the word into practice and only after mastering the first advice would I dare come back for more. Being more of a dilettante than a real disciple, I will instead press on.

Abba Anthony is asked how one goes about pleasing God, what must one do, what rule to keep. Abba Anthony gives three precepts. The first says that whoever you are, always keep God before your eyes. Since we cannot see God, Anthony is not suggesting some kind of visualization exercise. He is commanding us to pay attention. In essence he is calling us to a kind of prayer, recollecting that no matter who we may be we are always standing before God. The second precept says that whatever you do, do it according to the testimony or witness of the scriptures. Even a "mystic" of the desert begins with the scriptures. Again, there is no secret knowledge just the same writings available to all Christians. The third precept advises that wherever you live, do not leave easily (or quickly). Abba Anthony is advising a virtue that will show up later in the monastic vow of stability. Underlying this is the view that you are where you are by the providence of God and have lessons to learn in the spot God has placed you. Of course we can put ourselves in bad places, but the principle remains the same. We cannot escape our problems by moving because we carry our problems with us. To put it in brief, live before God, live according to the scriptures, live where you are. As Abba Anthony concludes, do these things "and you will be saved."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Greetings in Jesus,

I'm glad to know you're 'here.' Treasure hunting a while back, I happened by a second-hand copy of "The Way of a Pilgrim," and have since purchased Philokalia. I'll be back to read more of your posts and comment now and then. For now, I'll share with you parts of an excerpt that is meaningful to me (out of thousands!).

“…although learning the alphabet is something elementary, unless we learn it we cannot proceed to any more advanced study. In the same way, although our first steps in spiritual knowledge may be very slight, unless we make them we will not acquire any virtue at all. Because of this I am afraid to write anything about wisdom, since I am entirely lacking in it.

“…whenever I have wanted to write something I have not been able to formulate it in my intellect until I have actually picked up my pen. Frequently it was some small thought suggested by Scripture, or something I had heard or seen in this world, that set my mind to work; but as soon as I took up my pen and began to write, at once I discovered what I needed to say…

“…St. Antony says that every word or act ought to be supported by divine Scripture. It is in this spirit that I begin to write… I do not do this in order to teach others - God forbid! - but in order to reprove my unhappy soul, so that, shamed by my own words, as St. John Klimakos says, I who have done nothing but speak may begin to act.”

(from Philokalia, volume 3, pp.211-212)

Trusted and praised be Jesus, A.F.