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."