Memorial of St. Anthony the Abbot


Today The Church honors the memory of St. Anthony of the Desert. He is known as the Father of all Monks because of his inspiring perseverance in holiness. It is said that when he heard the words from St. Matthew 6:34: “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today,” he gave away everything and went outside the village to live a life of praying, fasting, and manual labor. What sets St. Anthony apart was that he wasn’t just a hearer of the Word; he desired to become what Jesus proclaimed; he desired to be another Christ. He told many wanna-be monastics who came to visit him that the key to the ascetic life was perseverance, not to think proudly, and treat each day as if it were the beginning.

We have just crossed the threshold into the new beginning of a calendar year. At least for me, the Memorial of St. Anthony has been divinely planned because I have been examining some of the patterns of my own life that require Holy Spirit-given perseverance to become more humble like Christ. In a frenzied world that has lost its center, I can be whipped around by the tail, or get so caught up in trying to control the beat of my life that I lose my breath in effort and striving. Sometimes my life sounds to me like clanging gongs and crashing cymbals as St. Paul wrote. The asceticism of St. Anthony and other monastics entices me, beckoning my heart to retreat from the noise that surrounds me, even the noise within me! I can’t retreat to the edges of the world, but I can retreat into a solitude of the heart through the monastic understanding that all of life is sacred, and God is present to me as much as I will allow him to be.

The word ascetic has negative connotations in a society that turns to superficialities, comforts, and conveniences to solve the deep hunger of our lives. The thought of denying ourselves anything sends chills up the spine. Nevertheless, the self-discipline and intentional practices of self-denial that Christ proclaimed are true for every age. We can take our cues from the hard-won wisdom of the monastic life as it is modeled after Christ’s teaching.

The common theme in the monastic tradition of reverence toward the LORD is striking. Saint Athanasius wrote of St. Anthony, “Anthony was not known for his writings nor his worldly wisdom, nor any art, but simply for his reverence toward God.” Christine Valters Paintner wrote in one of her many books on Celtic monasticism, [To reverence God] “is to see all of creation as woven together in holiness and to live this truthIn this loving act, we begin to knit together that which has been torn; we gather all that has been scattered.” She writes that when we begin to see the Earth as our monastery no matter where we are, our reverence for the LORD can bring Christ’s healing presence to the world. Oh, I desire that for myself?

On the outside, the monastic tradition looks restrictive and rather tedious. But don’t you ever rail against the restrictions of the dull routine of our lives? I’m learning that the more I’m reverent to the LORD, the more I see life with all its dull bits as an offering to him. I’m becoming more aware that the ground I am standing on is holy ground ablaze with God’s presence. Instead of turning to a distraction like eating too much, drinking too much, playing too much, speaking too much, working too much–I can take an ascetic perspective by simply slowing down and recognizing that the very distractions I run to are leading me farther away from becoming another Christ in my corner of the world.

When I begin to understand this, all of life becomes sacramental as I reverence the LORD, in that I persevere in the knowledge that God is making all things new in each moment. Our Catholic Faith is a sacramental faith, not just in how we worship at Mass, but in how we live our ordinary lives deliberately reverent of the LORD. The monastic tradition of our Faith embraces this intentional way of life: we all can benefit from that example! As I knead the dough for our bread for the week or as I fold our laundry I enter into sacramental worship before the LORD God with the work of my hands. And I respond as Moses and probably many monastics before us by taking off my proverbial sandals for the ground beneath me is holy ground, prostrating myself in the very stuff of earth from which I was created.

My burgeoning desire is to follow Christ in the steps of the monastic tradition where Christ calls to us to live mindful of who we are with more intentionality at becoming another Christ. Just as Jesus lived, monastics unite themselves to the rhythm of God’s providence. Words like reflect, linger, savor–can become the music of our life when we choose to NOT to worry about tomorrow when we choose NOT to distract ourselves with soul-sucking pursuits when we choose NOT to acquire more of the stuff of this world.

How about you, friend? Do you find yourself more agitated by life as you try to keep pace with the world around us? Are there some deliberate steps you know you need to make to slow yourself down, to slow your family life down? As you embark on this calendar year you may want to ask yourself some of the questions I’ve been examining the hindrances in my life to how I reverence the LORD.

What am I distracting myself with that is hindering my holiness and robbing my joy? Jesus answers, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” –St. Matthew 6:19-21

Am I allowing this day’s trouble to overrule trusting in the LORD? Jesus answers, “…do not be anxious about your life, … Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? …Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin …  seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” –St. Matthew 6: 25-33

What peace of mind am I missing out on by delaying my decision to persevere in holiness and wholeness in this particular area of my life? Jesus answers, “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” St. John 14:26,27

Oh, Jesus, we long for your transforming grace in our lives. Holy Spirit, teach us how to reverence you, Blessed Trinity whom we adore!

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

As it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be, world without end.

Amen

Published by

The Maiden Warrior

Greetings, friend. "In silence and rest is your salvation" are words from the prophet Isaiah that echo the desire of my life. I've been following that desire my entire life as I seek to live and move and have my being in what the LORD desires for me. I'm still learning the beauty of silence and rest as my salvation, it's a long obedience in the right direction. This is my journey.

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