St. Anthony the Great and God’s Help in the Struggle with Evil

St. Anthony the Great St. Anthony the Great
    

We do not serve every day, and therefore the names and teachings of saints from whom we could learn so much pass us by and are rarely remembered. Thus, yesterday was celebrated the day of the founder of monastic labors in the Egyptian desert, St. Anthony the Great [commemorated January 17/30], in whose memory and honor were named all those who later bore this name, including the founder of Russian monasticism St. Anthony of the Kiev Caves.

I would like to direct your attention to only one event in his life. He left for the desert as the first of all ascetic monks, in order to do battle with the evil that existed in his heart. He did not run from the world—he left for the desert to for single combat, to wage war face to face with an evil that is more complex, more terrifying and destructive than the evil that surrounds us in the world.

And so, during one period of a terrible, destructive storm he was tried by temptations of all kinds; he battled desperately, he battled with all his strength, and finally his strength was exhausted—not only his emotional but also bodily strength—and he lay on the bare ground, feeling that he could struggle no longer. At that moment the Savior Christ stood before him; all darkness was illumined by His presence, and all those horrors retreated. Then, helpless to even stand before Him and bow down to Him, Anthony exclaimed, “Lord! Where were You when I was in such a terrible struggle? Couldn’t You help me?...” The Savior answered him, “I stood invisibly beside you, ready to help you, only if your faith were to waiver…”

These words of the Savior are directed at each one of us. We all stand before the face, or are under the power of an inner struggle: a struggle with darkness, a struggle with evil, with fear, with perplexity, with everything that makes up fallen human nature. And each of us ceaselessly prays, “O Lord, come! Lord, take this burden from me! Lord, free me!...”

So often do I hear the complaint that the Lord as if does not answer this cry of the soul. But in fact, the Lord stands beside us, watching joyfully when we courageously, with faith, with faithfulness in our hearts struggle in His name as warriors do battle for their king, struggling for him even if they must in this struggle be wounded, maimed, or killed.

This is our human calling—if we are Christ’s, then we are sent to this world by Christ in order to struggle and conquer by His name and in His name. Let us remember this every time we find ourselves under the power of temptation, when bitterness rises in us, and anger, fear, hatred, and every other passion: We are granted this struggle—precisely granted it. It is our honor, our glory that God entrusts us—us, the weak and insignificant—to struggle with evil in the world. And this struggle begins not outwardly, not in our opposition to those close and far, but it begin within us, in the victory over ourselves, in overcoming everything, becoming the masters of our own souls, taking control over our souls, bodies, minds, hearts, will, and lives—and giving it all into God’s hands, so that we might serve Him with our whole heart, our whole soul, all our strength, all our mind, and everything that we have. Amen.

See also
“Christ waits for faith from us” “Christ waits for faith from us”
Olga Rozhneva
“Christ waits for faith from us” “Christ waits for faith from us”
The life and instructions of Gerontissa Macrina (Vassoloulou) (1921-1995)
Olga Rozhneva
Gerontissa Macrina was the abbess of the Monastery of Panagia Hodigitria near the city of Volos, a spiritual child of Elder Joseph the Hesychast († 1959) and Elder Ephraim of Philotheou and Arizona. Gerontissa led monasteries founded with the blessing of Elder Joseph the Hesychast for more than thirty years, from 1963 to 1995. She acquired numerous spiritual gifts and was blessed with high spiritual states.
Orthodox Living in the Modern World: Steps to Spiritual Transformation Orthodox Living in the Modern World: Steps to Spiritual Transformation
From a talk by Schema-Archimandrite Sergius (Bowyer)
Orthodox Living in the Modern World: Steps to Spiritual Transformation Orthodox Living in the Modern World: Steps to Spiritual Transformation
From a talk by Schema-Archimandrite Sergius (Bowyer)
Archimandrite Sergius (Bowyer)
In this talk Fr. Sergius speaks on several important themes, including the benefits of pilgrimage for helping us to encounter God, the power of the saints, moving away from an inner monologue towards a dialogue with God beginning with a consistent prayer rule, and having an attitude of blessing and thanksgiving.
On Actuality and Reality (for the commemoration of St. Anthony the Great) On Actuality and Reality (for the commemoration of St. Anthony the Great)
Roman Savchuk
On Actuality and Reality (for the commemoration of St. Anthony the Great) On Actuality and Reality (for the commemoration of St. Anthony the Great)
Roman Savchuk
In this respect, the stories in the lives of the ancient desert dwellers seem so distant and nonsensical in our modern reality that a question might arise: Just how needed and beneficial are these Lives for people in our times?
Comments
Rdr Andreas Moran6/21/2017 12:56 pm
St Anthony does not set an example for all; it takes a great saint, strong in faith and spirit, to confront evil in such a way. I was taught that for ordinary Christians, it is safer to try to ignore evil since most of us do not have the spiritual or physical strength to do what St Anthony did (or even what Silouan the Athonite did). This does not mean that we do not struggle - we do - but our struggle is of a different order.
Jack1/31/2017 8:10 am
It does not say he did not do battle with the demons even physically. In fact, Met. Anthony even notes that he was physically exhausted from his battle.

It says he went into the desert for the purpose of battling the evil in his own heart. Is that incorrect? Are you suggesting his purpose for going into the desert was to do physical battle with demons? The article nowhere denies that he did physical battle with demons, but rather states that his purpose was to be purified of his own passions. His physical battles with the demons simply isn't the focus of this particular article.

It's better to slow down and read with comprehension than to constantly be on a crusade against the evil evil West.
Antonije1/30/2017 10:22 pm
I don't really geddit. Whilst I can understand we all have to battle with ''our inner demons'' which are in fact the demonic forces tempting us to evil, we read in the life of Pater Antonije that his battles were physical. He wasn't just fighting with himself. He was beaten battered and bruised by the devils which is why he had to be taken back into the city by his friend to get treatment. So why ramble on with philosophical nonsense - the truth is that because Pater Antonije's nous was cleansed, he saw the realities of the spiritual world whilst still in this world, and fought physical battles with the demons. Even people who went to his cave heard the howls and shrieks of the demons. Why try and revise the saint's life to make it sound like he was just battling his ''proverbial inner demons'', to make it more acceptable to the modern western man. Ridiculous.
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