How are we to be saved? – Abba Anthony the Great

[Today is the feast day of the Holy Abba Anthony, the first Christian monk.

“We have not lived your life, nor practised your ways, so remember us in your prayers, Peniot Abba Antonious”]

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The brethren came to the Abba Anthony and said to him, “Speak a word; how are we to be saved?” The old man said to them, “You have heard the Scriptures. That should teach you how.” But they said, “We want to hear from you too, Father.” Then the old man said to them, “The Gospel says, ‘if anyone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.'” (Matt. 5.39) They said, “We cannot do that.” The old man said, “If you cannot offer the other cheek, at least allow one cheek to be struck.” “We cannot do that either,” they said. So he said, “If you are not able to do that, do not return evil for evil,” and they said, “We cannot do that either.” Then the old man said to his disciples, “Prepare a little brew of corn for these invalids. If you cannot do this, or that, what can I do for you? What you need is prayers.”

[Abba Anthony the Father of Monks, Apophthegmata Patrum]

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This is the great work of man – Abba Anthony the Great

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“Abba Anthony said to Abba Poemen, “This is the great work of man: always to take the blame for his own sins before God and to expect temptation to his last breath.”

[Apophthegmata Patrum]

Do not be conformed to this world – Abba Anthony the Great

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Abba Anthony said, “A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will rise up against him, saying ‘You are mad, because you are not like us.'”

[Apophthegmata Patrum]

Make an effort to pray – Abba Anthony the Great

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A brother said to Abba Anthony, “Pray for me.” The old man said to him, ” I will have no mercy upon you, nor will God have any, if you yourself do not make an effort and if you do not pray to God.

[Apophthegmata Patrum]

Virtues, and how to attain them – Abba Isaiah of Scetis

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There are three virtues which bestow light on the intellect at all times: knowing no evil against anyone, doing good to those who wrong you, and enduring calmly the things which come your way.

These three virtues give rise to another three which are still greater: knowing no evil against anyone gives rise to love, doing good to those who wrong you produces peace, and enduring calmly the things which come your way brings meekness.

There are four virtues which purify the soul: silence, keeping the commandments, <spiritual> constraint and humility.

The intellect always needs the following four virtues: praying to God by constantly prostrating oneself before him, surrendering before God, being unconcerned with everyone in order not to judge, and being deaf to the passions which speak to it.

Four virtues fortify the soul, allowing it to breathe from the disturbance of the enemy: mercy, freedom from anger, long-suffering, and shaking off every seed coming from sin. Resisting forgetfulness protects all of these.

There are four virtues which, after God Himself, assist the beginner: constant study, resoluteness, vigil and disregard for oneself.

[Abba Isaiah of Scetis, Ascetical Discourses, Discourse 7]

Excerpt from Gospel of the Day: The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed -Matthew 13:31, 12th of Hatour – Abba Isaiah of Scetis

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The parable of the grain of mustard seed is a mystery, as the Fathers have said, and we are called to imitate its example. It is written, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which a person took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of herbs and becomes a shrub, so that the birds of the sky come and make nests in it’s branches.” [Mt 13:31]

This, then, is the grain of mustard seed, and these are its virtues which we are called to imitate in every way. When it says, “it is the smallest of all seeds“, it is referring to humility, that we must be subjected to all people. Its growth signifies meekness and longsuffering. Its redness means purity, not having any stain in the flesh. Its sharp twigs are the hatred of the passions, for such hatred is bitter for those who still desire wordly things. Its sweetness, which is only activated when it is mashed or threshed, signifies endurance. Its thresher is stung in the eyes on account of its powerful affliction. It is used to pickle dead things in order that they do not stink. Let us understand this and do likewise, dipping in it the dead parts of our soul so that they are not exposed to stench or worms.

This is why the Lord Jesus became human, in order that we may be concerned with endeavouring to behave as he did, searching ourselves as best we can in accordance with his example, asking whether or not we are like that seed, its condition humility, its sweetness and bitterness and taste. His mercy will strengthen us according to his will, for his is the glory, of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to the ages of ages. Amen.

[Abba Isaiah of Scetis, Ascetical Discourses, Discourse 11]