Wednesday, January 17, 2007

St Antony, Abbot

Fra Angelico's painting of St Antony being tempted by a lump of gold.

Today is the Feast of St Antony. The Office of Readings this morning had an extract from the "Life of St Antony" by St Anthanasius:
After the death of his parents, Antony was left alone with an only sister who was very young. He was about eighteen or twenty years old, and undertook the care of the household and his sister.
Less than six months had passed after the death of his parents, and he was going to the church, as was his custom, turning over in his mind the way that the apostles had left everything to follow the Saviour, and also how those people in the Acts of the Apostles had sold their possessions and had laid the proceeds at the feet of the apostles for distribution among the needy. He was also thinking of the great hope stored up in heaven for these people. With these things in his mind, he went into the church. It happened that the Gospel was then being read, and he heard what the Lord had said to the rich man, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me".

As though this reminder of the saints had been sent to him by God, and as though that passage had been read specially for his sake, Antony went out immediately, and gave to the villagers the possesions he had inherited from his ancestors - they consisted of some three hundred very pleasant and fertile acres - so that they would not be an encumbrance to him and to his sister. He sold all his possessions and gave the considerable sum he raised to the poor, keeping back only a little of it for his sister.

Again when he went into church, he heard what the Lord said in the Gospel: "Do not be anxious about tomorrow". He could not wait any longer, but went out and gave away to the poor even what he had kept back. He left his sister in the care of some well-known, trustowrthy virgins, putting her in a convent to be brought up, and he devoted himself to the ascetic life not far from his home, living in recollection and practising self-denial.

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