THE SAYINGS OF SAINT ANTONY THE GREAT


When Saint Antony lived in the desert he was weighed down by boredom, and burdened by many sinful thoughts. He said to God, 'Lord, I want to be saved but these thoughts do not leave me alone; what shall I do in my misery so I can be saved?' A little while later, he saw a man working, then getting up from his work to pray, then sitting down and weaving a rope, then getting up again to pray. God sent this angel to teach and reassure Antony. The angel then said to him, 'Antony, do this and you will be saved.' And so Antony was filled with joy and courage and did likewise and was saved.


When Saint Antony thought about the depth of the judgements of God, he questioned, 'Lord, why do some die when they are young and others when they are old? And why are some people poor and some rich? And why do the wicked thrive and the righteous are in need?' Then a voice answered him, 'Antony, these things are according to the judgement of God, and it is not necessary for you to know the reason, just be concerned about yourself.'


Saint Antony was asked, 'What can one do to please God?' He said, 'Give heed to what I tell you: keep God continually before your eyes in everything you do and ensure what you do is according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures. Wherever you live, do not leave it often. If you give heed to these three commands you will be saved.'


One day Saint Antony said to Saint Poemen, 'This is our great work; to always take the blame before God when we sin and to expect temptation to our last breath.'


Saint Antony said, 'If one has not experienced temptation he cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven because no one can be saved without temptations.'


Saint Pambo asked Saint Antony, 'Give me advice Father,' and the old man said to him, 'Do not trust in your own righteousness, do not think about the past, and keep your tongue and your stomach under control.'


Saint Antony said, 'I saw the traps the Devil puts all over the world and I said to myself sadly, "What can one do to pass through these traps?" and I heard a voice saying, "Humility is the way."'


Saint Antony said, 'Some have burdened their bodies by asceticism, but they lack wisdom, and so they are far from God.'


Saint Antony said, 'We live and die with our neighbour, so if we gain them, then we gain God, but if we lose them, then we sin against God.'


Saint Antony said, 'In the same way that fish die if they are out of water for too long, the monks who stay away from their cells for too long will lose their inner peace. So like a fish going towards the sea, we must also not delay in returning to our cell.'


Saint Antony said, 'The person who wants to live in the desert is freed from three temptations: hearing, speech, and sight, but there is one temptation left for him to deal with and that is his heart.'


Some monks told Saint Antony about their visions to ask if they came from the demons. It happened their donkey died on the way and so when they reached Antony he said to them, 'How did your little donkey die?' They were surprised and said to him, 'How do you know about that Father?' And he answered, 'The Devil revealed this to me.' So they understood that the visions they have are from the enemy.


A monk said to Saint Antony, 'Pray for me Father,' and he responded, 'I will not pray for you, and God will not be merciful to you, unless you make an effort and pray to God yourself.'


One day some monks visited Saint Antony, one of whom was Saint Joseph. Wanting to test them, Antony queried them about a text from the Scriptures, and each monk gave his opinion. In response Saint Antony said, 'You fail to understand.' Then finally he turned to Saint Joseph for his opinion, and he replied, 'I do not know what it means Father.' Then Saint Antony said, 'Surely Joseph understood because he said: "I do not know."'


The monks asked Saint Antony, 'Speak a word Father; how are we to be saved?' He said, 'Read the Scriptures; that will teach you.' But they said, 'We want to hear a word from you Father.' Then he said, 'The scripture says, "If anyone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also."'(Matthew 5.39) They said, 'We cannot do that.' So he replied, 'If you cannot offer the other cheek, at least allow one cheek. And they said, 'We cannot do that either.' Then he said, 'If you cannot do that, do not return evil for evil,' and they said, 'We cannot do that either.' So Saint Antony said to his disciple, 'Cook some corn for these poor brothers because if they cannot do this or that, the only thing I can do for them is pray.’


A man wanted to become a monk and so having given most of his belongings to the poor, he kept some back for himself. He confessed this to Saint Antony who advised him, 'If you want to be a monk, go and buy some meat and cover your naked body with it and come back here.' So he did this and the animals gnawed at his flesh. When he returned he showed Saint Antony his wounds, and so Antony said, 'In like manner do the demons make war on those who renounce the world but still keep back things for themselves.’


One day a monk from the monastery of Saint Elias sinned. So they threw him out of the monastery, and he went over the mountain to Saint Antony. After a while Antony sent him back to the monastery. When the monks saw him they threw him out again, and so he went back to Saint Antony crying, 'Father, they will not take me back!' Then Antony sent a message to them saying, 'A ship lost its cargo being shipwrecked at sea and after much struggle it reached the shore, so why do you want to throw it back into the sea?’ When the monks realised Saint Antony had sent back the monk, they took him back again.


Saint Antony said, 'God does not allow this generation to endure the same struggles as He did before, for people are weaker now.'


When Saint Antony was in the desert, God showed him his equal who was living in the city. He was a doctor and anything he had more than what he needed, he gave to the needy and every day he would sing praises with the angels.


Saint Antony said, 'A time is coming when people will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will mock him saying, "You are mad, you are not like us."'


Some monks asked Saint Antony questions about a passage from the book of Leviticus, so Saint Antony excused himself and went a far way off into the desert, not knowing he was being followed by Saint Ammonas. Then Saint Antony cried out in a loud voice, 'Please God send Moses so he can help me understand their question!' Then a voice came speaking with him. Although Saint Ammonas could hear the voice, he could not understand what was being said.


Three monks often visited Saint Antony to talk about their spiritual lives, but one of them always kept
silent and never said anything. Then one day Saint Antony said to him, 'You often come here, but you never ask me anything,' and so the monk answered, 'It is enough for me to see you Father.'


One day an old man told God he wanted to see the desert fathers and he saw them all except Saint Antony. So when he asked, 'Where is Saint Antony?' He received the reply: ‘In the place where God is, Antony is also.’


Some people say that Saint Antony was 'spirit-borne', which means that he is carried along by the spirit and is able to see what is occurring in the world and what is going to happen, but Saint Antony never spoke of such things to others.


Saint Antony received a letter from Constantius the Emperor, inviting him to Constantinople, and so he thought if he should go. So when he asked his disciple Saint Paul for his opinion, his disciple replied: 'If you go, you will be called Antony; but if you stay here, you will be called Saint Antony.'


Saint Antony said, 'I do not fear God because I love Him. For love casts out fear.'


Saint Antony said, 'Always have the fear of God before your eyes. Despise the world and the things of the world and reject the satisfaction of the flesh. Renounce this life and be alive to God. Endure hunger and thirst, and be watchful. Weep in your heart and test yourselves if you are worthy of God and so preserve your souls.'


One day Saint Antony went to visit Saint Amoun in Mount Nitria and Saint Amoun said to him, ‘By your prayers Father, the number of monks is growing, and so we need to build more cells where they may live in peace. But how far away do you think we should build the new cells?' Saint Antony said, 'After we eat at the ninth hour we shall go for a walk and explore the place.' So they walked until sunset and then Saint Antony said, 'Let us pray and place the cross here for those who so wish to build new cells here. And those who wish to visit them here can bring a little food for them at the ninth hour. In this way they will be able to keep in touch with each other without interruption of thoughts.'


Saint Antony said, 'Whoever hammers a piece of iron, first decides what he is going to make of it; a sword, or an axe. Even so we ought to make up our minds what kind of fruits we want to bear or we labour in vain.'


Saint Antony said, 'Obedience with fasting gives men power over wild animals.'


Saint Antony said, 'Nine monks sinned after much asceticism and were over taken with spiritual pride, for they put their trust in their self and being deceived they did not give attention to the commandment that says, "Ask your father and he will tell you."' (Deuteronomy 32.7)


Saint Antony said, 'A monk should tell his elders how many steps he takes and how many drops of water he drinks in his cell, to be sure that his spiritual life is on track.'
 

     
     
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