C.S. Lewis wrote, “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself to read another new one till you have read an old one in between.” This was in his introduction to a translation of Athanasius’ On the Incarnation. I always wanted to heed that advice, but failed for the same reason I never pitched in little league: lousy follow through. One problem I had was that I had little access to these books. I don’t have the cash to build a library of classic works, and trips to the local library often yield frustration and delay.
Thanks be to God for ccel.org! I’ve known about the site for a long time, but I have just begun taking advantage of their collection. Being an admirer of Athanasius, I decided to begin with one of his works. Not the aforementioned On the Incarnation, but rather a short work called The Life of Anthony.
Since Athanasius admired Anthony, and I admire Athanasius, I figured I might find something of value in The Life of Anthony. I was not disappointed. Sure, there are bumpy theological passages and strange goings on, but that is no different than a book from any age. There are jewels–or at least semi-precious stones–to be mined here.
I look forward to writing on Anthony and holiness, Anthony and humility, Anthony and demons, and more. He sacrificed everything to follow Christ, and in a culture that is more concerned with how much we can keep, we need to be challenged. Anthony, through the pen of Athanasius, might be right medicine for what ails us.
Anthony’s good character in sections 1-4 starts early.
I could learn much from Anthony because he lived in moderate affluence. I would say I grew up in the same state. It did not affect his character. I had parents who, much like Anthony’s, took good care of me spiritually and physically. Ease and comfort are stronger traps for me, though. It’s not that I want luxury, it’s just that I want comfort.
Anthony’s first miracle, in my book, is that he actually sold this good, productive land as well as his goods. All this after hearing a sermon. I’ve heard many sermons, but none that have impacted me like this one did Anthony. I have always been one to hold back– mainly because, as previously stated, I love comfort. But also, I think, because these things lock me into something. I love having options; an open future. I feel trapped if I don’t. But, if God has truly ordained the future, if he knows it, my love for options is based on a lie. I really have no more options now than I will when I’m locked into a career. So why not live according to the truth? I am ignorant of what God has in store, but I do know who he is, what he is like, etc. I am locked into God’s ordained plans and I can trust the decisions he makes.
There must also be a lack of trust in there somewhere. I feel like I trust God, but then again I’ve never been challenged like others have. I have always had a very strong, caring family as a safety net.
As I go write these personal meditations on the The Life of Antony I will try to close with a prayer each time. Here’s the first:
Oh great God, all the riches of the universe are yours. Every good thing above in heaven comes from you, and every treasure on earth is yours to use. You provided manna and water for Israel, and caused the ravens to bring food to your servant Elijah. I know that I often fail to trust in you, instead trusting in human sources of comfort and provision. Grant that I, as your child, trust in you, the only unassailable source for my needs. In the name of your Son Jesus I pray this. Amen.