St Anthony Great

SERMON preached on Sunday, January 30, 1994

The Feast of Saint Anthony the Great (January 17 o/s)

Today we are keeping the memory of St Anthony of Egypt. In the lives of saints we usually single out those passages that are to their glory, that show their greatness, their holiness, all that we should emulate. But from time to time, in the life of a saint we find an event that taught him something important and conveys something of importance also to us.

I want to mention one event in the life of St. Anthony. For years he had struggled against a variety of temptations, had struggled with courage, had struggled with determination, he had conquered more often than not. But one day, he had to face temptations that were so powerful, so crushing that, having overcome them at the cost of all his energy and courage, he fell on the ground without strength to fight, even to stand. At that moment the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him. Unable even to kneel before Him, to venerate Him, to worship Him, St. Anthony looked up at Him and said, «O Lord, where were You when I was in such a terrible struggle?» And the Lord answered him, «Invisibly I was next to you, ready to step in had you faltered. But you did not falter and you won a victory.»

This is something from which we could learn a great deal, all of us, because time and again we say, «Lord, why will you not help me? I have been praying, I have been begging for help. I so much need your succour and help. Where were you then? Didn't you care at all?» And the Lord would answer us if we only had ears to hear, «I was next to you. But you had to fight to win a crown of glory, because I send you (and this is the Gospel teaching) I send you, my disciples as sheep among the wolves, to give your life that others may live, to conquer evil that it should be overcome in the world; and this at the cost of shedding your blood and, if necessary, of your dying.»

No one is asking us, in the comfort of our Western life, to die. But to die to ourselves – yes! To give our life to something greater than we are ourselves – yes! And when in the struggle, like faithful warriors of Christ, we are wounded, we are exhausted, we are broken, we should not doubt the One who before us has gone all the way from the glory of His Godhead into participation of our humanity, into living in the monstrous conditions which we humans have created and are creating in this world, and Who ended by dying because He found no love and had to give His life that others might live.

Are we His disciples, or are we not? But let us also remember when we feel broken, when we feel helpless, that even the greatest saints have gone through the same experience; learn from them and never despair. Amen.

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