Icon Akimov 102.150 «St. Anthony the Great. Guardian Angel»
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"St. Anthony the Great (~251–356) is worshipped as a founder of Christian monasticism. He was the first to go to the desert for devoting his life to God. At one of liturgies he heard the Gospel words: ""If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou yours and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come follow me"" (Mt. 19:21). Having taken them literally, as a command from above, Anthony rejected estate of decedent parents and retired from the world in the desert of Thebaid, where he lived totally alone for 20 years. There, according to the Legend, he was tempted by demons in different ways. But reinforced by God he consistently defeated them.
His unusual lifestyle made him famous. Emulators started settling around his seclusion. From 305 St. Anhtony began to meet more often with people who sought his advice. By the middle of 4th century he became the leader of all the Egyptian hermits and wrote a book of homilies that formed the basis for the aborning monasticism. The homilies of St. Anthony were aimed at human spiritual perfection. He has lived through and overcome every possible passion that overwhelms human soul. That is why his homilies are useful not for only the monk, but for a modern person as well. ""Neither I, nor God will have mercy on you, — once he told an adjurer, — if you do not take care of yourself and pray to God."" He considered zeal of any work, especially of the ascent to God, to be its most important driving force, its moral energy. ""But zeal itself is sometimes blind — he wrote, — and can take a trend, incongruous with the goals of inchoate life. Therefore it should be guarded by leaders."" He inspired his disciples: ""Conceive aversion to your belly, to the wishes of this world, to the evil lust and to human honors."" Just so he replied to the question: How one can please God best of all? — The Godliest work is the work of love."" And added that God hides your goodness from you ""to keep you in humility about yourself""; and supports this goodness in you secretly to the human; and helps you to keep it in yourself, being ""your inner guide"".
The Legend of St. Anthony the Great was written by St. Athanasius of Alexandria — the contemporary of the saint who knew him well. During Arian persecutions of Christians St. Athanasius concealed himself with St. Anthony in the desert. Arius and his following denied consubstantiality of the Most Holy Trinity, and considered Christ to be the divine Son (Logos) of God, made, not begotten. Therefore the Arians did not worship the Mother of God and Saints. Such statements caused a fierce confrontation of believers who upheld other views. St. Anthony, though retired from the world, was forced to intervene for the sake of peace in the Church. Having been already a 100-year old man, he traveled to Alexandria to make a stand for the Orthodox Christians. Returning to the desert he in a while deceased aged 105. The exact places of his death and burial are unknown, but it is believed that in 529 under the Emperor Justinian his relics were found, and solemnly re-located to Alexandria. Later, in the year 623 they were carried to Constantinople and then in 980 to the Kingdom of France.
Many discussions of the Venerable with the brethren are written there in the Legend, witnessed by St. Athanasius. One of them tells that one day after counselling about the afterlife fate of souls after death Antony had a vision. He saw the giant outstretched throughout the sky, grabbing some birds with his huge hands and overthrowing them down, but failing to catch others and only grounding his teeth. St. Anthony knew the arch-enemy in the giant, who caught the souls of the deceased. Those were the souls of persons who had been already ""caught"" by the devil in their lifetime. But he had no power over those who did not hold by him."
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