The 38 sayings of St. Anthony

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1. When the holy Abba Anthony was living in the desert, he was in a state of melancholy (ακηδια) and his mind was darkened by a multitude of imagined things (λογισμων), and he said to God, Lord, I want to be saved, but these thoughts will not leave me alone. What shall I do in my trouble? How will I be saved? A little later, when he went outside, Anthony saw someone like himself, sitting and working, then rising from work and praying, and again sitting and plaiting a rope, then again rising for prayer. It was an angel of the Lord, sent for the correction and insurance against stumbling of Anthony. And he heard the angel saying, Do this, and you will be
saved. And when he heard this, he had great joy and courage, and did this, and was saved.

2. When Abba Anthony meditated upon the depth of the judgments of God, he asked, saying, Lord, how is it that some perish when short-lived, and some live to extreme old age? And why are some poor, and yet others rich? And why are the unrighteous rich, and yet the righteous are poor? And he heard a voice saying to him, Anthony, keep your attention on yourself, for these things are the judgments of God, and they will not benefit you to learn them.

3. Someone asked Abba Anthony, saying, What must we keep in order to be pleasing to God?  And the elder answered, saying, Keep what I tell you. Whoever you may be, always keep God before your eyes. And whatever you do, do it from the witness of the Holy Scriptures. And in whatever place you live, do not leave quickly. Keep these three things, and you will be saved.

4. Abba Anthony said to Abba Poimen that this is the great work of man: always to reproach himself for his own faults before God, and expect temptation until the last breath.

5. The same said, No one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven untempted. He said, Remove the temptations, and no one would be saved.

6. Abba Pambo asked Abba Anthony, What should I do? The elder said to him, Do not put your trust in your righteousness, nor regret past actions, but control your tongue and stomach.

7. Abba Anthony said, I saw all the traps of the enemy spread over the earth, and groaning, said, What can get through these? And I heard a voice saying to me, Humility.

8. He also said that there are some who have worn out their bodies in asceticism, and because of this they do not have judgment, being far from God.

9. He also said that from a neighbor is life and death. For if we gain a brother, we gain God. And if we scandalize a brother, we have sinned against Christ.

10. He also said, Just as fish die on dry land, thus also the monks loitering outside their cells or spending time with those of the world lose the intensity of quiet (ησυχιας). And so, like the fish to the sea, so we must hurry to the cell, lest we loiter outside and we forget our inner guard.

11. He also said that one living in the desert and in quiet (ησυχαζων) is delivered from three battles: of hearing, and speaking, and seeing. He only has one: fornication.

12. Some of the brothers came to Abba Anthony to tell him the dreams they had seen, and to learn from him if they are true, or from demons. Now they had a donkey, and it died on the way.  When they finally came to the elder, he said to them first, How did the little donkey die on the way? They said to him, How did you know that, Abba? And he said to them, The demons showed me. And they said to him, That is why we came to ask you, lest we be led astray, because we have seen dreams, and many times they are true. And the elder fully convinced them by the example of the donkey, that they are from demons.

13. Once someone had been hunting wild animals on the desert, and saw Abba Anthony joking with the brothers [and was scandalized]. And the elder, wanting to fully convince him that it was sometimes necessary to relax (or “condescend” συγκαταβαινειν) with the brothers, he said to him, Put an arrow to your bow, and shoot. And he did thus. He said to him, Shoot again. And he shot. And he said again, Shoot. The hunter said to him, If I shoot without limit, the bow may break. The elder said to him, So it is with the work of God. If we shoot more than the limit of the brothers, they will promptly shatter. Therefore it is necessary for one to relax with the brothers. The hunter heard these things, was pierced by remorse, and being greatly helped by the elder, went away. And the brothers, strengthened, went away to their place.

14. Abba Anthony heard about a certain young monk who had performed a sign (or “miracle” σημειον) on the road. As this one saw some elders walking along and struggling on the road, he ordered wild donkeys to come and carry the elders, until they came to Anthony. So the elders told these things to Abba Anthony. And he said to them, It seems to me that this monk is a ship full of goods, but I do not know if he will come into the harbor. And after a time, Abba Anthony suddenly began to weep, to pull out his hair, and to mourn. His disciples said to him, Why do you weep, Abba? And the elder said, A great pillar of the Church has now fallen (for he spoke about
the young monk). He said, But go to him, and see what has happened. So the disciples went, and found the monk sitting on a mat, and weeping for the sin he had committed. Seeing the disciples of the elder, he said, Tell the elder to entreat God to give me only ten days, and I hope to have defended myself (απολογησασθαι). But after five days, he died.

15. A certain monk was praised from among the brothers before Abba Anthony. So when he came, he tested him, whether he could bear insult. And finding that he could not bear it, he said to him, You seem like a village which is beautifully adorned outside, but plundered by robbers inside.

16. A brother said to Abba Anthony, Pray for me. The elder said to him, I will have no mercy on you, nor will God, if you yourself do not make every effort and beseech God.

17. Some elders came to Abba Anthony, and Abba Joseph was among them. And the elder, wanting to test them, put forward a saying from the Scriptures, and began to ask from the youngest, What is this saying? And each spoke according to his own ability. And to each the elder said, You have not found it. Last of all, he said to Abba Joseph, How do you explain this word? He answered, I do not know. So Abba Anthony said, Most certainly, Abba Joseph has
found the way, for he said, I do not know.

18. Brothers were coming to Abba Anthony from Sketis, and got into a boat to come to him, finding there an elder also wanting to come to him. And the brothers did not know him. And they sat in the boat, speaking the words of the Fathers, and from the Scriptures, and also about the work of their hands. And the elder was silent. When they came to the dock, they found the elder also going on toward Abba Anthony. When they came to him, he said to them, You found a good
fellow-traveller, this elder. And he said to the elder, You found good brothers with you, Abba. The elder said, Good they may be, but their courtyard has no door, and whoever wants to enter the stable may let loose the donkey. And he said this, because they were saying the first things that came to their mouths.

19. Brothers came to Abba Anthony, and said to him, Speak a word for us. How may we be saved? The elder said to them, You have heard the Scriptures. You have the means well enough. But they said, But we want to hear from you, Father. And the elder said to them, The Gospel says, If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, also turn to him the other. They said to him, We are not able to do this. The elder said to them, If you are not able also to turn the other cheek, then permit just one to be struck. They said to him, We cannot do this. The elder said, If you are not able to do this, do not give as you have received. And they said, We cannot do this. So the elder said to his disciple, Make them a little soup, for they are weak. If you cannot do this, and will not do that, what can I do for you? You need prayers.

20. A brother renounced the world and gave his possessions to the poor, keeping a little back for his own reason, and went to see Abba Anthony. And learning this, the elder said to him, If you want to be a monk, go into the village, and buy meat, and place it around your bare body, and come back here thus. And the brother did so, and the dogs and birds tore his body. And when he came back to the elder, he wanted to learn if he had done as he had advised. When that
one showed his torn up body, the holy Anthony said, Those who renounce the world, and want to hold onto possessions are thus torn by demons battling them.

21. Temptation once happened to a brother in the monastery of Abba Elias. And, cast out, he came to the mountain, to Abba Anthony. And the brother remained near him for a time, then he
sent him to the monastery he had been expelled from. When they saw him, they expelled him again, and he returned to Abba Anthony, saying, They did not want to receive me, Father. So the elder sent to them, saying, A ship was wrecked in the sea, and lost its cargo, and with difficulty came safely upon the shore. And you want to cast back upon the sea what has made it safely to the shore. When they heard that Abba Anthony sent him, they quickly received him.

22. Abba Anthony said, I think that the body has a natural motion entangled with it. But it cannot act without the soul being willing. And it only signifies in the body a passionless motion. And there is also another motion, from nurturing and caring for the body with eating and drinking. By these the heat of the blood arouses the body toward action. So the Apostle also said, Do not be drunk on wine, in which is debauchery. And further the Lord in the Gospel commands His disciples, saying, Watch, lest your hearts are weighed down in indulgence and drunkenness. And there is another motion of those who struggle (or “compete” αγωνιζομενοις), coming from the
plotting and envy of demons. You must understand that there are three bodily motions: one is natural, and another from negligence of intake, and the third from demons.

23. Further, he said that God does not send the same wars upon this generation as upon the ancients. For he knows that they are weak and cannot bear them.

24. It was revealed to Abba Anthony in the desert that in the city was someone like him, a physician by profession, who gave his surplus to those having need of it, and who all day sang
the Trisagion with the angels.

25. Abba Anthony said that the time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will rise up against him, saying that you are mad, because you are not like them.

26. Brothers came to Abba Anthony and said to him a saying from Leviticus. So the elder went out into the desert, and Abba Ammonas followed him secretly, knowing his usual practice. The elder went very far, standing for prayer, and cried out in a loud voice, O God, send Moses, and he will teach me this saying. And a voice came to him, speaking with him. So Abba Ammonas said that though he heard the voice speaking with him, he could not learn the word from it.

27. Three of the Fathers had a custom to visit the blessed Anthony annually. And two of them would ask about distracting thoughts (λογισμων) and the salvation of souls. But the one was always silent, never asking. Now after a long time, Abba Anthony said to him, Behold, so long a time have you been coming thus, and you don’t ask me anything. And he answered, saying to him, It is enough for me only to see you, Father.

28. They say that one of the elders asked God to see the Fathers, and he saw them except Abba Anthony. So he said to the one showing these things to him, Where is Abba Anthony? And he
said to him that in the place where God is, there he is.

29. A brother in a monastery was falsely accused of fornication, and he got up and went to Abba Anthony. And the brothers came from the monastery to heal him and take him back, and they started to charge that he did so. But he defended himself that he did no such thing. Now Abba Paphnutius happened to be there, and he said this parable: I have seen a man on the bank of the river stuck in the mud up to his knees, and some men came to give him a hand, plunging him in up to his neck. And Abba Anthony said this to them about Abba Paphnutius, Behold a genuine man, able to heal and save souls. So they were pierced by remorse at the word of the elders, and they offered repentance to the brother. And, encouraged by the elders, they took the brother to the monastery.

30. Some say about Abba Anthony that he was a Spiritbearer (Πνευματοφορος), but he would not speak about it with men. For he revealed things happening in the world, and things yet to come to happen.

31. Once Abba Anthony received a letter from Emperor Constantine, in order to come to Constantinople, and he considered whether to do it. So he said to Abba Paul, his disciple, Ought I to go? And he said to him, If you go, you may say [your name is] Anthony, but if you do not go, [it remains] Abba Anthony.

32. Abba Anthony said, I no longer fear God, but I love Him. For love casts out fear.

33. He said, Always have the fear of God before your eyes. Remember Him who gives death and who gives life. Hate the world and all the things that are in it. Hate all fleshly recreation. Renounce this life, so you may live for God. Remember what you have  promised to God, for it will be required of you in the Day of Judgment. Suffer hunger, suffer thirst, suffer nakedness, keep vigil, mourn, weep, lament in your heart. Test yourselves, to see if you are worthy of God. Disdain the flesh, so that you may save your souls.

34. Abba Anthony once travelled to Abba Amoun, to Mount Nitria, and after meeting one another, Abba Amoun said to him, Because of your prayers, now the brothers are more numerous, and some of them want to build cells further away in order to have quiet. How much do you suggest is a far enough distance for the cells to be built from here? And he said, Let us eat at the ninth hour, and we will go out and we will investigate the desert, and look at the place. And so they traveled the desert until the sun came to set, and Abba Anthony said to him, We will make prayers and erect the cross here, so that those wanting to build will build here. So also those there, whenever they will visit these, having eaten their little bit of bread at the ninth hour, they may visit thus. And those leaving here, doing the same, may remain unworried when visiting one another. And the distance is twelve [mile] signs.

35. Abba Anthony said, Whoever strikes a lump of iron, first considers the thought of what he intends to make, a scythe, a sword, an axe. So also we ought to consider what kind of excellence we should pursue, so that we do not toil in vain.

36. Further, he said that submission with self-control subdues beasts.

37. Further, he said, I know monks that have fallen after many toils, and came to an ecstasy of pride, because they put their hope in their works, and were deceived about the commandment which says, Ask your father, and he will tell you.

38. Further, he said, If he is able, a monk ought to be confident in telling the elders how many steps he takes, or how many drops of drink in his cell, so that he will not stumble in them.

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