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10. St. Athanasius: The Life of St. Antony (Ancient Christian Writers) Hardcover – January 1, 1978

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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About the Author

Walter J. Burghardt, SJ, a world renowned theologian, writer, and thinker, was cited in a university study as one of the 12 best preachers in the United States. Among his 25 books are 15 collections of his homilies and sermons, and an auto-biography, "Long Have I Loved You."
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Product Details

  • Series: Ancient Christian Writers (Book 10)
  • Hardcover: 166 pages
  • Publisher: Paulist Press (January 1, 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809102501
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809102501
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.7 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #988,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
If you are searching for spirituality, this record of Saint Antony's life provides fascinating detail of living daily within the framework of a world ruled by the Prince of the Air. Written within 25 years of the Nicene Creed, this perspective lends to observing the powerful foundation upon which orthodoxy (and heresy) was built, that is, the up-close interaction with both God and His enemies. Thus, his life is not recorded chronologically, but through the narrative telling of encounter
after encounter. These encounters begin when Antony was left alone in the world with his sister as an early adult. From the very start, Antony's spiritual journey delved into what is now taboo for many Christians: spiritual warfare. Seeking the devil out on his own terms, Antony refused to give into temptation and immediately became a target for attack. The end of his career as a hermit brought forth powerful prayer, wisdom, and - thanks to Life of Antony - considerable fame. Virtually unknown today, Antony remains a largely untapped resource.
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Format: Hardcover
I was captivated when I first read the Life of St. Antony, most likely written by the staunchly Orthodox church father Athanasius (I say 'probably' because some scholars doubt that Athanasius wrote it, however I noticed many similarities between 'Life of Antony' and 'On the Incarnation'). The book reads like a novel at times, telling of Antony's battles with demons, and his traveling farther into the desert to avoid publicity and temptation. There is also an interesting segment when Antony lives by a mountain and a cool stream, and animals are eating his small amount of grain. He gently grabs the animals and asks them why they bother him when he does not bother them? They returned no more after that. We are also told of Antony's journey into Alexandria after persecutions broke out there. Antony himself desperately wanted to be martyred, but instead he offered encouragement and consolation to those who were going to be killed. One individual whose martyrdom is mentioned is Peter, the Bishop of Alexandria at that time. Near the end of the book, Antony returns again to Alexandria, this time to dispel rumors that he is an Arian (a heretical group of the early 4th century which denied the full divinity of the Son). Athanasius makes it clear that Antony was a Nicaean.
The rest of the work could be described as a kind of a monastic manual, with particular emphasis on fighting demons. Athanasius records Antony's struggles, and tells his readers how to recognize and fight the devil. Throughout the story, the power of the sign of the cross is stressed, and we are urged to sign our houses and ourselves in order to repel evil. Near the very end, Antony debates various Greek philosophers regarding the Cross and the Incarnation.
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Format: Hardcover
One wonders if the work did not leave its readers breathless in the 4th century the way it does today, but given its popularity, I suspect so. The initial shock comes simply from the true details of the story, that a simple man in his thirties withdrew from the normal course of urban life to live a radical, mystical life of encounters with the good and evil sides of the divine.

Anthony withdrew to the desert, living on bread and prayer. There he was attacked and tempted by physical manifestations of demons that did everything from make gold coins materialize in front of him to physically beat him. As a result of his prayer life and unique habits, he came to the attention of the wider public. Two Greek philosophers sought him out and witnessed a possession, to which he replied, "Let's see you cast those out with your syllogisms." Likewise, he received a letter from the Emperor, which he greeted with equal disinterest (though less disdain) as Diogenes.

The only room the work leaves for suspicions is when one considers whether or not Athanasius might have been using it as a polemical tool. Anthony's fervor for Trinitarian theology and opposition to the Arians (of which he has a vision of a take-over of the empire, making one wonder if Athanasius didn't imagine Arians where Anthony was envisioning barbarians) could have been taken straight from Athanasius' theological writings. There are moments where one wonders if Athanasius is reporter or rhetorician.

Nonetheless, that vague suspicion gets lost under the sheer surprise of the story of this cryptic life. There is no doubt that Athanasius and his listeners took the story at face value. To the modern, post-enlightenment writer you must either reject it as mythical as buy into it as historical.
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This series is really great. Historical writings for all to study and ponder what those who have gone before have to say and their example for our lives. Would like to purchase more in this fine series of books
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