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Book Review

 

Life of St. Antony

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(Monasticism)

Ancient Christian Writer's Series 

Hardcover ______________

Image: Icon of St. Anthony (or Anthony). St. Antony 

(Also: Saint Anthony)

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Image: Icon of St. Athanasius odf Alexandria.  St. Athanasius

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Newly Translated and Annotated by Robert P. Meyer, Ph. D.

Newman Press, New York. ____________

Author: Athanasius of Alexandria

Review by J. Miller (Honolulu, Hawaii):

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...

Antony (or Anthony) withdrew to the desert, living on bread and prayer.  There he was attacked and tempted...  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.

 Antony's fervor for Trinitarian theology and opposition to the Arians...could have been taken straight from Athanasius' theological writings.

...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.  And the immediate consequence is that one wonders what one is missing out on. 

No sermon on fasting could make you want to fast more.  No seminar on prayer could make you more likely to do it.  

Antony's life does today exactly what it did for the early church: inspire a radical alternative that is mysteriously beyond criticism. ______________________________

Comments of The Prayer Foundation:

Written by Athanasius of Alexandria, (see also: Athanasian Creed), this is the book that expanded Christian monasticism from a localized Egyptian Christian practice to a worldwide phenomena that would dominate Christian life for more than the next 1,000 years.

Before this book, there were No monks in Europe (not even in Italy).  No monks in Ireland.  None.  Nada.

After this book, well, you know what happened.

Another interesting sidebar: this is the book that Augustine of Hippo was reading immediately before he received Christ as his Lord and Saviour. ______________________________

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Augustine, Jerome, Ambrose, Basil the Great, Gregory Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, and all subsequent monastics, including the ancient Celtic Monks, were all profoundly influenced by this book.

It will be of interest to those desiring to learn more about the historical beginnings of Christian monasticism.

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