Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh about Saint Anthony the Great

We do not serve every day, and therefore we take no notice of the names of saints and their teachings, from which we could learn so much, but which few people remember about. In honor of St. Anthony the Great, the founder of the monastic feat in the Egyptian desert, everyone who subsequently had this name were named, including Saint Anthony of the Caves, the founder of Russian monasticism.

And I want to draw your attention to only one happening of his life. He went into the wilderness, the first of all ascetics, in order to fight the evil that existed in his heart. He did not run away from the world: he went into the desert for “martial arts” in order to fight face to face with evil more complex, more terrible and destructive than the evil that surrounds us in the world.

So, at some period of a terrible, destructive storm, temptations of every kind were attacking him; and he fought fiercely, he fought with all of his strength, and finally those strengths in him were exhausted, not only mental, but also physical ones; and he lay down on the ground, feeling that he could no longer fight. And at that moment the Savior Christ appeared before him, and all the darkness was enlightened by His presence, all the horror was gone. And then, not being able even to stand up and bow to Him, Anthony exclaimed: Lord! Where have you been when I was in such a terrible struggle? Couldn’t you have helped me?.. And the Savior answered him: I stood invisibly next to you, ready to help you, if only your faith would shake…

These words of the Savior are addressed to each of us; we all face or are in the grip of an internal struggle: the struggle against darkness, the struggle against evil, the struggle against fear, perplexity, with everything that makes up the fallen human nature. And each of us constantly prays: Lord, come! Lord, take this burden off me! Lord, set me free!..

And so often I hear complaints that the Lord does not seem to respond to this cry of the soul; but in fact the Lord is standing next to us, looking with joy when we courageously, with faith, with faithfulness in our hearts fight in His name, as soldiers fight for their king, stand for him, even if it is necessary to be wounded in this fight, mutilated or killed.

And this is our human vocation: if we are belong to Christ, then we are sent by Christ to this world in order to fight and conquer by His name and in His name. Let us remember this every time we find ourselves in the grip of temptation, when bitterness and anger, and fear, and hatred, and any passion rise in us: we are given to fight: our honor, our glory is that God trusts us – weak and insignificant –  with the fight against evil in the world. And this struggle does not begin outside, not in our opposition to the near or far, but begins within us, in victory over ourselves, in overcoming everything, becoming masters of our soul, owning our soul, body, mind, heart, will and life – and give everything to the hands of God, so that we can serve Him with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, with all our mind, with all that we are and with everything we have. Amen.

Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds

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