Friday, January 17, 2003

St. Antony, The Devil, and Television

Today is the feast day of one of my favorite saints. Born in 251, died in 356 (!), at age twenty he left his inheritance, saw that his sister was taken care of, and went off to live in the desert, emerging only a few times in his life, once in 305 to form those who had gathered near him into a monastery (the first), once in 311 to console and encourage the Church in Alexandria during persecution, and again in 355 at age 104 to help Athanasius refute the heresy of Arianism. He died full of years in 356.

The interesting part of the story of St. Antony is his struggle with the devil. He underwent terrible temptations and even bodily assaults from the devil, so much so that it would disturb those in the neighborhood, who would hear the sounds of the battle. You can read about them in St. Athansius' Life of Antony. These stories always got me thinking: here is a very holy man, out in the desert, and yet beset by such terrible temptations from the devil. What's going on?

Today I had a thought: the temptations of Antony are our own, except that there is a difference. Antony went off into the desert, and after he achieved self-discipline the devil could only fight him with visions and demons. We live in the world, and invite the devil into our homes. Television, radio, and the internet are all wonderful means of temptation, roads for the devil to drive straight into our hearts. There is no need for him to go to such extremes with us as he had to do with Antony. We should be very careful of our use of these things, since little good and much evil comes of them.

Here are some good words from St. Antony, recorded by St. Athanasius: "It is good to consider the word of the Apostle, `I die daily.' For if we too live as though dying daily, we shall not sin. And the meaning of that saying is, that as we rise day by day we should think that we shall not abide till evening; and again, when about to lie down to sleep, we should think that we shall not rise up. . . But thus ordering our daily life, we shall neither fall into sin, nor have a lust for anything, nor cherish wrath against any, nor shall we heap up treasure upon earth. But, as though under the daily expectation of death, we shall be without wealth, and shall forgive all things to all men, nor shall we retain at all the desire of women or of any other foul pleasure. But we shall turn from it as past and gone, ever striving and looking forward to the day of Judgment. For the greater dread and danger of torment ever destroys the ease of pleasure, and sets up the soul if it is like to fall." Good advice, don't you think?

Father Antony, you equaled Elias in his zeal and followed John the Baptist in his holy way of life: you peopled the wilderness and established the world on the firm foundations of your prayers. Intercede with Christ God that he may save our souls.

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