I wanted to include this quote by St. Antony of the Desert on my last post…but it was way too long for that post, so I decided to post it separately. I would, however, highly recommend everyone to read The Life of Antony by St. Athanasius as soon as possible. Written in 360 C.E., it was one of the best known works of literature in the West for a thousand years or so.
And, wow, is it good! =D
So do yourself a favor and find a copy today!
“[L]et us hold in common the same eagerness not to surrender what we have begun, either by growing fainthearted in the labors or by saying, ‘We have spent a long time in the discipline.’ Rather, as through making a beginning daily, let us increase our dedication…
“Let us not think that the time is too long or what we do is great, for the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. And let us not consider, when we look at the world, that we have given up things of some greatness, for even the entire earth is itself quite small in relation to all of heaven. If now it happened that we were lords of all the earth, and renounced all the earth, that would amount to nothing as compared with the kingdom of heaven.
“For just as if someone might despise one copper drachma in order to gain a hundred gold drachma, so he who is ruler of the whole earth, and renounced it, loses little, and he receives a hundred times more. But if all the earth is not equal in value to the heavens, then he who has given up a few arourae sacrifices virtually nothing, and even if he should give up a house or considerable wealth, he has no reason to boast or grow careless.
“We ought also to realize that if we do not surrender these things through virtue, then later when we die we shall leave these things behind – often, to those whom we do not wish, as Ecclesiastes reminds us. This being the case, why should we not give them up for virtue’s sake, so that we might inherit even a kingdom? Let none among us have even the yearning to possess. For what benefit is there in possessing these things that we do not take with us? Why not rather own those things that we are able to take away with us – such things as prudence, justice, temperance, courage, understanding, love, concern for the poor, faith in Christ, freedom from anger, hospitality? If we possess these, we shall discover them running before, preparing hospitality for us there in the land of the meek….
“[W]e have the Lord for our coworker in this, as it is written, God works for good with everyone who choose the good. And in order that we not become negligent, it is good to carefully consider the Apostle’s statement: I die daily. For if we so live as people dying daily, we will not commit sin…If we think this way, and in this way live…the desire for a women, or another sordid pleasure, we shall not merely control – rather, we shall turn form it as something transitory, forever doing battle and looking towards the day of judgement.” (emphasis added)
Source: Athanasius. The Life of Antony and the Letter to Marcellinus. Trans.by Robert C. Gregg (Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1980), 44-46.