January 18, 2018

The Seven Great Letters of Saint Anthony the Great (Letter 2)

Letter II

My dear and honorable brethren, I Anthony greet you in the Lord.

Truly, my beloved in the Lord, not at one time only did God visit His creatures; but from the foundation of the world, whenever any have come to the Creator of all by the law of His covenant implanted in them, God is present with each one of these in His bounty and grace by His Spirit. But in the case of those rational natures in which that covenant grew cold, and their intellectual perception died, so that they were no longer able to know themselves according to their first condition, concerning them I say that they became altogether irrational, and worshiped the creation rather than the Creator. But the Creator of all in His great bounty visited us by the implanted law of the covenant. For He is immortal substance. And as many as became worthy of God and grew by His implanted law, and were taught by His Holy Spirit and received the Spirit of Adoption, these were able to worship their Creator as they ought: of whom Paul says that ‘they received not the promise’ on account of us. (Heb. 11:39)

And the Creator of All, who repents not of His love, desiring to visit our sickness and confusion, raised up Moses the Lawgiver, who gave us the law in writing, and founded for us the House of Truth, which is the Catholic Church, that makes us one in God; for He desires that we should be brought back to our first beginning. Moses built the house, yet did not complete it, but left it and went away. Then again God raised up the choir of the Prophets by His Spirit. And they also built on the foundation of Moses, but could not complete the house, and likewise left it and went away. And all of them, being clothed with the Spirit, saw that the wound was incurable, and none of the creatures was able to heal it, but only the Only-begotten, who is the very Mind of the Father and His Image, who after the pattern of His Image made every rational creature. For these knew that the Savior is the great physician; and they assembled all together, and offered prayer for their members, that is, for us, crying out and saying, ‘Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?’ (Jer. 8:22) ‘We would have healed her, but she is not healed: now therefore let us forsake her and go away.’ (Jer. 51:9)

But God in His abundant and unfeigned love came to us, saying by His Saints, ‘Son of man, make to thyself vessels of captivity.’ (Ezek. 12:3) And He, ‘being in the form of God, counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross: wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’(Phil. 2:6-11) Now therefore, beloved, let this word be manifest among you, that the bounty of the Father spared not His Only-begotten for our sakes, but delivered Him up for the salvation of us all (cf. Rom. 8:32): ‘He gave Himself for our sins’ (Gal 1:4), and our iniquities humbled Him, and ‘by His stripes we were healed’ (Isa. 53:5), and by the word of His power He gathered us out of all lands, from one end of the earth to the other end of the world, and made resurrection of our minds, and remission of our sins, and taught us that we are members one of another.

I pray you, brethren, understand this great dispensation, that He was made like unto us, apart from sin. (Heb. 4:15) And each of the rational natures, for which principally the Savior came, ought to examine his pattern, and know his mind, and discern between bad and good, so that he may be set free by His advent. For as many as are set free by His dispensation, are called the servants of God. And this is not yet perfection, but in its own time it is righteousness, and it leads to the adoption of sons. And Jesus our Savior understood that these were near to receiving the Spirit of Adoption, and that they knew Him, having been taught by the Holy Spirit; and He said to them, ‘Henceforth I will not call you servants, but brothers and friends: for all things that the Father hath taught me, I have made known unto you and taught you.’ (Cf. John 15:15) Therefore, being made bold in mind, since they knew themselves and their intellectual substance, they gave voice and said, ‘Even though we have known Thee after the flesh, yet now we know Thee so no more.’ (Cf. 2 Cor. 5:16) And they received the Spirit of Adoption, and cried out saying, ‘We have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but we have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.’ (Rom. 8:17)

But let this word be manifest unto you, beloved: Whosoever has not prepared his own amendment, nor toiled with all his strength, let such an one know that for him the advent of the Savior will be unto judgement. For to some it is ‘an aroma of death unto death’ and to some ‘an aroma of life unto life’. (2 Cor. 2:15) For He ‘is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be spoken against.’ (Luke 2:34) I beseech you, beloved, by the name of Jesus Christ, do not neglect your own salvation, but let each one of you rend his heart and not his garment (Joel 2:13), for fear lest we should be wearing this monastic habit in vain, and preparing for ourselves judgment. For behold, even now the time is near in which the works of every one of us shall be proved. And about the details of what I am saying, there are many other things to be written unto you. But it is written, ‘Give occasion to the wise man, and he will be yet wiser.’ (Prov. 9:9) I salute you all, from the least to the greatest. And may the God of peace keep you all, beloved. Amen.