January 22, 2018

The Seven Great Letters of Saint Anthony the Great (Letter 4)

Letter IV

Anthony wishes all his dear brethren joy in the Lord.

Members of the Church, I will never grow weary of remembering you. I want you to know that the love that is between me and you is no bodily love, but a spiritual, religious love. For bodily friendship has no firmness or stability, being moved by strange winds. Whosoever fears God and keeps His commandments, is the servant of God. And in this service is not perfection, but the righteousness which leads to adoption. For this cause the Prophets also and the Apostles, the holy band whom God chose, entrusting to them the apostolic preaching, by the goodness of God the Father became prisoners in Christ Jesus. For Paul says, ‘Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle’ (Eph. 3:1; Rom. 1:1): so that the written law works with us in a good servitude, until we are able to master every passion, and to become perfect in the good ministry of virtue through this apostolic state.

For if a man draws near to grace, then Jesus will say to him, ‘I will no longer call you servants, but I will call you my friends and my brothers: for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.’ (John 15:15) For those who have drawn near, and have been taught by the Holy Spirit, have known themselves according to their intellectual substance. And in their knowledge of themselves they have cried out and said, ‘For we have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father’ (Rom. 8:15): that we may know what God has given us – ‘If we are sons, then are we heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with the saints.’ (Rom. 8:17)

My dear brethren and joint heirs with the saints, not foreign to you are all the virtues, but they are yours, if you are not under guilt from this fleshly life, but are manifest before God. For the Spirit enters not the soul of one whose heart is defiled, nor the body that sins; a holy power it is, removed from all deceit.

Truly, my beloved, I write to you as to reasonable men, who have been able to know yourselves. For he who knows himself, knows God: and he who knows God, is worthy to worship Him as is right. My beloved in the Lord, know yourselves. For they who know themselves from their time: and they who know their time, are able to stand firm, and not be moved about by divers tongues. For in regard to Arius, who has risen up in Alexandria, and spoken strange words about the Only-begotten, giving a beginning to Him who has no beginning, and an end to Him who is ineffable among men, and motion to Him who is without motion – if one man sin against another, they entreat God for him; but if a man sin against God, whom will they entreat for him? (cf. 1 Sam. 2:25) That man therefore has taken upon himself a great matter, and a wound incurable. For if such a one had known himself, his tongue would not have spoken that of which he had no knowledge. But it is manifest that he did not know himself.