Archive for May 15th, 2008

The Life of Antony continues. In this segment, we get more biography — and the first half of what’s apparently an actual talk by St. Anthony of Egypt. (Boy, those Romans love their transcripts!)

The usual thing people remember about St. Anthony is that he was tormented by demons, and secular sources often come right out and say that he was a loon or hallucinating from hunger. You’ll notice that St. Athanasius (who knew him) not only describes him as sane, non-emaciated, and healthy, but also as eminently reasonable and not overly emotional. You’ll also notice that St. Anthony doesn’t seem so much tormented by demons as mildly annoyed by them. To him, they are like Internet trolls — something you just have to put up with, but not something you need to fear or waste brain cycles on. (He also seems to view them the way The Tick, and before him Master Chiun of the House of Sinanju, fictionally viewed ninja: “Those darned ninja! They’re like cockroaches; they get in everywhere!”)

But like pretty much every early Christian teacher who talks about demons, St. Anthony doesn’t fear them. They can be banished by faith, the Sign of the Cross, the name of Jesus, or just plain ignoring them until they go away. You can frustrate them simply by not listening to them. They are just pathetic sore losers of no account, and their powers amount to nothing compared to the Lord. (This is hardly cowering in fear of the hostile supernatural.)

This is why it’s a good idea to read primary sources. The picture you get is often quite different from the stereotypes and urban legends derived from academics quoting academics quoting academics, or the sort of Cliff Notes view of history passed down to us from influential folks with an axe to grind.

Part 3.



Read Full Post »