Discernment for the Church
FROM THE LIFE OF ANTHONY- ONE OF DESERT FATHERS 251-365 A.D.
from: Paradise, by Anan-Isho, a monk of the monastery of Beth Abhe, early seventh century translated by E.A. Wallis Budge
Thursday, December 17, 1998
I think we need to pray for discernment for the church!! I would say that this man had some..
Anthony prayed often for grace to distinguish between spirits, for the Bible says, “Be not led astray be the spirits which err” (compare 1Tim.4).
“Many spirits came and tried to inform me concerning things to come. They informed me concerning the flood of the Nile, and I said to them, “I have no need to learn these things from you,” but they would come again to me as thieves and surround me and utter threats against me, having weapons with them. And again on another occasion they suddenly filled my house with snakes and various kinds of reptiles, and I stood up and lifted up my voice in Psalms and sang, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will be strong in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 10:7), and they disappeared. On another occasion they came at night, holding torches of fire and said, “We have come to burn you and your house”, and as they were saying these things I closed my eyes and put on the armor of prayer and while I was praying, the light of the sinful ones was extinguished.
And again in a few weeks they came in the guise of singers of psalms, and they began to speak to me from the scriptures; but I did not hearken unto them. On another occasion they came and shook the place where I was living, but I laughed at them because my confidence was in the Lord, and my mind was in no way disturbed by them. And again at another time they came to me clapping their hands and singing and dancing; but when they saw that I did not cease to pray and I kept singing the Psalms, their songs of joy turned into cries and they began to wail in grief. At the same time I gave thanks to the Lord for all these things, because He had broken and destroyed, and brought low, their arrogance and folly.
Another occasion there appeared to me a devil of exceedingly haughty appearance, and he stood up before me making a noise like many people and he dared to say to me, “I, even I, am the power of God,” and he said unto me, “What do you wish me to give you? Ask and you will receive.” Then I blew at him and I rebuked him in the name of Christ and I lifted my hand to smite him and as I did all of his strength and all the fiends with him, at the mention at the name of Christ, disappeared.
On another occasion, when I was fasting, the crafty one, appeared to me in the form of a brother monk carrying bread and he began to speak to me words of counsel, saying, “Rise up and strengthen yourself with this bread and rest a little from your labors, (of prayer) for you are a man, and however greatly you may be exalted spiritually, you are clothed with a mortal body and you should be careful of sicknesses.” I listened to his words and I held my peace and refrained from answering. I bowed myself down in quietness and I prayed to the Lord and said, “Oh Lord, make an end of him even as you have done away with him before”; and as I concluded my words, he vanished like the dust and went from the door like smoke.
How very many times in the desert has the devil shown me things like phantoms that I might bow myself down before him. I never ceased from singing the songs of the Holy Spirit. And many times even when I was singing, did he even dare to strike me! Not that I am anything but that it might be seen that the power of our Lord is mighty and cannot be vanquished.
On one occasion Satan approached my house one night and knocked on the door. I went out to see who it was, and saw the form of a tall and strong man. I asked him, “Who are you?” And he answered and said to me, “I am Satan.” and then I said, “What do you want?” and he answered me this, “Why do the monks and Anchorites, and other Christians revile me, and why do they all the time heap curses upon me?” I put my hands to my head firmly (In wonder), at his folly, and I said to him, “Why do you give them trouble?” Then he answered, “It is not I who trouble them, for they trouble themselves, I have no place to dwell in and not one glittering sword, and not even people who are really subject to me, for even those in service to me despise me; and I have to keep them in fetters, for they do not stay with me because they esteem it right to do so, they are ever ready to escape from me. The Christians have filled the whole world; and even this desert place is filled with their habitations. They had better take good heed to themselves when they heap abuse on me.” Then wondering at the grace of our Lord, I said to him, “How does it happen that while you have been a liar on every other occasion, you are now speaking the truth? It is true that when Christ came into this world you were brought down to the lowest depths, and the root of your terror was plucked up from the earth.” And when Satan heard the name of Christ his words came to an end and he vanished.