And because they demanded from him to talk to them about our faith in Christ, and they attempted various syllogisms concerning the preaching of the divine cross with the intention of mocking him, Antony kept silent for a while and after pitying them for their ignorance, with the help of an interpreter who was explaining his words well, he told them;
«Which is better, for someone to confess the Cross, or to attribute acts of adultery and seductions of children to those whom you call gods? Because what we believe is a signal of courage and evidence of disdain for death, while what you believe are passions of lewdness.
Again, what is preferable for someone to say, that the Word of God has not changed, but remaining unalterable, He assumed a human body for the salvation and benefit of mankind, so that since He took part in the human nature, to allow the humans too to participate to the divine and spiritual nature, or is it preferable hacer a Dios semejante the irrational animals, and therefore to render worship to the quadrupeds and to the reptiles and to the statues of the humans?
Because these are the objects of worship of your own sages. And how dare you laughing at us, for saying that Christ has appeared as a man, at the same time that you are separating the soul from heaven, and saying that the soul has erred and fallen from the vault of the heavens into a human body?
And I wish you only believed that the soul had fallen into a human body, and not that it changes and transforms in quadrupeds or reptiles as well. Because our own faith teaches that the coming of Christ took place for the salvation of mankind, while you are deceived and you are speaking about the uncreated soul.
We Christians believe in the power and the benevolence of the Divine Providence, that is, we believe that even the incarnation of Christ was not something impossible for God;
And concerning the cross, what would you say is better? For someone to endure the Cross, when some malicious scheme is taking place against him by wicked men, and not to fear the coming certain death, or to narrate mythologies about the fallacies of Osiris and Isis and about the machinations of Typhoon, and about the flight of Kronos and that he devoured his own children and about the patricides? For this is the wisdom of yours.
But how, while you are scoffing at the Cross, you do not marvel at the resurrection? For those who told this, also wrote the other.
Or why, since you are talking about the Cross, you keep silent about the dead who were resurrected, and about the blind who recovered their sight, about the paralytics who were healed, and for the lepers who were cleansed, for the walking on the sea, and for the other signs and wonders, which indicate Christ not just as a great man but as a God?
It seems to me that you are doing yourselves a great injustice and that you have not read honestly our Scriptures. But keep on reading them and you shall see that, everything that Christ has done, reveal him to be God, who came down to earth for the salvation of mankind.
But do tell us about your own views. What else can you say about the irrational beings, other than their lack of reason and their ferocity?
You might want to say, as I have heard, that these things are told in a manner of myth, and that they have an allegorical meaning.
The abduction of Persephone you attribute it to the earth, and the disability of Hephaestus you ascribe it to the fire, and you correlate Hera with the air, Apollo with the sun, Artemis with the moon and Poseidon with the sea. Therefore, more or less, you do not respect God, but you worship the creation and not God, who created everything.
If you invented such myths because the creation is beautiful, then you should get only to the point of admiration and not deify the creatures, in order not to render to the things made the honor that belongs to the Creator. Because in this way, you will have to ascribe the architect's honor as well to the house that was built by him or the honor of the general to the soldier.
So what do you have to answer to these, so that we know, if the Cross has something worthy of ridicule?
Because those men were perplexed and turned one way, then another, Antony smiled and through the interpreter he told them again;
«The things that you believe, therefore, are dubious regarding their truth based on what I already told you. But because you rely more on evidentiary arguments, and you possess that skill, and you want us too to worship our God through logical proofs, answer me this first, how exactly is it acquired the knowledge about God? With logical arguments or with the active faith? And which is prior, the faith through actions or the logical proof?»
When they responded that the faith through actions is prior and that this is the accurate knowledge, Antony said;
«You answered well, because faith comes from the disposition of the soul, while the dialectic is based in the art of combination of the reasonings. Therefore, in those who have active faith the logical proof is not necessary or maybe it is even unnecessary.
And indeed, what we perceive by faith, you are trying to construct it through arguments and many times, the things that we perceive you are not able not even to articulate them. Consequently, the active faith is better and more secure from your sophistic conclusions.
We Christians, therefore, do not base the mystery of our spiritual life in the philosophical reasonings of the Greeks, but in the power of faith, which is granted to us by God through Jesus Christ.
And as a evidence that these words of ours are true, behold now we believe in God, even though we haven't learned letters, because through His creations we know the Divine Providence over all things.
And because our faith is effective, see now that we are relying on our faith towards Christ, while you rely upon sophistic word battles. And while the apparitions of your idols are being abolished, our own faith is spreading everywhere.
And while you, by your syllogisms and your sophisms, you don't convince anyone to return from Christianity to idolatry, we, on the other hand, by teaching the faith towards Christ strip away your own superstition, since all recognize that Christ is God and Son of God.
And while you, with your eloquent speeches, do not impede the teaching of Christ, we, by calling on the name of Christ crucified, chase away all the demons whom you fear and worship as gods. And where is made the sign of the Cross, every wizardry of yours is weakening and your magic potions have no effect at all.
Tell us, therefore, where are your oracles now? Where are the magicians of the Egyptians? Where are the fantasies of the magicians? When did all these things terminate and lost their power, if not since it happened the Crucifixion of Christ? Is the Cross, therefore, worthy of ridicule or rather are those things which have been abolished by the Cross and have proven themselves powerless?
But this too is a wonder, that while your own idols not only they were never persecuted but they are even honored by the people in every city, and the followers of Christ on the contrary, are persecuted, and yet own own faith flourishes and multiplies more than yours.
And while your own idols are vanishing, although you formalize them and you guard them, on the contrary, the faith of Christ and His teaching, although ridiculed by you and many times has been persecuted by the Kings, however, it has spread and has filled the whole world.
Because at what other time did the knowledge of God shine so bright? Or when was manifested so much prudence and virtue of virginity? Or when was death so much despised, except when it appeared the Cross of Christ?
No one doubts this fact, when he sees the martyrs despising death on account of Christ, and the virgins of the Church keeping their bodies pure and undefiled because of Christ.
And these proofs are sufficient to demonstrate that the faith in Christ is the only true and pious one. But look, you still don't believe and you are seeking logical syllogisms as proofs.
We, however, do not try to prove our faith with plausible words and arguments of idolatrous wisdom, but as Paul also said, our teacher, we persuade by our faith, which clearly precedes the rhetorical constructions.
Here are some patients present who are suffering from demons». And indeed there were some people there who were tormented by demons and had come to him. After he brought them in the middle he said to the idolaters;
«You cleanse them from the demons, either by your syllogisms, or by summoning your idols, or with any other skill or magic you want, or, if you cannot do it, stop fighting against us and you will see the power of the Cross of Christ.
And when he had said these, he called on Christ and signed those who suffered with the sign of the Cross, a second and third time, and immediately, these men stood up, healthy and in their right minds, and thanking the Lord ever since.
And while the so-called philosophers marveled, and were truly astonished at the wisdom of that man and the wonder that took place, Antony told them; «Why do you marvel at this? It is not we who did it, but it is Christ who does these wonders, through those who believe in Him.
Believe yourselves too therefore and you shall see that what we believe in is not skill with words, but the faith that works through the love of Christ. And if you will also possess this faith in Christ, you will no longer seek logical proofs, but you will consider it sufficient and self-evident».
These were the words of Antony and they were departing in admiration and they were embracing him and acknowledging that they had benefited a lot from him.
The fame of Antony reached even to the Kings. Because when the Emperor Constantine and his children, the Augusts, Constantius and Constans, learned of all these things, they were writing epistles to him as if he was their spiritual father, and they wished to receive replying letters from him.
But he didn't consider the letters of the kings as something important, nor was he rejoicing because he was receiving epistles, but he remained the same, as he was before the kings started sending him letters.
When they were bringing the letters to him, he was calling the monks and saying; «Do not admire because the king writes to me, because he is also a man; you should rather admire because God wrote the Divine Law for the mankind and He spoke to us through His Son.
And indeed, he did not want to receive the epistles, saying that he did not know what to answer in such matters. Because however the monks were begging him by saying him that the kings are Christians too, and in order that they not take offense, because they would consider that they were being rebuffed, he was permitting the letters to be read.
And so, he would accept their epistles, due to the reason that they believed in Christ, and he was answering them and advising them on things pertaining to the salvation of the soul; he also exhorted them to not consider the goods of the present life important and great, but rather to remember the coming judgment, and to be aware that Christ is the only true and eternal king.
And he implored them, to be philanthropists and to give attention to justice and to the poor. And they were accepting his advices and were rejoicing. Thus, he was loved by all people and everyone begged to have him as a spiritual father.
As such a man he was becoming known by the people who were coming in order to meet him, and after responding to them with such answers, he would return again to the inner mountain.
And while he continued living his usual ascetic life, many times as he was sitting or walking with those who had come to see him, he would remain speechless and in a trance, as it is written in Daniel. After quite some time, he would speak again to the brothers who were there with him and they would become aware that he had seen a vision.
Because many times he was seeing even things that were happening in Egypt, while he was on the mountain, and he once narrated them to Serapion the bishop, who was at the mountain with him and he was watching Antony that he had fallen into some vision.
Once time therefore, while he sat working, he went into a condition like an ecstasy and he was groaning a lot as he was seeing some vision. After quite some time, he turned to those who were with him, and he was moaning and he was praying all frightened, and he remained on his knees for a long time.
When the old man rose, he was weeping. Then, those who were with him were greatly frightened and trembled, and they were begging him to know what had happened to him, and they pressed him a lot until he was forced to speak. And then he told them with much groaning;
«Oh my children, it is better for me to die before they happen the things that I saw in the vision». But because they were begging him again, he said to them with tears; «Wrath is about to overtake the Church and she will handed over to men who are like irrational beasts.
For I saw the High Altar of the Church and everywhere around I saw mules standing and kicking the things within, like beasts leaping rebelliously around here and there. You heard how I was moaning for I heard a voice saying; «My altar shall become a disgusting abomination».
These things the old man saw; and after two years the current assault of the Arians happened, and the seizure of the churches; and after they seized the sacred vessels by force, they became the cause for those vessels to be fallen into the hands of idolaters.
It was when they were forcing and even these idolaters to leave their workshops and to gather together with them in the temples, and, in their presence, to do whatever desecration they wanted on the Holy Altar.
Then we all came to understand that the kicks of these mules in the vision were omen messages to Antony for what the Arians are doing now, senselessly, like the beasts.
So after he saw this vision, he comforted those present by saying; «Do not lose heart, my children, for just as the Lord has been angry, so again he will give the cure. And the Church will quickly again regain her proper beauty and shall shine forth, as before.
And you shall see the persecuted being restored, and the impiety withdrawn once again to its own hiding places, and the holy faith declaring herself everywhere with complete bravery and freedom;
just watch out to not defile yourselves with the Arians. Because their teaching it is not of the Apostles, but of the demons and of their father, the devil; or rather, it is sterile and absurd teaching, and not a product of a sound mind, like the irrationality of the mules».
Such were the deeds of Antony. We must not be incredulous however if so many wonders have been made through a man. Because this is the promise of the Savior, who says; «If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain; Move from bere to there, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you».
And again He says; «Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Ask, and you will receive». And He is also the one who says to His disciples and to all who believe in him; «Heal the sick, cast out the demons; as you received without paying, you should give without pay».
Antony therefore, was not healing by issuing his own commands, but he was praying and he was invoking the name of Christ, in order to become clear to everyone that it was not he who was acting but the Lord, Who was showing His philanthropy through Antony and He was healing the sick.
The contribution of Antony was only the prayer and the ascetic life, due to which he dwelled in the mountain and he rejoiced in the contemplation of divine realities and he was sad when many visitors were annoying him and were forcing him to come to the outer mountain.
And indeed, all the judges were begging him to descend from the mountain, since it was not possible for them to enter there, due to the number of defendants who were following them. They were begging him to come however just in order to see him.
And although he would change his course and he wouldn't walk down the streets that were leading to them, but the judges persisted, and in fact, they were sending the condemned to him in the custody of soldiers, in order for him to descend even with the pretext of them.
As he was being forced therefore, and because he was seeing them lamenting, he was coming to the outer mountain and his effort was not in vain, because his arrival was useful and beneficial for many.
But he was also benefiting the judges, by counseling them to prefer justice more than anything else, and to fear God, and to know that, with the criterion they judge they will be judged. Nevertheless, more than everything else, he loved his life in the mountain.
Once, a military commander, as well as some other people in need, put a lot of pressure on him to come down from the mountain, and with the many supplications they persuaded him, and after he came and said a few words to them, as many as were sufficient for salvation, and about the duties of the Christians, he was in a hurry to return.
And because someone called the duke was imploring him to stay a little longer, he was telling him that he couldn't remain longer with them and with a graceful example he persuaded him by saying;
Just as the fishes die, if they stay a long time on the dry land, so also the monks are weakened and lose their spiritual powers, when they linger near you and when they mingle with you. Like the fish in the sea therefore, likewise we too must hurry up to return to the mountain, lest, if we delay, we might neglect our exercise.
As soon then as the general heard these words and many other things from him, marvelling at him he said, that truly, this man is a servant of God. Because, how could an illiterate man have so great and substantial an intellect, unless he were loved by God?
Some other general, Balacius was his name, violently persecuted the Christians, because he favored the despicable Arians.
And because he was so much brutal and cruel, as to beat virgins and to strip monks and flog them, Antony sent an epistle to him and he was writing in the following spirit;
«I see wrath coming upon you. Therefore stop persecuting the Christians, lest some day the wrath may overtake you, for even now it is about to come upon you».
After Valakios laughed, he threw the letter to the ground and he spat at it, and he insulted those who brought it to him, and he instructed them to go to Antony and tell him the following; «Since you are anxious about the monks, I shall come now to search you too».
Not even five days had passed, and the wrath overtook him. Because this Balacius set out together with Nestorius, the prefect of Egypt, both on horseback, to go to the first monastery of Alexandria, which is called Chaireu.
These horses belonged in the property of Balacius, and they were the most tame of all the horses that he was feeding. But before they reached their destination, the horses started to play with each other as they used to do;
suddenly, the tamer horse, on which Nestorius was riding, with one bite threw Balacius down and attacked him, and he tore his thigh so badly with his teeth, that he was carried immediately to the city and within three days he died.
So while he was advising the wicked and the difficult characters, the others who were going to him, he was admonishing in such a way, that they would immediately forget their judicial obligations and they would proclaim blessed those who were departing from this mundane life.
And so avidly he was supporting the victims of injustice, that someone could think that he was the one who suffered and not them.
And so avidly he was capable of benefiting them all, that many military officers and many rich people, were giving up the burdens of the mundane life, and they were becoming monks for the rest of their lives.
In one word, he was like a physician who had been given by God to Egypt. Because who was grieving and went to meet him, and did not return rejoicing?
Who would come to him weeping for his dead ones and not put his mourning aside right away? Who would come angry and wouldn't change the anger to love?
What poor and disappointed person would meet him and as soon as he heard and saw him, he would not despise wealth and would not be comforted for his poverty? What monk who neglected his ascesis and come to him did not become all the stronger?
What young man who came to the mountain and saw Antony would not at once renounce the pleasures and would not love moderation?
Who would come to him tempted by a demon and did not gain relief? And who distressed by impure thoughts would come to him and his mind would not find serenity?
But the remarkable thing of the ascetic life of Antony was really that, as I said before, he had the gift of discerning the spirits, and he knew well their intentions, but also towards what objective each of the demons had his interest and his inclination.
And not only he was not fooled by the evil spirits, but also those who were distressed by their thoughts, he was comforting and teaching them how they would be able to overturn their attacks, by narrating the weaknesses and the treacheries of the acting demons.
Therefore, each one of his visitors was descending reinforced from the mountain, understanding very well the artifices and the tricks of the devil and of his demons.
How many young women already engaged, on simply seeing Antony at a distance, they remained forever virgins for Christ!
But people were coming to him from distant places as well, and after they would also receive, like all the other people, the benefit from his words, they would return to their lands as though sent on their way by their father.
And when later he had finally died, all his spiritual children as if orphaned by a father, they were consoling themselves only with his memory, preserving well within themselves his admonitions and his exhortations.
It is also worth telling you what was the end of his life, because you also want to hear it and because even his end was enviable.
When he once visited, as was his custom, the monks who resided in the outer mountain, and after he had been informed from the Divine Providence about the end of his life, he spoke to the brothers and he said;
«This is the last visit what I am doing to you and I doubt whether we will see each other again in this life. It's about time now for me to die too, because I am approaching one hundred and five years in my life.
When the monks heard this, they were crying and hugging and kissing the old man; but he, like one departing from some foreign city to his own, he was cheerfully talking with them and he was giving them orders, not to lose heart in the fatigues of the asceticism nor become disappointed, but to live with the thought, that every day they may die.
And again he was telling them to take care to protect their soul from impure thoughts. To strive with zeal to resemble the Saints, and to not approach to the schismatic Melitians, for they know their evil and profane reputation.
Also, to not have any communication with the Arians either because the impiety of theirs too was evident to everyone, and to not be troubled by seeing the Arians being protected by the judges, because the arrogance of their power is perishable and ephemeral and soon it will end.
You should keep therefore yourselves clean away from them, and guard the tradition of the fathers, and especially the holy faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, which you have learned from the Holy Scriptures, and many times you have heard me reminding it to you».
And while the brother monks insisted very much for him to stay with them and end his life there, but he didn't want this for a number of reasons, as he was expressing through his silence, but above all for the following reason;
The Egyptians, they certainly used to do funerals and to wrap in linens the bodies of their important dead ones, and especially of the Holy Martyrs, they were not burying them under the earth, however, but they were placing them on funeral beds, and they were keeping them inside their houses, thinking, that in this way they honor those who died.
Many times Antony was asking the bishops to instruct the people regarding this custom. Similarly, he was also preventing the laymen and was rebuking the women, saying that this was neither lawful, nor pious at all.
Because even to this day, the bodies of both the Patriarchs and of the Prophets, are preserved in tombs. But even the Lord's own body was put in a tomb, and a stone was placed and hid it, until he rose on the third day.
And in saying these things, he was making them understand that, whoever does not bury, after death, the bodies of the deceased under the earth, he violates the Divine Law even though these bodies are holy. Because, which body is greater or holier than the body of the Lord?
Many people therefore, when they heard these things, they began thereafter to bury the bodies of their dead ones under the earth, and they thanked the Lord, for having received a wise teaching.
Antony therefore was aware of this custom of Egypt and he was afraid that they would do the same also with his own body, and so, he hastily said goodbye to the monks of the outer montain and he departed.
When he entered the inner mountain, where he used to stay and live in asceticism, after a few months, he became ill. Then he called those two monks who had lived with him in the inner mountain, practicing the discipline for fifteen years and assisting him in his advanced age, and he said to them;
As it is written, I am now going the way of the Fathers, for I see myself being summoned by the Lord; you, however, remain vigilant and do not let lose the fruit of your long asceticism, and strive to preserve your enthusiasm, as if you were making a beginning now.
You know the demons who want your harm, you know how fierce they are but also how powerless. Therefore, do not fear them, but rather draw inspiration from Christ and believe in Him always.
Live as if you are expecting that every day you might die, pay heed to yourselves, and remember all the exhortations you have heard from me.
Do not have absolutely no communication with the schismatics, nor with the heretical Arians. Because you know how I have avoided them too, because of their heresy and of their Christ-battling and heterodox teaching.
But you should also strive to always have the strongest bond between you, but first of all with the Lord and then with the saints, so that after death they may receive you as friends and companions into the eternal habitations.
Consider these things and turn your minds to them, and if you care for me and remember me as a father, do not permit them to take my body to Egypt, lest they set it in their houses.
Because for this reason I entered the mountain and I came here. You know that I have always rebuked those who do this and have exhorted them to abandon this custom.
Bury therefore my body and hide it under the earth. And keep it a secret this wish of mine, so that, no one else knows the place of my burial, other than you alone. Because, I shall receive my body once again, incorruptible from the Savior, during the day of the resurrection of the dead.
Distribute my clothing. To Bishop Athanasius give the one sheepskin, and the cloak that I used to lay on the ground in order to sleep, which of course he had given to me new and I have worn it out.
To Bishop Serapion give the other sheepskin. You should keep the hair garment. Keep yourselves safe, therefore, children, because Antony is leaving this life and will be no longer among you».
When he had said this, he extended his legs and they embraced him, and seeing as friends those who had come in order to receive him, and full of joy by their presence, as he was laying there and with his face full of joy, he died, and was taken to the fathers.
So after they prepared him and they wrapped him in linen cloths, in accordance with the commands that he had given them, they hid his body under the earth and no one knows anymore where he has been buried, except those two.
And each of those who received the sheepskin and the worn out cloak of the blessed Antony, they keeps it safe like some great treasure. Because only by seeing these, is like beholding Antony himself, and when they wear them is like bearing with joy his admonitions.
And although these things that I told you are just a few in comparison with his virtue, from these however you can deduce a good idea about what kind of man he was that man of God, Antony, who, from his youth until such an advanced age kept undiminished the zeal of his asceticism;
and he was neither succumbed by desire for more exquisite food, due to his old age, nor did he change his uncomfortable ascetic clothes, because his body got weakened, nor did he ever wash his feet with water, and yet he remained healthy in everything.
Because his eyes too he had them strong and perfect, and he could see well; and from his teeth not even one had fallen, they simply had been worn to the gums, because of the great age of the old man.
But also in his feet and hands he remained healthy, and generally, he seemed more cheerful and with more willingness and strength, from all those who made use of a variety of foods and baths and different clothing according to the season.
But also the fact that he had become famous everywhere and everyone admired him and they loved him, even those who had never seen him, this was a sign of his virtue and of his godly soul.
Because Antony did not become known from his writings, nor from his pagan wisdom, that is, his Greek education, nor from some craft, but on account of his godliness alone. And the fact that this was a gift from God, no one would deny.
Because how can be explained that, although Antony was concealed and sitting in a mountain, he became famous in Spain and in France and in Rome and in Africa, if God was not with him, Who, makes his own people known everywhere, and Who, He had promised him that since the beginning?
Because, even if the people of God act secretly and silently, even if they want to remain unknown, the Lord nevertheless shows them to everyone like lamps that shine, so that all who hear them know that the commandments are possible to be fulfilled and thus to acquire zeal for the virtuous life.
Read these things, therefore, to the other brothers too so that they may learn cómo debe ser the life of the monks, and so they may believe that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, glorifies those who glorify him and those who who wholeheartedly serve Him until the end of their lives;
and, not only He leads them into the Kingdom of heaven, but even here on earth where they choose to live concealed and to depart from the multitude, He makes them known and celebrated everywhere, both because of their own virtue and also because of the benefit which they cause to the others.
And if the need arises, read this epistle to the idolaters too so they also learn, even in this way, that not only our Lord Jesus Christ is God and Son of God, but also that, those who sincerely worship Him and reverently believe in Him, they can control the demons;
that is, the same demons, whom the Greeks consider gods and whom the Cristians not only they prove them that they are not gods, but they also trample upon them and they chase them away as deceivers and corrupters of mankind, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom belongs the glory forever and ever. Amen.