Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love: The Way of Christian Contemplation. New York: Continuum, 1995. 151 pages
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Chapter 9. Anthony as a Paradigm of the Spiritual Journey
The spiritual journey requires the dismantling of the false self. Bernie represents the positive outward path of unconditional love. St. Anthony of Egypt, the fourth century founder of monasticism, shows us the inward path, the way of active confrontation and passive purification, of interior warfare against the false self. "A combination of the two ways may be the most practical response to the human condition. . . . Both are needed for a balanced spiritual development."
Anthony's story is described by St. Athanasius as a series of struggles with Satan. Anthony was a well-off young man who sold all he had to follow Christ. He practiced intense asceticism, living alone among the tombs and in the desert. To no avail, the devil tempted him to reclaim his property, his former friends, and his money. Then he offered power, fame, the amenities of life, and the pleasures of food and drink. Anthony was unwavering.
But "the demon had another card up his sleeve: to weaken Anthony's resolution to persevere in the spiritual journey by attracting him to leave under the pretext of a greater good." Anthony had a younger sister whom he had placed in the care of a group of devout women. Shouldn't he himself be taking care of her? This temptation also failed, as did an attempt to undermine Anthony's courage in the face of a long, difficult spiritual journey and appeals to his need for control, security, and intimacy.
To each of these temptations Anthony responded with faith, hope, and love; that is, "determination to persevere in the spiritual journey, trust that God would give him the grace to do so, and incessant prayer."