Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: Abba Antonios 12

“While still a young monk, Abba Poemen asked to learn from Antonios the Great what he should do to find his salvation.

“Acknowledge your faults with a broken heart,” this Father of Fathers answered, “and humble yourself before God. Also, endure patiently the temptations which occur to you and be sure that you will be saved.”

No cheap and easy Gospel here. No warm fuzzies. None of what have been called the consolations of religion.

For the Desert Christians, salvation was hard work. I don’t know where all Celebrators live, so I can only speak about my experiences here in the USA.

What I’ve noticed is that fewer and fewer of us are willing to acknowledge our faults. What I’ve noticed is that more and more of us are willing to blame the other person instead of taking responsibility fir our own issues. Isn’t that a form of bearing false witness?

As for broken-heartedness, why aren’t we more broken-hearted over our faults? We don’t have to stay broken-hearted, of course, we can choose to learn to be otherwise. And isn’t that what life as a Christian is supposed to be? Learning to do otherwise, to be otherwise? Paul writes that I must decrease so that Christ can increase within me. Paul writes that we are transformed by the renewal of our minds and we present our bodies as a sacrifice to God.

As for humility, I don’t know enough about humility or being humble to say anything intelligent about it. C S Lewis wrote that true humility is not pretending to be greater or lesser than one actually is. Sr. Mary Margaret Funk wrote a wonderful book called Humility Matters for the Spiritual Life which cannot be recommended highly enough.

Patiently endure temptations? Do we even think about being tempted? I know people who on a daily basis buy four or five of the huge-sized coffees at Starbucks and then complain they can’t afford to put anything in the collection basket or to tithe.

Somehow instead of thinking in terms of temptation, we think in terms of “I have a right to this” regardless of whether we need it or not.


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