Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: Abba Anthony the Great

“There are people,” Antonios the Great said, “who, having used up all of their bodily powers in excessive asceticism, do not succeed in drawing near to God, since they lack discretion.”

After all the times I’ve had to point out the extremism in the Sayings, it is wonderful to see Abba Anthony of Egypt address it. When we embrace a spiritual practice, we don’t embrace it for its own sake.  We embrace a spiritual practice because it leads us closer to God. Asceticism for the sake of asceticism will not do it.  Joyful embrace of a moderate ascetical practice will.


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