ST. ANTONY – Patriarch of Monks
The Liturgical Year, Ven. Dom Guéranger
The East and West unite, today, in honoring St Antony, the Father of Cenobites. The Monastic Life existed before his time, as we know from indisputable testimony; but he was the first Abbot, because he was the first to bring Monks under the permanent government of one Superior or Father. Antony began with seeking solely his own sanctification; he was known only as the wonderful Solitary against whom the wicked spirits waged an almost continuous battle: but in course of time, men were attracted to him by his miracles and by the desire of their own perfection; this gave him disciples; he permitted them to cluster round his cell; and monasteries thus began to be built in the desert. The age of the Martyrs was near its close; the persecution under Diocletian, which was to be the last, was over as Antony entered on the second half of his course: and God chose this time for organizing a new force in the Church. The Monastic Life was brought to bear upon the Christian world; the Ascetics, as they were called, not even such of them as were consecrated, were not a sufficient element of power. Monasteries were built in every direction, in solitudes and in the very cities; and the Faithful had but to look at these communities living in the fervent and literal fulfilment of the Counsels of Christ, and they felt themselves encouraged to obey the Precepts. The apostolic traditions of continual prayer and penance were perpetuated by the monastic system; it secured the study of the Sacred Scriptures and Theology; and the Church herself would soon receive from these arsenals of intellect and piety her bravest defenders, her holiest Prelates, and her most zealous Apostles. Yes, the Monastic Life was to be and give all this to the Christian world, for the example of St. Antony had given her a bias to usefulness. If there ever were a monk to whom the charms of solitude and the sweetness of contemplation were dear, it was our Saint; and yet they could not keep him in his desert when he could save souls by a few days spent in a noisy city. Thus, we find him in the streets of Alexandria when the pagan persecution was at its height; he came to encourage the Christians in their martyrdom. Later on, when that still fiercer foe of Arianism was seducing the Faith of the people, we again meet the great Abbot in the same capital, this time preaching to its inhabitants that the Word is consubstantial with the Father, proclaiming the Nicene faith, and keeping up the Catholics in orthodoxy and resolution. There is another incident in the life of St. Antony which tells in the same direction, inasmuch as it shows how an intense interest in the Church must ever be where the Monastic Spirit is. We are alluding to our Saint’s affection for the great St Athanasius, who on his part reverenced the Patriarch of the Desert, visited him, promoted the Monastic Life to the utmost of his power, used to say that he considered the great hope of the Church to be in the good discipline of monasticism, and wrote the Life of his dear St. Antony. But to whom is the glory of the institution of monasticism due, with which the destinies of the Church were, from that time forward, to be so closely connected, that the period of her glory and power was to be when the monastic element flourished, and the days of her affliction were to be those of its decay? Who was it that put into the heart of Antony and his disciples the love of that poor and unknown, yet ever productive life? It is Jesus, the humble Babe of Bethlehem. To him, then, wrapt in his swaddling-clothes, and yet the omnipotent God, be all the glory!
Virtues and Actions of the great St Antony, given by the Church in her Office of his Feast.
Antony was born in Egypt, of noble and Christian parents, who left him an orphan at an early age. Having one day entered a Church, he heard these words of the Gospel being read: If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell all thou hast, and give to the poor. He took them as addressed to himself, and thought it his duty to obey these words of Christ his Lord. Selling therefore his possessions, he distributed all the money among the poor. Being freed from these obstacles, he resolved to lead on earth a heavenly life. But at his entrance on the perils of such a combat, he felt that besides the shield of faith, wherewith he was armed, he must need to fortify himself with the other virtues; and so ardent was his desire to possess them, that whomsoever he saw excelling in any virtue, him did he study to imitate.
Nothing, therefore, could exceed his continency and vigilance. He surpassed all in patience, meekness, mercy, humility manual labor and the study of the Sacred Scriptures. So great was his aversion for the company of, or conversation with, heretics, especially the Arians, that he used to say that we ought not to even to go near them. He lay on the ground when necessity obliged him to sleep. As to fasting he practiced it with so much fervor that his only nourishment was bread seasoned with salt and he quenched his thirst with water; neither did he take this his food and drink until sunset and frequently abstained from it altogether for two successive days. He very frequently spent the whole night in prayer. Antony became so valiant a soldier of God that the enemy of mankind, ill-brooking such extraordinary virtue, attacked him with manifold temptations; but the Saint overcame them all by fasting and prayer.
Neither did his victories over Satan make him heedless, for he knew how innumerable the devil’s artifices for injuring souls are. Knowing this, he betook himself into one of the largest deserts of Egypt, where such was his progress in Christian perfection that the wicked spirits, whose attacks grew more furious as Antony’s resistance grew more resolute became the object of his contempt, so much so indeed, that he would sometimes taunt them for their weakness. When encouraging his disciples to fight against the devil, and teaching them the arms wherewith they would vanquish him, he used often to say to them: ‘Believe me, Brethren. Satan dreads the watchings of holy men, and their prayers, and fasts, and voluntary poverty, and works of mercy, and humility, and above all, their ardent love for Christ our Lord. At the mere sign of whose most holy Cross he is disabled and put to flight. So formidable was he to the devils that many persons in Egypt who were possessed by them were delivered by invoking Antony’s name. So great, too, was his reputation for sanctity that Constantine the Great and his sons wrote to him commending themselves to his prayers.
At length, having reached the hundred and fifth year of his age, and having received a countless number into his institute, he called his Monks together; and having instructed them how to regulate their lives according to Christian perfection, he, venerated both for the miracles he had wrought, and for the holiness of his life, departed from this world to heaven on the sixteenth of the Calends of February (January 17).
We unite, great Saint! with the universal Church, in offering thee the homage of our affectionate veneration, and in praising our Emmanuel for the gifts he bestowed upon thee. How sublime a life was thine, and how rich in fruit were thy works! Verily, thou art the Father of a great people, and one of the most powerful auxiliaries of the Church of God. We beseech thee, therefore, pray for the Monastic Order, that it may re-appear in all its ancient fervor; and pray for each member of the great Family. Fevers of the body have been often allayed by thy intercession, and we beg for a continuance of this thy compassionate aid—but the fevers of our soul are more dangerous, and we beg thy pity and prayers that we may be delivered from them. Watch over us, in the temptations, which the enemy is unceasingly putting in our way; pray for us, that we may be vigilant in the combat, prudent in avoiding dangerous occasions, courageous in the trial, and humble in our victory. The angel of darkness appeared to thee in a visible shape; but he hides himself, and his plots from us here again, we beg thy prayers, that we be not deceived by his craft. May the fear of God’s judgments, and the thought of eternity, penetrate into the depth of our souls. May prayer be our refuge in every necessity and Penance our safe-guard against sin. But above all, pray that we may have that, which thou didst counsel above all—the Love of Jesus — of that Jesus, who, for love of us, deigned to be born into this world, that so he might merit for us the graces wherewith we might triumph—of that Jesus, who humbled himself even so far as to suffer temptation, that so he might show us how we were to resist and fight.
SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY
Commemoration St. Antony, Abbot
Semi-double – Green vestments
INTROIT – Psalm 65: 4
Omnis terra adóret te, Deus, et psallat tibi: psalmum dicat nómini tuo, Altíssime, Ps. 65. 1-2. Jubiláte Deo, omnis terra, psalmum dícite nómini ejus: date glóriam laudi ejus. V. Glória Patri.
Let all the earth adore Thee O God, and sing to Thee: let it sing a psalm to Thy name, O Most High. Ps. Shout with joy to God, all the earth, sing ye a psalm to His name: give glory to His praise V. Glory be to the Father.
Almighty and everlasting God who dost govern all things in heaven and earth, mercifully hear the prayers of Thy people, and grant us Thy peace all the days of our life. Through our Lord.
COMMEMORATION OF ST. ANTONY
May the intercession of the blessed Abbot Antony, we beseech Thee, O Lord, commend us unto Thee, that what we cannot have through our own merits, we may obtain through his patronage. Through our Lord.
EPISTLE – Romans 12: 6-16
Brethren: Having different gifts, according to the grace that is given us: either prophecy, to be used according to the rule of faith; or ministry, in ministering; or he that teacheth, in doctrine; he that exhorteth, in exhorting; he that giveth, with simplicity; he that ruleth, with carefulness; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without dissimulation. Hating that which is evil, cleaving to that which is good: loving one another with the charity of brotherhood, with honour preventing one another: in carefulness not slothful: in spirit fervent: serving the Lord: rejoicing in hope: patient in tribulation: instant in prayer: communicating to the necessities of the saints: pursuing hospitality. Bless them that persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that rejoice, weep with them that weep: being of one mind one towards another; not minding high things, but consenting to the humble.
GRADUAL – Psalm 106: 20-21
The Lord sent His word, and healed them: and delivered them from their destruction. V. Let the mercies of the Lord give glory to Him: and His wonderful works to the children of men.
ALLELUIA – Psalm 148: 2
Alleluia, alleluia. V. Praise ye the Lord, all His Angels: praise ye Him, all His hosts. Alleluia.
GOSPEL John 2: 1-11
At that time there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus also was invited, and His disciples, to the marriage. And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to Him: They have no wine. And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to Me and to thee? My hour is not yet come. His mother saith to the waiters: Whatsoever He shall say to you, do ye. Now there were set there six water-pots of stone, according to the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three measures apiece. Jesus saith to them: Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And Jesus said to them: Draw out now, and carry to the chief steward of the feast. And they carried it. And when the chief steward had tasted the water made wine, and knew not whence it was, but the waiters knew who had drawn the water: the chief steward calleth the bridegroom, and saith to him: Every man at first setteth forth good wine: and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee; and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.
Homily by St Austin, Bishop of Hippo.
Tract. 9. in John.
Even setting aside any mystical interpretation, the fact that the Lord was pleased to be asked, and to go to a marriage, showeth plainly enough that He is the Author and Blesser of marriage. There were yet to be those of whom the Apostle hath warned us as forbidding to marry; who say that marriage is a bad thing in itself, and a work of the devil. Yet we read in the Gospel that when the Lord was asked, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? He answered that it was not lawful, except it were for fornication. In which answer ye will remember that He used these words: What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
They who are well instructed in the Catholic religion know that God is the Author and Blesser of marriage; and that, whereas joining together in marriage is of God, divorce is of the devil. But it is lawful for a man to put away his wife in case of fornication, For by not keeping a wife’s faith to her husband she herself hath first willed not to be wife. They also who have made a vow of their virginity to God and have thereby attained to an higher degree of honour and holiness in the Church, are not unmarried, for they are a special part of the marriage of the whole Church, which is the Bride of Christ.
Lord, being asked, went to the marriage, to strengthen the marriage tie, and to shed light on the hidden meaning of matrimony. In that marriage feast the Bridegroom to whom it was said, “Thou hast kept the good wine until now,” was a figure of the Lord Christ, Who hath kept until now the good wine, namely the Gospel.
OFFERTORY – Psalm 65: 1-2, 16
Shout with joy to God, all the earth: sing ye a psalm to His name: come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will tell you what great things the Lord hath done for my soul. Alleluia.
Sanctify, O Lord, the gifts which we offer, and cleanse us from the stains of our sins. Through our Lord.
COMMEMORATION OF ST. ANTONY, ABBOT
May the holy Abbot Anthony, we beseech Thee, O Lord, obtain by his prayers that the Sacrifice laid on Thy holy altar may profit us unto salvation. Through our Lord.
PREFACE OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation, that we should at all times and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God: Who, together with Thine only-begotten Son, and the Holy Ghost, are one God, one Lord: not in the oneness of a single Person, but in the Trinity of one substance. For what we believe by Thy revelation of Thy glory, the same do we believe of Thy Son, the same of the Holy Ghost, without difference or separation. So that in confessing the true and everlasting Godhead, distinction in persons, unity in essence, and equality in majesty may be adored. Which the Angels and Archangels, the Cherubim also and Seraphim do praise: who cease not daily to cry out with one voice saying…
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus. Dominus Deus Sabaoth. Pleni sunt cæli et terra gloria tua. Hosanna in excelsis. Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini. Hosanna in excelsis.
COMMUNION – John 2: 7, 8, 9, 10-11
The Lord saith: Fill the waterpots with water, and carry to the chief steward. When the chief steward had tasted the water made wine, he saith to the bridegroom: Thou hast kept the good wine until now. This first miracle did Jesus in the presence of His disciples.
May the operation of Thy power be increased within us; we beseech Thee, O Lord, that being quickened by Thy divine sacraments, we may by Thy bounty, be prepared to receive that which they promise. Through our Lord.
COMMEMORATION OF ST. ANTONY
May the pleading of blessed Anthony the Abbot for us, as well as the reception of Thy Sacrament, protect us, O Lord, that we may both share in the glory of his works, and receive the help of his intercession. Through our Lord.