The Temptations of Anthony (For Anthony the Great, Abbot)

If you stood in the desert with Anthony,
The devil’s fire blazing around you
And all his wiles wildly planned
To keep you circulating mid-air,
Suspended in tormenting spirals
With demon-fish and firebrands;

If you were beset with him by wolves
And scorpions poised at you to sting,
Or if the centaurs or satyrs raged,
Obstructing your faithful desert path,
And all the demons in your cave
Clubbed and clubbed you till you fell;

Would you see with pure clarity
Evil’s true, unvarnished face,
Without allure or appeal?
Would you shake to see the coins
Laid upon a plate before you,
And fling hell’s currency to the flames?

If evil always had such eyes
And laid its motives out so bare,
If Satan’s angels always stung
With pricks and barbs so visible,
Perhaps we could all be somehow
As firm, as fixed, as Anthony.

Yet our deserts have oases more enticing;
We seldom see the swords that wield
Themselves before us in our path.
The sea and flame hold demons which
Do not hiss and have no scales;
They look just like our dreams.

Weak as Anthony, we must trace
The footsteps of another one
Who saw through all of Satan’s charms
And did not eat the apples there,
Inside the desert we all tread
And sometimes take for home.

4 thoughts on “The Temptations of Anthony (For Anthony the Great, Abbot)

    1. Thanks for that. Yes, he does seem to have been quite an amazing man, although I haven’t read so much about him. I was just struck by the stories of his temptations and wondered if they are helpful for us to follow. I guess they can be, so long as we depend on God’s strength to get us through times of trial, rather than depending on our own strength and endurance.

  1. Amen. Literature by the Desert Fathers of the Nile River region are a true refreshment for believers ~ especially if you are tired of reading Jewish scripture ~ e.g. the Holy Bible. Saint Athanasius (spelling ?) wrote Anthony’s biography ~ which is exceptional ~ written, if I remember correctly, about the 4th century. The Catholics are always publishing this stuff…

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