Item description for Athanasius : The Life of Antony and the Letter To Marcellinus (Classics of Western Spirituality) by Robert C. Gregg & Athanasius...
Overview Athanasius was a great defender of the Christian faith in the 4th century. He defended the orthodox view of Christ's divinity against the Arian heresy. This volume offers two of his best spiritual writings. The first work is the famous "Life of Anthony." Anthony was a monk who exemplified the dedicated life. The second work is Athanasius' "Letter to Marcellinus," which was an introduction to the reading and praying of the Psalms. Both works are worth reading by any Christian.
Publishers Description Athanasius (c. 295-373) Bishop of Alexandria, spiritual master and theologian, was a major figure of 4th-century Christendom.
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Studio: Paulist Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 0.75" Width: 6" Height: 9" Weight: 0.65 lbs.
Release Date Dec 1, 1980
Publisher Paulist Press
Series Classics of Western Spirituality
ISBN 0809122952 ISBN13 9780809122950
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More About Robert C. Gregg & Athanasius
Robert C. Gregg is Professor in Religious Studies, Emeritus, at Stanford University. His publications are historical studies of belief systems, with special attention to the competition of religions in the late Roman-early medieval Mediterranean and Levant.
Robert C. Gregg has an academic affiliation as follows - Stanford University.
Robert C. Gregg has published or released items in the following series...
Reviews - What do customers think about Athanasius : The Life of Antony and the Letter To Marcellinus?
A spiritual itinerary of conversion, withdrawal, purgative struggle & transformatrion Sep 9, 2007
"The personalization of the mystical path begun with Philo's presentation of Moses and the patriarchs here reaches a new stage, as Athanasius portrays his contemporary, Anthony the Monachos, as the ideal mystic initiate." Bernard McGinn, The Foundation of Mysticism
Antony, the Father of Monks: I was captivated when I first heard, at an early age of twelve, the Life of St. Antony, written by Athanasius, the heroic defender of church orthodoxy. The stories of Antony's battles with demons, and his toil and escape into the desert to avoid temptation, appeal to Coptic kids, even at early age and is used by the church to promote the monastic ideals in childhood. The Vita Antonini, which St Athanasius wrote as the hagiography of Saint Antony, unveils fascinating mystical encounters while living daily within the boundary of a world ruled by the Powers of darkness. Written about 357, three decades after his election for Papacy in the great church of Alexandria, the Megalopolice. Athanasius for more than a half century toiled to preserve Nicene Orthodoxy, championed by him and by his successors establishing the solid foundation upon which Christian faith of the Christian East was built.
Antony's Pilgrimage: Antony's monastic pilgrimage was plagued with spiritual warfare during which Antony resisted temptation and became a target for renewed attacks. The rest of the work could be sorted as a manual of monastic instruction, with particular emphasis on resisting evil through self mortification. Within the same patristic tradition John Cassian and Evagrius Ponticus wrote their marvelous books for lay and monastics. Athanasius records Antony's struggles, and tells his readers how to recognize and fight the devil. St. Antony is believed to be a Thaumaturgies, the vehicle for many miracles, and those who sought healing were always instructed to give the glory to God, the source of all good. Antony became an icon of Christian humility and self-mortification. The life of Antony is an edifying biography to all Christians, at any stage of their spiritual pilgrimage. One wonders if the work that left its readers breathless in late antiquity could still be heard today.
The Vita Antonini: The 'life' is recounted in the first fourteen chapters, giving particular details of his mystical schema (spiritual itinerary), while the following eighty illustrate the examples of Antony's Theognosis, his wisdom by knowing and experiencing the presence of the Lord. Anthony withdrew to the desert, living ascetically on bread and water. As a result of his prayerful life and self denial, he came to the attention of the faithful in outer world. Western scholars alleged that Athanasius might have been using the Vita as a polemical tool, to promote monasticism in the West. There are times when some still wonder if Athanasius, who was a gifted 'Orator and Preacher,' known as the 'Evangelical Doctor,' used his charming style of hagiographic story telling in persuasion for the holy cause. Throughout, Athanasius teaches that monastic life is an imitation of Christ, a discipleship of his following. Antony followed this discipline (askesis), which for him was a battle with the demonic powers of self and the world. He conquers in those extreme temptations by the grace of Christ, who strengthened him. At the end, Antony is presented as the renewed human, who through the Christ recovered what Adam had lost.
Message of the Vita: In a most compelling analysis, Philp Rousseau, the eminent patristic writes in, 'The Desert fathers, Antony...', "Antony recalled his own initial vulnerability. demons could do little more than argument an existing frame of mind;... So it is not so much the imagery as the mechanics that we must attend to. The ascetic was bent upon reclaiming his conscious life from memories of error, weakness, and indulgence. this he did by fixing his attention on a range of concepts and of texts or dicts that could not but exclude those other 'thoughts'. in this way he built up a psychic wall against his past, both cultural and personal." (The Study of Spirituality, pp 126)
The Mind of Athanasius: The heart of Athanasius's theology, is centered around the relationship of God with the universe in creation and salvation. God's absolute transcendence, which Athanasius held in common with his Alexandrine predecessors, is clearly modified. God's immanence is not merely a mitigation of transcendence, in the world (and) fundamental to God's own nature. " This is all the more striking because Athanasius does not weaken the absolute distinction between creator and created, but rather assumes this in strong terms. Yet the Incarnation in particular presents God to the world in an immediate (and paradoxical) sense that contrasts with most of Athanasius's Middle-Platonizing theological predecessors. This remains a striking and powerful position," wrote Andrew McGowan, on 'The Coherence of his Thought' The emphasis on the gulf between God and humankind called in question Hellenistic ideas found in Alexandrine thought, Origen in particular, in virtue of which human beings could attempt to ascend to God. For Athanasius, who defended the reality of the incarnation, "He was made man, that we might be made God," deification no longer meant restoration of our natural state but realization of a new possibility offered to us by God through the incarnation. Andrew Louth came to a conclusion that Origen's Greek concepts, in which humans realize their kinship with God, fall into the background, Athanasius emphasis is on god's condescension to us rather than on our ascent to God. Fr. Louth makes this statement, "an important part of Athanasius' achievement was in his championing of the ascetic movement... In his widely influential Life of Antony, he presented an understanding of the ascetic life less in human search for God than as the way in which the war against the forces of evil, in which God has achieved the decisive victory through the cross and resurrection,..."
A Bestseller in its day, A book that made people stop, think and act Sep 8, 2007
"You have entered upon a noble rivalry with the monks of Egypt by your determination either to equal or surpass them in your training in the way of virtue... in answer to your prayers God will give its fulfillment." Athanasius, 'to the brethren in foreign lands'
"Athanasius's biography was not only a bestseller in its day, but a book that made people stop and think--and act." David Wright
Antony the Anchorite: Third century persecutions in Egypt drove many Christians, into the desert -- but some didn't just use the wilderness as a refuge, but embraced it in the spirit of mortification and after the example of St. John the Baptist, whom they followed to triumph, over the two unavoidable enemies of human salvation, the flesh and the devil, by depriving them of their catalytic milieu, the world. The greatest among these pioneers was St. Anthony of Egypt (A.D. 251-356), who was made known as the Father of Monasticism, and Role Model by St. Athanasius. St. Anthony was born in upper Egypt, to rich Egyptian parents whose inheritance he gave up at age of twenty, after hearing the sermon on Our Lord's words to the young man in verses 19:21 Matt. He came to live in a tomb in the outer banks of his village, near the outskirts of the western desert. He assumed poverty and spent fifteen years studying the lives of other ascetics and practicing the virtues. He retreated further into the desert, living as a solitary in a deserted fort, seeing no one, conversing with no one for two decades, where he was tormented mentally, and brutalized physically by demons that illusively appeared as wild beasts, or seductive women. He was ultimately recognized, sought as virtuous, and disciples, to be flocked to the fort, beseeching him to come out and assume their spiritual advise, which he eventually did, teaching and directing them, for about five years before he resumed retreat again for the remainder of his life, though now receiving visitors and occasionally leaving his seclusion in order to help Christians who were being persecuted by Pagan or Arian emperors, support the Bishop of Alexandria, who later wrote his biography, and to seek out St. Paul the Hermit
Coptic Life of Antony: "The life and conversation of our holy Father, Antony, written and sent to the monks by our Father among the Saints, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria to the brethren in foreign lands. "You have entered upon a noble rivalry with the monks of Egypt by your determination either to equal or surpass them in your training in the way of virtue. For by this time there are monasteries among you, and the name of monk receives public recognition. With reason, therefore, all men will approve this determination, and in answer to your prayers God will give its fulfillment. Now since you asked me to give you an account of the blessed Antony's way of life, and are wishful to learn how he began the discipline, who and what manner of man he was previous to this, how he closed his life, and whether the things told of him are true, that you also may bring yourselves to imitate him, I very readily accepted your behest, for to me also the bare recollection of Antony is a great accession of help. And I know that you, when you have heard, apart from your admiration of the man, will be wishful to emulate his determination; seeing that for monks the life of Antony is a sufficient pattern of discipline."
Life of Antony, Changing Lives: News of Antony of Egypt, of his heroic wrestling with the demonic powers, and eventually his edifying solitude, spread around the Christanized empire long before he died. At Rome, Marcella, a noble wealthy widow, heard about him, and responded by turning her mansion into a holy community devoted to Bible study and prayer, with many others following her example. But when Athanasius, the heroic defender of nicene orthodoxy, who told Marcella about the anchorite, got time to compose Antony's story during his third exile (355-362), that Antony's overwhelming influence became even greater. As Athanasius persuaded his readers in the introduction of his Life of Antony prophesying, "I perceive that, once you have heard his story, you will not only admire the man but will strive to emulate his dedication as well." Within a decade of its publication, a Latin version of Athanasius original in Greek had been published, amazing and even on occasions setting readers on holy fire. It was a biography that made people stop and think--and act. Some turned back to the book in turmoil as they experienced an inner edifying conversion. David Wright described it masterfully, "He was filled with holy love and sobering shame. Angry with himself, he turned his eyes on his friend and said to him: 'Tell me, I beg you, what do we hope to achieve with all our labors? What is our aim in life? ... Can we hope for any higher office in the palace than to be friends of the emperor? If I wish to become God's friend, in an instant I may become that now."
Life of Antony's Controversy: In 1877 Weingarten denied the historical character of the Life, and the Athanasian authorship describing as a mere romance. He claimed that until 340 there was no Coptic monks, and that the dates of a "real" Anthony should be pushed later, about a century. Some English writers even questioned, and few denied, Antony's existence. The Catholic Encyclopedia's comments, "To anyone conversant with the literature of monastic Egypt, the notion that the fictitious hero of a novel could ever have come to occupy Anthony's position in monastic history can appear nothing less than a fantastic paradox. As a matter of fact these theories are abandoned on all hands; the Life is received as certainly historical in substance, and as probably by Athanasius, and the traditional account of monastic origins is reinstated in its great outlines. The episode is now chiefly of interest as a curious example of a theory that was broached and became the fashion, and then was completely abandoned, all within a single generation."
Letter to Marcellinus: Athanasius praises with admiration Marcellinus steadfastness in Christ in the latter trialsand suffering, but in his illness attempt to study the Holy Scriptures and especially the Psalms. The Letter to Marcellinus is an introduction, in the Alexandrine tradition of biblical exegesis, to the spiritual dimension of the Psalms. The Psalms, the core of Coptic monastic and liturgical praying traditions, the book of hours, or Agpya, since expounded by Origen, and canonized by Pachomius as the unceasing doxology of the Coptic monastics are presented by Athanasius as a collective variety of praying attitudes which covers the seven times of contemplation, in a harmonious and colorful sense of prayer. Athanasius gracefully wrote, "Of every one of those, he says, you are trying to grasp the inner force and sense. Splendid! I myself am devoted to the Psalms, as indeed to the whole Bible; and I once talked with a certain studious old man, who had bestowed much labor on the Psalter, and discoursed to me about it with great persuasiveness and charm, expressing himself clearly too, and holding a copy of it in his hand the while he spoke. So I am going to write down for you the things he said."
Abot the Author: Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, was an uncompromising defender of Christian Orthodoxy of Nicaene faith. Of his early life, or education little is known, other than he was born at Alexandria around the year 297. Coptic tradition iterate, a legendary story that has been preserve by Rufinus of Aquileia on how while yet a boy, came under the notice of his patron, Papa Alexander, who took him with his two younger brothers as a youth into his patriarchal residence, educated them, employing Athanasius as his deacon, about 313. Since then Athanasius has been consecrated to the Christian ministry. He became a student in the Didascaleion, the famous catechetical school of Alexandria, which preserved the teachings of Clement and Origen. In the museum, the ancient seat of the Alexandrian university, he may have learned grammar, logic, and rhetoric. He was certainly well disciplined, training as a novice monk in Sketes, and became trained in ecclesiastic debates on theology in questions common to both in philosophy and religion. When persecution broke, under which the Church of Alexandria severely suffered at this time, and his discipleship to abba Antony of which he has recounted, had a lasting impact upon his character, and instated in him the undaunted fortitude in defending Christian truth, and his unrelenting faith by which he became known as the thirteenth disciple of the Lord. Before the outbreak of the Arian controversy, in 319, Athanasius became known as the author of two essays, 'Against the Gentiles,' and 'On the Incarnation of the Word,' addressed to a convert. Both apologetical treatises, argue fundamental questions on monotheism, necessity of divine the role in salvation of the world; and thus elaborated on the essential divinity of Christ as the God in man. Alexander has been strengthened in his theological position against Arius by the young learned deacon who has expounded the nature of the divine Incarnation, and at this time may have become St. Mark church archdeacon, the Alexandrine papal heir apparent. He was elected in the sight and amidst the acclamations of the people, when about 30 years of age, and is spoken of as remarkable as a mental genius. He was small in stature, but his face was radiant with intelligence, as 'the face of an angel, as expressed by Gregory of Nazianzus, who has written an elaborate panegyric upon his friend, describing him as fit 'to keep on a level with common-place views yet also to soar high above the more aspiring...'
The Life of Anthony: The Coptic Life and the Greek Life The Agpeya, being the Coptic Orthodox book of hours according to the present-day usage in the Church of Alexandria
Great Book Apr 29, 2007
The Life of St. Antony was very uplifting and encouraging. The Letter to Marcellinus really helped me view the Psalms in a different light. It was a great benefit to read this book. I highly recommend it to anyone searching for deeper understanding of the Christian life.
Inspiring Nov 15, 2002
Although the preface is a bit lacking, the two works by St. Athanasius translated here are worth not only reading, but contemplating and wrestling with as well.
The first work, The Life of Antony, is a work about the father of Christian asceticism, St. Antony of Egypt. It contains both narrative and doctrinal content; the doctrinal content is presented in the forms of discourses by Antony, usually to groups of monks. He teaches much on demons and the discernment of spirits, the fate of souls after death, the importance of staying within the Church and staying away from schismatics and heretics. The discourses are, at a few points, a bit polemical - like many works from the early Church - but not excessively overbearing.
The uniqueness of the story is not just in Antony's doctrinal discourses, though. The narrative teaches things all its own. One of these things is that by separating one's self from the world the holy person becomes so much more indespensible to the world. Although Antony lived as a monk separate from the world, he was never separated from the world; in geographically and spiritually separating himself from the world, Antony became that much more involved in his world. He taught, healed, exorcised demons and engaged in debates with philosophers, all of this because of his reputation as a holy man.
From this follows something else taught by the narrative: the pursuit of God truly transforms one and causes one to become a conduit for God's healing and redemption of the world. Antony received visions and words of knowledge about people and things about to occur and more people were converted to the Christian faith. The work of Antony, as the book repeatedly emphasizes, is the work of God.
The second work contained in this volume, The Letter to Marcellinus, is a delightful exposition on praying the Psalms of David. St. Athanasius writes that regardless of one's experience, the Psalms provide words to express where one is at - whether in sorrow and despair or in joy. He also shows (through some rather creative interpretation) that the whole of Scripture is contained within the Psalter.
It would have been nice if a translation of Psalm 151 (found only in the Greek Bible, which is what Athanasius used) had been included, as Athanasius references it in his Letter to Marcellinus. The work is found in the New Oxford Annoted Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version, though, so if you don't have one, buy one (isbn: 0195288009)!
All in all, both works are absolutely charming.
invigorating reading Jul 18, 2000
The Life of Anthony is truly invigorating. It places a great saint in the context of mainstream tradition. I fear that in the hustle and bustle of today's society much of the rich Christian spiritual heritage is becoming foreign to a lot of people. Read this book to find some of what has been lost-and rejoice in having found it again.