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Would St. Antony be an Ascetic Hero Without the Demons He Battles Analytical Essay
The word asceticism derived from the Greek word “askesis” that means “exercise” (2016introchristianity61.pptx). In other words, this is the type of lifestyle that is meant to exercise one’s soul and spirit. Asceticism assumes that the pleasures of the body are the obstacles on a monk’s way towards spiritual development. As a result, the desires such a hunger, sex drive, and even sleep are considered unacceptable for the ascetic practitioners of religion.
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The ascetic lifestyle of St. Anthony began after the death of his parents as he sold or gave away all of his material valuables to embrace the life of a hermit (Athanasius 4). St. Anthony was guided by the principle mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew that says “be not anxious for the morrow” (Matthew 6:34).
As an ascetic, St. Anthony was purposeful about devoting himself to religious practice only and his lifestyle was to “keep all his desire and energy for perfecting his discipline” (Athanasius 4). The flesh is the only way for the devil to reach a man. In his description of St. Anthony’s life, Athanasius mentions that seducing the young man to give in to the earthly pleasures, the devil attempted to ruin his spirit and weaken his faith, distract him from prayers and his spiritual path (5).
In the work, the devil refers to himself as the “spirit of lust”, and the “friend of whoredom” (Athanasius 6). Trying to seduce St. Anthony, he employs the demons who are, by nature, the deadly sins. Lust for the material pleasures is what forces the people to give in to the devil. Therefore, to fight him, St. Anthony engages in fasting, sexual abstinence, and prayers.
The ascetic activities and the withdrawal from the world of seduction help the monks to resist the devil. That way, the fight against demons in the form of physical desires is the core purpose of the ascetic lifestyle. In other words, the role of the demons is to attack the monk testing his endurance, his devotion to the chosen religious path, and his faith.
As mentioned by Athanasius, the devil as able to take various shapes in order to generate more and more obstacles and crucibles for a monk. Therefore, the primary difference between a monk and an average person is that the former is passionate about his religion and strong enough to resist the seduction of the devil and to pass the trial not many can handle.
Asceticism is the key to a monk’s becoming an admired hero. The heroism of St. Anthony was his ability to withstand the attacks of the devil and defeat the demons. Overcoming lust is the monk’s way to grow stronger as a believer. Weakening the influence of his body over his mind, St. Anthony managed to direct all of his power to his spirit combating the evil.
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As St. Anthony succeeded in his devotion to God, the devil appeared before him admitting his defeat and saying “I am he who have so often troubled you and have so often been overthrown by you” (Athanasius 6). This interaction indicated the final stage of the making of the monk and his invulnerability to the lustful nature of the demons.