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Life of Antony

Vigilant against the advances of the devil as well as

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vigilant against the advances of the devil, as well as be in a state of purity that is always fit before God. In his pursuit of the ultimate ascetic life, Antony comes to encounter the devil many times. The devil attempts to break Antony’s resolve by means of mental stress, bodily harm and sexual temptation, but Antony resists all of the devil’s attacks. In this section, Athanasius emphasizes the “sin in the flesh” and the importance of holding “…to the ascetic life intensely, and not to seek the things that relax the body…” ( VA 7). This idea that the body should be disregarded when seeking the ascetic lifestyle is stressed throughout the text by Athanasius in his depiction of Antony’s suffering physical abuse and still remaining faithful and resolute in his soul. Antony maintains a strict and meager diet, lives in unsuitable conditions, and yet remains unaffected no matter how many years pass. “The state of his soul was one of purity… not constricted by grief, nor relaxed by pleasure, nor affected by either laughter or dejection. He maintained utter equilibrium…” ( VA 14). This passage seems to exemplify the power of spiritual purity and this state of equilibrium in which the state of the soul surpasses and even overturns the limitations of the body. By showing how Antony had attained this pure form of the soul and overcame the restrictions of the sinful body, Athanasius provides the goal that individuals should be trying to achieve in their own pursuit of monastic vocation. In his account of Antony’s life, Athanasius attempts to compel his audience into pursuing the monastic vocation in order to attain certain divine promises by providing Antony as a prime example in the way that he believes the monastic life should be. He exemplifies many various necessary elements which must be sought after by those who would wish to emulate Antony and
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follow a monastic vocation. Among the several foundations which form the ideal way to live a life of asceticism, Athanasius emphasizes the constant and unending dedication to a spiritually pure life for God and the renouncement of all bodily and earthly desires. By living this life of monastic vocation, one is promised eternal life through God, as well as a state of purity that neither be attained on earth, nor comparable to any worldly possession.
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