MEMORIAL: Saint Anthony, Abbot

“...where Jesus has entered on our behalf as forerunner, becoming high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek...” (Hebrews 6:20.)

Saint Athansius of Alexandria comments on this verse from the First Reading proclaimed during today’s Mass:

“Through Moses God gave commandments about sacrifices, and the whole book of Leviticus is taken up with acceptable ways for them to be carried out. The Lord, through the prophets, found fault with those who contemptuously misstated these things, calling them disobedient to the commandment. He told them, “I have not asked you to do these things! Neither did I speak to your fathers about sacrifices, nor give them commands about whole burnt offerings.”

Some have put forth the opinion that either the Scriptures do not agree or that God, who gave the commandment, is a liar. But in this there can be no disagreement—far from it. The Father, who is truth, cannot lie, “for it is impossible for God to lie,” as Paul affirms. Actually, these things are plain to those who accept the writings of the law with faith and look at them in the right way. Here is my explanation, and may God grant by your prayers that I am not too far from the truth. It does not appear to me that God gave the commandments and the law concerning sacrifices right away when he led them out of Egypt. Nor did he who gave the law really pay any attention to the whole burnt offerings, as such. He was looking ahead to those things that were prefigured and pointed out by them. “For the law has but a shadow of the good things to come.” And “Those regulations were set forth until the time of reformation.”

That is why the whole law did not deal with sacrifices, although it did include commands concerning them. By means of these commands it began to teach people, calling them away from idols and drawing them to God, giving them proper teaching for the times in which they lived. So you see, God did not give the people those commands about sacrifices and offerings when he brought them out of Egypt, nor even when they first came to Mount Sinai. God is not like people, that he should want those things for himself. No, he gave the commandment so that they might know him and his Word (the Son) — and forget about those so-called gods that do not really exist but appear to do so because of the show people put on.” (Festal Letters, 19.)

O God,
Who brought the Abbot Saint Anthony
to serve You
by a wondrous way of life in the desert,
grant, through his intercession,
that, denying ourselves,
we may always love You above all things.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen