St. Anthony’s battle with the demons

St. Anthony’s battle with the demons

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5.8

The word of the Lord is real. The battle between the devil and human beings still continues.

Satan rarely reveals themselves to ordinary people. But saints and those who were too close to God apparently had open attacks from the demons. St. Anthony had such brutal attack from the demons. This was evident from the biography written by St. Athanasius called “Life of St. Anthony.” The book described that while people would visit St. Anthony at his desert home, “they heard tumults, many voices, and, as it were, the clash of arms. At night they saw the mountain become full of wild beasts, and him also fighting as though against visible beings, and praying against them.”

The book also details about his experience with the devil when he spent a night alone in a large tomb. He was physically attacked by a group of demons. The devil “so cut him with stripes that he lay on the ground speechless from the excessive pain. For he affirmed that the torture had been so excessive that no blows inflicted by man could ever have caused him such torment.”

The next day a friend bringing him supplies found him laying unconscious and took him back to the village. By evening the saint regained consciousness and asked the friend to carry him back to the tomb. The friend shut him back in the tomb and then St. Anthony called out, “Here am I, Antony; I flee not from your stripes, for even if you inflict more nothing shall separate me from the love of Christ.”

That night the devils returned. They appeared in the in the likeness of beasts and creeping things. Their arrival was a huge commotion that the whole place appeared to be trembling as if in an earthquake.

Soon his dwelling was occupied with the forms of lions, bears, leopards, bulls, serpents, asps, scorpions, and wolves, and each of them was moving according to his nature. The lion was roaring, in a manner to attack him, the bull seemed to jerk with its horns, the serpent was writhing horrifyingly before him. All together their noises, in its angry pitch, were dreadful.

Though St. Anthony was in dreadful pain, he reacted boldly to the demons. He discouraged the demons by reminding them of their weakness and told them that it was because of their weakness that they had the shapes of brute beasts.

The saint was so confident of the God’s protective seal around him. So, he challenged them to attack him. He told them that they could attack if they received power against him. They were unable to do something rather than producing horrifying sounds.

Soon a wonder occurred. When the saint uttered the above words to them the roof of his dwelling opened up and a bright light filled the tomb. The demons vanished and the saint received relief from pain. He understood that it was God who saved him. He prayed to the God, “Where were you? Why did you not appear at the beginning to make my pains to cease?” And God replied to him: “Antony, I was here, but I waited to see your fight; since you have endured, and have not been beaten, I will ever be a succor to you, and will make your name known everywhere.”

St. Athanasius notes in his book that “having heard this, Antony arose and prayed, and received such strength that he perceived that he had more power in his body than formerly. And he was then about thirty-five years old.”