Memorial of St. Anthony the Great

Scripture Readings: Eph 6:10-13, 18;  Mt 19:16-26

At Mass, we repeat the words of John the Baptist, “Behold him who takes away the sin of the world.” What is the sin of the world? Whatever it is, somehow involved in the sin of the world is forgetfulness. Maybe forgetfulness itself is the sin of the world and leads to its many sins. The heart of the Mass is called the anamnesis, the unforgetting, which includes the words of Jesus, “Do this in memory of me.” The liturgy of the Word, too, is an anamnesis, a retelling of our story so that we do not forget; and even the story we tell is itself a retelling, as when we tell of Jesus recalling to the rich young man the covenant of Sinai that defines who they both are as members of the Chosen People of God. Liturgical commemorations of the saints are acts of unforgetting, and today’s memorial of Saint Anthony is a chance for monks to remember our origins and what we are all about. Anthony is the father of monks. As an elder he “shared what he knew and the fruits of his experience.” Anthony begins his first great discourse by remembering his own story, how he heard proclaimed at Mass the very Gospel passage we heard today, and his life was changed forever. “Everything in the world is sold for what it is worth,”  he says,“and someone trades an item for its equivalent. But the promise of eternal life is purchased for very little.” “Through regular conversation,” Athanasius tells us, “Anthony strengthened the resolve of those who were already monks, and stirred the others to a desire for this way of life.”  Forgetfulness is the doorway to pride, the root of all sin. Saint Benedict, then, tells us “The first degree of humility is that a monk flee all forgetfulness of God, always remember all that God has shown, and call to mind again and again, his promise of eternal life ”  (RB 7.10, 11).