For the Feast of St Anthony of Egypt

For the Feast of St Anthony of Egypt January 17, 2008

schongaueranthony.jpgBecause of my series on Gnosticism, and the fact that Saint Anthony is my patron saint (chosen at chrismation), I thought I would offer this semi-appropriate selection from Flaubert’s The Temptation of Saint Anthony to honor St Anthony’s feast.

ANTHONY
Then what is the Word? … What was Jesus?

THE VALENTINIANS
He was the husband of Acharamoth repentant!

THE SETHIANS
He was Shem, the son of Noah!

THE THEODOTIANS
He was Melchisedech!

THE MERINTHIANS
He was only a man!

THE APOLLINARISTS
He assumed the appearance of one! He simulated the Passion!

MARCEL OF ANCRYA
He was a development of the Father!

POPE CALIXTUS
Father and Son are but two modes of one God’s manifestation!

METHODIUS
He was first in Adam, then in man!

CERINTHUS
And He will rise again!

VALENTINUS
Impossible – his body being celestial!

PAUL OF SAMOSATA
He became God only from the time of his baptism!

HERMOGENES
He dwells in the sun!

And all the Heresiarchs form a circle about Anthony, who weeps, covering his face with his hands.

A JEW
With a red beard, and spots of leprosy on his skin, approaches close to Anthony, and, with a hideous sneer, exclaims:
His soul was the soul of Esau! He suffered from the Bellero-phontian sickness. Did not his mother, the seller of perfumes, surrender to the Roman soldier Pantherus, one harvest evening, on a bed of sheaves?

ANTHONY
Suddenly raising his head, looks at them in a moment of silence; then advancing boldly upon them exclaims:
Doctors, magicians, bishops and deacons, men and phantoms, away from me! begone! Ye are all lies!

THE HERESIARCHS
We have martyrs more martyrs than thine, prayers that are more difficult, outbursts of love more sublime, ecstasies as prolonged as thine are.

ANTHONY
But ye have no revelation! no proofs!

They all at once brandish in the air their rolls of papyrus, tablets of wood, scrolls of leather, rolls of woven stuff bearing inscriptions; and elbowing, and pushing each other, they all shout to Anthony:

THE CERINTHIANS
Behold the Gospel of the Hebrews!

THE MARCIONITES
Behold the Gospel of the Lord!

THE MARCOSIANS
The Gospel of Eve!

THE EUCRATITES
The Gospel of Thomas!

THE CAINITES
The Gospel of Judas!

BASILIDES
The Treatise upon the Destiny of the Soul!

MANES
The Prophecy of Barkouf!

Anthony struggles, breaks from them, escapes them…

— Gustave Flaubert, The Temptation of Saint Anthony. Trans. Lafcadio Hearn (New York: Modern Library, 2001), 71 – 74.


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