The Importance of Demons to the Life of the Early Christian Ascetics

Subject: Religion
Pages: 3
Words: 696
Reading time:
3 min

The presence of demons in a human life is the truth that cannot be neglected. People say that they may suffer from the demons in their heads, the religious people talk about the necessity to resist and fight against the demons, and philosophers underline the fact that every demon has its effect on a human. According to Athanasius, St. Antony became a hermit and had to spend about twenty years of his life fighting against demons alone. Almost the half of the Athanasius’ book was devoted to the idea of battling demons, and such attention may be explained by the importance of the image of demons to the life of the early Christian Ascetics. The early Christian Ascetics emphasized the need for self-restraint and devotion to the belief that could bring relief, and the example of St. Antony can be used to prove how passionate and blindly submissive a person can be in the intentions to understand the power of Christianity and the power of God.

Athanasius mentioned that the demons in the desert St. Antony had to deal with gained different forms: wild animals, centaurs, satires, snakes, scorpions, and even a seductive woman. Such variety of images played an important role for the Christian Ascetics and became a crucial point in the message left by St. Antony and Athanasius. On the one hand, it is clear that all those demons represented the idea of seduction people had to deal with in order to prove their abilities to become true Christians. On the other hand, it is hard to realize why such variety of forms was used. Athanasius could mention the presence of demons in a life of an ordinary Christian. Still, it was not enough. St. Antony is the example of what it means to be tempted and how it is possible to resist all temptations and seductions. Besides, the idea of repetitive constant and excessive pain made people believe in the power of the test they had to pass.

The example of St. Antony shows how it is necessary, and it is rewarded to resist the demons and support the chosen position. The results of his devotion to and trust in God were impressive: “the demons suddenly vanished, the pain of his body straightway ceased, and the building was again whole… Antony feeling the help, and getting his breath again”. His sufferings and challenges were over, and he got a chance to make his name known everywhere but not just for fame. St. Antony should teach a lesson that could help people to survive and resist the temptations people could not be ready for. The point is that is not God, who seduced or challenged people. Still, it is God, who could save people, who deserve a chance to be saved.

The example of Julian the Apostate, who turned away from God and made the attempt to revive pagan worship, is a kind of opposition to the achievements demonstrated by St. Antony. Despite Julian’s decisions, intentions, and beliefs, his name did not stay in history the way the name of St. Antony stayed. He refused the possibility to battle demons that were represented in the pagan images. He chose an easy way to cope with his anger and memories. He did not try to understand God but got angry with him and all sufferings he had to experience. Maybe, his activities against Christians and their studies were not the main reasons for his sudden and unpredictable death; still, there was a fact that the dynasty of Constantine came to its end with Julian, and St. Antony, who did not turn away from God and accepted his power, remained to be a prominent figure in history, religion, and philosophy.

In general, the stories of St. Antony and Julian help to realize that there are always two different ways to be followed: to refuse or to accept. Though the choice to accept something painful and unfair and find the abilities to fight against demons and temptations is not the easiest option, it can be rewarded when it is less expected.