St Anthony, a master of discernment, a wise guide to the traveler, and a trained athlete in the wars of the supernatural, wrestled for many years against the schemes of the devils. We recall what St. Paul says, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against powers, principalities, and rulers of darkness (Eph 6:12). With years of experience in spiritual warfare, St Anthony offered his disciples almost a cookbook-like guide on the devil’s schemes and the steps to overcome them. These instructions were recorded by St. Anthony’s prized student, St. Athanasius, in The Life of St. Anthony. The following are excerpts from St. Anthony’s sayings.
The whole race of devils is beyond measure and an envious one and it is altogether jealous of all mankind. They can not bear to see heavenly deeds wrought and holy men and women entering into everlasting life. So they make hidden pits and snares to fail our efforts. Let us not however be afraid of their noise. Nor let us be made lax by reason of their flatteries. Instead let us persevere in fasting and prayer.
About knowing the future:
The devils have the habit of leading men astray by declaring something of the future. When it thus happens, either in dreams or phantom intuition, let us not first be surprised. For it is not a great thing, knowing they are spirits, that are able to see into the future. It is as a swift runner could do or a watchman on a lofty high stand is able to see who is coming before he arrives. Marvel not nor think of them as important matters.
Who among the men of the Old Testament or the New received praise because they had knowledge of events before they happened? And who in the scriptures was ever blamed for not knowing the events of the future? The Savior Himself reprimanded the Pharisees and Sadducees for seeking after signs, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah (Mt 16:4).”
Each of us instead will be judged if he fails to perform the works of righteousness. Let us make supplication not to know secrets but that we may please the Divine Majesty. By purifying our hearts the Holy Spirit will enlighten our minds and hearts and will reveal to us the secrets of God and His work. It is thus a greater thing for a man to have the mystery of God revealed to him than to know some future event.
In the book of Deuteronomy, the Lord God demanded of the Israelites, “When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nation. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or daughter deal with or come near one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. Instead you shall learn to be blameless before the Lord your God.” (Deut 18:9-14)