Feast of St Athanasius of Mt Athos
THE FORTIFIED town of Cassino lies at the foot of a towering mountain that shelters it within its slope and stretches upward over a distance of nearly three miles. On its summit stood a very old temple, in which the ignorant country people still worshiped Apollo as their pagan ancestors had done, and went on offering superstitious and idolatrous sacrifices in groves dedicated to various demons.
When the man of God [St Benedict] arrived at this spot, he destroyed the idol, overturned the altar and cut down the trees in the sacred groves. Then he turned the temple of Apollo into a chapel dedicated to St. Martin, and where Apollo’s altar had stood, he built a chapel in honor of St John the Baptist. Gradually the people of the countryside were won over to the true faith by his zealous preaching.
Such losses the ancient enemy could not bear in silence. This time he did not appear to the saint in a dream or under a disguise but met him face to face and objected fiercely to the outrages he had to endure. His shouts were so loud that the brethren heard him too, although they were unable to see him. According to the saint’s own description, the devil had an appearance utterly revolting to human eyes. He was enveloped in fire, and when he raged against the man of God, flames darted from his eyes and mouth. Everyone could hear what he was saying. First he called Benedict by name. Then, finding that the saint would not answer, he broke out in abusive language. “Benedict, Benedict, blessed Benedict!” he would begin, and then add, “You cursed Benedict! Cursed, not blessed! What do you want with me? Why are you tormenting me like this?”
From now on, as you can well imagine, the devil fought against the man of God with renewed violence. But contrary to his plans, all these attacks only supplied the saint with further opportunities for victory.
~St Gregory the Dialogist, Life of St Benedict
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