The 4th-century monk taught his disciples to keep eternity always in their minds, reflecting on it in the morning and at night.
St. Anthony of Egypt was a holy monk of the 4th century who is also commonly referred to as the Father of Monasticism. He was among the first to dedicate his entire life to prayer and fasting in the deserts of Egypt.
One spiritual discipline that he taught his monks was to begin and end each day with a reminder of their own mortality. This was meant to encourage them in the practice of virtue, as they didn’t know when they would die. Fr. Alban Butler wrote about this teaching of St. Anthony’s in his Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints.
He instructed his monks to have eternity always present to their minds, and to reflect every morning that perhaps they might not live till night, and every evening that perhaps they might never see the morning; and to perform every action, as if it were the last of their lives, with all the fervour of their souls to please God.
This may be a sobering thought, but it does create a much greater sense of urgency in the life of virtue.
Often we can be slothful when it comes to being a good person. We might say to ourselves, “I will be better … tomorrow!” However, do we really know if we will live another day?
St. Teresa of Calcutta wrote similarly in A Simple Path, “People die suddenly all the time, so it could happen to us too at any moment. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow has not yet come; we must live each day as if it were our last so that when God calls us we are ready, and prepared, to die with a clean heart.”
The only time we have is the present moment and it is there that we can become a saint. Let us remember that and begin and end each day with that simple fact in mind.
Is it possible to live in the present moment?
What if today was your last day on earth?