Thursday, January 17, 2008

Anthony of Egypt (251-236)

Anthony the founder of Christian monasticism and the 1st of the desert fathers was born to wealthy parents who died before he was twenty. After hearing a homily from the gospel that directed "go sell all you have give it to the poor and gather up your treasure in heaven" he did exactly that. On procuring care for his younger sister he sought out a holy man as a mentor and moved away from his home town.

After that, Anthony went into a more remote mountain country, where he spent the next 20 Years. Around 305, at the request of other ascetics he founded a monastery for them at Fayum.
The monasteries that Anthony founded were more like communities of hermits who had separate dwellings. They gathered for common work and devotions. Occasionally Anthony himself would visit and counsel the monks out of his own rich experience. "Do every action as if it were the last in your lives,", "The Devil dreads fasting, prayer, humility and good works.", "If prayer becomes too difficult, turn for a while to manual labor."

In 311, Emperor Maximinus started a fresh persecution of Christians. During that time Anthony came out of the desert to live in Alexanadrea and encourage the followers of Christ in that city to endure the hardship with humility and love.

When Anthony took ill and bade a gentle farewell to his monk companions he instructed them to bury his body in an unmarked grave to avoid his body becoming an object of veneration. He died quickly and calmly of old age at 105.

His monastic rule of has served as the basis for countless monasteries. The chief source of information on Anthony comes from his contemporary Athanasius's "The Coptic life of Anthony".

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