Saturday, January 17, 2009

Anthony of Egypt (251–356)

Also known as Anthony the Abbot, Anthony the Great, Anthony of the Desert, Anthony the Anchorite, Abba Antonius (Ἀβᾶς Ἀντώνιος), and Father of All Monks,

The title "Father of Monasticism" is misleading, as Christian monasticism was already being practiced in the deserts of Egypt. Ascetics commonly retired to isolated locations on the outskirts of cities. Anthony is notable for being one of the first ascetics to attempt living in the desert proper, completely cut off from civilization.

Although he held no titles or position, his holiness marked him as one whose wisdom commanded respect. When the Synod of Nicea was convened Anthony was invited to participate. His eloquent defense of the Orthodox doctrine concerning the person of Jesus Christ was instrumental in weakening the position of Arianism. His witness led to the eventual and complete elimination of Arianism.

Anthony founded hermitical monasticism. This involved a number of recluses being under the direction of a teacher — "abba," in Jewish meaning "father," and living individually, either in huts or caves, committing themselves to prayer, fasting and labor. When a number of these caves or huts came under the authority of one abba, it was called a cloister.

Prior to Anthony another type of monasticism had taken root. Ascetics gathered together into one community, performed compatible tasks according to their individual strength and abilities, shared common meals and submitted themselves to the same rules. These communities were called monasteries
Most of what is known about the life of St. Anthony comes from the Life of Anthony, written by Athanasius of Alexandria in 360. By 374, his Bio was translated into Latin by Evagrius of Antioch. The Latin translation helped the Life become one of the best known works of literature in the Christian world, a status it would hold through the Middle Ages. In addition to the Life several surviving homilies and epistles of varying authenticity provide some additional autobiographical detail.

compiled from several sources

Living Water from an Ancient Well: Thumb nail lives of the saints Anthony of Egypt Bio

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