Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Monasticism (8) Anthony of the Caves (983-1073)

 Born at Liubech, near Kiev, Russia he is considered the father of Russian monasticism. As a youth Anthony  possessed a fear of God and dressed in monastic attire.  He  journey to the Greek monastic community at Mount Athos, where he lived as a hermit. 

The abbot gave Anthony the job of expanding monasticism in his native land, which had only recently begun its conversion to Christianity. Anthony returned to Kiev, and was ordered by local princes to found several monasteries based on the Greek model.

 At the death of Vladimir I of Kiev,  Anthony was  forced  to return to Mount Athos by a fratricidal war for the throne between Vladimir's sons.  

 Being deeply influenced by the lives of the desert fathers he eventually returned to Russia and sought out solitude in a cave near the village of Berestovo, (Kiev).  He became known for his humility and virtuous character. 

 People began to come to him for his blessing and counsel.  The fame of a holy man living quietly outside of the city spread  throughout the region, inspiring many embrace the monastic life. With new people joining the monastery, new caves had to be dug. A church and cells for the monks were built underground. A strict monastic rule was introduced.

Anthony rejected being called a priest and never took any church rank. He never lead the new community of monks but simply guided them by his example of  faith and wisdom.  .

 As the community became larger, Anthony appointed an abbot and  withdrew to another place to dig a new cave where he secluded himself. Eventually monks began to settle around his new cave. This was the inception of  the Near and Far Caves Monasteries.  In time small wooden church,  was built over the Far Caves. 

He again withdrew for more solitude, eventually returning to the community to die among his beloved brethren.

He is venerated as a  Holy Father (a person whose example is worthy of following) in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Having departed from worldly tumults,
In leaving the world you followed Christ according to the Gospel.
You reached the quiet refuge of the Holy Mount Athos,
Living there a life equal to the angels.
Therefore, with the blessing of the Fathers,
You came to the Kievan hills.
There having fulfilled a life loving of labors,
You illumined your homeland.
And having shown a multitude of monastics
The pathway leading to the heavenly kingdom,
You led them to Christ.
Beseech him, O Venerable Anthony,
That he may save our souls! 
Troparion (Tone 4) 

 compiled from several sources

graphics.:  top left a modern icon of Anthony. bottom right  the rock-monastery-in-lyadova

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