Saint Anthony the Great, the Anchorite of Egypt, and The Father of All Monks
Commemorated on January 17
Abba Hilarion once came from Palestine to Abba Antony on the mountain: and Abba Antony said to him: “Welcome, morning star, for you rise at break of day.” And Abba Hilarion said: “Peace to you, pillar of light, for you prop up the earth.”
Abba Antony said: “Now I do not fear God, but I love him: for love casteth out fear” [cf. 1 John 4:18]
He also said, ‘Whoever has not experienced temptation cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. ‘He even added, ‘Without temptations no-one can be saved.‘
Abba Anthony said, “A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, ‘You are mad, you are not like us.’“
A brother in a monastery was falsely accused of fornication and he arose and went to Abba Anthony. The brethren also came from the monastery to correct him and bring him back. They set about proving that he had done this thing, but he defended himself and denied that he had done anything of the kind. Now Abba Paphnutius, who is called Cephalus, happened to be there, and he told them this parable: “I have seen a man on the bank of the river buried up to his knees in mud and some men came to give him a hand to help him out, but they pushed him further in up to his neck.” Then Abba Anthony said this about Abba Paphnutius: “Here is a real man, who can care for souls and save them.” All those present were pierced to the heart by the words of the old man and they asked forgiveness of the brother. So, admonished by the Fathers, they took the brother back to the monastery.
They said that a certain old man asked God to let him see the Fathers and he saw them all except Abba Anthony. So he asked his guide, “Where is Abba Anthony?” He told him in reply that in the place where God is, there Anthony would be.
Humility to virtues, it is often said, is like a root to a tree.A tree could not grow strong, bear fruit, or live a long life unless its roots are established deep in the ground.
Humility, once firmly established, makes the foundation for wisdom strong.King Solomon famed for his wisdom said, ” When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom ” (Proverbs 11:2).
When Saint Anthony felt that the day of his departure had approached, he commanded his disciples to give his staff to Saint Macarius, and to give one sheepskin cloak to Saint Athanasius and the other sheepskin cloak to Saint Serapion, his disciple. He further instructed his disciples to bury his body in an unmarked, secret grave.He himself left no writings. His biography was written by Saint Athanasius.
Athanasius writes, “For monks, the life of Anthony is a sufficient example of asceticism.”
O Father Anthony, you imitated the zealous Elijah.You followed the straight paths of the Baptist and became a desert dweller.By prayer you confirmed the universe.Wherefore, intercede with Christ our God to save our souls.