From the Coptic
Synaxarium -- 22 Tubah
St. Anthony the Great,
the star of the wilderness, and the father of all
the monks, was born in the year 251 A.D. in the
city of Qimn El-Arouse, to rich parents who loved
the church and the poor. They raised him up in
the fear of the Lord. When he was twenty years
old, his parents departed, and he had to take
care of his sister. Once, he entered the church,
and he heard thewords of
Christ in the gospel, saying, "If you want
to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to
the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven:
and come, follow Me." (Matthew 19:21).
He returned to his
house, decided to fulfill this commandment and
considered it directed to him personally. He gave
his wealth to the poor and needy, and he took his
sister and placed her with some virgins. At that
time, monasticism had not yet been established.
All those who wanted to live a solitary life went
and lived on the outskirts of the city. This was
what St. Anthony did as he dwelt alone,
worshipping and living an ascetic life.
The devil fought him
there by afflicting him with boredom, laziness,
and the phantoms of women. He overcame the
devil's snares by the power of Jesus Christ.
After that, he went to one of the tombs, and he
resided therein and closed the door on himself.
Some of his friends used to bring him food. When
the devil perceived his ascetic life and his
intense wor-ship, he was envious of him, and he
beat him mercilessly, then left him unconscious.
When his friends came to visit him and found him
in this condition, they carried him to the church.
After slightly recovering, he went back to the
same place. The devil again resumed his war
against him, only this time the phantoms were in
the form of wild beasts, wolves, lions, snakes
and scorpions. They appeared as if they were
about to attack him or cut him into pieces. But
the saint would laugh them to scorn saying,
"If any of you have any authority over me,
only one would have been sufficient to fight me."
At his saying this, they disappeared as though in
smoke. God gave him the victory over the devils.
He was always singing this psalm, "Let God
arise, let His enemies be scattered; let those
also who hate Him flee before Him." (Psalms
He used to prepare a
quantity of bread that would sustain him for six
months. He did not allow anyone to enter his
cell, and whoever came to him, stood outside and
listened to his advice. He continued in this
condition of solitary worship for twenty years.
Then by God's command, he went to Fayyoum and
confirmed the brethren there in the faith, then
returned to his monastery.
During the time of
persecution, he longed to become a martyr. He
left his monastery and went to Alexandria. He
visited those who were imprisoned for the sake of
Christ and comforted them. When the governor saw
that he was confessing the Lord Christ publicly,
not caring what might happen to him, he ordered
him not to show up in. the city. However, the
saint did not heed his threats. He faced him and
argued with him in order that he might arouse his
anger and cause him to inflict pain upon him and
he would therefore be tortured and become a
martyr. But God preserved him all along,
according to His will, for the benefit of many,
and so the governor left him alone. Then the
saint went back to his monastery, and many came
to hear his teachings. He saw that this would
keep him away from worship. As a result, he went
far away to the eastern desert. He travelled with
some bedouins to the inner wilderness; that took
three days. He found a well and some palm trees
and that is where he chose to settle. At this
spot is the monastery of St. Anthony the Great
now. The bedouins came to him with bread, and the
Lord drove away all the wild beasts from this
place, for his sake.
On occasions, he would
go to the monastery on the outskirts of the
desert by the Nile to visit the brethren, then
return to his inner monastery. His fame spread
abroad and it reached Emperor Constantine. The
emperor wrote him, offering him praise and asking
him to pray for him. The brethren were pleased
with the emperor's letter, but St. Anthony did
not pay any attention to it, and he said to them,
"The books of God, the King of Kings and the
Lord of Lords, commands us everyday, but we do
not heed what they tell us, and we turn our backs
on them." Under the persistence of the
brethren who told him, "Emperor Constan-tine
loves the church," he accepted to write him
a letter blessing him, and praying for the peace
and safety of the empire and the church.
One time, he was bored,
and he heard a voice telling him, "Go out
and see." He went out and saw an angel who
wore a tunic with a cross, one resembling the
tunic of monks (E1-Eskiem), and on his head was a
head cover (Kolansowa). He was sitting while
braiding palm leaves, then he stood up to pray,
and again he sat to weave again. A voice came to
him saying, "Anthony, do this and you will
rest." Henceforth, he started to wear this
tunic that he saw, and began to weave palm
leaves, and never got bored again.
St. Anthony predicted
the persecution that was about to happen to the
church and the control of the heretics over it,
and the church's recovery, and the end of the age.
When he was visited by St. Macarius, he clothed
him with the monk's garb, and he told him, in
advance, what would happen to him.
When the day of the
departure of St. Paul, the first hermit in the
desert, drew near, St. Anthony went to him. St.
Anthony buried St. Paul the hermit after he had
clothed him in a tunic which was a present from
St. Athanasius the Apostolic, the twentieth Pope
When St. Anthony felt
that the day of his departure had approached, he
commanded his disciple to hide his body and to
give his staff to St. Macarius, and to give the
sheepskin cloak to St. Athanasius, and his other
sheepskin cloak to Anba Serapion his disciple. He
stretched himself on the ground and gave up his
spirit. The angels and the saints took his spirit
and carried it to the place of perpetual rest.
This saint lived for one hundred and five years,
struggling in the way of holiness and purity.
May his prayers be with
us all and Glory be to God forever. Amen.
For more on the life of St. Anthony the Great
see, "The Life of Antony"
by St. Athanasius in the Nicene and Post-Nicene
Fathers collection at the Christian Classics