Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Anthony of Egypt

Antony of Egypt
Greatest Desert Father

"Wherever you find yourself, do not go forth from that place too quickly. Try to be patient and learn to stay in one place."

Born into a wealthy family, Antony submitted to his parents and their expectations that he follow in their wealthy footsteps. They died when Antony was only about 20 years old, and he inherited every penny. But about that same time, Antony happened to hear a reading from the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus tells a rich young man, "If you want to be perfect, go and sell everything you have and give the money to the poor." Antony believed he was that rich young man and immediately did exactly as Jesus instructed.

Fleeing to the desert
Everything we know about Antony comes from a hagiography (a favorable biography of a saintly person) written shortly after his death by the famous theologian Athanasius. According to him, Antony saw the Christian's task as both simple and formidable: become a "lover of God" by resisting the Devil and yielding to Christ. Antony saw the world as a battlefield on which God's servants waged war against the Devil and his demons.

His journey into purity began by removing himself from the village. He took up strenuous spiritual exercises: sleepless nights spent in prayer, fasting every other day, and eating only bread and water. He discovered, Athanasius wrote, "the mind of the soul is strong when the pleasures of the body are weak."

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