VENERABLE ANTHONY THE GREAT

January 17

From the Prologue

Anthony was an Egyptian and was born about the year 250 A.D. in the village of Koman near Herculea. Following the demise of his noble and wealthy parents, he divided the inherited estate with his sister, who was a minor, and provided for her with some relatives. Anthony distributed his half of the estate to the poor and, he, in his twentieth year, dedicated himself to the ascetical life for which he yearned from his childhood. In the beginning Anthony lived a life of asceticism in the proximity of his village but, in order to flee the disturbances of people, he withdrew into the wilderness on the shore of the Red Sea, where he spent twenty years as a recluse not associating with anyone except with God through constant prayer, reflection and contemplation, patiently enduring unspeakable temptations from the devil. His fame spread throughout the entire world and many disciples gathered around him whom he placed on the path of salvation by his example and words. During the eighty-five years of his ascetical life, only twice did he go to Alexandria. The first time to seek martyrdom during the time of the persecution of the Church and, the second time at the invitation of St. Athanasius, in order to refute the accusation of the Arians: supposedly that he, too, was an adherent of the Arian heresy. Anthony died in the one-hundred fifth year of his life, leaving behind an entire army of his disciples and imitators. Even though Anthony was not a scholar, nevertheless, he was a counselor and teacher of the most learned men of that time, as was St. Athanasius the Great. When certain Greek philosophers tempted him with literary wisdom, Anthony shamed them with the question: "Which is older, the understanding or the book? Which of these two was the cause of the other?" Ashamed, the philosophers dispersed for they perceived that they only had literary knowledge without understanding and Anthony had understanding. Here is a man who attained perfection in as far as man, in general, can attain on earth. Here is an instructor to instructors and a teacher to teachers, who, for a full eighty five years perfected himself and only in that way was he able to perfect many others. Filled with many years of life and great works, Anthony died in the Lord in the year 335 A.D.





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