Anthony, Abbot in Egypt
By Fr. Chris Mason
I am intrigued with Antony’s decision to retreat into the wilderness to seek God. The times were corrupt and society was decadent. Antony’s decision was to follow the admonition and invitation found in Mark 10: 17-21: “I have kept all the commandments since I was a boy,” Jesus says to the young ruler, “there is one thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.” As you can see, the young man could not live into the invitation to life in heaven.
In like manner, many young men went into the wilderness to find that heavenly promise. Antony came into the wilderness to find God, but he found more; he found others seeking God. Antony responded to their need and he shepherded them as their Abbot and confessor. For me, reading this account of Antony’s life makes me feel a yearning to go into the wilderness some place apart and seek God. How about you?
Scripture: Mark 10: 17-22
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher, he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered, “No one is good-except God alone. You know the commandments: “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother. “Teacher, he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then, come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Antony was born in 251 A.D. in upper Egypt. He was a prominent leader among the Desert Fathers. The biography of Antony’s life by Athenasius of Alexandria helped to spread the concept of monasticism in Western Europe. Antony was the first known ascetic going into the wilderness which enhanced his prominence in the Christian faith. His only food was bread and water which he only consumed after sunset , and sometimes only once every two to four days. After 20 years of solitude and self-denial, he consented to guide his followers,in holiness, thus founding the first monastery. Accounts of Antony enduring supernatural temptation at the hands of the devil during his sojourn in the Libyan Desert inspired the often-repeated subject of Antony in Western art and literature. Antony is prayed to in order to prevent or cure infectious diseases, particularly skin diseases. In the past many such afflictions, including ergotism and shingles were historically
referred to as “St. Antony’s five.”
O Glorious St. Antony, who by hearing only one word of the Gospel and did forsake the riches of his family’s wealth and native land, and the world in order to retire,Into the wilderness; who, in spite of his advanced age served as a confessor desirous of martyrdom; who, due to his strength of faith and quality of life was gifted by Our Lord Jesus Christ with miraculous power over the living and the dead was able to obtain for us the grace to be every faithful in his belief and in the keeping of the commandments;
to the end that having faithfully followed in Jesus’ footsteps here on earth, we may be enabled to become sharers in His heavenly glory through all the ages of eternity. AMEN.
Anthony possessed a strong and vibrant personality and soon gathered a community of willing monks to live the ascetic life. I, too, have been interested in living such a life with others. I have made a number of retreats up to a weeklong that have always had a positive effect in my spiritual life. I would encourage others to do so.