St. Anthony The Great icon (4)
Orthodox icon of Saint Anthony the Great, icon of 14th cent. (4)
Commemorated January 17.
He was born in Egypt in the village of Coma, near the desert of the Thebaid, in the year 251. When St Anthony was about twenty years old, he lost his parents, but he was responsible for the care of his younger sister. Going to church about six months later, he heard the Gospel passage where Christ speaks to the rich young man: If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me (Mt.19:21). Anthony felt that these words applied to him. Therefore, he sold the property that he received after the death of his parents, then distributed the money to the poor, and left his sister in the care of pious virgins in a convent. Leaving his parental home,
St Anthony began his ascetical life in a hut not far from his village. By working with his hands, he was able to earn his livelihood and also alms for the poor. Anthony prayed that the Lord would show him the path of salvation. And he was granted a vision. The ascetic beheld a man, who by turns alternately finished a prayer, and then began to work. This was an angel, which the Lord had sent to instruct His chosen one.St Anthony tried to accustom himself to a stricter way of life. He partook of food only after sunset, he spent all night praying until dawn. Soon he slept only every third day. For even greater solitude, St Anthony moved farther away from the village, into a graveyard.
He asked a friend to bring him a little bread on designated days, then shut himself in a tomb. There he had a vision. Looking up, the saint saw the roof opening, as it were, and a ray of light coming down toward him. The demons disappeared and he cried out, Where have You been, O Merciful Jesus? Why didn't You appear from the very beginning to end my pain? The Lord replied, I was here, Anthony, but wanted to see your struggle. Now, since you have not yielded, I shall always help you and make your name known throughout all the world.
He was then thirty-five years of age. St Anthony now went into the desert alone. He found an abandoned fort on the other side of the river and settled there, barricading the entrance with stones. His faithful friend brought him bread twice a year, and there was water inside the fort. St Anthony spent twenty years in complete isolation and constant struggle with the demons, and he finally achieved perfect calm. Soon St Anthony's cell was surrounded by several monasteries, and the saint acted as a father and guide to their inhabitants, giving spiritual instruction to all who came into the desert seeking salvation.
St Anthony spent eighty-five years in the solitary desert. Shortly before his death, he told the brethren that soon he would be taken from them. The saint instructed two of his disciples, who had attended him in the final fifteen years of his life, to bury him in the desert and not in Alexandria. St Anthony died peacefully in the year 356, at age 105, and he was buried in the desert by his disciples.