Saint Anthony the Great, the Father of all monks, is a revered and well-known saint among many Christians, including the Orthodox and Catholics. His extraordinary lifestyle and faith still inspire people even today to become monks and follow Christ. Here in the Belarussian Orthodox Church, we celebrate his feast day on the 30th of January.
The saint was born in Egypt in a small village called Coma around 251. We know about his life because another monk, Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, wrote St Anthony’s biography.
Saint Anthony’s parents were Christians, therefore he was brought up in the faith and attended Christian services from a very young age. At that time, Christian services mostly consisted of reading the Scripture, and young Anthony would listen and memorise whole passages by heart.
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)
Those words had such a great impact on the young man that he decided to do exactly what they said. He sold all the property he had received when his parents died, gave the money out to the poor and started his ascetic feat.
St Anthony went into the desert and had to overcome many temptations from the devil such as laziness and boredom.
Continuous prayer was his only weapon.
But temptations did not go away at first. Once, Saint Anthony closed himself in a tomb and spent days inside praying to God. He then started to become ill, but nothing could stop him in his ascetic feat.
Saint Anthony spent over 20 years in an abandoned fort in the desert fighting the devil with asceticism and prayer. It is often said that he established monasticism, but this is not exactly true. There were hermits and ascetics before him, but it was his lifestyle that inspired his disciples to follow him and spread his spiritual advice to other people:
“Pay attention to what I tell you: whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes; whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the Holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it. Keep these three precepts and you will be saved.” (a saying of Saint Anthony the Great)
God granted Sant Anthony victory over the evil one, and the saint finally came out of his fort for the first time in years. People were amazed at how he did not lose his mind in complete isolation but instead became spiritually enlightened and rejuvenated.
People who knew about the saint often came to him for advice.
At the end of his earthly life, he was free of all temptations, was able to heal with the power of prayer and even saw a vision of an angel once.
The saint peacefully fell asleep in the Lord when he was 105 years old (around 356 AD).
Monastery of Saint Anthony in an oasis in the Eastern Desert of Egypt
The Orthodox celebrate the feast day of St Anthony on the 30th of January (17th of January new style). Here at Saint Elisabeth Convent, we celebrate a festive Divine Liturgy on the feast day. We also pray to St Anthony, asking him to pray to God for all of us, especially for all the nuns of the Convent. We pray that God will teach our sisters to follow Him, just like He taught Saint Anthony many centuries ago.
During the Liturgy, we sing a hymn which explains why we venerate Saint Anthony:
“By emulating the ways of Elias the zealot, / and following the straight paths of the Baptist, / O Father Anthony, you made the desert a city, / and upheld the world by your prayers. / Therefore, entreat Christ God that our souls be saved.” (Troparion of St Anthony feast day)
Our sisters can pray for you and your loved ones on the joyous feast day of Saint Anthony the Great! Click on this link and send us your prayers request.
The Great Lent starts on March 15 in the Belarusian Orthodox Church this year. The sisters of Saint Elisabeth Convent will embark on this journey to Easter by reading what the Church Fathers have said about the three pillars of Lent.