St Antony the Great is the archetype of Coptic asceticism in particular and of Christian monasticism in general. The life, the attitudes, the words and works of this great desert father have influenced and still influence the lives of monastics today; be they anchoritic or coenobitic (communal) monks.

St Antony’s life was authored (a year after the saint’s death) and propagated by none other than the illustrious
Patriarch Saint Athanasius, who considered himself a close friend of this saintly desert father and with whom he often retreated for spiritual nourishment during his times of exile. St Athanasius’ ‘Life of Antony’ was addressed to the brethren of the West, in response to their petition to know more about the life of this great hermit. Indeed, such distinguished theologians as St Jerome and St Gregory of Nazianzus show familiarity with St Antony’s biography, and the demand for knowledge about this great hermit, especially by the Western Church, impelled Evagrius to translate St Athanasius’ ‘Life of Antony’ into Latin, some 20 years after the saint’s death.

By the end of the 4th century, less than 50 years after the saint’s death, the ‘Life of Antony’ was being read in places as far away as Gaul. In fact,
St Augustine relates, in Book VIII of his ‘Confessions’, how his conversion was inspired by the reading of the ‘Life of Antony’: “For I hear of Antony that coming in during the reading of the gospel, he received the admonition as if what was being read was spoken to him: ‘Go sell all you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come follow Me.’ And by such oracle he was converted unto Thee!”

Indeed, it is this divine biblical commandment that forms the foundation of the monastic movement today, as it did almost 2,000 years ago. It is also from the anchoritic life of St Antony that came the coenobitic or communal monastic innovation of the great
St Pachomius who fashioned St Antony’s instructions and way of life into a well defined set of rules for daily living, with distinct aims and methods, and forms the basis of monastic living today.
      St Antony
      His Life
      His Spirituality
      His Legacy
      His Sayings