Yesteryears: the first community at St Antony’s mountain was semi-eremitic, meaning the monks would live separately in scattered cells or caves isolated from each other, but under the leadership and guidance of a spiritual elder, and would come together only on Saturday and Sunday for celebrating the Eucharist and partaking in a common meal. There was no formal rule as in the communal monastic system pioneered by St Pachomius and St Shenute. However, in time the monks gradually came together to live in closer communities behind high walls for reasons of safety and security, and hence a more communal form of monasticism developed on St Antony’s mountain, and has become the norm in all Egyptian monasteries today.

Today: in St Antony’s Monastery today, as has been the case throughout the history of Egyptian monasticism, monastic life consists of two important components: prayer and manual labour. Prayer is paramount in ensuring the monk’s continued relationship with the Lord. It takes the form of community worship, such as in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, midnight praises and prayers of the canonical hours, as well as private devotion in the cells which take the form of personal prayer and spiritual contemplation. Partaking in manual labour has always been a necessary component of Egyptian monasticism for 2 main reasons: (1) to keep the monks focused on their spiritual life and protect them from monotony; (2) to ensure the Monastery is self sufficient. Hence, today manual labour in the Monastery takes the form of handicraft, work in the garden, the farm, the kitchen, the bake-house, the various workshops, construction, researching in the library, amongst many other things.