Growth in Contemplative Life

image_03“Among the great Fathers of the Desert was St. Anthony of Egypt. He is one of the patrons  of the Hermits of Bethlehem. What we know of St. Anthony is from the classic biography written by St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria.

St. Anthony was born around the year 250 in Comus, Upper Egypt. At the age of twenty, St. Anthony, orphaned in his late teens along with his younger sister, was so moved by the Gospel message read in church, “Go, sell what you have and give it to the poor”
(Matthew 19:21), that he immediately responded to God’s word and distributed his rich inheritance…

Anthony lived in solitude some distance from his village and there spent his time reading the Scriptures, praying and doing penance. He engaged in manual labor in order to earn his food.

At the age of 60 Anthony withdrew further into the Egyptian desert and lived in greater solitude where he practiced a zealous and more intense ascetic life. He dwelt in the tombs where he suffered many temptations and came against all sorts of demons. Like Jesus he was “led into the desert by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1).

After many years spent in seeking God through prayer, penance and combating the demons, he emerged from the desert a healthy man in body, mind and spirit.

St. Athanasius writes: “Strangers knew him from among his disciples by the joy on his face.” He renounced the world to serve God in the solitude of the desert and was
called “the friend of God.” In 356 he died in solitude at the age of 105.”

(Extracts from ”A Way of Desert Spirituality, THE PLAN OF LIFE of the Hermits of Bethlehem” by Reverend Eugene Romano, pages XXXIII – XXXV)