• 17 Jan 20

Jan 17 - “St. Antony of Egypt” © icon by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM.

When he was 18 years old Antony heard Christ’s words in the Gospel, “If you want to be perfect, go sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasures in heaven.”  He gave some of the land he had inherited from his parents to his neighbors, sold the rest and gave the money to the poor, entrusted his younger sister to the care of a group of Christian virgins, and went into the desert to live an ascetic life.

Antony was not the first Christian to retire to the solitude of the desert, but he is traditionally remembered as “the Father of Monks” because of the way he guided the other hermits who gathered around him, thus establishing a balance of work and prayer that would eventually become monastic life.  Saint Athanasius knew Antony personally and wrote his biography several years after his death.  For 16 centuries his words in the collected sayings of the Desert Fathers have guided Christian monks and nuns.

The inscriptions on either side of his head in this icon are in Coptic, while that beneath his feet is in modern Arabic.  Both languages are used by the ancient Coptic Church that venerates Antony as one of its most important saints.