Abba Anthony the Great

Abba Anthony the Great

Abba Anthony the Great

Anthony the Great was a leader of the first Desert Fathers and Mothers of the third century. Forsaking urban life in Alexandria, these men and women formed small communities in the surrounding Egyptian desert so that they might devote themselves with great intensity to a life of prayer and communion with Christ. Around them grew brotherhoods of like-minded desert dwellers and disciples who sought to learn from the wisdom accrued from their many years of prayer and repentance.   
 
Pilgrims often visited these Abbas and Ammas (Fathers and Mothers, as they are called) with the simple request, “Abba, give us a word.” The elders of the Alexandrian desert would then speak with insight and gravity, allowing holy wisdom to move from their own hearts to the hearts of those seeking guidance.
 
A treasury of these words has been preserved for us in the apophthegmata ton agion geronton, or “Sayings of the Holy Elders.” Editions are often published under the title The Sayings of the Desert Fathers. (The translation from the Greek used here is by Benedicta Ward.) In this work, the 38 sayings of Anthony the Great figure centrally, giving shape and direction to the wisdom of both his contemporaries and his spiritual descendants.

In the Advent season of 2016, Fr. Theophan offered the following reflections...