Any history of the Desert Fathers will credit Antony as the first of the Christian hermits, made famous by the biography of St. Athanasius of Alexandria. In any case, Antony became the model for ascetic training, desert reclusion, charity, perseverance, and especially of resistance to temptation. But Antony was not the first Christian hermit.
St. Jerome, living on the desert outskirts of Syria in the early fifth century, composed the Life of St. Paul the First Hermit.
Paul lived in the lower Thebaid of Egypt of a wealth family. He was fifteen when his parents died; an older sister had married and left the household. When the persecutions of Decius and Valerian reached Egypt, young Paul fled to his sister's estate, but escaped to the mountains when his sister's husband was about to denounce him. There Paul discovered a great cave, an abandoned mint, with plenty of water and palm trees nearby to supply food and clothing. There Paul was to live the rest of his hundred and thirteen years.
Jerome tells no more about Paul's daily life, except to note that he "lived the life of heaven upon earth." Instead, the story shifts to Paul's contemporary, Antony himself, who upon hearing of a famous desert hermit sets out to visit him. By now Antony is ninety years old, and ill-provisioned to travel alone under the burning desert sun. He encounters two fabulous beasts. (Jerome insets a couple of quotations from Virgil's Aeneid, revealing his continuing nemesis, which he was to confess as a temptation to prefer Cicero to Christ). When at last Antony finds Paul, the noise of the former's entrance to the cave sets Paul to barricade himself deeper within.
« Last Edit: November 15, 2011, 10:04:33 PM by Jetavan »
If you will, you can become all flame.
Extra caritatem nulla salus.
In order to become whole, take the "I" out of "holiness".
Ἄνω σχῶμεν τὰς καρδίας
"Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is." -- Mohandas Gandhi
Y dduw bo'r diolch.