St. Antony was the first important Christian hermit mentioned in history. He was born in A.D. 251. At the age of twenty he lost parents. On one Sunday when he was participating in the Holy Eucharist as usual, the day's Gospel lesson attracted him. The words of Jesus to the rich man "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me (Mt. 19:21), inspired him. He gave away his possessions and became a monk. We may sum up here the important stages in his life.
1. Antony shifted his residence to a humble cottage. He earned money for himself and for the needy, by making ropes, mats, baskets and sandals. This job suited his life to practice unceasing prayer. He attended Church worship persistently and heard the readings of Scriptures carefully. Though he was illiterate he learned the principles of Christian living through participation in the full cycle of Church worship.
2. He visited the older Christian devotees. He gathered from those many examples the diverse ingredients of Christian perfection.
3. The earnest prayer of young Antony was for purity of heart. He found the evil and its temptations powerful in his thoughts and imaginations. Through constant prayer and discipline he could cast out the temptations from his heart.
4. The demons thus cast out from within began to attack from outside. The next stage of his life was fighting against the demons. He went to the tombs of his village, entered into one of them and shut himself in and started praying. At last he emerged victorious over the demons.
5. At the age of thirty five he crossed Nile and reached the desert. He shut himself there in a deserted fort and lived in solitude for twenty years. Twice a year he was supplied with bread. After twenty years when his friends broke down the gate of the fort he came out "on from some inmost shrine, initiate into the mysteries and God-borne" (Life of Antony chapter 14). Despite his combat with demons and severe fasting, physically and indisposition of soul he was "all balanced, as governed by reason and standing in his natural condition" Life of Antony Ch. 14).
6. Antony then entered into another stage possessing spiritual powers. He began to heal the sick, cast out demons and to comfort the sorrowful. At the time of persecution of Diocletian and Maximian he came out of the monastery and visited Alexandria several times to strengthen the suffering Church. He exposed himself for arrest but authorities feared to touch him.
7. As the persecution was ended he lost his quietness due to visitors and disciples. So he withdrew to an inaccessible place called "InnerMountain" where he lived for the rest of his life. During this period too he came to Alexandria to comfort Athanasius and the Church when they suffered at the hands of the Arians. He died at the age of 105.