Remembering Abba Antony

by the Rev. Mike Marsh

desert hermitage for webSt. Antony has become known as the father and founder of desert monasticism. His journey began one Sunday morning in a small Egyptian village in the year 270 or 271 when he heard these words:

If you want to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me (Mt. 19:21).

Antony took these words literally; giving his land to neighbors, selling his remaining property, and entrusting his sister to the care of some Christian women. Antony became a disciple of a local hermit. As time went on Antony moved farther into the desert geographically and spiritually. Antony died in 356 at the age of 105.

Not everyone is called to enter the physical desert. All, however, all are called to go through the spiritual desert. It is a necessary part of our journey. The desert is, of course, more than a place. It is a way.

Part of the desert experience is the opportunity to learn and practice humility. There are no distractions in the desert. It is the place where we face up to our self, our temptations, thoughts, desires, the things we have done, and the things we have left undone. This, perhaps, is the beginning of humility.

For many the word humility has a negative connotation and is often heard as synonymous with humiliation. God does not seek our humiliation. God seeks our truest, most authentic self; the self that was created in his image and likeness. That is humility – to be authentic, to live authentic lives. The demons are always tempting us to see ourselves as either bigger than we really are or as less than we really are. Humility returns us to who we really are. In the face of humility the demons are powerless.


The Rev. Michael Marsh is rector of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Uvalde TX. Reach him at  Read his blog, Interrupting the Silence, at

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From The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas

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