EGYPT: July 1, 2007
The Pilgrims of the Russian Church Abroad Venerate the Holy Relics of the Monastery of St Anthony the Great

On Sunday, July 1, 2007, the young participants of the All-Diaspora Youth Pilgrimage visited the Monastery of St Anthony the Great in the Eastern Desert. The pilgrims were warmly greeted by Fr Ruis-Anthony, who showed them the monastery's holy items and offered them drink from the wellspring of St Anthony. Fr Ruis told them of the history of the community and showed them its ancient section.

In 305 AD, St Anthony went to the heart of the Eastern Desert. Arriving at Mount Qolzoum, he discovered a wellspring and settled in a nearby cave. Here he labored in silence as a hermit. Eventually, those who wished to learn from him settled around him. That was the beginning of the Monastery of St Anthony, whence monasticism spread throughout Egypt and the rest of the world.

St Anthony died in 355, having lived 105 years, 85 of them in the desert. Over that time, he visited Alexandria only twice: once to edify fellow Christians during the persecutions of Maximilian, the other time to defend the truth against the heresy of Arius.

St Anthony was granted many gifts of the Holy Spirit while still on earth, including the gift of working miracles and of prophesy. His name was renowned far beyond Egypt. The author of his biography, St Athanasius, said of him: "The name of the person who hid in unknown and impassable deserts was glorified by God in Africa, in Spain and Gaul, in Italy and in Rome itself."

Over a hundred monks live in the monastery now; the abbot is a bishop. Everyday life includes prayer, work and the reading of spiritually-beneficial books. Coptic monks wear a hood with 12 crosses symbolizing the 12 Apostles, and a larger one symbolizing Christ. According to tradition, St Anthony created this head covering at the instructions of an angel. In comparison with other Egyptian monasteries, this is the most severe one, and living conditions are particularly harsh here. Rain is rare, there is nothing but desert all around surrounded by sun-scorched mountains.

Every pilgrim experienced inner joy and gratitude to God for giving them the opportunity to visit a place where one of the most beloved and revered of the holy fathers lived.

Before proceeding to the Sinai Peninsula, the pilgrims, God willing, will spend the night in sleeping bags under the open skies of the Eastern Desert.