St. Moses the Black, whose life story is remarkable, was martyred. This saint took the Kingdom of Heaven by force, exactly as our Lord Jesus Christ said: "The Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force." (Matthew 11:12). In his early life, St. Moses was a slave to people who worshiped the sun. He was a mighty man who loved to eat and drink excessively. He killed, robbed and committed all evil. No one could stand up before him, or challenge him. On many occasions, he lifted up his eyes to look to the sun and to talk to it saying, "O Sun!! if you are God, let me know it." Then he said, "And you O God whom I do not know, let me know you." One day, he heard someone saying to him, "The monks of Wadi El-Natroun know the real God. Go to them and they will tell you." Instantly, he rose up, girded his sword and went to the wilderness of Shehet (Skete). He met St. Esidorous (Isidore) the priest, who was frightened when he saw him, because of his appearance. St. Moses comforted him by saying that he came to the monks so that they might let him know the real God. St. Esidorous took him to St Macarious The Great, who preached to him, taught him the faith and baptized him. He accepted St. Moses as a monk and taught him to live in the wilderness. St. Moses dashed in many worship, and fought a spiritual fight, which was greater than that fought by many saints. However, the Devil fought him intensively with his old habits of excessive eating, drinking, and fornication. He informed St. Esidorous about everything which came upon him in his fight with the Enemy. He comforted him and taught him how to overcome the snares of the Devil. It was told about him, that when the elders of the Monastery slept, he used to go round to their cells and take their water pots and fill them with water, which he brought from a well at a far distance from the monastery. After many years in spiritual struggle, the Devil envied him, and struck him with a sore on his foot which made him sick and bed-ridden. When he knew that this was from the Devil, he increased in his asceticism and worship, until his body became as a burnt wood. God looked to his patience, healed his illness, and removed all his pains. The blessing of the Lord came upon him. After a while, he became the Father and the spiritual guide of 500 brothers, who elected him to be ordained a priest. When he came before the Patriarch to be ordained, the Patriarch wanted to test him by asking the elders, "Who brought this black here? Cast him out." He obeyed, and left saying to himself, "It is good what they have done to you, O black colored one. The Patriarch, however, called him back and ordained him a priest, and said to him, Moses, all of you now has become white."
One day, he went with some elders to St. Macarius the Great, who said to them, "I see among you one to whom belong the crown of martyrdom." St. Moses answered him, "Probably it is me, for it is written: 'For all they that take with the sword, shall perish with the sword.'" (Matt. 26:52). After they returned to the monastary, it did not take long until the Berbers attacked the monastery. He told the brethren, "Whoever wants to escape, let him escape." They asked him, "And you O father, why do you not also escape?" He replied that he had waited for this day for long time. The Berbers entered the monastery and killed him with seven other brothers. One of the brethren was hiding, and saw the angel of the Lord, with a crown in his hand standing by and waiting for him. He went out from his hiding place to the Berbers and he was also martyred.
His body is now located at Virgin Mary's Coptic Orthodox Monastery of El-Baramous in Egypt.
St. Anthony the Great, Anthony also called Antony or Antonios, (born c. 251, Koma, near Al-Minyā, Heptanomis [Middle Egypt], Egypt—died January 17?, 356, Dayr Mārī Antonios hermitage, near the Red Sea; feast day January 17), religious hermit and one of the earliest monks, considered the founder and father of organized Christian Monastism. His rule represented one of the first attempts to codify guidelines for monastic living.
A diciple of St. Paul of Thebes, Anthony began to practice an ascetic life at the age of 20 and after 15 years withdrew for absolute solitude to a mountain by the Nile called Pispir (now Dayr al-Maymūn), where he lived from about 286 to 305. During the course of this retreat, he began his legendary combat against the Devil, withstanding a series of temptations famous in Christian theology and iconography. About 305 he emerged from his retreat to instruct and organize the monastic life of the hermits who imitated him and who had established themselves nearby. When Christian persecution ended after the Edict of Millan (313), he moved to a mountain in the Eastern Desert, between the Nile and the Red Sea, where the manastery Dayr Mārī Antonios still stands. There he remained, receiving visitors and, on occasion, crossing the desert to Pispir. He ventured twice to Alexandria, the last time (c. 350) to preach against Arianism, a heretical doctrine teaching that Christ the Son is not of the same substance as God the Father.
The early monks who followed Anthony into the desert considered themselves the vanguard of God’s army, and, byfasting and performing other ascetic practices, they attempted to attain the same state of spiritual purity and freedom from temptation that they saw realized in Anthony. Anthony’s spiritual combats with what he envisioned as the forces of evil made his life one long struggle against the Devil. According to St. Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria, the Devil’s assault on Anthony took the form of visions, either seductive or horrible, experienced by the saint. For example, at times the Devil appeared in the guise of a monk bringing bread during his fasts or in the form of wild beasts, women, or soldiers, sometimes beating the saint and leaving him in a deathly state. Anthony endured many such attacks, and those who witnessed them were convinced they were real. Every vision conjured up by Satan was repelled by Anthony’s fervid prayer and penitential acts. So exotic were the visions and so steadfast was Anthony’s endurance that the subject of his temptations has often been used in literature and art, notably in the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, Matthias Grunewald, Max Ernst, Paul Cezanne, and Salvadoe Dali, and Salvador Dali as well as in the novel The Temptation of Saint Anthony (1874) by Gustave Flaubert.
From these psychic struggles Anthony emerged as the sane and sensible father of Christian monasticism. The rule that bears his name was compiled from writings and discourses attributed to him in the Life of St. Antony by St. Athanasius and the Apophthegmata patrum and was still observed in the 20th century by a number of Coptic and Armenian monks.
Anthony’s popularity as a saint reached its height in the Middle Ages. The Order of Hospitallers of St. Anthony was founded near Grenoble, France (c. 1100), and this institution became a pilgrimage centre for persons suffering from the disease known as St. Anthony’s fire (or egotism ). The black-robed Hospitallers, ringing small bells as they collected alms, were a common sight in many parts of western Europe. The bells of the Hospitallers, as well as their pigs—allowed by special privilege to run free in medieval streets—became part of the later iconography associated with St. Anthony.
This article was most recently revised and updated by Melissa Petruzzello, Assistant Editor.