St. Anthony the Great, an Egyptian, was born in a.d. 250. He was the first person in the Christian Church to live the distinctly monastic life, and became a hermit. He heard the call from Christ when he was young, hearing the story of the rich young man called to sell what he had, give to the poor, and follow Him. St. Anthony lived in a tomb, and later up on a mountain in the Western Desert of Egypt, where there is still a monastery dedicated to his memory today. In this icon he carries the shepherd’s staff of an abbot, and a scroll to indicate the spiritual writings he left for us.
Because of his excellent life and spiritual stature many who met him joined this most excellent monastic life with zeal, either near him, or in other monasteries inspired by such ideals. St. Athanasios the Great met St. Anthony and treasured him. When St. Anthony died in great old age in a.d. 356, St. Athanasios wrote his life, which created a great flood of young men and women following this shining example of dedication and love, and gave themselves up to enter the narrow but holy gates of monasticism. St. Anthony is called the “Father of Monks” to this day.