St. Anthony (a.d. 250 to 356) was known as the first to live a distinctly monastic life in the history of the Church, although many had lived a chaste and ascetic life before him. He was an Egyptian whose parents were wealthy, but after they died, St. Anthony heard the Gospel reading about Jesus’ call to the young rich man. He responded differently than the physically rich but spiritually poor man in that story, and left everything, gave his inheritance away to the poor, and followed Him.
St. Anthony lived in several places as he was tested and tried in the ascetic life, one of which, shown in this icon, was a desert tomb. There he was walled up by his own request to struggle both inwardly and outwardly, and struggle he did. The demonic powers appeared to him in various ways, even taking on physical form. They came as lions, goats, snakes, and other beasts to try to frighten him to give up his ascetic endeavors. St. Anthony continued anyway, calling upon God to help him, and God did. After tempered and honed by such active experience, St. Anthony could lead others surely through their own temptations with wisdom.