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Letters of Saint Antony the Great

Author: St Antony the Great

Translator: Derwas Chitty

Saint Antony the Great, or Saint Antony of Egypt, is said to have lived for 105 years (c. 251 - 356). Born in Lower Egypt to wealthy parents, he gave away his inheritance and embraced a life of prayer in the desert, much of it spent in strictly-enclosed solitude. Saint Athanasius, Antony’s biographer, enlisted his help in 338 to refute the heretical teachings of Arius. By 374, Evagrius of Antioch had translated the ‘Life’ of Saint Antony into Latin; his translation was influential in the spread of monasticism in Western Europe. Although Antony did not himself set up any monastery, a community grew up around him, following his example.

Derwas James Chitty (1901-71), an Anglican priest and Church historian with a particular interest in Orthodoxy, devoted much of his life to the study of early Egyptian and Palestinian monasticism, summing up the fruits of forty years’ research in his notable book, ‘The Desert a City’. He spent the last three years of his life in retirement at Llangwnadl on the Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales.

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These seven letters were addressed by St Antony (251-356 AD) to his disciples. This hermit of the Egyptian desert draws our attention to those things which are essential in the spiritual life. Among the main themes are the witness of the Holy Spirit in the conscience of each person, the need for self-knowledge, the call to follow Christ, the unity of the Church, and our mutual co-inherence as members of the Body of Christ.


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