Heirs of St. Anthony

We are not lucky with the weather. Strong wind grabbed the smallest grain, and the desert plunged into the twilight. The monastery we saw only when they arrived at all closely. Its powerful ten meter walls that hide the whole city have become more clear and clearer. Because of them there was only the outlines of two twin bells and a dozen high palm trees. And then, like a backdrop on stage, – Almost a drone rocky ledge.

The massive door of the monastery was closed. Looking around, we found a rope from highly suspended on the wall of the bell. Called. Five minutes later creaked the goals, the door slowly opened. Bearded monk in a long black shirt with a leather belt and a black hat with yellow crosses left out. Having learned that we are Russian, nodded approvingly. So it began our acquaintance with the bishop dioxoros – the abbot of the oldest Christian monastery.

The monastery is located in the eastern desert, approximately three hundred kilometers from Cairo. He carries the name of his founder – St. Anthony. For a long time, the life of this Egyptian causes admiration of all Christians. "Anthony – the greatest devotee, the founder of the desert and the father of monastic", – characterizes this person an Orthodox calendar published by the Moscow Patriarchate.

Anthony was born in 251 in the middle Egypt, near the city of Beni-Su-Eif, in the family of wealthy Christians. I must say that Christianity came to Egypt from neighboring Palestine pretty quickly. The local Christian community considers its founder and the first patriarch of the Holy Mark of the Evangelist, the author of one of the parts of the New Testament. Mark lived in Egypt in 61-68, was killed in Alexandria with pagans and secretly buried there. His relics are stored in the Cathedral of St. Brand in Alexandria. It is possible that the Gospel of Mark was created on the Egyptian land.

When Anthony turned 18 years old, his parents died. And soon, obeying the divine vision, the young man accepted the decision, not only steeply changed his life, but also the immortal glory earned him later: he distributed almost all his estate to the poor, leaving only a small part of his sister, and retired to the desert.

So Anthony became the first Christian-monger’s christian. But the deserted itself appeared in Egypt before our era.

At first, Anthony lived in a cave not far from Beni-Sauseiff, on the bank of the Nile. Twenty years spent in full solitude. Only twice in the year, the hermit brought suppresses. Over time, Solva went about him, people began to flog to the cave. Then Anthony moved to the other side of the river, away from housing. But here the guests did not have a penalty. Anachor’s hermit was not only a skillful preacher, but also engaged in his healing, and the people from the nearest villages went to him for healing spiritual and physical. Some of the aliens decided to settle with him. Anthony did not objection. So by the beginning of the IV century the first Christian monastic community. In 312, she moved far to the desert – where and there is a monastery.

Desert, by definition, unsuitable for man’s life. And yet it come across tiny islands, where you can settle. All thing in water. Sources in the desert are usually either in deep depressions, and there are oases there, either beaten from under the rock. Near two such sources and stopped Anthony and his associates. Some of them built a simple dwelling, others are located in nearby caves. The most spacious cave, aside from sources and much higher than them, took Anthony.

To get to the cave of Anthony, you need to do a fair path from the monastery. First with a kilometer go along the rocks, and then climb the stairs. One step, fifteen, hundred, two hundred. Total 1150 steps!

In the depth of the cliff leads a decade meter tunnel. He ends with a spacious room. Here almost half a century and lived "Father of monastic". After his death, the cave was turned into a chapel. Here and today are burning candles at the image of the Sacred Elder. Probably, schoolchildren who we met on the stairs. The walls of the cave are littered with autographs of those who came here, sometimes for the thirty lands to worship the feat of Anthony. Many inscriptions not one hundred years. At the entrance to the cave – a small terrace. They say, she loved to sit hermit sitting on her, engaged in his usual business – weaving baskets made of palm leaves.

Anthony led ascetic, righteous, but healthy lifestyle. Maybe therefore lived to the deepest old age. The founder of the first monastery was died on January 30, 356 at the 105th year of life. Buried him in the chapel near the sources. And the followers of Anthony continued to continue to live there together – and still live.

Copts – Christian special

Egyptian Christian Church is called Coptic. Word "Copt" comes from the Greek name of Egypt – "Aigyptos" and means simply "Egyptian".

– We are all Cops, – dropped dioskoros at the beginning of our tour of the monastery. – Only one – Christians, and others – Muslims.

Comment, of course, faithful. And yet since the time of Arabic conquest in VII in. In short "Copt" It became accepted to designate only Egyptian Christians.

Coptic church stood out in an independent in 451, after Chalkidon Cathedral. Formally, the split occurred in purely theological reasons. The Delegation of the Alexandrian Patriarchate insisted that Christ was inextricably united the Divine and Human Entity. The majority, driven by Byzantine priests, began to be for the fact that Christ Essences are two – Divine and Human.

Egyptians remained with their understanding of the essence of Christ, known as Monophimitsky (unique).

After Arabic conquest, the Egyptian Islamization process began, not completed and so. Copds make up 7-8 percent in the 60 millionth population of Egypt. True, Copt language – Ancient Egyptian – already two centuries ago was ousted by Arabic. But there are still sometimes church services on it. I remember for Christmas in the Cathedral of St. Mark in Cairo – a giant modern building, accommodating five thousand people, – the current, 117th Coptic Patriarch Alexandrian Pope Schonguda 3rd read the time of saying from the New Covenant. The Bible and other sacred books usually have parallel texts – on Coptic and Arabic languages.

When the dioxoros and I approached the oldest of the seven monastic churches, then before entering it, shoved shoes. Just do Muslims at the entrance to the mosque. However, the Copts remove shoes only in particularly revered churches, but necessarily – in the front of the temples. In the rites of two religious denominations of Egypt, there is a lot of similar. Copts pray seven times a day, Muslims – five. During the post, and the cops will fast most of the year, they do not eat and do not drink from sunrise to sunset. So do Muslims during Ramadan – the month of the annual post. And Copda and Muslims subjected boys circumcision. Part of the cops, like Muslim, does not eat pork, although it is not formally prohibited. And those and others do not drink wine.

With wine, we had a curious episode. After the tour of the monastery, Dioskoros brought us to the souvenir shop. Looking at books, icons, crosses, I accidentally stumbled upon a bag standing on the floor, full bottles. Remembering the visit of the monasteries in Lebanon, Syria and Palestine, I decided that, like there, this wine – from monastic storerooms and for sure very good. But Lioscoros disappointed me.

Copts drink wine only for communion, – he said. – Yes, and that made especially: not from grape juice, but from the working raisin. And these bottles gave me the Czechs. Want – can take.

I wondered how much wine. I do not know, – answered the bishop. – Take – and sacrifice the monastery how much you think possible.

We took one bottle, sacrificing a slightly more value of local wine for it. At lunch tried. The gift of Chekhov was not bad at all.

Egyptians – Muslims and Christians – are an ethnically united people, with a common culture, whose roots rise to the origins of the Egyptian civilization. Even the decorative and applied art of two Egyptian denominations differs for mostly only religious symbols.

In the last quarter of a century, the Coptic monasticism gained a second breath. Monasteries, and their more than two dozen, reconstructed and expanded, the number of monks in them has increased dramatically. So, in the early 70s, before the reconstruction, in one of the most famous monasteries that bear the name of St. Makariya – associate associate. Anthony – and located in Wadi Natrune, there were only seven monks. Now they are more than a hundred.

Farm of bishop dioscription

In the monastery of St. Anthony I visited for the first time almost ten years ago. Then we were shaking the last fifteen kilometers of the road, from turning from the Zaafaran highway – Beni-Sayif, on a dust caught, and now asphalt is laid right to the walls of the monastery. As in the monastery of sv. Macaria, extensive territory adjacent to the monastery appealed the fence. Guest buildings and a shopping center were built on the court near the entrance. Expanded and the territory of the monastery itself. Inside the new cells. Then the monks were 37, and now 62. By the way, the current celi is separate apartments with all the amenities, no worse than urban.

I asked Dioskoros. Where does money come from for so large-scale work.

– Good income brings an agricultural farm with an area of ​​200 Feddanov, "he replied. – There is a farm near Beni-Sauseiff, in the homeland of Anthony. Plus souvenir kiosk and donations.

Among Egyptian Copts a significant number of people educated and wealthy. For example, the former UN Secretary-General Bootros Gali – Copt. The richest family in the country – Suvery, Copts from Upper Egypt. Their capital exceeds three billion dollars. So donations for monasteries are not only crumpled pounds and piastra, which is fussing in special boxes. Simple believers. Often they are calculated by millions.

In the monastery itself there is a subsidiary farming – the upper and lower gardens. Put them in the time of Anthony. The ground was brought by baskets on camels from the Nile Valley.

Any Copt, completed education and service in the army. For beginners, a trial period of four months has been established. Instead of black monastic clothes, they wear brown shoes Galabei. Not everyone is leaving for monasteries. But those who remain most often rose from the same life forever. However, any monk may leave the abode at any time, although in fact this act is a single thing and will not approve.

When we went barefoot to the main and oldest church of the monastery of St. Anthony, dioskoros included a lack of light. From wrapped walls looked at us saints.

– In the XV century, the ministers of the monastery rebelled, killed the monks and staged a kitchen in the church, "explained the bishop. – Recently, we started clearing the frescoes. Help experts from Italy.

Heirs of St. Anthony

Dioskoros showed us the first cleared sections. The frescoes shone with bright colors. Soon all the wall paintings made in the middle of the XIII century will look like. In the meantime, under the layer of the spots of the face on the frescoes with difficulty distinguishable. They are written in the traditional Coptic manner – flat, somewhat sketchy, with disregard for details, and sometimes with violation of proportions. It seems that you consider the drawings of the child. But such is the centuries-old tradition that has developed without without the influence of the art of the Pharaohs times.

In fact, the frescoes in the Coptic churches – the phenomenon is quite rare. Most often their whitewall walls are decorated with icons, but how in the cathedral. Brand and naked. In the monastery of St. Anthony icons little – only about a hundred. They are made in the same style as the murals. The most rare and old icons, and some of them are more than a thousand years old, stored in the library. There, according to dioskoros, a beautiful collection of vintage manuscripts and books has been collected. But in order to get to the library, the permission of the Schienda Pope itself, what we did not know about.

And here on the walls of the Church, as in Anthony’s cave – autographs of pilgrims. Looking around, discovered two inscriptions in Russian, with pre-revolutionary spelling:

"Archimandrite Porphiri" and "NS. Solovyov". Our compatriots, began to be achieved and before that remote monastery.

The church was built in the VII century at the place of the chapel, where Anthony was buried. Dust it rests to the right of the altar. In the sandy sand, the niches burned candles lit by someone. Altar Trinoina. Its average part is devoted to. Anthony, left – sv. Brand, and right – sv. Athanasius, 20th Patriarch Alexandria, Supporter and Biographer Anthony.

Bishop redeemed the light, we went outside and shoved. Powerful Fort Tower looked at us. The bottom floor is tightly closed. At the level of the high second floor from a neighboring building in the tower perhaps lightweight wooden bridge. Such structures are an integral part of each old Coptic monastery. At first the walls did not appreciate them. When a danger appeared, the monks hid in the tower, and the bridge was raised by winch. On the first floor of the tower usually placed cells and warehouses, in some – wells, and in others, as here – stone tanks where water goes on secret pipes from the source. In such towers it was possible to withstand a multi-day siege. On the second floor there are chapels. In some towers there are a third floor, which is also engaged in chapels. If you judge the size of this tower built in 537, during the reign of the emperor of Justinian, the population of the monastery was then small.

Dioskoros led us to a low building in the long part of the monastery: – We have household buildings there, – he explained, – there are interesting things. Yes, so much where you see! Although for his long history, the monastery was repeatedly ruined, life in it was soon reborn, so the abode – the repository not only the old church utensils, but also ancient objects of life.

Two mills installed under the easy canopy were made in the 9th century from palm and olive trees. Each opened in a donkey. But the ancient oil press from the olive tree – he regularly performed his functions on the memory of the dioskoros. I opened a wooden stopper standing near a large clay jug. It also smelled with olive oil.

From the old Hozclock moved on, to the foot. There is a main of two sources, which monastery is obliged to be. From a narrow tunnel in a rock with a murmur runs.

– One hundred cubic meters per day, – explained Dioscoros. – Half goes to business needs, half – on watering the garden.

– And the second source? – I asked I.

– He is very small, – answered the bishop.

We were threw out the lips to the bladder of cool, crystal clear water – how the Anthony himself was done, how almost seventeen centuries do its followers and admirers.

The territory of the monastery drops from the rear wall under the mountain to the front. So go under the hill from the source to the entrance to the abode was much easier than climbing him. We passed the hedge of the upper garden. The dust storm did not subside, but powerful monastery walls held back the strongest gusts of the wind. From the tower dioskoros took to the left. We climbed the stairs and soon found themselves in the pavilion in the center of the wall, next to the door. The front part of the pavilion turned out to be extended, and in it – a spacious hole with a block and shielded with a rope, closed with a wooden shield, the end of which was tied to a large collar.

– The door to the monastery was abandoned relatively recently, – explained Dioskoros. – And before that used this "Lift". To the rope tied the basket, it was raised and lowered and humans and loads.

We were forgiven with dioskoros as long-standing familiar.

Come still, – invited the bishop, – with overnight. We now have a place, and the food is clean, no chemistry.

We promised. And for sure each of us will try promise to do. For we felt some special attractive strength of this tiny island of life in the midst of the desert – the power of the human spirit, inspired by the worldly passions, and the Great Vera swept through the century.

Heirs of St. Anthony

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