St Ammon and 40 Virgins (Martyrs) Healing Oil
St Ammon and 40 Virgins one of the most astounding phenomena in Christian history was the Egyptian monastic movement of the fourth century. During the Roman persecutions of the third century, many men and women took to the desert, partly to escape death, partly to improve their lives. Gradually the movement grew, until there were almost 100,000 monks and nuns in the desert areas all up the Nile River! Only a few of them were priests.
At first, St. Ammon’s monks at Nitria lived in scattered cells. Then the great leader of the monastic movement, St. Anthony of Egypt, advised Ammon to have his hermits live closer together, so that he, as their abbot, could keep a careful eye on all of them. Ammon set an example of great austerity to his followers. At the outset, he ate one meal of bread and water per day. Eventually, he ate this meal only every other day, or third day, or even fourth day. (Have we been eating too much of late?)
Many miracles were also attributed to this lay ascetic. Once, for instance, he had to swim a swollen stream. Too shy to undress, he stood on the river bank wondering what to do. Suddenly, his companion Theodore saw him on the other side of the river. Ammon called across to the puzzled Theodore that he had been lifted across by divine power, but no mention should be made of this miracle so long as he lived.
St. Ammon died at the age of 62, but his great work continued after him. What was his monastery like? Not at all like those we know today, small and compact.