St Anthony of Egypt healing oil
The St Anthony of the desert healing oil dedicated to the great saint who established how monks should live.
St Anthony of Egypt, also called St. Anthony the Great (251 – 356) His feast day is January 17). Anthony was a religious hermit and one of the earliest monks. He considered the founder and father of organized Christian monasticism. His rule represented one of the first attempts to codify guidelines for monastic living.
St Anthony began to practice an ascetic life at the age of 20. After 15 years he withdrew for absolute solitude to a mountain by the Nile. There he lived from about 286 to 305. During the course of this retreat, he began his legendary combat against the Devil. He withstood a series of temptations famous in Christian theology and iconography. About 305 he emerged from his retreat to instruct and organize the monastic life of the hermits who imitated him. They and had established themselves nearby.
When Christian persecution ended after the Edict of Milan (313), he moved to a mountain in the Eastern Desert, between the Nile and the Red Sea. There the monastery Dayr Mārī Antonios still stands. He remained there, receiving visitors and, on occasion, crossing the desert to Pispir. He ventured twice to Alexandria, the last time (c. 350) to preach against Arianism. This was a heretical doctrine teaching that Christ the Son is not of the same substance as God the Father.
Father of monastic life
The early monks who followed Anthony into the desert considered themselves the vanguard of God’s army, and, by fasting and performing other ascetic practices, they attempted to attain the same state of spiritual purity and freedom from temptation that they saw realized in Anthony. Anthony’s spiritual combats with what he envisioned as the forces of evil made his life one long struggle against the Devil.
According to St Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria, the Devil’s assault on Anthony took the form of visions, either seductive or horrible, experienced by the saint. For example, at times the Devil appeared in the guise of a monk bringing bread during his fasts or in the form of wild beasts, women, or soldiers, sometimes beating the saint and leaving him in a deathly state. Anthony endured many such attacks, and those who witnessed them convinced they real. Every vision conjured up by Satan repelled by Anthony’s fervid prayer and penitential acts. So exotic were the visions and so steadfast was Anthony’s endurance that the subject of his temptations has often been used in literature and art.
From these psychic struggles Anthony emerged as the sane and sensible father of Christian monasticism.
Tradition of oils
The tradition of anointing with sacred oil is very old indeed. It is used in sacraments and also as a devotional practice. The sick person is invited to apply oil on the part of their body they want healed. As they do so, they are asked to pray to whomever the oil is dedicated to. The Irish blessings oils do not have miraculous power. It is God who has the power to heal. Applying the oil while praying are important ways for us to express our faith in God’s power. Moreover, by doing so we place our trust in God.
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