Saint Ammonius, the Hermit

May 28 is the Commemoration of the Departure of Saint Ammonius (Ammonas, Amoun), the Hermit.
Ammonas
“Ammonas (Greek: Ἀμμώνας), Amoun (Ἀμοῦν), or Ammonius the Hermit was a 4th-century Christian ascetic and the founder of one of the most celebrated monastic communities in Egypt. Pushed into marriage by his family, he managed to persuade his bride to take a vow of chastity together with him by the authority of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians. They lived together this way for 18 years, when at her wish, they parted, and he retired to Scetis and Mt. Nitria, to the south of Lake Mareotis, where he lived 22 years, visiting his sister-wife twice a year.
scetes
He died before St. Anthony the Great from whom there is an epistle to him. that is, before the year 365, for the latter asserted that he “saw the soul of Amoun borne by angels to heaven”, and as St. Athanasius’s history of St. Antony preserves the order of time, he died perhaps about 320. There are generally seventeen or nineteen “Rules of Asceticism” (κεφάλαια) ascribed to him; the Greek original exists in manuscript; they were published in the Latin version of Gerardus Vossius. “Twenty-two Ascetic Institutions” of the same Amoun, or one bearing the same name, exist also in manuscript. There is a collection of his letters in the Patrologia Orientalis, volume 10/6.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ammonas

“On this day, of the year 73 A.M. (357 A.D.), the holy father Abba Ammonius departed. He was born in 294 A.D., in a village near Mariot. He was, as St. Antony was, born to a righteous and rich Christian family. He lost his parents while he was young and became under the guardianship of his uncle. He longed for the life of purity, chastity, and holiness. Nevertheless, his uncle forced him to be engaged to a rich girl against his will. Since he could not disobey his uncle, he talked to his bride to be, with a spiritual dialogue and through his holy life, he was able to have a good influence on her. He made her long to the life of purity and planted in her heart the desire to consecrate her self a bride for the True Bridegroom Jesus Christ. Thus they decided to accept the marriage but decided to live as a brother and sister. They remained like this for seventeen years, keeping themselves pure and chaste, after which his wife departed to the eternal bliss.
ammonas-in-bed
Abba Ammonius, Egyptian ascetic, forced to wed, agrees with his bride to live in celibacy and virginity (from Wynkyn de Worde’s 1495 edition of “Vitas patrum”) Date: 285 – 320

The Saint saw in a vision St. Antonios calling him to put on the monastic garb. When he woke from his sleep, he rose up and went to St. Isidore, who put on him the holy Eskeem. He dwelt with him for some time, after which he went to mount Tounah, where was St. Antonios.
anthony of desert
St. Ammonius remained with St. Antonios for a while and became his disciple, and studied on his hands the cannons of the holy monasticism. He built for himself a cell in mount Tounah. He fervently worshipped God there, and the devil envied him. He came to him in the form of a nun and knocked his door. When he opened and asked the devil to pray with him, the devil became like a flame of fire. Then the devil went and dwelt in a woman and moved her to entice the Saint to fall in sin with her. She wore the best of her clothing and came to him at dusk, and knocked the door of his cell, saying: “I am a traveling woman, and I had lost my way, and it is dark now. Please do not let me stay outside lest the wild beasts kill me, and you become responsible for my blood.” When he opened the door and knew the snare of the devil who sent her, he started to preach her and put the fear in her heart of the tortures of hell which is awaiting the sinners, and indicated to her the delight and the bliss which is awaiting the righteous. God opened her heart, and she understood what he said to her. She knelt to his feet weeping and asked him to accept her and assist her in saving her soul. She took off her apparel and he put on her a sackcloth of hair. He cut off her hair and called her “The simple minded or the naive”. He taught her the way to righteousness and she excelled through many prayers and fasting, and surpassed many saints by her fasting and perpetual prayers.
The devil tried to snare him again. This time in the form of a monk who went around in the monasteries weeping and saying: “Abba Ammonius the hermit had married and he kept the woman with him in his cell. He had put the monks to shame and disgraced the monastic garb.” When Abba Apollo (Ebelo), who was like the angels, heard of that, he took with him Abba Yousab and Abba Nohi (Bohi), and came to mount Tounah to the cell of Abba Ammonius. They knocked on the door of the cell, and when she opened to them they realized the matter. They entered and prayed together as the custom and sat to talk about the greatness of God. At the end of the day, Abba Ammonius told them, let us go to see the “Naive” for she was baking some bread. When they went out to where she was, they saw her standing in the midst of a great fire, and her hands were stretched out towards heaven praying. They marvelled exceedingly and glorified God. After they had eaten the bread, everyone went separately to sleep and the angel of the Lord revealed the story of the “Naive” with St. Ammonius to Abba Apollo, and that God brought them there to be present at the time of her departure. About the third hour of the night, she became sick with fever. She knelt down and delivered up her soul at the hand of the Lord. They swathed her, and after praying over her, they buried her. Then Abba Ammonius told them about her virtues, and that for the eighteen years that she stayed with him, she never raised her face to look at him, and that her food was bread and salt. After this, St. Antonios sent him to El-Natroun valley to establish there new monasteries, and many believers followed him. He organized for them their livelihood and directed them with excellence. Soon after, this holy father departed in peace.”
http://st-takla.org/zJ/index.php/component/katamaros/?sm=0-2&c=&iday=28&imonth=5&iyear=2011&dbl=en&task=synax_today

Sayings of Saint Ammonas:

• Abba Ammonas said “Go, make your thoughts like those of the evildoers who are in prison. For they are always asking when the magistrate will come, awaiting him in anxiety. Even so the monk ought to give himself at all times to accusing his own soul, saying, ‘Unhappy wretch that I am. How shall I stand before the judgement seat of Christ? What shall I say in my defence?’ If you give yourself continually to this, you may be saved.”

• “I have spent fourteen years in Scetis asking God night and day to grant me the victory over anger.”

• Abba Ammonas was going to pay a visit to Abba Anthony one day, and he lost his way. So sitting down, he fell asleep for a little while. On waking, he prayed thus to God, “I beseech you, O Lord my God, do not let your creature perish.” Then there appeared to him as it were a man’s hand in the heavens, which showed him the way, till he reached Abba Anthony’s cave.

• Abba Ammonas came one day to eat in a place where there was a monk of evil repute. Now it happened that a woman came and entered the cell of the brother of evil reputation. The dwellers in that place, having learnt this, were troubled and gathered together to chase the brother from his cell. Knowing that Bishop Ammonas was in the place, they asked him to join them. When the brother in question learnt this, he hid the woman in a large cask. The crowd of monks came to the place. Now Abba Ammonas saw the position clearly but for the sake of God he kept the secret; he entered, seated himself on the cask and commanded the cell to be searched. Then when the monks had searched everywhere without finding the woman, Abba Ammonas said, “What is this? May God forgive you!” After praying, he made everyone go out, then taking the brother by the hand he said, “Brother, be on your guard.” With these words, he withdrew.

• Abba Ammonas was asked, “What is the ‘narrow and hard way?’” (Matthew 7:14). He replied, “The ‘narrow and hard way’ is this, to control your thoughts, and to strip yourself of your own will, for the sake of God. This is also the meaning of the sentence, ‘Lo, we have left everything and followed you.’” (Matthew 19:27)
http://www.pantanassamonastery.org/sayings-by-abba-ammonas.html

See also http://ccdl.libraries.claremont.edu/cdm/ref/collection/cce/id/118
Letters_of_Ammonas_Successor_of_Saint_Anthony
Ammonas (Author), D.J. Chitty (Translator) “Letters of Ammonas Successor of Saint Anthony” (Fairacres Publications – Cistercian Publications, 1988)
UsefulServanthood
Bernadette McNary-Zak, Nada Conic, Brother Lawrence Morey OCSO et al “Useful Servanthood: A Study of Spiritual Formation in the Writings of Abba Ammonas” (Cistercian Studies, 2010)

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