Thursday, January 17, 2008
Saint Anthony and his pig
Antony was an egyptian, a copt. As a young man he went far into the Nitra desert, beyond the outskirts, to become an anchorite, a hermitic monk. He engaged in heroic aestheticism for many years and became known to pilgrims, whom came to see him. Much of his story comes to us from a biography penned by the patriarch of Alexandria, Saint Athanasius, whom met the aged Antony after his fame was well established, and employed him against the arians and their heresy.
He practiced self denial as would an athlete exercise, a strenuous training regimen to steel the spirit. He suffered torment, trial and temptation. He underwent attack by the devil. Hieronymus Bosch painted vivid and allegorical presentations, and Gustave Flaubert novelized the struggle. These presentations are a dark psychological pondering. Some may speculate on whether supernatural relation or psychic drama predominates, from either view, the conflict is evocative.
He survived into long, aged life *251, †356. At one time, since he lived in the age of persecution, he went to Alexandria to confront martyrdom at the end of that age before legalised toleration of christianity began, the time passed and he returned to the desert. Constantine, the new cæsar, wrote to Antony to pray for him, a new era for the church began. Others continued out to the desert and a monastic community of cenobites (semi-hermits) developed. There comes to us many tales and words of these Desert Fathers, the Abbas. Antony is sometimes called Antony of Egypt, Antony (Anthony) the Abbot to distinguish his stature as a founder of monasticism.
But the pig, yes the pig, many of us remember. Antony encountered a sick pig and healed the animal. The pig would not leave him and followed closely at his footfalls. In the pictorial poetry of iconography Antony has his pig. Tantony's pig is the term we have for the favorite piglet of the litter and can metaphorically be used otherwheres. And there were children, through the ages, who were named Antony, Anton, Tony, Anthony ... who were teased on account of the pig. Pigs can be viewed humorously, and children are children. I heard of one local plumber, who was named Peter Ignatius and was called, even, in his adulthood "Piggy".
Following upon nothing, this chinese year ending was the year of the golden pig, about Cleveland there was displayed decorated pig statues. One still in place, outside a bank:
There were others: better and worse to the eye. The upcoming year is the one of the rat. There might be a joke, or more, in that succession. I cannot wax poetic on rattus rattus.