Within a few short years, the abandoned fort deep in the Egyptian desert became a thriving village of men who were seeking God. The resident anchorites were often joined by visitors seeking blessings from Anthony and advice from men who had turned their backs against the world. It was the time of Passover and the visitors outnumbered the residents. Tents were pitched all around the grounds beyond the fort and its garden. The laughter of several women disturbed Anthony’s morning meditation. He stormed out of his solitary cell. The courtyard was bustling with all sorts of people and animals.
There was so much chaos that it took several moments for anyone to recognize Anthony. Once his presence was known, they stopped talking and bowed in his direction.
Anthony frowned at the presence of so many people whom he did not recognize. At the end of the fort’s main wall, he saw Abel surveying the grove of date palms. Anthony fixated on Abel and headed in his direction.
“Abel, get Peter and meet me in my cell.”
As he pushed his way back across the courtyard, Anthony raised his right hand in an obligatory gesture of general blessing. People cleared a pathway for him. He returned to his cell. Inside, behind a closed door, he calmed his negative reaction to the restless crowd. Moments after he sat crossed-legged on a pillow in his cell, Peter and Abel entered.
Anthony looked up at them and ordered, “Gather a few things, only what you can carry.”
“Are we going somewhere, Abba?” Peter asked.
“Tell no one, but we leave this fort tonight.”
Both Abel and Peter stepped back. They were surprised. Abel said, “Abba, we have a good community of Christian men here and sufficient means to support them all.”
“We have a good village full of worldly desires and expectations. Do you not hear the laughter of women in the courtyard?”
“Where will we go?”
Anthony did not directly answer Abel’s question. Instead he said, “I have not seen the African Boy for months. I should have understood what was happening earlier. My routine has become mundane. The evil one no longer appears to distract me. I have chosen to distract myself.”