Monasticism began in the Coptic Church towards the end of the Third Century and flourished in the Fourth. There were hundreds of Monasteries and thousands of caves in the mountains of Egypt. For Monks - Monasticism is a Life of Worship & Prayer, Contemplation, Solitude and Purity of Body, Mind & Heart - in Christ.
They had nothing in their minds, hearts and feelings - except GOD & GOD Alone. They live the calm and quiet life abiding in the Lord, “detaching themselves” from everything and everyone of this world - in order to be attached to Christ alone - To “Seek” the Narrow Path.
Saint Paul of the lower Thebaid in Egypt was the First Hermit. In 250 AD upon the death of his parents when he was 16 years old, he inherited great wealth. He fled to the desert where he lived over 90 years. Each day, the Lord would send him a raven that would bring him one half of a loaf of bread for his sustenance.
The most famous Coptic monk was Saint Anthony, who was born in Middle Egypt. He was 18 years of age when he entered the Church and heard the Holy Words of the Gospel, "If you want to be Perfect, go, sell all you have and give to the poor; and come follow Me." ~ Matthew 19:21
In heeding the Sacred Calling and in Obedience, he sold his land, entrusted his sister to a community of virgins, and lived in a hut under the guidance of a recluse. He visited Alexandria in 316 AD to assist the martyrs, and in 352 AD to help Saint Athanasius in his fight against Arianism.
Saint Anthony was a great leader of thousands of monks in Egypt in the fourth century, and many of his disciples also came from the West, after hearing of his inspirational life; for this reason he is considered all over the world, until today, as the "Father of Monasticism".
Other famous Coptic monks include Saint Syncletica who founded the first monastic convent for women in the world – established in Alexandria. Her biography and teachings were preserved by Pope Athanasius.
Coptic Monasticism is considered the most profound spiritual revival in the history of the Church. The news of the spiritual life of the monks spread to every part of the world despite the fact that they did not write about themselves, and for this reason, there is no Coptic history of the Coptic monks. Despite this fact however, people came from all over the world in order to hear a word from one of the monks, and to take it as a word of spiritual guidance and benefit throughout their lives.
Coptic Iconostasis - Saint Anthony
Saint Palladius visited many monks and wrote his famous "Paradise of the Fathers" from which we learn about these Holy Fathers, Monks, Anchorites and Hermits. The Paradise of the Fathers is the compilation of the lives and teachings of the early Holy Monastic Saints (A.D. 250 and A.D. 400). It is said that for a Monastic to achieve Perfection, there are only two books needed: The Holy Bible and the Paradise of the Fathers.
They were not preachers, but they are “Living Sermons”, and examples of the True Spiritual Life with GOD. They were completed by Christ, and refined as Gold is refined in the furnace. They achieved the embodiment and “Fulfillment” of the Image of GOD in themselves… whilst here on Earth - and God's Holy Name was Glorified in them.