This profile was last updated in 2003
Located near Florence (a city approximately 80 miles southeast of the Phoenix metropolitan area), St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery was established in 1995 with the arrival of six Athonite monks from Greece. Invited by an active Greek-American Orthodox community in the area, the monks began to build churches, guest facilities, living and dining quarters and extensive gardens in what was at the time a relatively isolated tract of the Sonoran Desert. Today the monastery houses over forty monks, and serves a Greek Orthodox community with roots throughout central Arizona.
The monastery was built under the instruction of Elder Ephraim, an Athonite Hesychast and disciple of Elder Joseph the Hesychast. The resident monks practice Hesychasm (part of a living tradition of Orthodox mysticism) and follow coenobitic discipline: the brothers and novices hold all things in common and observe a daily schedule of prayers and activities under the the spiritual guidance of the resident Abbott. There are no female initiates at the monastery, though women-only centers do exist in other parts of the United States.
Visitors, both Orthodox and non-Orthodox, are welcomed at the monastery. Pilgrims can arrange to stay at the monastery in guest facilities, and other visitors are invited in daily from 10:30 A.M. to 4 P.M. Guests are asked to dress “appropriately and modestly.” Guidelines are available at the monastery’s website and in the gift shop near the entrance to the Holy grounds.
Activities and Schedule
The monks’ commence their daily program at midnight, with personal prayers and spiritual reading completed by a cycle of morning prayers and the Divine Liturgy. After a morning meal and a rest period, they take up a range of practical tasks. The monks are responsible for tending vegetable gardens, a small vineyard, citrus orchards and an olive grove on the grounds; in addition, they care for the extensive landscaping surrounding the monastery. They also see to visitors and pilgrims, handle cooking duties, work on varying construction projects, make icons (for sale in the monastery gift shop) and generally work to maintain the monastery. The work day ends with Ninth Hour and Vespers prayers (daily from 5 P.M. until 6:15 P.M.), then dinner and Small Compline from 6:45 P.M. until 7:15 P.M.
The majority of the resident monks are Greek and Greek-American by heritage. Many of the community members (approximately 50 to 80 on an average Sunday) who travel from the Phoenix on Sundays are also Greek-American.