PRODUCED FILMED & DIRECTED BY REMIGIUSZ SOWA
A truly remarkable story of Father Lazarus El Anthony who lives in solitude on the Al-Qalzam Mountain (Egypt). It was in a cave at this mountain that the great hermit, the founder and the father of the monastic life; Saint Anthony the Great (Abba Antonius)lived. At the foot of the mountain lies St. Anthony's Monastery (Deir Mar Antonios), the oldest active christian monastery in the world, founded in 356 AD just after the saints death.
Father Lazarus was born in Tasmania and had worked as a university lecturer in a provincial city in Australia teaching literature and philosophy; very often preaching against Christianity in many of his classes. He spent about forty-years of his life as an atheist deriving his philosophy from Marxism. When his mother was diagnosed with incurable cancer and died, "he began realise that he had indentured himself to things, to the promise of illusory happiness; and began to understand the true paradox of existence: that it cannot be ordered or forecast". Ultimately he abandoned his life in Australia and went in search of God and freedom. His pilgrimage eventually brought him to a life of a Christian Coptic monk. He met H.H. Pope Shenouda III, who lead him to where he is today.
It was not the magnificence of the pyramids, the Pharaonic heritage, the Roman monuments, the minarets, the cruises on the river Nile – the scope of Egypt' s magnificent, nor the crystal waters of the Red Sea and stunning corals surrounded by an aquatic frenzy of underwater life and not even the incredible scent of the freshly cut herbs, coffee and aroma of hookah in khan el-khalili that attracted him to this place. It was the emptiness, the lifelessness, the peace and the wilderness of the Egyptian desert that was most attractive to Lazarus.
What many associate with death, Lazarus identifies with life. As he says "...coming to the desert and becoming a hermit... it was like I was dead and came to life". Father Lazarus El Anthony is a man who defies logic. Like St Anthony, but seventeen centuries later, he sets out on an endeavour that defies aspirations common to most humans.
He chooses poverty over luxury, hunger over greed, celibacy over lust, solitary life over prominence, non-material aspiration over riches and the denial of all family affections as the basis of a new kind of adventure. It seems almost as if he wished to deny everything that made the human life worthwhile. Yet, the stillness of the desert becomes his metaphor for being, his ageless encounter with lifelessness as a principle of rectitude.
Here is a man living like St Anthony, who had forsaken the world in the pursuit of what the Desert Fathers called apatheia, holy stillness. Though for many solitary life would seem to be a lonely life, Father Lazarus from the beginning believed that the desert is a place where he could find life in all its fullness. A place where he would encounter his saviour and find his salvation. Among stones, sand and thirst he found his identification.
He claims he is not alone, and never felt alone. As he says: "I am alone from human company, but human company is not what I am seeking, I am seeking spiritual company and I have it".
Living just on bread and water, occasionally honey, the only thing father Lazarus desires is to sustain his faith and focus on God. In the course of eight years he dug miles of hiking trail with his bare hands that lead to his cave from the bottom of the mountain. He finds that this foreign desert is his home, and despite all the hardships and terrible dangers, he persevered.
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