Information about Saint Paul of Thebes has come to us thanks to another saint, St Jerome. Few people know that this famous ancient translator of the Bible and interpreter of the Scriptures also became famous as the author of the lives of saints. It was Jerome who collected hitherto unknown information about Saint Paul and outlined his life in detail.
According to the story, Anthony the Great, already in his old age, asked God if there was any ascetic like him in the Egyptian desert. In response, the Lord revealed to Anthony that a great hermit lived very close to him, in the same Egyptian desert. This was Paul.
The saint is named Paul of Thebes after his place of birth in the ancient Egyptian capital. Paul lived a very long life, 113 years, ninety-one years he lived as a hermit. While still a young man, during the most severe persecution of the emperor Decius (249–251), he fled from the city to the desert, where he found a cave in a mountainous area and settled in it. Apparently, it was a cache of robbers, grave diggers, or counterfeiters, in which they had prepared in advance everything they needed for life for many years to come. Paul himself did not know about this and gratefully accepted this sign of salvation from the hand of God. When food supplies were depleted, the Lord provided him with food through supernatural means.
Paul lived his entire life in asceticism alone, he had no disciples, only God knew about his existence. He entered the history of the Church under the name of the first hermit. At the direction of God, Anthony found in the person of Paul an example for his own edification in humility. Paul was honored with a visit from Anthony, so that he would not die alone, and so that his memory would not be erased from the memory of people.
It is obvious that all living things groan before the fear of death (cf. Rom. 8:22), and the lives of many great saints and wonderful people remained unknown, because no one managed to preserve information about them.
According to his life, Paul surrendered his soul to God during kneeling prayer. Anthony, who witnessed his death, gave his body to burial. As if returning to the saints the memory of paradise, the Lord sent him two lions who helped dig a grave for Paul. The monasteries at the place of life of both ascetics have been preserved and operate to this day.
We, people of the 21st century, most of all strive to avoid oblivion by plunging into the abyss of virtual communication. The example of the ancient hermits, and especially St. Paul of Thebes, teaches us that the true keeper of our memory is God Himself, and the name of the true communication of people among themselves and with Him is grace.