Hilarion was born in Thabatha, south of Gaza in Syria Palaestina of pagan parents. He successfully studied rhetoric with a grammarian in Alexandria, where he became a Christian. He also came under the influence of the renowned desert ascetic Anthony of Egypt and followed his discipline for two months at the age of fifteen. At the same time, miracles were attributed to him.
As Anthony’s hermitage was busy with visitors seeking cures for diseases or demonic affliction, Hilarion returned home along with some monks. Back at Thabatha, his parents having died in the meantime, he gave his inheritance to his brothers and the poor and left for the wilderness.
Hilarion then began a series of journeys to find a place where he could live away from the world. He went to the area southwest of Majoma, the port of Gaza, that was limited by the sea at one side and marshland on the other. Because the district was notorious for brigandage, and his relatives and friends warned him of the danger he was incurring, it was his practice never to abide long in the same place. With him he took only a shirt of coarse linen, a cloak of skins given to him by St. Anthony, and a coarse blanket. He led a nomadic life, and he fasted rigorously, not partaking of his frugal meal until after sunset. He supported himself by observing the strict ascetical regimen of fasting and chanting the Old Testament psalm prayers, and even weaving baskets like Egyptian hermits.Read More »