Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
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If St. Anthony was the first monk; who was the first nun?

History has not recorded the name of who the first nun was, but we know that the institution of nuns and sisters dates from the first ages of the Church. St. Paul speaks of widows, who were called to certain kinds of church work (1 Tim 5:9), and of virgins (1 Cor 7), whom he praises for their continence and their devotion to the things of the Lord. The virgins were remarkable for their perfect and perpetual chastity, which the Apologists have extolled as a contrast to pagan corruption (St. Justin, "Apol." I, c. 15; Migne, "P.G." VI, 350; St. Ambrose, "De Virginibus" Bk. I, C. 4; Migne, "P.L." XVI, 193). Many also practiced poverty. From the earliest times they were called the spouses of Christ, according to St. Athanasius, the custom of the Church ("Apol. ad Constant." sec. 33; Migne, "P.G." XXV, 639). St. Cyprian describes a virgin who had broken her vows as an adulteress ("Ep. 62" Migne, "P.L." IV, 370). Virgins vowed to the service of God, at first continued to live with their families, but as early as the end of the third century, there were community houses known as partheuones. When the persecutions of the third century drove many into the desert, the solitary life produced many heroines; and when the monks began to live in monasteries, there were also communities of women. St. Pachomius (292-346) built a convent in which a number of religious women lived with his sister. St. Jerome made famous the monastery of St. Paula at Bethlehem. St. Augustine addressed to the nuns a letter of direction from which subsequently his rule had been taken.
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