"Your people shall be willing in the day of your power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: you have the dew of your youth. The LORD has sworn, and will not relent, You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek." (Ps 110:3)
His Holiness Pope Shenouda III was born, Nazeer Gayed, on August 3, 1923, from a religious family in the Upper Egyptian province of Assyut. Since his very early childhood, Nazeer Gayeed was an active participant in the service of the church. At age 16, Nazeer began service in the Sunday School program of St. Anthony's Church in Shoubra, Cairo, where he also attended school. Nazeer graduated from Cairo University in 1947 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and History. Nazeer then completed his Bachelors of Coptic Theology and upon his graduation from the Theological Seminary, was appointed a Seminary instructor of the Old and New Testaments due to his academic excellence in religious studies. In l953, he was appointed a lecturer at the Monastic College in Helwan.
On July 18, 1954 Nazeer Gayed dedicated his life to meditation, prayer, and asceticism entering into the El-Souryan Monastery within the Western Desert of the Coptic homeland of Egypt. His name would become Father Antonius El-Souryan and his solitary life would become one patterned after St. Anthony the Great who renounced the world and resided further and further into the arid, dry western desert, whose self-discipline and spiritual life grew from within a cave during his lifetime and today whose cave and life is ascribed to by religious scholars world wide, as the origin of Christian monasticism. History would record St. Anthony as desiring to spend his lifetime in search of solitude, desiring only the Lord, but put his desires aside just enough to become an inspired teacher, a humble example of practicing rigid self-denial, and a source of practical wisdom without worldliness to those also seeking an abundant spiritual life through long suffering and solitude.