Yandex Metrika
How a Former Pagan Became an Ascetic and Founded a Monastery

Saint Pachomius, a Father of Cenobitic Monasticism

Saint Pachomius the Great

Along with Anthony the Great, Macarius the Great, and Euthymius the Great, Saint Pachomius was a founding figure of cenobitic monasticism in the Egyptian desert. He was the one who received the monastic rule and served as an example of resisting temptations and enemy assaults.

He was born in North Egypt in the third century to Pagan parents who provided him with an outstanding secular education. He was enlisted in the Roman army at the age of eighteen. All recruits were housed in a jail as was customary at the period, where they were cared for by the local Christians. The young man, to whom the concept of the Christian faith had never occurred before, learned that the motive behind their deeds of kindness was love—love for God and one's neighbour. Pachomius was inspired by this example and after leaving the army, took baptism and went to live as a hermit.

He had been asceticising for ten years when, while crossing the desert, the Lord told him to start a monastery outside the historic settlement of Tabennisi. He soon met an angel dressed as a schema monk who handed him the rules of the monastery. He was the first to them into action, and he quickly attracted more followers.

Under the monastic rule given to Saint Pachomius, each brother ate the same food, dressed the same, and completed the assigned tasks for the benefit of the monastery. One of the monks' obediences required them to copy books, which quickly transformed monasteries into centres of book production. No brother was allowed to have any money or take any presents from their family for themselves. Fasting or prayer were not seen as being as big achievements as the zealous performance of obediences.

Maria, the sister of Saint Pachomius, visited him once. He gave her the word through the gatekeeper, giving her his blessing to begin the monastic life. On the other bank of the Nile, Maria built a hut from which she eventually established a women's monastery that followed the Pachomian monastic rule.

Saint Pachomius was very demanding of himself, yet he showed charity and forgiveness for his less experienced brethren when they made mistakes. Saint Pachomius brought one ardent monk back to his senses by showing that his desire for martyrdom was motivated by pride rather than the love of God. He also gave him instructions on how to uphold his monastic vows, control his arrogance, and practise humility. The monk listened and was saved.

A second monk absconded from the monastery. He was robbed outside by thugs who also had him kneel before an idol under the threat of death. In despair, the monk returned to the monastery and confessed. He was told by Saint Pachomius to pray day and night, observe a severe fast, and live in total seclusion. The monk took his advice, which kept his soul from falling into a pit of gloom.

During occasional food shortages at his monastery, Saint Pachomius constantly urged his fellow monks to put their faith in God's goodness and kindness. He himself would set an example of fervent prayer in these trying times, and the next morning someone would give food. Saint Pachomius received the gift of miracle-working and healing from the Lord.

He amazed everyone with his talent and diligence. His days would be devoted to caring for a garden, welcoming visitors, and attending to the ill. He instilled in his disciples the ability to refrain from judgement, and he never allowed himself to condemn others even silently.

He died from an epidemic in 348 at age 52. He asked the Lord to disclose to him the direction that monasticism would take in the world just before he became ill. The Lord revealed to him that the future monks' spiritual fathers would be less experienced and that the monastics themselves would be less zealous. Saint Pachomius begged the Lord in tears to be merciful to these future monks. The Lord assured Pachomius that future monks would experience struggles comparable to his and would come out stronger than before and that this would be His kindness towards them.

May 28, 2024
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