Above: St. Pachomius the Great
Image in the Public Domain
SAINT PACHOMIUS THE GREAT (292-MAY 14, 346/348)
Founder of Christian Communal Monasticism
St. Pachomius the Great has several feast days–May 15 in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, May 9 in the Roman Catholic Church, and January 17 in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. The January 16 date seems to pertain to St. Antony of Egypt (died in 356), whose feast falls on January 17. He founded the hermetic form of Christian monasticism, but his contemporary, St. Pachomius, founded communal Christian monasticism. I have transferred his the Feast of St. Pachomius the Great to January 16, for I have booked January 17 fully.
St. Pachomius converted to Christianity. The native of Upper Thebaid, Egypt, grew up a pagan. At the age of 20 or 21 years he entered the Roman Army quite unhappily. Military life was not our saint’s vocation. During his time in the Army, however, he spent time in Thebes, where some Christians extended kindness to him. After his discharge from the military (about 314) our saint became a baptized Christian.
Our saint’s life as a monk filled most of his life. Immediately he became a disciple of Palemon, an anchorite in the tradition of St. Antony of Egypt. Palemon and St. Antony of Egypt lived austerely at Tabennisi, on the banks of the Nile River, performing manual labor and praying ceaselessly. After several years our saint perceived a vocation to found a monastery. Palemon helped our saint to build the first cell at Tabennisi in 318. Soon about 100 monks (including John, a brother of our saint) and a number of nuns (including a sister of our saint) joined the new order. When St. Pachomius died on May 14, 346, the order had eleven monasteries and two convents. He had written an influential monastic rule, one from which St. Basil the Great (died in 379) and St. Benedict of Nursia (died circa 540) incorporated much of that rule into their rules.
Our saint’s order survived into the eleventh century. Members of the order lived austerely, fasting and obeying a rule of silence much of the time. (They were excellent mimes.) They also sang psalms often while working. Among their duties were caring for the sick.
Thus monasticism, which has contributed to Western civilization, began. For centuries monks and nuns have devoted themselves to devoted themselves to seek worthy pursuits such as education, scholarship, health care, child care, and intercessory prayer. May nobody doubt the value of the monastic life. Even hermits, such as St. Antony of Egypt, have become magnets for people seeking spiritual advice. The world would be much worse off without the contributions of monks and nuns.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
SEPTEMBER 8, 2015 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SHEPHERD KNAPP, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER
THE FEAST OF GOTTFRIED WILHELM SACER, GERMAN LUTHERAN ATTORNEY AND HYMN WRITER; AND FRANCES ELIZABETH COX, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR
THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN DUCKETT AND RALPH CORBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN ENGLAND
THE FEAST OF NIKOLAI GRUNDTVIG, HYMN WRITER
O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich:
Deliver us from an inordinate love of this world, that we,
inspired by the devotion of your servant, St. Pachomius the Great,
may serve you with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Song of Songs 8:6-7
Luke 12:33-37 or Luke 9:57-62
–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 722