Monday, May 14, 2012

Monasticism ( 5) Pachomius ( 280 - 346 )


Pachomius was born in Egypt around 290. According to his hagiography at the age of 20 he was he was swept up against his will in a Roman army recruitment drive, a common occurrence of the day. He converted to Christianity in 314  shortly after completing military service. . He then came into contact with a number of well known ascetics and decided to pursue that path. He sought out the hermit Palaemon as his spiritual tutor
  In about 320 after studying seven years with the Elder, he set out to live as a hermit near Tabennis, on the Nile in Upper (Southern) Egypt, in the district known as the Thebaid  This was in the same vicinity as Anthony of Egypt whose practices Pachomius imitated.  According to legend, he heard a voice  that told him to build a dwelling for the hermits to live in common.

 An earlier ascetic named Marcus had created a number of proto-monasteries called "larves", or cells, creating a  community setting for those who were physically or mentally unable to achieve the rigors of Anthony's solitary life.

 Up to this point monastics were solitary. Sometimes groups of hermits lived near one another and met occasionally for worship and  encouragement. Pachomius was the first to organize a religious community holding its goods in common,  fixed hour prayer, and following a rule under the leadership of an an Abbott or abbess.  Pachomius himself was hailed as "Abba" (father) which is where we get the word Abbot from.

  Between 321and 323. he established his first community along with his brother John.  In a short time  they were joined by 100 monks.Eventually eleven monasteries following the Rule of Pachomius were founded in the Thebaid, two of them for women After 336,

  It is estimated that there were 3000 monasteries dotting Egypt from north to south. Within a generation after his death, this number grew to 7000 and then spread from Egypt to Palestine and the Judean Desert, Syria, North Africa and eventually Western Europe. Other sources maintain that the number of monks, rather than the number of monasteries, may have reached 7000.

  He is also credited with being the first Christian to use and recommend use of a prayer robe or chakti.   His Rule greatly influenced the later work of Basil the Great (14 Jun 379) and  Benedict (11 Jul 547) who are accounted the founders of Eastern and Western monasticism as we now it.

  He remained abbot to the cenobites for some forty years. When he caught an epidemic disease (probably plague), he called the monks together, strengthened their faith, and appointed his successor and died on may 14th 346.

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