Thursday, May 15, 2003

St. Pachomius' Day --- you don't have to be a solitary hermit to be a religious!

Abba Pachomius, a former army draftee who converted to Christianity and went out to the desert, established a large monastic establishment at Tabannissi, one of the first of its kind; and he wrote the first ever rule for monks to live in community. Before his days, the norm of monastic life was the solitary hermit or anchorite, or a particularly wise abba or amma with two or three younger monks in what was called a laura. The Rule of Pachomius became the basis for the later rules of both St. Basil and St. Benedict. A story from the life of Abba Pachomius --- who eventually led 9 monasteries of men and two of women......

Once some brothers from the monastery of Chenoboskion came and told Abba Pachomius, "A brother is sick and he wants to see you and to be blessed before he dies." When the man of God heard this, he rose up and followed them. When he was about two miles from the monastery, he heard a holy voice in the air. He lifted up his eyes and saw the soul of the sick brother with the holy angels, singing psalms and being taken to the blessed life of God. Now the brothers who were following him neither heard nor saw anything. As he stood and gazed a long time to the east, they said to him, "Why are you standing, O Father? Let us go quickly, that we may find him alive." He answered them, "We shall not find him, for I am right now seeing him being taken up to eternal life. Return, then, to your monastery, children." As the brothers entreated him to tell them how he saw the soul of the dead brother, he told them the manner. After they had heard it, the departed to their monastery. They verified very exactly from the brothers in the monastery the hour which the Great Man had told them, and then they knew that what the holy man had told about the dead brother was true.

As Pachomius was journeying to his own monastery, and had come near the desert called Amnon, legions of demons rose both on his right hand and on his left, some following him and others running in front of him, saying, "Behold the blessed man of God." They were doing this, wishing to sow vainglory in him. But he knew their cunning, and the more they shouted, the more he cried out to God, confessing his sins.

And undoing the demons' cunning, he spoke out to them saying, "O wicked ones! You cannot carry me away into vainglory, for I know my failures, for which I ought to weep constantly over eternal punishment. I have therefore no need of your false speech and guileful deceit, for your word is the destruction of the soul. And I am not carried away by your praises, for I know the cunning of your unholy minds." And although Abba Pachomius said these things to them, they did not stop their
shamelessness. They followed alongside the blessed man until he drew near to his monastery.

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