May 15th – Saint Pachomius the Great, Abbot of Tabennisi [ca.290 – 346]

This is the way we should see Christ.
He is our friend, our brother; He is whatever is good and beautiful. He is everything.
Yet, He is still a friend and He shouts it out, “You’re my friends, don’t you understand that? We’re brothers.
I’m not…I don’t hold hell in my hands. I am not threatening you.
I love you. I want you to enjoy life together with me
Elder Porphyrios the Kapsokalyvite.

One of the brethren once asked me: “Tell us about one of the scenes you have sighted so that we can profit from it“.
In response I said, “Anyone who is a sinner like me does not have scenes to recount.
But if you want to see a glorious scene that can truly benefit you, I can tell you where to find it. It is that of a man humble of heart and pure.
This is a scene more splendid than any because through it you can see God who cannot be seen! Do not ask about a scene greater than this“.
Saint Pachomius the Great.

The Life of Saint Pachomius the Great.
Saint Pachomius was an Egyptian by birth and was a pagan in his youth.
As a soldier, he took part in the Emperor Constantine’s war against Maxentius.
After that, learning from Christians about the one God and seeing their devout life, Pachomius was baptized and went to the Tabennisiot desert, to the famous ascetic Palamon, with whom he lived in asceticism for ten years.

Then an Angel appeared to him in the robes of a monk of
the Great Habit at the place called Tabennisi and gave him a tablet on which was written the Rule of a Cenobitic Monastery, commanding him to found such a Monastery in that place and prophesying to him that many monks would come to it seeking the Salvation of their souls.
Obeying the angel of God, Pachomius began building many cells, although there was no-one in that place but himself and his brother John.
When his brother grumbled at him for doing this unnecessary building, Saint Pachomius simply told him that he was following God’s command, without explaining who would live there, or when.
But many men soon assembled in that place, moved by the Spirit of God, and began to live in Asceticism under the rule that Pachomius had received from the Angel.

When the number of monks had increased greatly, Pachomius, step by step, founded six further monasteries.
The number of his disciples grew to seven thousand.
Saint Antony is regarded as the founder of the eremitic life, and Saint Pachomius of the monastic, communal life.
The humility, love of toil and abstinence of this holy father were and remain a rare example for the imitation of monks.
Saint Pachomius performed innumerable miracles, and also endured innumerable temptations from demons and men.
And he served men as both father and brother.
He roused many to set out on the way of Salvation, and brought many into the way of Truth. He was and remains a great light in the Church and a great witness to the Truth and righteousness of Christ.
He entered peacefully into rest in 346, at the age of sixty.
The Church has raised many of his followers to the ranks of the saints: Theodore, Job, Paphnutius, Pecusius, Athenodorus, Eponichus, Soutus, Psois, Dionysius, Petronius and others.

Throughout the whole of that time the outstanding life of blessed Antony was held up as an example for all to follow.
He stood out as emulating the examples of Elijah and Elisha and the holy John Baptist, seeking with single-minded zeal the hidden places of the inner desert, where in his love for virtue he lived the life of heaven.
The holy Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, bore witness to him with his own pen.
He was a worthy and perceptive interpreter of Antony’s way of life.
At the request of his brothers in Christ he wrote the Life of Antony for the edification of many, and as a model for spiritual men.
In the course of that work he also makes mention of Ammon [Vita Antoni cap.32]  who by the Grace of God laid the foundations of the life now lived by those brothers in Mount Nitria.
He also told us something of how that holy man Theodore, when he was with Antony, overcame the multifarious deceits of the devil with single-minded purpose and faith unfeigned before God.

And thus in the overflowing Grace of God he openly proclaimed what is celebrated in the Psalms, ‘You have visited the earth and watered it, you have multiplied its riches‘ [Psalm 64: 10].
For Joy and Gladness has arisen in place of sadness and groaning, Happiness and Security in place of anxiety and misery.

Hence it is that those wonderful men, our monastic Fathers,
have emerged in almost every region.
Their names are written in the book of life. At that time there were very few monks in Egypt and the Thebaid, but after the persecutions of those cruel princes Diocletian and Maximian, a multitude of the Gentiles came in, as God had fore-ordained [Rom.11: 25}.
The fertility of the Church was shown forth by its abundant fruitfulness, as
the holy bishops with their Apostolic teachings led the way in the journey of faith by
the integrity of their own lives.

And it was at this time that Pachomius, who lived in the Thebaid, by the Grace of God became a Christian.
He came of pagan parents and religion, and is said to have sought after virtue even as an adolescent by means of rigorous fasting.
I mention this fact for the Glory of Christ who has called us out of darkness into light, and for the benefit of those who may be reading this.
For his beginnings in a strict way of life as a young person go a long way towards explaining his later perfection.

While he was still a boy he went with his parents to offer a sacrifice to an idol on the banks of the river Nile.
But when the filthy pagan priest tried to perform his usual sacrilegious rites, the presence of Pachomius prevented the usual manifestations of the demon from happening.
The priest stood as motionless as the idol he was worshipping, unable to understand why the demons were not giving their usual response, until at last an evil spirit revealed to him that it was because of Pachomius that the demons had been unusually silent.

"Why has this enemy of the gods come here"? he shouted frantically. "Drive him out! Get rid of him"!
When his parents heard this, they realised that he was parting company with them, and they were grievously upset, not least because he had been declared so forcefully an enemy of the gods.
They were at their wits' end to know what to do with him, because he had spat out the wine of the demons' sacrifice before he had even tasted it.
They knew that they could not understand it at all, but they just kept quiet.
They saw to it that he was instructed in Egyptian learning and moulded in the study of the ancients.

It was at this time, after the persecutions, that Constantine won supreme command [312 AD] and carried out a campaign against the tyranny of Maxentius.
He issued a royal decree that selected youths should be conscripted into military service, among whom was Pachomius, then aged twenty, as he himself later confirmed.
As he was being carried off with others on board ship to foreign parts, they docked one evening in a certain port where the citizens, on seeing how strictly the raw recruits were being guarded, enquired what their situation was, and motivated by the commandments of Christ, took great pity on their miserable plight and brought them some refreshments.
Pachomius was very surprised at what they were doing and asked who these men were who were so eager and willing to perform such humble acts of mercy.

He was told they were Christians, who were in the habit of doing acts of kindness to everyone, but especially towards foreigners [travelers].
He learned also what it meant to be called a Christian.
For he was told that they were godly people, followers of a genuine religion, who believed in the name of Jesus Christ the only begotten son of God, who were well disposed to all people, and hoped that God would reward them for all their good works in the life to come.
Pachomius’ heart was stirred on hearing this, and, illumined by the light of God, he felt a great attraction towards the Christian faith.
The fear of God was ignited in him, and drawing aside a little from his companions he lifted up his hands to the heavens.

O Almighty God who made heaven and earth“, he said, “if you will hearken to my prayer and show me how to order my life according to your holy name, and free me from my oppressive shackles, then I pledge myself to your service all the days of my life. I will turn my back on the world and cleave only to you“.

He returned to his companions and the next day they set sail from that country.
As they sailed about from place to place, Pachomius never succumbed to any of the illicit pleasures of the body or the world which might have tempted him.
He was ever mindful of his promise and vow to serve God.
By the help of Divine Grace he had been a lover of chastity from his earliest days.

Once the Emperor Constantine by his godliness and faith in Christ had won the victory over his enemies, he ordered the raw recruits to be released.
So Pachomius obtained the freedom he longed for and returning straight away to the lower Thebaid he went to the church in the village of Chinoboscium, where he became a catechumen, and not long after received the grace of being bathed in the life-giving water.
On the very night when he was initiated into the sacred mysteries he saw in his dreams a heavenly dew falling on to his right hand and turning into the thickness of honey.
And he heard a voice saying to him. ‘Take thought, Pachomius, for what this means. It is a sign of grace given to you by Christ’.

From then on he was inflamed with desire for God and grievously pierced by the saving dart of divine love, which impelled him to give himself entirely to the disciplines and precepts of God.

He came to hear about a certain anchorite called Palaemon serving the Lord in a remote part of the desert.
He sought him out in the hope of being able to live with him.
He knocked on his door, asking to be let in.
After a while the old man opened up to him.

What do you want? Who are you looking for“? he asked.
He was of a rather intimidating appearance because of the life of strict solitude he had been living for such a long time.

God has sent me to you“, replied Pachomius, “so that I may become a monk“.

You would not be able to become a monk here. It is no light matter to entertain the idea of the chaste life of the true monk. There are many who have come in the past and have soon got wearied, strangers to the virtue of perseverance“.

Not everybody is like that“, said Pachomius. “So I beg you, take me in, and in the course of time make trial of my will, and see what I shall be capable of“.

I have already told you, you can’t become a monk here. Go rather to another monastery, and when you have learnt enough about how to live a life of abstinence come back, and then I might take you in. Listen carefully to what I am saying. I live an exceedingly abstemious life, my son. I punish my body with a most severe and difficult discipline. I eat nothing but bread and salt. I abstain from oil and wine completely. I keep vigil for half the night, spending some of that time in formal prayer and some in reading and meditating on the Scriptures. Sometimes, indeed, I keep vigil the whole night through“.

This filled Pachomius with the sort of fear a small boy has in the presence of his teacher, but strengthened by the grace of the Lord he was determined to submit himself to hard work.

If I have the aid of your prayers“, said Pachomius, “I trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, who has given me an example of fortitude and patience, that I shall be made worthy of persevering in your holy way of life for all the rest of my days on this earth“.

With spiritual insight Palaemon then discerned the depth of Pachomius’ faith, and at last opened the door to him, took him in, and clothed him in the monastic habit.
And so they lived together in the observance of abstinence and prayer.
They also wove baskets and worked with their hands as the Apostle instructed [Eph.4: 28], not only to earn their own living but so that they might have something to give to those in need.
When they were keeping vigil and offering their nightly prayers, if the old man saw Pachomius about to be overcome by sleep, he would take him outside and make him carry loads of sand from one place to another, and by this exercise deliver his mind from the danger of being oppressed by the burden of sleep.
He would instruct him as he did this, teaching him how to be diligent in prayer.

“Work hard, Pachomius”, he would say. “Watch and pray lest the tempter draw us aside [which God forbid] from this work to which we have put our hand and cause all our work to be in vain“.

Pachomius obediently and diligently submitted to all this, daily increasing more and more in the practice of holy abstinence, and giving the keenest joy to the old man, who never ceased to give thanks to God for the way Pachomius was living his life.

In due course the most holy day of Easter arrived.
This feast is celebrated by all Christians“, the old man said to Pachomius. “Let us get ready for it ourselves, according to our custom“.

Always prompt to obey, Pachomius did what he was asked and contrary to their usual custom took some oil and mixed it with some crushed salt.
As well as the oil he prepared lapsanum, that is, wild olives and herbs.

I have done what your asked, father“, said Pachomius, when all was ready.
After the usual prayers, the blessed Palaemon came to the table, but when he saw the oil mixed with the salt, he clapped his hands to his head and wept copiously.
My Lord has been crucified, and am I now to eat olive oil“? he said.
Can you not just eat a little bit of it“? asked Pachomius
I can in no way do that“, he replied.

So bread and salt was brought for the meal and they sat down together.
The old man blessed the food with the sign of the Cross of Christ, and they both humbly gave thanks to God for the food they ate.
from an unknown Greek Author

Troparion – Tone 8.
By a flood of tears you made the desert fertile,
and your longing for God brought forth fruits in abundance.
By the radiance of miracles you illumined the whole universe!
Our Father Pachomius pray to Christ God to save our souls!

Ἀπολυτίκιον - Ἦχος πλ. α’. Τὸν συνάναρχον Λόγον.
Ἀγελάρχης ἐδείχθης τοῦ Ἀρχιποιμένος, Μοναστῶν τᾶς ἀγέλας Πάτερ Παχώμιε, πρὸς τὴν μάνδραν ὁδηγῶν τὴν ἐπουράνιον, καὶ τὸ πρέπον ἀσκηταίς, ἐκεῖθεν σχῆμα μυηθεῖς, καὶ τοῦτο πάλιν μυήσας, νῦν δὲ σὺν τούτοις ἀγάλλη, καὶ συγχορεύεις ἐν οὐρανίαις σκηναίς.

Απολυτίκιο του Αγ. Παχωμίου – -> : AG_PAXWMIOU

Kontakion    [Tn 2]
O Godbearing Pachomius, after living the life of Angels in thy body
thou wast granted their Glory.
Now thou art standing with them before God’s Throne
and praying that we all may be forgiven.

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