He was born in 292 in Thebes (Luxor, Egypt) to pagan parents. According to his hagiography, he was swept up against his will in a Roman army recruitment drive at the age of 20, a common occurrence during the turmoils and civil wars of the period, and held in captivity. It was here that local Christians would daily bring food and comforts to the inmates, which made a lasting impression on him, and he vowed to investigate Christianity further when he got out. As fate would have it, he was able to get out of the army without ever having to fight, was converted and baptized (314). He then came into contact with a number of well known ascetics and decided to pursue that path. He sought out the hermit Palaemon and came to be his follower (317).
After studying seven years with the Elder Palamon, Pachomius set out to lead the life of a hermit near St. Anthony of Egypt, whose practices he imitated until, according to legend, he heard a voice in Tabennisi that told him to build a dwelling for the hermits to come to. An earlier ascetic named Macarius had earlier created a number of proto-monasteries called "larves", or cells, where holy men would live in a community setting who were physically or mentally unable to achieve the rigors of Anthony's solitary life. Pachomius set about organizing these cells into a formal organization.
Up to this point in time, Christian asceticism had been solitary or eremitic. Male or female monastics lived in individual huts or caves and met only for occasional worship services. Pachomius seems to have created the community or cenobitic organization, in which male or female monastics lived together and had their possessions in common under the leadership of an abbot or abbess. Pachomius himself was hailed as "Abba" (father) which is where we get the word Abbot from. This first cenobitic monastery was in Tabennisi, Egypt.
He established his first monastery between 318 and 323. The first to join him was his elder brother John, and soon more than 100 monks lived at his monastery. He came to found nine monasteries in his lifetime, and after 336, Pachomius spent most of his time at his Pabau monastery. From his initial monastery, demand quickly grew and, by the time of his death in 346, one count estimates there were 3000 monasteries dotting Egypt from north to south. Within a generation after his death, this number grew to 7000 and then moved out of Egypt into Palestine and the Judea Desert, Syria, North Africa and eventually Western Europe.
He is also credited with being the first Christian to use and recommend use of a prayer rope. He was visited once by Basil of Caesarea who took many of his ideas and implemented them in Caesarea, where Basil also made some adaptations that became the ascetic rule, or Ascetica, the rule still used today by the Eastern Orthodox Church, and comparable to that of the Rule of St. Benedict in the West.
Though Pachomius sometimes acted as lector for nearby shepherds, neither he nor any of his monks became priests. St Athanasius visited and wished to ordain him in 333, but Pachomius fled from him. Athanasius' visit was probably a result of Pachomius' zealous defense of orthodoxy against Arianism.
He remained abbot to the cenobites for some forty years. When he caught an epidemic disease (probably plague), he called the monks, strengthened their faith, and appointed his successor.
Propers for Pachomius - Abbot, Confessor, Monastic and Preacher
O God, by whose Grace thy servant Pachomius, enkindled with the fire of thy love, became a burning and a shining light in thy Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and may ever walk before thee as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The Epistle - Philippians 3:7-15.
HOWBEIT what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ. Yea verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffer the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death; if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect: but I press on, if so be that I may apprehend that for which also I was apprehended by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself yet to have apprehended: but one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye are otherwise minded, even this shall God reveal unto you.
The Gospel - St. Luke 6:17-23.
JESUS came down and stood in the plain, with the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coasts of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases; and they that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed. And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all. And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye still be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven.
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