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September 14, 2013

Development of Cenobitic Monasticism: Pachomius

Pachomius Brings New Elements to the Monastic Tradition

Before Pachomius (d. 346), the eremitic form of monasticism, that is monks who lived alone as hermits, seems to have been the only available option for those seeking a white martyrdom; in fact,
even Pachomius began his monastic life as a hermit. However, at the biding of an angelic messenger who told him that it was God’s Will for him to serve the human race in order to reconcile it to God, Pachomius began to build many houses so that others could join him as monks; thus Pachomius became the father of the cenobitic movement (that is, monks living in community, not alone as hermits). In a short period of time Pachomius had thousands of people join him in order to live the ascetical life in community; by the time of his death, he had already founded eleven monasteries, nine for men and two for women. Overall, the Greek term koinonia specifically referred to this congregation of communal monasteries developed under Pachomius’ leadership.

Compared to the anchoritic life, the cenobitic life of Pachomius introduced some radically new elements to the monastic life. First of all, the sheer size of the population in the communities was second to none. Thousands of monks lived together, worked together, served the poor together, attended common liturgies and listened to Pachomius’ conferences together (The topics of these conferences were centered on Sacred Scripture and the Eucharist). Also, from the layout of the monastery buildings to the monastic horarium, the life of these monks was very much influenced by Pachomius’ short time in the military. Overall, the most radically new element that this koinonia brought to the monastic tradition is the community’s love, devotion, and veneration to their
founder, Pachomius. Like St. Paul was for the early Christian communities, Pachomius was their sole spiritual father; he was the point of unity for everyone. All of the monks had a great love for Pachomius who would travel from one monastery to the other giving conferences. The death of this great leader was devastating to the koinonia; who could possibly replace their beloved founder as the next leader? Eventually the community, after the threats of disillusion, came to an agreement that Pachomius was still their beloved spiritual father who was watching over them as intercessor. They continued to turn to him for divine aid and follow the rules that he established.   

Pax et Gaudium

O.S.B. Vocation Awareness

O.S.B. Vocation Awareness