(Παχώμιος), as Socrates and Talladius write the name, or PACHUMIUS (Παχούμιος) (1), or "THE ELDER," according to the author of Vita Pachumii, was an Egyptian ascetic of the 4th century, and one of the founders, if not pre-eminently the founder, of the regular cloister life. SEE
MONASTICISM. "The respect which the Church entertains at present," says Tillemont (Memoires, 7:167), "for the name of St. Pachomius is no new feeling, but a just recognition of the obligations which she. is under to him as the holy founder of a great number of monasteries; or, rather, as the institutor not only of certain convents, but of the conventual life itself, and of the holy communities of men devoted to a religious life." Pachomius was born in the Thebaid of heathen parents, and was educated in paganism; and while a lad, going with his parents to offer sacrifice in one of the temples of the gods, was hastily expelled by the order of the priest as an enemy of the gods. The incident was afterwards recorded as a prognostic of his subsequent conversion and saintly eminence. At the age of twenty he was drawn for military service under the tyrant Maximin against Constantine and Licinius. The conscripts were embarked in a boat and conveyed down the Nile; and being landed at Thebes were placed in confinement, apparently to prevent desertion. Here they were visited by the Christians of the place, and a grateful curiosity led Pachomius to inquire into the character and opinions of the charitable strangers. Struck with what he had heard of them, he seized the first opportunity of solitude to offer the simple and touching prayer, "God, the creator of heaven and earth, if thou wilt indeed look upon my low estate, notwithstanding my ignorance of thee, the only true God, and wilt deliver me from this affliction, I will obey thy will all the days of my life, and will love and serve all men according to thy commandments." He was, however, obliged to accompany his fellow-conscripts, and suffered many hardships during this period of enforced service: but when the settlement of the contest released him he hastened back into the Thebaid, and was baptized in the church of Chenoboscia, near the city of Diospolis the Less: and aspiring at pre- eminent holiness, led an ascetic life, under the guidance of Palemon (q.v.), an anchoret of high repute. After a time he withdrew with Palemon to Tabenna, an island in the Nile, near the common boundary of the Theban and Tenthyrite nomes. Some time after this removal his companion Palemon died, but Pachomius found a substitute for his departed companion in his own elder brother, Joannes or John, who gladly became his disciple. In A.D. 325, directed by what he regarded as a divine intimation, Pachomius invited men to embrace a monastic life; and obtained first three disciples, and then many more, formed them into a community and prescribed rules for their guidance, and as the community grew in number he appointed the needful officers for their regulation and instruction. He built a church as a place of worship and instruction for the shepherds, to whom, as there was no other reader, he read the Scriptures. So successful were his labors for the propagation of Christianity that the bishop of Tenthyra would have gladly raised him to the rank of presbyter, and even requested Athanasius, patriarch of Alexandria, when visiting the Thebaid, to ordain him; but Pachomius, being aware of the design, hid himself until the patriarch had departed. His refusal of the office of presbyter did not, however, diminish his reputation or influence; new disciples flocked to him, of whom Theodorus or Theodore was the most illustrious. New monasteries sprung up all around his own. Of these several communities he was himself visitor and regulator-general, or archimandrite, each cloister having besides a separate superior and a steward; thus, e.g., his disciple Theodore was superior of the monastery of Tabenna. Pachomius's residence was now at the monastery of Proii, which was made the head of the monasteries of the district. He died there of a pestilential disorder which had broken out among the monks, probably in A.D. 348, a short time before the death or expulsion of the Arian patriarch Gregory and the restoration of Athanasius. Some, however, place the death of Pachomius in A.D. 360.
The monastic communities which he had founded had been so regularly constituted as bodies that the continuity of their existence was not interrupted: by his own death or that of other individuals. Even before Pachomius's death (348) his community numbered eight or nine cloisters in the Thebaid, and 3000 (according to some 7000) members; a century later it counted no less than 50,000. The mode of life was fixed by a strict rule of Pachomius, which, according to a later legend, an angel communicated to him, and which Jerome translated into Latin. The formal reception into the society was preceded by a three-years' probation. Rigid vows were not yet enjoined. With spiritual exercises manual labor was united — agriculture, boat-building, basket-making, mat and coverlet weaving — by which the monks not only earned their own living, but also supported the poor and the sick. They were divided, according to the grade of their ascetic piety, into twenty-four classes, named by the letters of the Greek alphabet. They lived three in a cell. They ate in common, but in strict silence, and with the face covered. They made known their wants by signs. The sick were treated with special care. On Saturday and Sunday the monks partook of the communion. Pachomius also established a cloister of nuns for his sister, whom he never admitted to his presence when she would visit him, sending her word that she should be content to know that he was still alive. Pachomius, after his conversion, never ate a full meal, and for fifteen years slept sitting on a stone. Tradition ascribes to him all sorts of miracles, even the gift of tongues and perfect dominion over nature, so that he; trod without harm on serpents and scorpions, and crossed the Nile on the backs of crocodiles!
There are various writings extant under the name of Pachomius:
(1.) two Regular Monasticoe.
(a.) The shorter of these, preserved by Palladius, is said to have been given to Pachomius by the angel who conveyed to him the divine command to establish monasteries. This rule is by no means so rigid as the monastic rules of later times. Palladius says that the monasteries at Tabenna and in the neighborhood subject to the rule contained 7000 monks, of whom 1500 were in the parent community first established by Pachomius; but it is doubtful if this is to be understood of the original monastery of Tabenna or that of Proii.
(b.) The longer Regula, said to have been written in the Egyptian (Sahidic?) language, translated into Greek, is extant in a Latin version made from the Greek by Jerome. It is preceded by a Prefatio, in which Jerome gives an account of the monasteries of Tabenna as they were in his time. Cave (Hist Litter. ad ann. 340, in 1, 208 [ed. Oxf. 1740-1743]) disputes the genuineness of the Regula, and questions not only the title of Pachomius to the authorship of it, but also the title of Jerome to be regarded as the translator. He thinks that it may embody the rule of Pachomius as augmented by his successors. It is remarkable that this Regula, which comprehends in all one hundred and ninety-four articles, is divided into several parts, each with separate titles; and Tillemont supposes, therefore, that they are separate pieces collected and arranged by Benedictus Anianus. This Regula was first published at Rome by Achilles Statius, A.D. 115, and then by Petrus Ciacconus, also at Rome, A.D. 1588. It was inserted in the Supplementum Bibliothecae Patrum of Morellus (Paris, 1639), vol. 1; in the Bibliotheca Patrum Ascetica (ibid. 1661), vol. 1; in the Codex Regularum of Holstenius (Rome,ῥ1661); and in successive editions of the fathers.
(2.) Monita, extant in a Latin version, first published by Gerard Vossius with the works of Gregorius Thaumaturgus (Mayence, 1604), and given in the Bibliotheca Patrum (ut supra).
(3.) SS. PP. Pachomii et Theodori Epistole et Verba Mystica. Eleven of these letters are by Pachomius. They abound in incomprehensible allusions to certain mysteries contained in or signified by the letters of the Greek alphabet. They are extant in the Latin version of Jerome (Opera, l.c., and Bibliotheca Patrum, l.c.), who subjoined them as an Appendix to the Regula, but without explaining, probably without understanding, the hidden signification of the alphabetical characters, apparently employed as ciphers, to which the-correspondents of Pachomius had the key (comp. Gennadius, De Viris Illustr. c. vii; Sozomen, Hist. Eccles. 3, 14). (4.) Ε᾿κ τῶν ἐντολῶν τοῦ ἁγίου Παχουμίου,Praecepta S. Pachomii s. Pachumnii, first published in the Acta Sanctorum (MIaii, vol. 3), in Latin in the body of the work, p. 346, and in the original Greek in the Appendix, p. 62, and reprinted in the Bibliotheca Patrum of Galland (vol. 4), where all the extant works are given.
There is a prolix life of Pachomius, entitled βίος τοῦ ἁγίου Παχουμίου, Vita S. Pachumim barbarous Greek, the translation perhaps of a Sahidic original, by a monk of the generation immediately succeeding Pachomius; there is also a second memoir, or extract, either by the writer of the life, or by some other writer of the same period, supplementary to the first work, and to this the title Paralipomena de SS. Pachomio et Theodoro has been prefixed; and there is an account of Pachomius in a letter from Ammon, an Egyptian bishop, to Theophilus, patriarch of Alexandria, Ε᾿πιστολὴ Α᾿μμῶνος ἐπισκόπου περὶ πολιτείας καὶ βίου μερικοῦ Παχουμίου καὶ θεοδώρου, Epistola Ammonis Episccpi de Conversatione ac Vitce Parte Pachumii et Theodori. All these pieces are given by the Bollandists, both in the Latin version (p. 295-351) and in the original (Appendix, p. 25- 71), in the Acta Sanctorum (Maii, vol. 3), with the usual introduction by Papebroche.
See Acta Sanctorum, sub Mai. 14; Tillemont, Memoires, 7:167-235; Schaff, Church Hist. 2, 195-198; Neander, Church Hist. vol. 2; Gennadius, De Viris Illustribus, cap. 7; Smith, Dict. of Greek and Roman Biogr. and Mythol. vol. 2, s.v.; Ceillier, Hist. Ginerale des Auteurs Sacres et Eccles. 3, 357 sq. Stud. u. Krit. 1864, No. 1; Milman, Hist. of Christianity; Mosheim, Eccles. Hist. vol. 1; Lea, Hist. of Sacerdotal Celibacy. SEE MONASTERY; SEE MONASTICISM; SEE MONK; and the literature on early MONASTICISM.