The Monastic Reaction: Pachomius and Communal Monasticism (Part 2)

The History of Christianity #102

Our History of Christianity Scripture passage today is 1 Corinthians 9:27 which reads: “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from St. Mark the Ascetic. He said: “Conquer temptations by the patience and prayer. If you oppose them without these, you will fall all the more severely.”

Last time, in the History of Christianity, we looked at “The Monastic Reaction: Pachomius) and Communal Monasticism (Part 2)”.

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Monastic Reaction: Pachomius) and Communal Monasticism (Part 3)” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

Since every monk had to obey his superiors, the hierarchical order was clearly defined. At the head of each housing unit there was a superior, who in turn had to obey the superior of the monastery and his deputy. And above the superiors of the various monasteries were Pachomius and his successors, who were called “abbots” or “archimandrites.” When Pachomius was about to die, his monks vowed obedience to whomever he would choose as his successor, and thus was established the custom that each abbot would name the person to succeed him in absolute command of the entire organization. This new abbot’s authority was final, and he could name, transfer, or depose the superiors of all the communities in the entire system.

Twice a year, all Pachomian monks gathered for prayer and worship, and to deal with any issues necessary to maintain proper order of the communities. The organization was also kept together by frequent visits to all monasteries by the abbot or his representative. Pachomius and his followers never accepted ecclesiastical office, and therefore there were no ordained priests among them. On Sundays a priest would come to the monastery and celebrate communion.

In the women’s communities, life was organized in a similar fashion. While each was headed by a woman, the male abbot of the original community — Pachomius and his successors — ruled over them just as they did over the male Pachomian communities.


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