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May 15, 2014

Saint Pachomios the Great as a Model for our Lives

St. Pachomios the Great (Feast Day - May 15)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The day of death, or rather repose, has been established as a day of celebration when we commemorate a saint, because essentially it is another birth in the kingdom of heaven. During the sequence of the services of Vespers and Matins, as well as the Divine Liturgy, there is chanted among other hymns the Apolytikion (Dismissal) of the Saint, which is a short hymn dedicated to the Saint, and it refers to their life and deeds and miracles.

The Apolytikion of the venerable Pachomios summarizes his whole life:

Thou didst prove a chief pastor of the Chief Shepherd, Christ, guiding the flocks of monastics unto the heavenly fold, whence thou learntest of the schema and the way of life that doth befit ascetic ranks; having taught this to thy monks, thou now dancest and rejoicest with them in heavenly dwellings, O great Pachomios, our Father and guide.

He is characterized by the sacred hymnographer as a chief pastor of the spiritual flock of Christ, who leads them into the kingdom of heaven. Having been taught the Orthodox tradition and life, he went on to teach his disciples, and now together with them they dance and rejoice in Paradise.

He was born in the late third century in the Upper Thebaid of Egypt, from pagan parents. In the imperial army, to which he was inducted, he became acquainted with Christian soldiers and from them came to know the Christian faith. When he was released from the army, he was baptized and went on to be taught by the hermit Palaemon. After the death of his spiritual father and teacher, he built his own cell in a quiet location near the Nile River. As much as he longed for silence and obscurity, so much did his fame grow. Many people gathered around him, who longed to experience the genuine life of the gospel, and slowly-slowly his small cell evolved to a great Monastery, which numbered around three thousand monks. He is considered the founder of the coenobitic life.

The venerable Pachomios was one who was dead and risen. He was crucified and dead to his passions and worldly desires, and risen because having seen the Risen Christ he received a personal experience of the Resurrection and exceeded the limits of death in his personal life. He received a taste of "abundant life" and in this life he struggled to transfuse it to his disciples.

At this point we think it is necessary to emphasize and clarify that the Saint had disciples and spiritual children, not followers. Followers are people without freedom who run behind a leader, who show blind allegiance, lack of judgment and discernment, and are distinguished by their fanaticism and hatred of "opponents". The phenomenon of following and massification is observed in regimes that lack freedom, where there is the feeling of insecurity and there is need to have people who can support them in every way and means. Moreover, the climate of polarization it artificially creates, helps curb and rally supporters.

The Orthodox Church, with the treatment it offers, creates free and conscious members and not followers. She receives people and makes them persons. The characteristic features of a person are love and freedom, as well as uniqueness. Every human being is unique with special features, personality and character. They are not anonymous members of a group, or just a number, but they have a name. Such and such a person, despite any sins, passions or weaknesses, has value, because they are the image of Christ and through repentance they have the ability to become Saints of the Church.

There is great significance in a name within the sphere of the Orthodox Church. The name indicates the person and the value of the person. Within the church community everyone is featured and everyone has a place and value. The Church is the real and blessed Body of Christ. All the members of a body have value. No member is underestimated and each of them contributes, by their service and offering, to the smooth functioning of the entire body.

Genuine disciples of Christ are those who remain in the Church, trying to live according to His commandments, and struggling to gain unconditional love. They are those who are in communion with regenerated beings, living organisms, bearers of Orthodox Tradition, who are crucified and resurrected, having been taught sacred things they now teach them, to regenerate and transfuse the new life that does not become frightened in the face of death, but conquers it and exceeds it.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΟΣΙΟΣ ΠΑΧΩΜΙΟΣ", May 2000. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.