Today in the Cistercian calendar we celebrate the feast of Saint Pachomius of Egypt, who in the first half of the fourth century and after having been a hermit like many others, founded one of the first communities of monks at Tabennissi. A straight line leads from his idea of cenobitic monastic living, which was an innovation at that time, to our own Rule of Saint Benedict. It should, then, fill our hearts with joy and gratitude to see how Pachomius’ vocation and teachings embody most effectively one very special way of living the single Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, common to all Christians.
When Pachomius had reached spiritual maturity an angel ordered him to leave his hermit’s cave “and call the young monks together and dwell with them” (Palladius, Lausiac History). This seems to be a clear monastic fulfillment of the Lord Jesus’ prayer to his and our Father in today’s Gospel: “As you sent me into the world, so I send them into the world”—including this monastic caveat: “They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world”(John 17: 11b-19). Indeed, Pachomius is sent, like Jesus, to “keep in the Father’s name” the brother monks God has given him, “so that they may be one just as (Jesus and the Father) are one”. Nor is such fraternal unity merely an abstract idea, as we see movingly enacted in the first reading, when the Christians of Ephesus smother Paul with the hugs and kisses of their affection at his final departure from them (Acts 20:37-38).
My brothers: we have obviously not brought ourselves together either to this monastery for our life-long monastic journey or even to this morning’s Eucharist, for we are nothing other than “the Church of God that he acquired with his own Blood”(Acts 20:28) when he called us out of the darkness of our selfish individualism and united us as his Body. Let us, then, rejoice that Jesus had us here in Spencer in mind when praying to the Father, and let us also feel sorrow for ever having forgotten this life-giving truth which can bear such powerful fruit in our lives, if we allow it.
Excerpts from Father Simeon's introduction at this morning's Eucharist.