Saint Pachomios was born in the Thebaid (Upper Egypt), in the 3rd century. His parents were pagans. and they gave him an excellent secular education. From very young he had a good character, and he was prudent and sensible.
At the age of 20, he was summoned to serve in the army of the emperor of Saint Constantine the Great. The new conscripts were detained in a city prison that was guarded by soldiers. The Christians who lived nearby fed the soldiers and took care of them.
When Saint Pachomios saw that these people acted this way because of their love for God, fulfilling His commandment to love their neighbor, this made a deep impression upon his pure soul, and Saint Pachomios vowed to become a Christian. When he returned from the army after the victory, he was Baptized, and moved to the lonely settlement of Shenesit. He then began to lead a strict ascetic life. Saint Pachomios understood that he needed spiritual guidance, so he went to the desert-dweller Elder Palamon. The Elder accepted him, and he began to follow the example of his instructor in monastic struggles.
After about 10 years of asceticism, Saint Pachomios went through the desert, and stopped at the ruins of the former village of Tabennisi. He then heard a Voice ordering him to start a monastery at that place. Saint Pachomios told the Elder Palamon of this, and they both believed these to be the words as a command from God.
They both then went to Tabennisi and built a small monastic cell. The holy Elder Palamon blessed the foundations and predicted its future glory. A short while thereafter, Elder Palamon reposed in the Lord. Then an angel of God came to Saint Pachomius in the form of a schemamonk and gave him a Rule of monastic life. Soon his older brother John came and settled there with him.
There were many temptations and assaults from the Enemy of the race of man that Saint Pachomios had to endure, but he resisted all temptations with prayer.
As time went on, men who were interested in holy monasticism began to gather around Saint Pachomius. Everyone was so impressed by his love for work, which enabled him to accomplish all kinds of monastic tasks. He planted and took care of a garden, he taught those seeking guidance, and he took care of the sick.
Saint Pachomios started a monastic Rule of cenobitic life, giving everyone the same food and clothing. The monks of the monastery fulfilled all the obediences that were assigned to them. One of the various obediences was the copying of books. They were not allowed to possess their own money, or to accept anything from their relatives. Saint Pachomios felt that an obedience that was accomplished with zeal was greater than fasting or prayer. He demanded the monks to perform an exact observance of the monastic Rule, and he chastised those who were slothful.
Saint Pachomios had a sister, and one day she came to see him, but he was very strict and refused to see her. Through the gate keeper, he blessed her to enter upon the path of the monastic life. He promised his help with this. His sister Maria cried, but she was obedient to her brother and did as he had ordered. The Tabennisi monks built her a hut on the opposite side of the Nile river. Women began to gather around Maria who also wanted to become nuns. A woman’s monastery was formed with a strict monastic Rule that was given to them by Saint Pachomios.
Eventually there was such a great number of monks at the monastery where Saint Pachomios was at that it was necessary to build seven more monasteries in that same area.
There were 7000 monks, all under the guidance of St Pachomios. He visited all the monasteries and administered them. St Pachomios always remained a deeply humble monk, and was always ready to listen and accept the words of each brother.
Saint Pachomios was very severe and strict with himself, but was kind and condescending towards the deficiencies of spiritually immature monks. One day one of his monks was eager for martyrdom, but Saint Pachomios turned him from this desire and instructed him to fulfill his monastic obedience. He taught him to tame his pride, and trained him in humility.
Another one of his monks did not listen to his advice and left the monastery. He was captured by a brigand, who threatened him with death and forced him to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. The monk filled with despair, returned to the monastery, and Saint Pachomius ordered him to pray intensely day and nigh. He told him to keep a strict fast and to live in complete solitude. The monk was obedient, and this saved his soul from despair.
The saint taught everyone to avoid judging others, and he himself feared to judge anyone even in thought.
Saint Pachomios always cared for the sick monks with such love. He would visit them, and cheered those who were disheartened. He urged them to be thankful to God, and put their hope and trust in His holy will. Saint Pachomios relaxed the fasting rule for the sick, if this would help them recover their health. Once, in the saint’s absence, the cook did not prepare any cooked food for the monks. He assumed that the brothers loved to fast. So instead of fulfilling his obedience, he plaited 500 mats, something which Saint Pachomios had never told him to do. For his punishment and because of his disobedience, all the mats prepared by the cook were burned.
Saint Pachomios would always teach the monks to rely only upon God’s help and mercy. At one time it happened that there was a shortage of grain at the monastery. The saint prayed the whole night, and in the morning a large quantity of bread was sent to the monastery from the city, at no charge. The Lord blessed Saint Pachomios with the gift of wonderworking and healing the sick.
The Lord had revealed to Saint Pachomios what would happen in the future of monasticism. The saint learned that future monks would not have such zeal in their struggles as the first generation had, and they would not have experienced guides. Prostrating himself upon the ground, Saint Pachomios wept bitterly, calling out to the Lord and imploring mercy for them. He heard a Voice answer, “Pachomios, be mindful of the mercy of God. The monks of the future shall receive a reward, since they too shall have occasion to suffer the life burdensome for the monk.”
When Saint Pachomius fell ill from a pestilence that afflicted the region, his closest disciple, St Theodore (May 17), took care of him with much love and reverence. Saint Pachomios reposed around the year 346, at fifty-three years of age. The fathers of the monastery buried him on a hill that was there near the monastery.
Please intercede for us O Saint Pachomios, that our souls be saved!
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the First Tone
Thou didst prove a chief pastor of the Chief Shepherd, Christ, guiding the flocks of monastics unto the heavenly fold, whence thou learnest of the habit 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.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Since thou hadst shown forth the life of the Angels while in a body, O God-bearing Pachomios, thou wast also counted worthy of their glory; and with them thou standest before the Lord’s throne, interceding that divine forgiveness be granted unto all.