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MONASTICISM


465


MONASTICISM


author of the "Historia monachorum in ^Egypto". Here the solitaries hved in cells so far apart that they were out out of sight and out of hearing of one another. Like those of Nitria, they met only on Saturdays and Sundays at church, whither some of them had to travel a distance of three or four miles. Often their death was only discovered by their absence from church.

In strong contrast with the individualism of the eremitical life was the rigid disciphne which prevailed in the cenobitical monasteries founded by St. Pachomius. When, in 313, Constantine was at war with Maxentius, Pachomius, still a heathen, was forcibly enlisted to- gether with a number of other young men, and placed on board a ship to be carried down the Nile to Alex- andria. At some town at which the ship touched, the recruits were overwhelmed with the kindness of the Christians. Pachomius at once resolved to be a Christian and carried out his resolution as soon as he was dismissed from military service. He began as an ascetic in a small village, taking up his abode in a deserted temple of Serapis and cultivating a garden on the produce of which he lived and gave alms. The fact that Pachomius made an old temple of Serapis his abode was enough for an ingeniou.s theory that he was originally a pagan monk. This view is now quite exploded.

Pachomius next embraced the eremitical life and prevailed upon an old hermit named Palemon to take him as his disciple and share his cell with him. It may be noted that this kind of discipleship, which, as we have already seen, was attempted by Palladius, was a recognized thing among the Egyptian hermits. Afterwards he left Palemon and founded his first monastery at Tabennisi near Denderah. Before he died, in 346, he had under him eight or nine large monasteries of men, and two of women. From a secular point of view, a Pachomian monastery was an industrial community in which almost every kind of trade was practised. This, of course, involved much buying and selling, so the monks had ships of their own on the Nile, which conveyed their agricultural produce and manufactured goods to the market and brought back what the monasteries required. From the spiritual point of view, the Pachomian monk was a religious living under a rule more severe, even when allowance has been made for differences of climate and race, than that of the Trappists.

A Pachomian monastery was a collection of build- ings surrounded by a wall. The monks were dis- tributed in houses, each house containing about forty monks. Three or four houses constituted a tribe. There would be from thirty to forty houses in a mon- astery. There was an abbot over each monastery, and provosts with subordinate officials over each house. The monks were divided into houses according to the work they were employed in : thus there would be a house for carpenters, a house for agriculturists, and so forth. But other principles of division seem to have been employed, e. g., we hear of a house for the Greeks. On Saturdays and Sundays all the monks assembled in the church for Mass; on other days the Office and other spiritual exercises were celebrated in the houses.

"The fundamental idea of St. Paehomius's Rule", writes Abbot Butler, "was to establish a moderate level of observance (moderate in comparison with the life led by the hermits) which might be obligatory on all; and then to leave it open to each — and to in- deed encourage each — to go beyond the fixed mini- mum, according as he was prompted by his strength, his courage, and his zeal" ("Lausiac History", I, p. 236). This is strikingly illustrated in the rules con- cerning food. According to St. Jerome, in the preface to his translation of the "Rule of Pachomius", the tables were laid twice a day except on Wednesdays and Fridays, which, outside the seasons of Easter and X.— 30


Pentecost, were fast days. Some only took very little at the second meal ; some at one or other of the meals confined themselves to a single food; others took just a morsel of bread. Some abstained altogether from the community meal; for these bread, water, and salt were placed in their cell.

Pachomius appointed his successor a monk named Petronius, who died within a few months, having likewise named his successor, Horsiesi. In Horsiesi's time the order was threatened with a schism. The abbot of one of the houses, instead of forwarding the produce of the work of his monks to the head house of the order, where it would be sold and the price distributed to the different houses according to their need, wished to have the disposal of it for the sole benefit of his own monastery. Horsiesi, finding himself unable to cope with the situation, appointed Theodore, a favourite disciple of Pachomius, his coadjutor.

When Theodore died, in the year 368, Horsiesi was able to resume the government of the order. This threatened schism brings prominently before us a feature connected with Paehomius's foundation which is never again met with in the East, and in the West only many centuries later. "Like Citeaux in a later age", writes Abbot Butler, "it almost at once as- sumed the shape of a fully-organized congregation or order, with a superior general and a system of visitation and general chapters — in short, all the machinery of a centralized government, such as does not appear again in the monastic world until the Cistercian and the Mendicant Orders arose in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries" (op. cit., I, 2.3.5).

A word must be said about Schenoudi, or Schnoudi, or Senuti. Shortly after the middle of the fourth century, two monks, Pgol and Pschais, changed their eremitical monasteries into cenobitical ones. Of the latter we know scarcely anything. Schenoudi, when a boy of about nine j'ears old, came under the care of his uncle Pgol. Both Pgol and Schenoudi were re- formers — the Pachomian Rule was not strict enough for them.

Schenoudi succeeded his uncle Pgol as head of the White Monastery of Athribis and, till his death (about 4.53), was not only the greatest monastic leader, but one of the most important men, in Egypt. He waged war against heretics; he took a prominent part in the rooting out of paganism; he championed the cause of the poor against the rich. He once went in person to Constantinople to complain of the tyranny of government officials. On one occasion 20,000 men, women, and children took refuge in the White Monastery during an invasion of the savage Blemmyes of Ethiopia, and Schenoudi maintained all the fugitives for three months, providing them with food and medical aid. On another occasion he ran.somed a hundred captives and sent them home with food, clothing, and money for their journey (Leipoldt, "Schenute von Atripe", 172, 173). Sche- noudi's importance for the history of monasticism is small, for his influence, great as it was in his own country, did not make itself felt elsewhere. There were two barriers: Upper Egypt was a difficult and dangerous country for travellers, and such as did penetrate there would not be likely to visit a monas- tery where hardly anything but Coptic was spoken. According to Abbot Butler, "Schenoudi is never named by anj' Greek or Latin writer" (op. cit., II, 204). He has been rediscovered in our own time in Coptic MSS. A description of the ruins of the White Monastery will be found in Curzon's "Monasteries of the Levant", ch. xi. There are photographs of the outer wall and the ruins of the churcli in Milne's "Hist, of Egypt under Roman Rule".

In part II of Butler's "Lausiac History" is a map of Monastic Egypt. A glance at this map and