LISTEN: The Monastic Reaction: Pachomius and Communal Monasticism, Part 1 (The History of Christianity #100 with Daniel Whyte III)

Daniel Whyte III
Daniel Whyte III

Our History of Christianity Scripture passage today is Lamentations 3:25–28 which reads: “The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from Saint Pachomius (puh-koh-mee-uhs). He said: “This is God’s love, to take pains for each other.”

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

The growing number of people withdrawing to the desert, and the desire of most of them to learn from an experienced teacher, gave rise to a new form of monastic life. Anthony was repeatedly compelled to flee from those who sought his help and guidance. Increasingly, solitary monasticism gave way to a communal form of the monastic life. Those who lived in such communities still called themselves “monks” – that is, solitary – but by this they meant, not that they lived completely alone, but that they lived in solitude from the world. This form of monasticism is called “cenobitic” – a name derived from two Greek words meaning “communal life.”

As in the case of solitary monasticism, it is impossible to name the founder of cenobitic monasticism. Most probably it appeared simultaneously in various places, brought about, not so much by the creative genius of one person as by the pressure of circumstances. The completely solitary life of the early monastics was not well suited for many who went to the desert. Furthermore, if the center of Christian life is love, there is some question as to how one living absolutely alone, seldom having to deal with other people, practices love of neighbor. Thus, cenobitic monasticism was born both out of the natural tendency of monastics to gather around particularly saintly leaders, and out of the very nature of the gospel.

Although not its founder, Pachomius deserves credit as the organizer who most contributed to the development of cenobitic monasticism. Pachomius was born around the year 286 AD, in a small village in southern Egypt. His parents were pagans, and he seems to have known little about Christianity before being taken from his home and forced to join the army. He was very saddened by his lot, when a group of Christians came to console him and his companions. The young recruit was so moved by this act of love that he vowed that, if he somehow managed to leave the military, he too would devote himself to serve others. When quite unexpectedly he was allowed to leave the army, he sought someone to instruct him in the Christian faith and to baptize him. Some years later, he decided to withdraw to the desert, where he asked an old anchorite to be his teacher.

Daniel Whyte III has spoken in meetings across the United States and in over twenty-five foreign countries. He is the author of over forty books. He is also the president of Gospel Light Society International, a worldwide evangelistic ministry that reaches thousands with the Gospel each week, as well as president of Torch Ministries International, a Christian literature ministry which publishes a monthly magazine called The Torch Leader. He is heard by thousands each week on his radio broadcasts/podcasts, which include: The Prayer Motivator Devotional, The Prayer Motivator Minute, as well as Gospel Light Minute X, the Gospel Light Minute, the Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message, the Prophet Daniel’s Report, the Second Coming Watch Update and the Soul-Winning Motivator, among others. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology from Bethany Divinity College, a Bachelor’s degree in Religion from Texas Wesleyan University, a Master’s degree in Religion, a Master of Divinity degree, and a Master of Theology degree from Liberty University School of Divinity. He has been married to the former Meriqua Althea Dixon, of Christiana, Jamaica for over twenty-seven years. God has blessed their union with seven children. Find out more at Follow Daniel Whyte III on Twitter @prophetdaniel3 or on Facebook.