“Monasticism is a way of life to rid the inner self of materialism. Our fathers have liven angelic lives. It is said that the monks are earthly angels and heavenly humans. They are people who deprive themselves of everything, live humbly, and in contemplation in its highest level. And they execute the word of the Holy Bible. “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (1John 2:15-17).Monks leave the world to live in the desert, mountains, and caves in order to live with God… the God they dedicated their lives to.”
There are 4 main aspects when it comes to the Monastic life.
- Isolation:Monks “remove” themselves from the world so that they may further enjoy themselves in Jesus.
- This is not strictly observed today and depending on the monk can vary i.e some may choose complete isolation while others do not.
- Chastity:By disciplining and subduing the lusts of the body it helps monks/nuns attain a pure and more spiritual life. (Matthew 19:10-12, 22:30)
- Obedience:readiness to comply with and submit to the guidance and commands of their abbot throughout their life not just when they are lower ranks such as layman/brother/sister.
- Voluntary Poverty:in fulfilment of Christ’s teachings sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven and come and follow me. (Mark 10:21, Matthew 19:21, Luke 18:22) (Also read Matthew 19:16-30, Luke 18:18-30 and Mark 10: 17-31).
There are 3 main types of monasticism:
- The Hermitage life:The monk lives in solitude as a hermit. At first Ascetics lived near villages but St Anthony travelled deep into the desert and guided his disciples to do the same. He popularised this way of monasticism and as such is called the father of monasticism.
- Congregational:This type of monasticism was started by St Pachomius where he gathered the monks in monasteries surrounded by fences and they would live together in groups of 3 in each cell practicing their spiritual and normal life together.
- The Rules given to St Pachomius by an angel for the monastery:
- Let the monk eat as he wish, but give them work accordingly
- They live in a cell
- The Rules given to St Pachomius by an angel for the monastery:
- They have a uniform for the monastery and a different uniform for outside.
- The food offered at lunch and dinner but not compulsory and consists of bread, cheese, vegetables, soup, fruits. But no meat or wine except in sickness. During the eating, one of the monks should read from the bible.
- The monk sleeps till midnight and then wakes up to pray and praise till the morning
- The manual work is compulsory for everyone
- They pray together in the morning, noon and evening
- Their personal prayers is according to the guidance of the spiritual father
- The Holy Liturgy on Saturday and Sunday
- For the beginners there are 3 daily lessons. For the others have two spiritual weekly meetings on Wednesday and Friday.
- Skete (Coptic: shiheet): This type of monasticism falls in between the other two. The monks live alone in a cell or in small groups and would gather together around their spiritual father and meet every Saturday night and Sunday for the Holy Liturgy and the teachings of the elders in a church built centrally. This was type was started by St Macarius.
Story of Abba Pachomius(Bashons 14/ May 22)
On this day, of the year 64 A.M. (348 A.D.), Abba Pachomius, the father of the spiritual communal life (Cenobitic life), departed. He was born in Thebes (Luxor) from pagan parents, who forced him to worship idols. He rejected and mocked this worship, then became a monk with St. Balamon (Palaemon). He lived in submission to him for many years, and he mastered well the ways of the monastic life. Then the angel of the Lord appeared to him and commanded him to establish a communal and holy monastic life. Many monks gathered together to him, and he built for them many monasteries and established for them a system of manual labor, the times of prayers, and eating. He was the father of them all, with an Abbot in every monastery. He visited all the monasteries, from Aswan to Edfu to Donasa to the end of Upper Egypt to the north. He did not permit any one of his sons to become a priest for the sake of the vainglory of this world, and not to overlook the purpose of their monastic life of worship by being away from the world. He invited a priest from outside for each monastery to officiate the Divine Liturgy. When Pope Athanasius wanted to ordain him a priest, he fled from him. St. Athanasius asked his disciples to tell him that he who built his house on the rock that can not be shaken, and fled from the vainglory of the world, is blessed, and his disciples are also blessed.
He desired once to see Hades, and he saw in a night vision the habitation of the sinners and places of torment.He remained the father of the Cenobites for forty years. When the time of his departure drew near, he called the monks, strengthened their faith, and appointed someone to take over his place after him, then departed in peace.
May his prayers be with us. Amen.
- Was born in – 285 AD to a pagan family at Chenoboseium
- Although he was not Christian, yet his conscience was alert, which led him to ask about the truth, to prevent him from committing big sins, as one night he refused to commit adultery with a beautiful girl.
- In 310 AD, he was recruited in the army, and in their way to the war, his legion camped in Latoplis. The Christian people of the village offered them a very good reception. And he asked the reason for this, he knew that they were Christians and following the teaching of their masters.
- He was eager to know about Jesus, so he spoke to one of the people of this village, who explained to him everything about the Lord and His love and sacrifice on the cross. So Pachomius decided to be a Christian as soon as he returns from the war.
- The Emperor denounced the war, so Pachomius returned back to the village called Chenoboscian. He went to the church and recorded his name in the list of Catechumen. When he received baptism he was very eager to learn everything about his life with Christ, lived in a temple. As he started to taste the Love of Christ in his life, he went around to serve the people, old, sick, … One time an epedimic spread in a village named Senset and crippled the
- people from work, so he voluntary went out helping every family by collecting and distributing fire-wood till this plague ended. He spend 3 years.
- He was eager to love more the Lord, and he heard about as ascetic called Balamon, who lived a very hard life. So, he went to him and after many petitions, he accepted him to live with him and to be a monk. He lived with Abba Balamon 7 years, growing in his life of prayer, fasting and ascetism. Sometimes they spent the whole night praying and praising.
- Pachomius was eager that everyone have to share in this type of life, but also he knew that it is very hard life to many. As he was thinking and praying for this matter an angel appeared to him and asked him to built a monastery in
- Tabennesis and gave him a bronze tablet with the rules.
- He talked to abba Salamon and asked him to come with him to build and start this new type of monastic life.
- He went with him and built a cell which was the core of the monastery. A lot of brethren gathered around him, so he built them a church, and another church in the village. As the monastery extended (included -2,500 monk) he built another monastery at Pbow. The total number of monasteries were about 7 including about 7000 monks. For each monastery there was an abbot (supervisor) assisted by an assistance, stock keeper and a librarian Also each group from the trades had a supervisor.
- There were 2 general meeting every year for all the monasteries. One in Easter and the other in August when the name of responsible people were nominated.
- He departed on the 14 Sashanc in the age of 60 (-345 AD)
- He built a convent for nuns, his sister was the supervisor for this convent.
Story of St Paul the Simple
The Servant of Christ, Hierax, as well as Cronius and several other brothers, told me the story I am going to tell you about Paul the Simple. He was a peasant farmer of transparently innocent and simple life, and he had taken a most
beautiful woman for a wife who nevertheless was of very lax morals. Led by providence to an outcome which he was in fact half hoping for, he came back from the fields unexpectedly one day, went inside, and found her and a man together.When he saw her and the man she was having sex with he gave a forthright and heartfelt laugh. “Fine, fine,” he said.
“This means that she is no longer any responsibility of mine. In Jesus’ name I acknowledge her no longer. Go, take her with you, and her children, for I am leaving to become a monk.” Without saying anything to anybody else he took an eight day journey to holy Antony and knocked on his door.”What do you want?” asked Antony when he came to the door. “To become a monk,” replied Paul. “You must be at least sixty. You can’t become a monk,” said Antony. “Live in the town, work for your living, trusting in the grace of God. You would not be able to cope with all the trials of solitude.” “Whatever you told me to do I would do it,” the old man replied. “I have told you,” said Antony. “You are old. You can’t be a monk. Go away. Or if you do really want to be a monk go to a cenobium where there are many brothers to support you in your frailty. I am here all by myself, fasting for five days before eating.” And with these words he tried to drive Paul away. Refusing to admit him, Antony shut the door and for three days did not go outside,
not even to answer the call of nature. But the old man stayed where he was. On the fourth day he really had to go outside, but when he opened the door and went out he saw Paul still there and said, “Go away, old man. Why do you keep on bothering me? You can’t stay here.” “I don’t intend to stay anywhere else except here,” said Paul. Antony looked at him and saw that he had nothing with him to sustain life, no bread, no water or anything else, and he had now been fasting for four days. “He is so unused to fasting he might die,” thought Antony, “and I will be to blame.” And so he took him in. “If you can be obedient and do what I tell you,” said Antony, “you’ll be all right.”
“I will do whatever you say,” Paul replied. Antony in those days followed just as rigorous a way of life as he did when young. In order to test the Paul’s mettle he said to him, “Stay here and pray, while I go in and fetch something for you to work with.” He then went into his inner room and watched Paul through the window. For the rest of the week he stayed there without moving, even though scorched by the heat. At the end of the week he brought some palm
branches which he had soaked in water. “Take these and weave a rope as you see me doing,” he said. The old man wove until the ninth hour, completing fifteen arms-lengths with great difficulty. Antony inspected what he had done and was not satisfied with it. You’ve done that very badly,” he said. “Undo it and do it again.” It was now the seventh day that this elderly man had been fasting, but Antony was treating him severely like this to see whether he would give up and abandon the life of a monk. But he just took the branches and rewove them, and with great labour put right the unevenness with which he done them at first. Antony saw that he had neither grumbled, nor been downcast, nor turned aside, nor become resentful to the slightest degree, and he began to feel sorry for him. And as the sun set he said, “Well, little father, shall we break some bread together?” “If you think that’s right, abba,” replied Paul, thus leaving the decision to Antony without jumping up eagerly at the mention of food. Antony began to change his mind.
“Get the table ready then,” he said. And he did so. Antony put the bread on the table, four six-ounce rolls. He put one to soak for himself (for they were dry) and three for Paul.
Antony sang a psalm which he knew, and when he had repeated it twelve times he also said a prayer twelve times. This he did in order to test Paul further. But the old man prayed too, as promptly and eagerly as the great Antony himself. (I really think that he would rather feed on scorpions than live falsely.) “Sit down,” the great Antony said to Paul after the twelve prayers, “but we won’t eat until vespers. Wait till the bread is eatable.” The time for vespers came and Paul still had not eaten, when Antony said, “Get up. We’ll pray and then sleep.” They left the table and did so. Half way through the night Antony woke Paul for prayers and went on with them right through to the ninth hour. But at last when vespers came and the table had been prepared and they had sung and prayed they sat down to eat. Antony ate one roll and did not pick up another one. The old man was eating more slowly and still had the roll which he had started. Antony waited till he had finished and said, “Come, little father, eat another roll.” “If you have another one, I will,” said Paul, “but not if you won’t.” “I’ve had quite sufficient for one who is a monk,” said Antony. “Since I want to be a monk,” said Paul, “that’s enough for me too, then.” And he got up and said twelve prayers and sang twelve psalms. After the prayers they slept a little for the first part of the night, then rose and sang psalms again till dawn. He then sent him out to wander in the desert. “Come back after three days,” he said. This he did. When some brothers came on a visit he paid close attention to Antony and did
whatever Antony wanted. “See to the visitors’ needs and keep silence,” he said, “and don’t eat anything till they have started on their journey back.” At the end of the third week in which Paul had not eaten anything the brothers asked him why he kept silent, to which he replied nothing at all. “Why keep silent?” said Antony. “Speak to the brothers.” So he spoke. Once when Antony was given a jar of honey he told Paul to break the jar. He did so and the honey spilled. “Now scrape up the honey with this shell,” he ordered, “but don’t get any dirt mixed up in it.” Once he ordered him to draw water all day. When his garment got a bit tattered, he told him to just get used to it. In the end this man had grasped such firm hold on obedience by the divine grace given him, that he was able to command the demons. When the great Antony saw that this man had promptly carried out everything he had asked him to do in the way he ordered his life, he said, “See if you can keep on doing this day by day, brother, and stay with me.” “I don’t know what else you can show me,” said Paul. “I do whatever I see you doing, quite easily and without any strain, the Lord being my helper.” On another day Antony admitted ‘in the name of Jesus’ that he had indeed become a monk. The great and blessed Antony had become convinced that the soul of this servant of Christ had become almost perfected in all things, even though he was somewhat simple. After a few months Antony was moved by the grace of God to build
a cell for him three or four miles away from his own cell, and said to him, “See now, by the help of the grace of Christ you have become a monk. Now live by yourself, and even take on the demons.” So a year after Paul the Most Simple came to live with him, he was highly experienced in a disciplined way of life and was found worthy to battle against the demons and against all kinds of diseases. One day there was brought to Antony a young man vexed beyond measure by one of the most powerful and savage demons, who railed against heaven itself with curses and blasphemies. Antony had a look at the young man and said to those who had brought him, “This is not a task for me. I have not yet been given the grace to deal with this very powerful type of demon. Paul the Simple has the gift of dealing with this one.” The great Antony went to Paul, that most excellent man, taking them all with him. “Abba Paul,” he said, “Cast out this demon from this person so that he may return home cured and glorify God.” “Why not you?” asked Paul. “It is not for me,” said Antony. “I have other concerns.” And the great Antony left the boy there and returned to his cell. The unassuming old man stood up and poured out a strong prayer to challenge the demon and said, “Abba Antony says, ‘Depart from this man'” “I will not, you disgusting, pompous old man,” said the demon, with many curses and blasphemies. Paul put on his sheepskin and belaboured him in the back, crying, “‘Go out,’ abba Antony says.” The demon abused both Paul and Antony with curses, saying, “You are disgusting old men, lazy and greedy, never content to mind your own business. What have you got in common with us? Why are you browbeating us?” “Either go now,” said Paul, “or I will call upon the power of Christ to bring destruction upon you.” But this unclean demon railed against Jesus also with curses and blasphemies “I am not going,” he shouted. This made Paul get angry with the demon. He went outside. It was midday – when the Egyptian heat bears comparison with the furnace of Babylon. The holy old man stood up straight, like a statue, on top of a rock, and prayed, “O Jesus Christ, you were crucified under Pontius Pilate, take note that I will not come down from this rock, nor will I eat or drink even if I die, until you hear me and cast out this demon from this man and liberate him from the unclean spirit.” And even as the simple and humble Paul was praying, before he had even finished, the demon cried out, “I’m going, I’m going, driven out by force, overcome by tyranny. I’m getting out of this man and won’t come back any more. It is the simplicity and humility of Paul which has driven me out and I don’t know where to go.” The moment he went he changed into an enormous dragon about seventy cubits long which crept off towards the Red Sea. Thus were fulfilled the words of Holy Scripture, ‘The righteous man shows his faith by what he does’ (Proverbs 12.17), and ‘On whom shall I look, says the Lord, if not on him who is gentle and humble and trembles at my words?’ (Isaiah 66.2). Although lesser (humiliores) demons can be cast out by the faith of men in authority (principales), it takes humble (humiles) men to be able to put to flight the demons of greatest power (principales). Such were the miracles of the humble Paul the Simple, and there were many others he did, even greater than these. He was known as Simple by all the brothers.
 Vitae Patrum Chapter XXVIII.
Story of St John Colobos (the short) (Baba 20/October 30)
On this day, the great light and saint, the hegumen Abba John (Yoannis) Colobos (the Short), departed. He was a native of Betsa in upper Egypt and he had one brother. His parents were righteous and God-fearing people, rich in faith and good deeds.
When he was 8 years old, his heart turned away from the futility of this world, its lusts and its glory, and he desired the monastic life. The grace of God moved him to go to the desert of Scete and there he came upon a tried and holy man whose name was Abba Pemwah from El-Bahnasa. John asked Abba Pemwah to allow him to stay with him. The old man answered, trying him, “My son, you cannot stay with us for this is a very hard desert and those who dwell in it eat from the work of their hands, besides observing many fasts, prayers, and sleeping on the floor and many other forms of asceticism. Go back to the world and live in the fear of God.” Abba John told him, “Do not send me away, for God’s sake, because I came to be in your obedience and prayers. If you accept me, I believe that God will make your heart well-pleased with me.”
Abba Pemwah was in the habit of not doing anything hastily. He asked the Lord Christ to reveal to him the matter of this young man. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Accept him, for he shall become a chosen vessel.” Abba Pemwah brought him and he shaved the hair of his head. He laid out the garb of the monk, and he prayed over it for three days and three nights and when he put the garb on him, he saw an angel making the sign of the Cross over it. Saint John started his monastic life with great asceticism and splendid works. One day Abba Pemwah wanted to test him, so he expelled him from his cell saying, “I cannot live with you.” Abba John stayed out by the door of his cell for seven days. Every day Abba Pemwah went out and smote him with a palm branch and Abba John bowed down before him saying, “I have sinned.” On the seventh day, the old man went out to go to the church and he saw seven angels with seven crowns placing them on the head of Abba John. Since that day, he was held by him in honor and reverence.
One day Abba Pemwah found a piece of dry wood and gave it to Abba John and said to him, “Take this wood, plant and water it.” St. John obeyed and went on watering it twice a day even though the water was about 12 miles from where they lived. After three years, that piece of wood sprouted and grew into a fruitful tree. Abba Pemwah took some of that fruit and went around to all the elder monks saying, “Take, eat from the fruit of obedience.” This tree still exists in its place in his monastery.
Abba Pemwah fell sick for 12 years and Abba John ministered unto him all this time during which he never heard from his teacher that he fell short in his service. Abba Pemwah was an experienced old man who had been tried much, and sickness had emaciated him until he became like a piece of dry wood, so that he would be a chosen offering.
When Abba Pemwah was about to die, he gathered together the elder monks and he held the hand of Abba John and gave him to them saying, “Take him and keep him, for he is an angel, not a man.” He commanded Abba John to stay in the place where he had planted the tree. After that Abba John’s older brother came to the monastery and was ordained a monk with him. He also became an honorable monk.
It happened when the father the Patriarch Abba Theophilus was ordaining Abba John hegumen and abbot over his church, and as he placed his hand over his head, a voice from heaven was heard by the people present saying, “Axios, Axios, Axios (That is to say he is worthy).” When this saint consecrated the offering, he was able to know those who were worthy to partake of it and those who were not worthy.
Abba Theophilus the Patriarch built a church for the Three Young Men in Alexandria, and he wished to bring their bodies and place them in it. He brought Abba John and asked him to travel to Babylon, and to bring the holy bodies. After much forebearing, Abba John accepted to go on this mission. When he left the Patriarch, a cloud carried him away to Babylon. He entered the city and saw its monuments, rivers, and palaces and found the bodies of the saints. When he started moving them from their place, a voice came out from the holy bodies and said to him, “This is the Will of God that we do not leave this place until the day of the Resurrection. Nevertheless, because of the love of Abba Theophilus the Patriarch, and your labor, too, you should inform the Patriarch to gather the people in the church and to put oil in the lamps without lighting them and we will appear in the church and a sign will be made manifest to you.”
Then Abba John left and went back to Alexandria and told the Patriarch what the saints had said. It happened when the Patriarch and the people were in the church, the lamps were lit up suddenly and they all glorified the Lord.
One day, a monk came into the cell of Abba John. He found him lying down with angels waving their wings over him.
Later on, the Berbers attacked the desert of Scete and he left it. When he was asked why he left, he replied that he did not leave because he was afraid of death, but because he feared a Berber would slay him and go to hell, for though he is against his worship, he is his brother in form. Then he went to the mountain of Abba Anthony on the Red Sea. There he dwelt by the side of a village and God sent him a believer who served him.
When the Lord wished to grant him rest and to end his strife in this world, He sent him His two righteous saints Abba Macarius and Abba Anthony to comfort him and to inform him about his departure. On the eve of Sunday, he fell sick and sent his attendant to bring him something from the village. The angels and the host of saints came and received his pure soul and took it up to heaven.
At that time, his servant came back and saw the soul of the saint surrounded by the host of saints and angels singing before them. Before them all, there was one shining like the sun and singing. The servant marvelled at this magnificent sight. An angel came to him and told him the name of each one of the saints. Then the servant asked the angel, “Who is this one in front of them all, who is shining like the sun?” The angel replied, “This is Abba Anthony, the father of all the monks.”
When the servant went into the cell, he found the body of the saint kneeling to the ground, as he had given up his soul while kneeling. The attendant wept sorrowfully over him and went in a hurry to the people of the village and told them what had happened. They came and carried his holy body with great honor. When they brought him into the village, great wonders and miracles were performed through his body.
His prayers be with us and Glory be to our God, forever. Amen.
Story of St Moses the Black (Paona 24/July 1)
On this day, St. Moses the Black, whose life story is remarkable, was martyred. This saint took the Kingdom of Heaven by force, exactly as our Lord Jesus Christ said: The Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. (Matthew 11:12). In his early life, St. Moses was a slave to people who worshiped the sun. He was a mighty man who loved to eat and drink excessively. He killed, robbed and committed all evil. No one could stand up before him, or challenge him. On many occasions, he lifted up his eyes to look to the sun and to talk to it saying, O Sun!! if you are God, let me know it. Then he said, And you O God whom I do not know, let me know you.
One day, he heard someone saying to him, The monks of Wadi El-Natroun know the real God. Go to them and they will tell you. Instantly, he rose up, girded his sword and went to the wilderness of Shiheat. He met St. Esidorous (Isidore) the priest, who was frightened when he saw him, because of his appearance. St. Moses comforted him by saying that he came to the monks so that they might let him know the real God. St. Esidorous took him to St. Macarius the Great, who preached to him, taught him the faith and baptized him. He accepted St. Moses as a monk and taught him to live in the wilderness. St. Moses dashed in many worships, and fought a spiritual fight which was greater than that fought by many saints. However, the devil fought him intensively with his old habits of excessive eating, drinking, and fornication. He informed St. Esidorous about everything which came upon him in his fight with the Enemy. He comforted him and taught him how to overcome the snares of the devil. It was told about him, that when the elders of the Monastery slept, he used to go round to their cells and take their water pots and fill them with water which he brought from a well at a far distance from the monastery. After many years in spiritual struggle, the devil envied him, and struck him with a sore on his foot which made him sick and bed-ridden. When he knew that this was from the devil, he increased in his asceticism and worship, until his body became as a burnt wood. God looked to his patience, healed his illness, and removed all his pains. The blessing of the Lord came upon him. After a while, he became the Father and the spiritual guide of 500 brothers, who elected him to be ordained a priest. When he came before the Patriarch to be ordained, the patriarch wanted to test him by asking the elders, Who brought this black here? Cast him out. He obeyed, and left saying to himself, It is good what they have done to you, O black colored one. The Patriarch, however, called him back and ordained him a priest, and said to him, Moses, all of you now has become white.
One day, he went with some elders to St. Macarius the Great, who said to them, I see among you one to whom belong the crown of martyrdom. St. Moses answered him, Probably it is me, for it is written: ‘For all they that take with the sword, shall perish with the sword.’ (Matt. 26:25) After they returned to the monastery, it did not take long until the Barbarians attacked the monastery. He told the brethren, Whoever wants to escape, let him escape. They asked him, And you O father, why do you not also escape? He replied that he had waited for this day for long time. The Barbarians entered the monastery and killed him with seven other brothers. One of the brethren was hiding, and saw the angel of the Lord, with a crown in his hand standing by and waiting for him. He went out from his hiding place to the Barbarians and he was also martyred.
Beloved Ones, contemplate in the power of repentance, and what it did. It transformed an infidel slave who was a murderer, adulterer and robber into a great Father, teacher, comforter, and priest who wrote rules for the monks, and saint whose name is mentioned on the altar in our prayers.
His Body is located now in the Monastery of El-Baramouse.
May his prayers be with us, and glory be to God forever. Amen.