Saint Pachomius the Great was both a model of desert dwelling, and with Saints Anthony the Great (January 17), Macarius the Great (January 19), and Euthymius the Great (January 20), a founder of the cenobitic monastic life in Egypt.
Saint Pachomius was born in the third century in the Thebaid (Upper Egypt). His parents were pagans who gave him an excellent secular education. From his youth he had a good character, and he was prudent and sensible.
When Pachomius reached the age of twenty, he was called up to serve in the army of the emperor Constantine (apparently, in the year 315). They put the new conscripts in a city prison guarded by soldiers. The local Christians fed the soldiers and took care of them.
When the young man learned 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. Pachomius vowed to become a Christian. Pachomius returned from the army after the victory, received holy Baptism, moved to the lonely settlement of Shenesit, and began to lead a strict ascetic life. Realizing the need for spiritual guidance, he turned to the desert-dweller Palamon. He was accepted by the Elder, and he began to follow the example of his instructor in monastic struggles.
Once, after ten years of asceticism, Saint Pachomius made his way through the desert, and halted at the ruins of the former village of Tabennisi. Here he heard a Voice ordering him to start a monastery at this place. Pachomius told the Elder Palamon of this, and they both regarded the words as a command from God.
They went to Tabennisi and built a small monastic cell. The holy Elder Palamon blessed the foundations of the monastery and predicted its future glory. But soon Palamon departed to the Lord. An angel of God then appeared 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.
Saint Pachomius endured many temptations and assaults from the Enemy of the race of man, but he resisted all temptations by his prayer and endurance.
Gradually, followers began to gather around Saint Pachomius. Their teacher impressed everyone by his love for work, which enabled him to accomplish all kinds of monastic tasks. He cultivated a garden, he conversed with those seeking guidance, and he tended to the sick.
Saint Pachomius introduced a monastic Rule of cenobitic life, giving everyone the same food and attire. The monks of the monastery fulfilled the obediences assigned them for the common good of the monastery. Among the various obediences was copying books. The monks were not allowed to possess their own money nor to accept anything from their relatives. Saint Pachomius considered that an obedience fulfilled with zeal was greater than fasting or prayer. He also demanded from the monks an exact observance of the monastic Rule, and he chastized slackers.
His sister Maria came to see Saint Pachomius, but the strict ascetic refused to see her. Through the gate keeper, he blessed her to enter upon the path of monastic life, promising his help with this. Maria wept, but did as her brother had ordered. The Tabennisi monks built her a hut on the opposite side of the River Nile. Nuns also began to gather around Maria. Soon a women’s monastery was formed with a strict monastic Rule provided by Saint Pachomius.
The number of monks at the monastery grew quickly, and it became necessary to build seven more monasteries in the vicinity. The number of monks reached 7,000, all under the guidance of Saint Pachomius, who visited all the monasteries and administered them. At the same time Saint Pachomius remained a deeply humble monk, who was always ready to comply with and accept the words of each brother.
Severe and strict towards himself, Saint Pachomius had great kindness and condescension toward the deficiencies of spiritually immature monks. One of the monks was eager for martyrdom, but Saint Pachomius turned him from this desire and instructed him to fulfill his monastic obedience, taming his pride, and training him in humility.
Once, a monk did not heed his advice and left the monastery. He was set upon by brigands, who threatened him with death and forced him to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. Filled with despair, the monk returned to the monastery. Saint Pachomius ordered him to pray intensely night and day, keep a strict fast and live in complete solitude. The monk followed his advice, and this saved his soul from despair.
The saint taught his spiritual children to avoid judging others, and he himself feared to judge anyone even in thought.
Saint Pachomius cared for the sick monks with special love. He visited them, he cheered the disheartened, he urged them to be thankful to God, and put their hope in His holy will. He 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, assuming that the brethren loved to fast. Instead of fulfilling his obedience, the cook plaited 500 mats, something which Saint Pachomius had not told him to do. In punishment for his disobedience, all the mats prepared by the cook were burned.
Saint Pachomius always taught the monks to rely only upon God’s help and mercy. It happened that there was a shortage of grain at the monastery. The saint spent the whole night in prayer, and in the morning a large quantity of bread was sent to the monastery from the city, at no charge. The Lord granted Saint Pachomius the gift of wonderworking and healing the sick.
The Lord revealed to him 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 Pachomius wept bitterly, calling out to the Lord and imploring mercy for them. He heard a Voice answer, “Pachomius, 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.”
Toward the end of his life Saint Pachomius fell ill from a pestilence that afflicted the region. His closest disciple, Saint Theodore (May 17), tended to him with filial love. Saint Pachomius died around the year 348 at the age of fifty-three, and was buried on a hill near the monastery.
Tr by oca.org
Saint Jacob was born on 20 January 1719 in a family of believers from Bukovina. Growing up in the spirit of true godliness, he entered the monastic life when he was only 12 years old. His spiritual formation is linked to the communities of Putna Monastery and Putna Hermitage, and also to Metropolitan Anthony of Moldavia (1730-1740), whose disciple was (same metropolitan who, in Kiev, persuaded the future saint Paisios of Neamţ to come to Moldavia in order to form himself spiritually).
Seeing this young person with wisdom of an old person and remarkable life, the spiritual fathers of Putna Monastery ordained him as a priest when he was only 17 years old, and then elected him as abbot of Putna Monastery at the age of 25 years. In 1745, he was elected bishop of Rădăuţi, where he printed a Romanian-Slavonic Hieratikon and set up a school for learning Slavonic, Greek and Romanian languages.
After just five more years, his worthiness and zeal were crucial in having him transferred to the seat of Metropolitan of Moldavia, in Iaşi. Between 1750 and 1760 he carried out intense pastoral and social activity, promoting Romanian printing and watching over the translation of books useful to the soul. Managing to open a printing company, in 10 years he printed 15 ritual and teaching books in Romanian, which were used in churches and monasteries in all the regions inhabited by Romanians.
The care for the Romanians in Transylvania, threatened to lose their ancestral faith, was expressed both by printing books for defending the true faith and by ordination of priests and sending antimensions to parishes without spiritual shepherds, in Maramureş and in Cluj county. Saint Jacob was grieving for his flock’s ignorance of the knowledge because, as he said, “all life flows out of raising children as from a good or bad root”.
That is why he established schools and printed teaching and religious service books, bringing to light the first Romanian Abecedary (Bukvar) and setting up for the children of Putna village the first rural elementary school in Moldavia. He insisted for a translation of the Lives of Saints, which are true manuals that any person, of any age, nature and status can find a model for life, but in his time only the first 6 out of 12 volumes were translated.
Besides the care for Putna Monastery and its amenities, Metropolitan Jacob helped also other monasteries and churches such as Doljeşti Monastery, Saint Demetrius church in Suceava, the Episcopal Cathedral from Suceava and the Metropolitan Cathedral in Iaşi, Saint Spyridon monastery and hospital in Iaşi and others. During the Phanariotes reigns, he intervened with the other hierarchs of the country to eliminate some forms of oppression (the abolition of serfdom in 1749) and of some burdensome tributes, binding with curse the ruler princes of the country in case they would reverse them.
As a peacemaker and protector of the people, Metropolitan Jacob asked, in 1758, the khan of the Tartars to stop the plundering of Moldavia, and the next year he quieted an uprising of the people, imposing to the ruling prince to meet some requirements to pacify the country. He often rebuked some leaders in those years, because of which, ultimately, he was forced to leave the Metropolitan throne in 1760, not wanting to allow again the imposition of burdening taxes.
Having spent the last part of his life at Putna Monastery, Metropolitan Jacob continued the founding acts he initiated during his time as metropolitan on his throne, thus becoming the second largest founder of Putna, strengthening it spiritually and materially. Therefore, it has become one of the pillars of Romanian Orthodoxy in the difficult times that would come with the loss of Bukovina to the Habsburg Empire in 1775.
The retreat to the monastery was for Saint Jacob the occasion of deepening in prayer for a cleansing and enlightening soul. He said this word about prayer: ”By bringing the light of Christ in our souls and dispelling from them the very mists that harms them, the divine prayer makes them then much brighter than the sun, for it is indeed known that he who speaks with God is above death and corruption”. Feeling that his end is close, after the Easter of 1778 he went to Putna Hermitage and received the great schema by the hand of his father confessor, Venerable Saint Nathan, taking the name of Euthymius.
Four days later, on 15 May 1778, he passed away peacefully in Christ the Lord. He was buried in the porch of his monastery at Putna as its new founder. Carrying diligently and with dignity the cross of hierarchical service, and with gentleness and humility that of being persecuted for righteousness, sacrificing himself for the people entrusted to him for pastoral care, Metropolitan Jacob dedicated his entire life to serving the Church, enlightening people through school and printing, defending the oppressed and guiding souls to salvation, remaining in faithful’s memory as ”the shepherd of the poor and humble who lived a Saint’s life”.
Therefore, commemorating the 550th anniversary of the founding of Putna Monastery, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church decided at its session of 6-7 June 2016 to include Metropolitan Jacob of Putna among the Saints, with the feast day on 15 May, the day of his passage into eternity. Through his holy prayers, Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us. Amen.