Memorial of St. Pachomius

Scripture Readings: Acts 12:24-13:5; Jn 12:44-50

In the Boharic life of St. Pachomius, who is remembered at this morning’s Eucharist, there is related a curious incident in which the young Pachomius, only about four years into his monastic life sees a vision: He sees dew descending from heaven; pouring over his head, running down into his right hand, spilling on to the ground, spreading out, and covering the whole earth.  Then he sees “keys” given to him secretly.  He is given – “keys”.  The next morning he relates the entire vision to Palamoun, his spiritual father, who suggests the vision has a very deep meaning.  Moving on to Pachomius’ interview with Palamoun, we are apt to pass over an important detail of this story: it must have been humbling, if not actually humiliating, for a young monk, a novice, to go to his spiritual father and say to him: “Father, in a vision I saw, I was given keys secretly.”  Imagine going to your Novice Director and saying: “Last night, I dreamed I was at a conclave for the election of a pope, and everyone in the room had turned and was looking at me.”  “Yeah right”, says your Novice Director, “and don’t forget, you are assigned to clean professed toilets this morning.” 

Pachomius’ willingness to disclose to his spiritual father the vision he saw, not only validates the authenticity of the vision – it also confirms the authenticity of Pachomius’ reception of the vision.  He didn’t have to share the vision.  Theodore, the young man who many years later emerges as Pachomius’ star disciple, likewise, as a very young monk, sees one day in a vision himself “given a great number of keys”.  We are told “He did not dare inform Pachomius of this revelation, as he had often heard Pachomius say: “Keys have been given to me in secret”, and Theodore thought: “Who am I to make myself equal to the Man of God, sinner that I am!  Rather, I should walk in humility all the days of my life.”

This lie Theodore tells himself; this secret he keeps from Pachomius and everyone else, is pride, and it will fester in him even to the point of nearly destroying his relationship with Pachomius and his brothers.  We have here cause for reflection concerning certain of our own contemporary attitudes toward leadership.  One hears it said in religious communities today: Everyone – is a leader.  All the monks of New Melleray are leaders.  Isn’t that neat!  Or, maybe, one of us here has been given keys in secret and is afraid to tell anyone. 

On this memorial of St. Pachomius we might pray for the grace of healing for what seems to be a fear characteristic of our age: the fear of leadership; your fear of risking the encounter with an actual leader – maybe arising from your more hidden and secret fear that the person raised up by God to be this dreaded leader might be you.