Abbot Pachomius of Sarov

Abbot Pachomius of Sarov

Here we are offering the life of Abbot Pachomius of Sarov. It was he who received St Seraphim into the Sarov Monastery.

The seventh Igumen of the Sarov cloister, Hieromonk Pachomius, in the world Boris Nazarov[1] Leonov was from the Kursk merchant family, he was tonsured at the monastery, from the youth he devoted himself to the service to the Lord. He was tonsured a monk in 1762, and was elected an Igumen in 1777. He was a strict follower of the monastic wows, humble, wise in humility, a man of prayer and fasting. He guided the monastery entrusted to him by God for 18 years, he was the true shepherd of his reason-endowed flock. He strictly observed the cenobitic charter of the monastery and the order of church services. The diligent and splendid execution of which brought the soul saving pleasure to the listeners. Those who visited the monastery used to say that it was delightful to pray at that desert, where the service to God was served so fittingly and magnificently. No matter how much the elder Pachomius was occupied with administrative matters, yet, he always followed the cell rule and attended church services, he came first to the temple and was the last to leave it. As he himself was personally watchful, he held his subordinates accountable for missing church services or omitting the cell rules; he disciplined with reprimands or prostrations in the trapeza[2], yet did it with love and fatherly mercy. Therefore, the brethren had love for him and not the slavish, but filial fear. His personal restraint went to the point that he, from the beginning to the end of his life there, he neither had food in his cell, nor anything to drink as well, and ate little at the common meal. This pious life of the elder and the superior displayed in deeds, served as the most edifying admonition for the brethren; they respected his reverence, ascetic appearance, his humble and pious life. He admonished verbally as well and liked to quote some words from the Gospel, “… the Kingdom of Heaven is taken by force, and those, who apply force, enter it” [Mat 11:12], and from the Apostle, “… whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly” [2 Cor 9:6].

The number of brothers grew under him, since many God-loving people, wishing soul salvation came to live at that Hermitage from far and wide. Under his supervision in the Sarov brotherhood there were men accounted worthy enough so that other monasteries owe their structure to them. Some of them were requested by the higher authorities to lead other monasteries by establishing in them the cenobitic monastic charters. The dense Sarov forest became the breeding ground of monks for various monasteries. It is from there that hardworking grace-loving elders of the Valaam monastery of the Transfiguration of the Savior[3], the Root Sign[4], Uga St. Dorotheus[5] desert and other monasteries originated. Elder Nazarius – one of the great luminaries of Sarov was called from there by Metropolitan Gabriel of St. Petersburg to rebuild the old Valaam, the monastery, which had fallen into decay at the time.

The Igumen and the local Bishop Theophilus tried to keep the famous ascetic at the monastery and represented him to His Beatitude Metropolitan as a person who was unintelligent and inexperienced in spiritual life. Metropolitan Gabriel solved the mystery of Nazarius’ humility, “I have enough wise men around me”, replied the Metropolitan, “send your fool to me.” Thus they had to release the humble ascetic involuntarily, whom, in the words of the Archpastor, the foreknowledge of God chose as a tool to rebuild the Valaam Monastery. Once he had strengthened its welfare, Nazarius desired to again be secluded in the former place of his dwelling and passed away at the Sarov desert. Similarly, certain of the Sarov monks, when they were called to be heads of monasteries, humbly refused to accept the priest ordination, not wanting to abandon the solitary life of a simple monk—the beloved calling of the seemingly least of monastics. They even rejected the authority offered to them with tears depicting themselves as unworthy to guide even the smallest of the ships. There was an occasion when one of the Sarov’s monks declined the rank of a bishop due to his great humility.

The famous Igumen of the Kirollo-Novozersk[6] Monastery, who at one time himself resided in Sarov, pointed out to the Most Reverend Gabriel one other ascetic of that desert – Elder Joachim to be the head of the spiritual mission to North America. Yet, this elder, while loving the Sarov cloister and the spiritual poverty of simple monasticism, went to become a fool for Christ for several years just to avoid that high honor. Those were the kind of ascetics in the days of Pachomius, whom he struggled along with or led in the feats until old age. Elder Igumen Pachomius was respected and loved not only by the brotherhood but also by laypeople of high and other ranks. The monastery, famous for its order and its structure which reigned during all of the time of his guidance, acquired respect and donations from the people. Many monasteries adopted its charter along with the order of readings and singing, meal taking, and other rites. It was for that reason that the Sarov desert from its very founding was considered the first among the cenobitic monasteries in Russia. Gabriel, the Metropolitan of Novgorod, confident in the spiritual experience and strict life of Sarov ascetics, wrote a benevolent letter to Igumen Pachomius and asked to choose one of them to be the superior of the Uga Monastery.

Honorable Father Igumen Hieromonk Pachomius!
I have received your letter, I thank you for your diligence and prayers. I regret that you do not agree to send an igumen to the Uga Monastery. You, I trust, did not forget this word of God, “If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth” [Jeremiah 15:19]; I advise and exhort you to choose a man of spiritual life to edify and deter the corruption of dissension who can implant virtuous ascetic labors in this monastery which would serve to save others. However, while wishing you a blessing from the Father of Lights and asking for your prayers, I extend my benevolence to you.
Gabriel, Metropolitan of Novgorod
August 10th, 1786
To be continued …

[1] Or Nazarovich – the son of Nazar in Russian.
[2] The dining area at the monastery.
[3] The monastery located on Valaam Island on Ladoga Lake not far from St. Petersburg, Russia.

[4] The monastery in Kursk dedicated to the miraculous Kursk Root Icon of the Sign,
[5] The monastery in the Yaroslavl region built at the confluence of two rivers – the Uga Black river and the Uga White river. The monastery was flooded during the Soviet time when Ribinsk water reserve was created.
[6] A monastery in the Vologda region of Russia founded in 1517.