The relationship between prayer and humility, humility and ministry, and ultimately, prayer and ministry in the life of the spiritual father should be obvious: prayer and its fruit, humility, blossom into ministry. It was while Pachomios was in the desert
alone, praying to be taught God’s perfect…(that) an angel sent by the Lord appeared to him…and (said) ‘The Lord’s will is to minister to the race of men and to reconcile them to him.’ It was after he thought about the voice which he had heard and realized its meaning (that) he started to receive those who came to him.19
Two important points are raised in this passage concerning prayer and ministry: 1) that the grace of spiritual fatherhood is always a vocation in the deepest sense of that word i.e., a call by God in prayerful solitude and 2) the ministry of the spiritual father takes him out of his solitude to begin the task of reconciliation between humanity and God and consequently, man with man.
The Vita Prima Graeca abounds with stories of Pachomios’ ministry. He took particular joy in caring for the helpless: the elderly, the sick and children (cf. chapter 28). Not only did he serve the needs surrounding countryside (cf. chapter 24), the needs of the shepherds in the surrounding countryside (cf. chapter 29) and have responsibility for the convents founded by his sister (cf. chapter 32), but he was also a man chosen by God to exercise a ministry of intercession and healing.
the wife of one of the area’s leading politicians was bleeding. And when she heard about the great Pachomios, she asked…Dionysios to summon him. After the great man was summoned, he sat inside the church…and she…coming near him…touched the cowl on his head and was immediately cured.20
The parallels between this account and that of Jesus’ cure of the woman with a hemorrhage (Matthew 9:20-22) was obvious.
In fact, judging from the accounts preserved in the Vita Prima Graeca, Pachomios was to acquire a substantial reputation as a healer and worker of miracles. However, Pachomios – in his humility – never took himself quite so seriously. The Vita Prima Graeca records that Pachomios, who was often sick himself (cf. chapters 51-52) and who eventually died of a plague that swept through the community (cf. chapters 114-116), “was not astonished and grieved” when “he prayed for somebody’s health and his request was not granted by the Lord” for “he himself (i.e., Jesus) used to say in prayer, ‘Let your will be done and not mine’.”21
In addition to his own ascetic regimen, Pachomios assumed all of the responsibility for the management and maintenance of the monastery in those early days before the community grew to number in the thousands. He did this in order to free his monastic charges to study the Scripture and engage in the spiritual struggle (cf. chapter 24). This Christological motif of humility and service to others runs throughout the life of Pachomios and forms the “heart” of the icon which the authors of the Vita Prima Graeca are attempting to paint in words.
Perhaps one of the most touching stories characteristic of this Pachomian spirituality tells of the time that Pachomios, in his humility, was able to learn from a small peasant boy visiting the monastery in order to attend its liturgical services: “One day Pachomios was weaving a rush mat in Tabennesis and a boy came to the weekly service in the monastery. When the boy saw him weaving, he told him, ‘Not so father! Do not turn the thread this way. Father Theodore showed us another style of weaving.’ Pachomios rose and said to the boy, ‘Yes, teach me this style.’ After the boy taught him, he sat to work gladly, having even in this matter anticipated the spirit of arrogance. If his way were the way of the flesh, he would not have cared but would even have reprimanded the child for having spoken out of turn.” 18
Pachomios’ war against the “spirit of arrogance” freed him from all insecurity and fear, consequently freeing him from the desire to dominate and control others. This is extremely important – in fact, of the essence of spiritual paternity – because the spiritual father is not one who is interested in building his own little kingdom, but rather, one who brings to birth God’s kingdom in those entrusted to his care.