Early Church Fathers
41 In sollemnibus prandiis. The phrase must here refer to their dinner on ordinary days (cf. solemnitatem ciborum, "their usual food," Book IV. c. xxi.). Among the early monks it was the custom ordinarily to have but one meal a day on the fast days (viz., Wednesday and Friday); this was at the ninth hour; on other days, at the sixth (i.e., midday). Cf. the Conferences XXI. c. xxiii. On festivals (viz., Saturday Sunday, and holy days), beside the midday meal a supper was allowed as well. And on these days, as we learn from the passage before us, the ordinary grace before and after meat was shortened by the omission of the customary Psalms at other times included in it. On the meals of the monks, cf. S. Jerome's Preface to the Rule of Pachomius and the Rule of S. Benedict, cc. xxxix.-xli., the former of which tells us that, except on Wednesday and Friday, dinner was at midday, and a table was also set for labourers, old men, and children, and (apparently) for all, in the height of summer. For the use of Psalms at grace, see Clement of Alexandria, Poedag. II. iv.44; Stromateis VII. vii. 49.BOOK 4
1 Tabenna, or Tabennae, was an island in the Nile, where was founded a flourishing monastery by Pachomius c. 330 a.d.. Of Pachomius there is a notice in Sozomen H. E. Book III. c. xiv. and his Rule was translated into Latin, with a preface by S. Jerome who mentions his fame in Ep. cxxvii. There is a Life of Pachomius given by Rosweyde (Vitoe Patrum), which is said to be a translation of a work by a contemporary of his.
2 Cf. the Rule of Pachomius c. xxvi.: "If any or comes to the door of the monastery wanting to renounce the world and to join the number of the brethren, he shall not be allowed to enter, but the Abbot of the monastery must first be told, and he shall stay for a few days outside before the gate, and shall be taught the Lord's Prayer and as many Psalms as he can learn, and shall diligently give proof of himself that he has not done any thing wrong and fled in trouble for the time, and that he is not in any one's power, and that he can forsake his relations and disregard his property. And if they see that he is apt for everything, then he shall be taught the rest of the rules of the monastery,-what he ought to do, whom he is to obey," etc.; and, finally, he is to be admitted, See also the Rule of 5. Benedict, c. lviii., which is to much the same effect, and S. Basil's Longer Monastic Rules, Q. x.
3 So the Rule of Pachomius (c. xxvi.) orders that on the admission of a monk "they shall strip him of his secular dress, and put on him the garb of the monks;" and that of S. Bened1ct (c. lviii.), "He shall then be clothed in the religious habit, and his secular clothes deposited in the wardrobe, that if, at the instigation of the devil, he should ever leave the monastery, they may be given back to him, and the religious dress be taken from him."
4 See the quotation from the Rule of S. Benedict in the note on the last chapter.
5 In the same way the Rule of S. Benedict (c. lviii.) directs that the novice is to be placed in the guest house for a few days, while that of S. Isidore is more precise in ordering him to be placed there "for three months," and to wait on the guests there. Two months is the period fixed by other rules, but a few days was all that was ultimately required, and Cassian stands alone in mentioning a full year as the duration of this service, though Sozomen speaks of the monks of Tabenna as having to undergo a probation of three years. H. E., III. xiv.
6 Cf. Exod. xviii. 25. The office of "Dean" (Decanus) which is here spoken of by Cassian, is also referred to by Augustine (De Mor. Ecc. xxxi.) and Jerome (Ep. xxii. ad Eustoch.), and recognized by the Rule of S. Benedict, c. xxi., where directions for his appointment are given.
7 Compare the Conferences, Book II. c. x., where Cassian returns to the same subject. A similar rule that the brethren are to lay bare all the secrets of their hearts to their superior is given, by S. Basil in the Longer Monastic Rules, Q. xxvi., and in the Rule of S. Isaiah (cc. vi., xliii.), printed in Holsten's Codex Regularum, Vol. I.
8 Cf. the Rule of S. Benedict, c. v., where it is said that "the first degree of humility is ready obedience. This is peculiar to those who . . . prefer nothing to Christ, and fulfil the injunctions of their superiors as promptly as if God Himself had given them the command," etc.
9 The Rule of S. Benedict has a chapter to explain what is to be done if A brother is commanded to perform impossibilities (c. lxviii.) "If a brother is commanded to do anything that is difficult, or even impossible, let him receive the command with all meekness and obedience; meanwhile, should he see that he is utterly unequal to the task laid upon him, let him represent the matter to his superior calmly and respectfully, without pride resistance, or contra diction. If the superior, after hearing what he has to say, still insists on the execution of the command, let the junior be persuaded that it is for his spiritual good, and accordingly trusting in God's assistance, let him for His love undertake the work."
10 Labsanion. Cf. below, c. xxiii., where cherlock is mentioned again, together with other delicacies (!) of the Egyptians.
11 Cf. the Rule of S. Benedict, c. v.: "Those who choose to tread the path that leads to life eternal immediately quit their private occupations at the call of obedience, and, renouncing their own will so far as to cast away unfinished out of their hands whatever they may be occupied with, hasten to execute the orders of their superiors," etc.
12 Psiathium. The rush mats which served as a seat by day and a bed by night for the monks. See Book V. xxxv., and the Conferences I. xxiii.; XV. i, XVII iii, XVIII. xi. S. Jerome mentions it in his preface to the Rule of Pachomius as one of the very few articles contained in the cells of the monks of Tabenna. "They have nothing in their cells except a mat and what is described below: two `laebitonari0', a kind of garment without sleeves which the Egyptian monks use (the colobium, or shirt), one old one for sleeping or working, a linen garment and two hoods, a sheepskin, a linen girdle, shoes, and a staff."
13 Paxamatium, a biscuit. The word comes from the Greek pacama/dion, and is said to be derived from the name of a baker, Pacamo/j (see Liddell and Scott, c. v.) These biscuits formed an important part of the diet of the Egyptian monks, as we see from the Conferences, where they are often mentioned; eg, II. xi, xix., xxiv., xxvi.; XII. xv.; XIX. iv.
14 Ps. xvi. (xvii.) 4.
15 From this passage we gather that in Egypt two monks were often the joint occupants of a single cell. Cf. II. xii. and Conference XX. i., ii.
16 Many of these faults are noticed in the Rule of Pachomius as deserving censure e.g., unpunctuality at or carelessness in service (c. viii.ix.), breaking anything (c.cxxv.), murmuring (lxxxvii.), taking the hand of another (xliv.). So also in the Rule of S. Benedict (cc. xliii.-xlvi.) similar directions are given, while in c. xliv. the nature of the penance is more fully described. He who in punishment of a grievous fault has been excluded from the Refectory and the Church, shall lie prostrate at the door of the latter at the end of each office, and shall there remain in silence with his forehead touching the ground, until the brethren retiring from church have all walked over him. This penance he shall continue to perform till it be announced to him that he has made due satisfaction. When commended by the Abbot to appear before him, he shall go and cast him self at his feet and then at the feet of all the brethren, begging of them to pray for him. He shall then be admitted to the choir, if the Abbot so order, and shall take there whatever place he may assign him: but let him not presume to intone a Psalm, read a lesson or perform any similar duty, without the special permission of the Abbot. He shall, moreover, prostrate himself in his place in choir at the end of every office, until the Abbot tells him to discontinue this penance. Those who for light faults are excluded merely from the common table, shall make satisfaction in the church according as the Abbot shall direct, and shall continue to do so until he gives them his blessing and tells them that they have made sufficient atonement.
17 It is quite in keeping with what is here said by Cassian that in the Rule of Pachomius there is no mention of reading at meals, but only of the strict silence observed, so that anything wanted might not be asked for but only indicated by a sign (cc. xxx)., xxxiii.), while in the shorter Monastic Rules of S. Basil the custom of reading at meals is distinctly alluded to (Q. clxxx.). It is of course also ordered in most of the later monastic rules, e.g. that of Cesarius of Arles "ad Monachos" c. xlix., "ad Virgines" c. xvi.; that of S. Aurelian, c. xlix. 7 S. Isidore, c. x., and S. Benedict, c. xxxviii. The regulations in the last mentioned are as follows:- "A book should be read in the Refectory while the brethren are at meals. Let no one presume to read of his own accord; but let there be one appointed to perform that duty, who, commencing on Sunday, will read during the entire week. . . Profound silence shall be observed during meals, so that no voice save that of the reader may be heard. The brethren will so help each other to what is necessary as regards food and drink that no one may have occasion to ask for anything; should, however, anything be wanted, let it be asked for by sign rather than word. Let no one presume to make any observation either on what is being read or on any other subject, lest occasion be given to the enemy. The Prior however, should he think fit, may say a few words to edify the brethren."
18 So Pachomius (c. xxix.). While they are eating they shall sit in their right places and shall cover their heads.
19 Similarly we find in the Rule of Pachomius that no one is allowed to keep any food in his cell besides what he receives from the steward (c. lxxix.): and the Benedictine Rule also says: "Let no one presume to take any food or drink out of the regular hours of meals" (c. xliii). Cf. also the Rule of Pachomius cc. lxxv. and lxxviii., S. Basil's longer Monastic Rules Q. xv., Ayato brwma/twn para\ kairo/n; e0pi\ plei=ston th=j h9me/raj a0po/sitoj e!stw, the Rule of Aurelian (c. iii. ), that of Isidore (c. xiii.), etc.