The Life of Saint Pambo

Reading Butler’s Lives of the Saints, I come across a passage on St Pambo, an Egyptian monk (c.390) thought to be a disciple of St Antony. I was struck by the following passage:

“His life was typical of the desert monks: hard manual labour, long fasts and physical penance, and sustained periods of prayer. Pambo was especially noted for his silence and a reluctance to speak any more than was necessary, seeing in control of the tongue a basic first step towards a deeper spirituality; he is said to have meditated on this verse from the Psalms for six months: ‘I will watch how I behave, and not let my tongue lead me into sin’ (Ps. 39:1). On the other hand, he had a broader outlook than many of his colleagues in the desert and did not believe their way of life was necessarily the best; he settled an argument between to monks as to which was more perfect, becoming a monk or staying in the world and doing works of mercy, by saying: ‘Before God both are perfect. There are other roads to perfection besides being a monk.'” (18 July, Butler’s Lives of the Saints)

1 Comment

  1. I did research on the early desert saints, and Mary of Egypt in particular, some years ago, so particularly enjoyed this post on Pambo – not a name I was familiar with. What was fairly common, though, in the writings of the early desert fathers, was the debate about the relative merits (and problems) of the solitary ascetic life v. that of the coenobite or monk in a community. Pambo sounds quite enlightened; there were some pretty acrimonious views expressed from these rival factions.

    Liked by 1 person

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