ON PACHOMIUS AND CROCODILES
Your name means “big shouldered” and I can believe it, since I saw a depiction of you crossing the mighty Nile on the back of a crocodile. I don't know much about crocodiles – I'm sure many can tell me the difference between them and the alligators I saw in Florida – but I do know that I would not relish being astride either a crocodile or an alligator. So “big shouldered” seems to fit. Heroic. Strong. Able to bear more than most folk. Big shouldered people are those who would ride a croc, I guess. I'm not too sure about my own shoulders.
But of course it is not your crocodile-riding prowess which we celebrate, it is your wisdom. Wisdom, of course, is a she in Latin, and – chaste holy man though you were – I imagine you chasing after her with the intensity of a sailor on shore leave.
Wisdom you had in spades. Wisdom to know that only through prayer could one hope to find meaning. Wisdom to know that folk were stronger together than apart. Wisdom to know that the vicissitudes of the world could so swirl about so as to cause a weak person to drown, but that Christ would always see us to that other shore with safety.
Before you I only knew of the Egypt of mighty Pharaohs and grand monuments. You left no monuments of stone, of course; the unforgiving desert has long swallowed up any trace of you. But you left this desire for Wisdom, which is still amongst us, still living and breathing when those other monuments are just pock-marked fodder for tourists' photos. Your search for Wisdom inspired men and women who gathered together and inspired more men and women on and on until your search for Wisdom came to me, and I just had to chase after her too.
I'm not sure I'll ever be big-shouldered enough to ride a crocodile – or even an alligator. But I'll continue the chase that you began, and I'll try my darnedest to lead others in the search as well. And I have no doubt that we'll find her, Wisdom. Wisdom to know that only through prayer can one hope to find meaning. Wisdom to know that folk are stronger together than apart. Wisdom to know that the vicissitudes of the world can so swirl about so as to cause a weak person to drown, but that Christ will always see us to that other shore with safety.
Lead on, O big shouldered rider of crocodiles! I'm right behind you.