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320 The Egyptian Contribution to Christianity
Roman Army was the one great model of efficient organization
then in sight: the community was divided into various 'houses',
each practising one trade and each under a prior, the whole
assembling for Vespers and the Night Office. It was left to a
monk's choice whether he shared in the communal meals or
drew rations of bread and salt to eat in his own cell. Every
August, at the Coptic New Year, the community assembled
and elected officers for the ensuing year. When necessary
the monks went out to work in the fields with the peasants of
the neighbourhood and food was sent out to them from the
monastery. Pakhom's rule had a wider influence than over the
monasteries associated with what might be called his order, and
many other monasteries adopted portions of his rule or imitated
his system without following the whole of his discipline. St.
Athanasius visited the monastery at Tabennesi and was warmly
welcomed as a defender of the faith. Pakhom's influence lay
chiefly in Upper Egypt, but branch houses existed as far away
as the Delta.*
Monastic history generally is a record of successive reforms
and relaxations, very much as is the history of the Church at large.
After Pakhom came a reformer in the person of Shenoute,
who died probably about 451. Nephew of the abbot of
Atripe near Akhmim, he was trained in his uncle's monastery
and succeeded him as abbot. In his day he enjoyed fame as a
vigorous administrator and drastic reformer of the existing
monasteries and convents. But his influence was confined to
the Coptic community and his name was hardly known to the
Greek-speaking clergy of Alexandria. Thus Shenoute's name
never appears in Western calendars, though they mention Paul
of Thebes, Antony, and Pakhom. Still he, as one of the leading
Egyptian abbots, attended the Council of Ephesus in 431. His
reforming activities were chiefly connected with the two great
monasteries known as 'the White Monastery' (Deir el-Abyad)
on the rising ground west of Sohag, and the 'Red Monastery'