A fourth-century monk who was head of the Pachomian Koinonia and author of the Liber Orsiesii. On his deathbed PACHOMIUS asked one of his disciples, Horsiesios, to go around and to ask the brothers whom they wished to become their father. The ancient brothers certainly wanted his disciple THEODORUS OF TABENNESE, but they did not want to give any name, and Pachomius appointed PETRONIUS (the Life of Pachomius known through the Bohairic version and several fragmentary Sahidic manuscripts; hereafter listed as SBo, 121; the first Greek Life of Pachomius, hereafter listed as G1, 114). Petronius, however, was a sick man, and when he died a few months later, he appointed Horsiesios as his successor (SBo 130; G1, 117).
Horsiesios’ nomination as the head of the whole Koinonia (the congregation of all monasteries founded by Pachomius) certainly did not please the ancient brothers. Although he was a relatively young member of the Koinonia, Pachomius had appointed him superior of the Monastery of Sheneset (Qasr al-Sayyad, near Nag Hammadi) a few years before, and that appointment had met some protest from the brothers.
Horsiesios was not a charismatic speaker like Pachomius and Theodorus, but he was a very humble and holy man, and he was able to win the acceptance of the brothers. Things went well enough for a few years, but after five years there was a strong movement of revolt fomented by a certain Apollonius, superior of Tmoushons (SBo 139; G1 128). Horsiesios, who had accepted his office only out of obedience, did not hesitate to step down for fear that souls might be lost because of him, for he had the unity of the Koinonia very much at heart. After spending a whole night in prayer, he called the ancient brothers and told them that Theodorus—at long last—would be their superior. Then he retired to the Monastery of Sheneset.
Toward the end of his eighteen years at the head of the Koinonia Theodorus, tired and somewhat discouraged, brought Horsiesios back to share his responsibilities with him (SBo 204; G1 145). And after the death of Theodorus in 368, Horsiesios was again in possession of “his” rank, to use the expression of the Life. He was a very good superior for several more years, until his death at some unknown date after 387 (SBo 208; G1 149).
Throughout the centuries the name of Horsiesios has been associated mostly with his most important work, his spiritual “Testament,” known through Saint JEROME’s translation under the title of Liber Orsiesii. Four letters of Horsiesios are also extant in Coptic, as are a few fragments of various instructions given to the monks.
The Liber Orsiesii is extant only in the translation made by Saint Jerome in 404. The book was written on the occasion of an internal crisis within the Pachomian Congregation, perhaps the one that led to the resignation of Horsiesios. The crisis had to do with the increasing wealth of the communities and its appropriation by individual monasteries or individual monks. Horsiesios reacted very strongly to the tendency, which appeared to him to undermine the whole reality of the community itself.
The Liber Orsiesii contains long enumerations of the duties and obligations of all the superiors at various levels, and because of that it has been called a “mirror of the superior.” Among the Pachomian literature, it is certainly the one writing in which we find the most complete and most articulate presentation of the Pachomian ideal of ascesis and community life.
Holy Scripture was very dear to Horsiesios, and his “Testament” contains a long series of quotations from almost all the books of the Old and New Testaments.
- Bacht, H. “Studien zum “Liber Orsiesii.'” Historisches Jahrbuch 77 (1958):98-124.
- . “. . . Vexillum crucis sequi (Horsiesius). Mönchtum als Kreuzesnachfolge.” Martyria—Leiturgia—Diakonia, pp. 149-62. Festschrift für H. Volk, Bischof von Mainz, zum 65. Geburtstag. Mainz, 1968.
- . Das Vermächtnis des Ursprungs. Studien zum Frühen Mönchtum 1. Wurzburg, 1972.
- Boon, A. Pachomiana latina. Règle et épîtres de s. Pachôme, épitre de s. Théodore et ‘Liber’ de s. Orsiesius. Texte latin de s. Jérôme. Bibliothèque de la Revue d’histoire écclésiastique 7. Louvain, 1932.
- Deseille, P. L’esprit du monachisme pachômien, suivi de la traduction française des Pachomiana latina par les moines de Solesmes. Spiritualité orientale 2. Bellefontaine, 1968.
- Elizalde, M. de. “Libro de nuestro Padre San Orsisio. Introducción y notas de Martin de Elizalde.” Cuadernos monásticos 4-5 (1967):173-244.
- Lefort, L. T. Oeuvres de s. Pachôme et de ses disciples. CSCO 159. Louvain, 1956.
- Orlandi, T. “Nuovi Testi copti pacomiani.” In Commandements du Seigneur et Libération évangélique, pp. 241-43. Studia Anselmiana 70. Rome, 1977.
- Quecke, H. “Eine Handvoll Pachomianischer Texte.” Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenländischen Gesellschaft Supp. 3, 1 (1977):221-29.
- Steidle, B., and O. Schuler. “Der ‘Obern-Spiegel’ im ‘Testament’ des Abtes Horsiesi (†nach 387).” Erbe und Auftrag 43 (1967):22-38. Veilleux, A. Pachomian Koinonia. Vol. 3, Instructions, Letters, and Other Writings of Saint Pachomius and His Disciples. Cistercian
- Studies Series 47. Kalamazoo, 1982.
- Vogüé, A. de. “Epîtres inédites d’Horsièse et de Théodore.” In Commandements du Seigneur et Libération évangélique, pp. 244-57. Studia Anselmiana 70. Rome, 1977.