10. PSEUDO-MACARIUS


PLAN


I. THE AUTHOR & HIS WRITINGS
1) The author
2) Was he a Messalian?
3) His writings

II. HIS TEACHING
1) A cenobitic framework
2) Anthropology
a) Man
b) The spiritual combat
c) Humility
3) Christ and the Holy
a) Christ
b) The Holy Spirit
4) Prayer
5) The summit


I. THE AUTHOR AND HIS WRITINGS

1) THE AUTHOR

The anonymous author who was thought at first to be Macarius the Great, founder of Scete, was in fact a spiritual writer who lived in the region between Mesopotamia and eastern Asia- Minor in the second half of the fourth or in the beginning of the fifth century. The name of Symeon of Mesopotamia, a promotor of Messialianism, has been suggested because there are in these writings questionable opinions and ideas very close to Messalianism. The attribution to Symeon, however, rests on shaky premises. However it may be, Pseudo-Macarius is surely a profoundly spiritual person with a good knowledge of human nature. He was very well educated, had learnt much from his own milieu and from his reading and contacts with others. His writings reveal him as an imaginative person, with an artist's eye, who thinks pictorially rather than conceptually as he treats of the Bible, nature or society, but possessed of a very clear idea of the theology of the Trinity. He is clearly also a good teacher who can make sublime doctrine come alive. His rather large body of writings has had a great influence on posterity.

According to these writings, he was the head of communities of ascetics. There are indications which would lead us to believe that he practised a sort of ascetic exile. He seems to have some knowledge of Basil's writings as there are certain similarities in their works both in vocabulary and ideas; moreover, a text of Gregory of Nyssa seems to speak of Mesopotamian ascetics, "Like Abraham they have left country, family, and the whole world, and keep their eyes fixed on heaven.... their lips are vowed to silence... and they have a remarkable power over spirits." We have seen too that Gregory's Hypotyposis or De Instituto is a parallel version of Macarius' Great Letter. Probably Gregory's paraphrase was intended to put the writings of Macarius through the mill once more in order to distance it from Messalianism.

2) WAS MACARIUS A MESSALIAN?

We have already met the Messalians in connection with the Apophthegmata (the Euchites), and in the chapter on Basil. But it is a fact that there are in the writings of Macarius similarities with Messalian propositions which had already been condemned by the Synod of Side (between 380 and 400) and subsequently by the Council of Ephesus. In Pseudo-Macarius' exchanges with the brothers, which he conducted, discussions bearing on Messalian ideas have come to light. But Macarius is far removed from the crude deviations of the sect as reported by Theodoret and obtained by trickery from the old man Adelphios: "Holy baptism is of no use to those to whom it is administered; persevering prayer alone is able to put to flight the demon dwelling in us. When the demons have been expelled by prayer, the Holy Spirit then comes and manifests his presence visibly and to the senses, freeing the body from the movement of the passions and completely liberating the soul, which is no longer inclined towards evil. It is no longer necessary thereafter to fast in order to tame the body nor to submit to guidance in the way of righteousness. The person who has obtained this gift is not only freed from the uncontrolled movements of the body but also sees the future clearly and with his eyes looks on the divine Trinity." (Ecclesiastical History IV, 10)

Macarius is far from such extravagance; in fact he often corrects extremist Messalians. Certainly there are in his works some Messalian tendencies, but they are mild and, even if textual coincidences may be found, these must be read in the general context of his whole work, which is balanced. Macarius' position is everywhere nuanced, moderate, and he acted as a moderating influence within the Messalian movement as a whole.

3) HIS WRITINGS

Macarius' writings consist of some one hundred discourses or homilies dispersed in four large Greek collections and one Arab collection, but the greater part of his letters appear in more than one collection at once. Collection II, the Fifty Homilies, is the best known. The "Great Letter", which we have already mentioned is the first item in Collection I and in Collection IV. Having already dealt with Gregory's Hypotyposis,, a repeat of the "Great Letter", we shall give in the Texts only extracts from the Homilies.

 

II. MACARIUS' DOCTRINE

Immediately on opening the works of Macarius, one is struck by three rather characteristic features:

Ž His insistence on evil as a present entity which one must fight against; whence the theme of spiritual combat present throughout. In affirming the liberty of the soul, Macarius is opposed to Manicheism, but he has been influenced by the movement all the same and, like the Messalians, he is obsessed by evil.

Ž Secondly, his insistence on prayer directed towards Christ and towards the Spirit.

Ž Thirdly, characteristic of his writings is the place held by the Spirit. This links him with the Syrians, above all when he speaks of the Spirit as 'Mother'. We shall take these points up again, illustrating them by the texts.

1) A CENOBITIC FRAMEWORK

The dotrine of Pseudo-Macarius is set within a loosely cenobitic framework. Like Basil, he prefers the word 'Christian' or 'brother' to that of 'monk'. Charity is the reason why living in harmony is expected of the 'brothers'. They separate themselves from the world and renounce marriage: for Macarius these are two synonymous expressions which have a spiritual finality. The organisation of the community seems quite flexible; it depended on the needs of each of the brothers, who differed in age, temperament, experience and spiritual gifts. Each had to co-operate according to his abilities for the good of all (Text 1). We can surmise from this fine text, which remains valid for all time, that for certain brothers in Macarius' community prayer doubtless had a preponderant role but they took advantage of it to look down on the rest.

The text goes on: "What is more important than all else is constancy in prayer." But Macarius does not forget that interior renunciation is the condition of prayer; he goes on: "We ought to engage in the fight and make war on our thoughts." Elsewhere he shows that we ought to renounce our souls by handing ourselves over completely to God, which in practice is done through obedience: to be "like a redeemed slave". (Great Letter)

Homily 56 also is devoted to the monastic life. Macarius begins by giving the two meanings of the word 'monk': to be alone exteriorly, and to be alone interiorly. "Let his mind itself become monkish, remaining alone before God, and no longer letting in evil thoughts." He then affirms that the purification of heart that that supposes, springs from man's free choice and for that one needs to learn the meaning of: "Take up your cross and follow me." There follow the subjects dear to the Desert Fathers: patience, amerimna, nepsis, which enable us to attain that prayer which will bring us charity. He ends with a description of the ups and downs in the life of grace (Text 2).

Homily III, 10:4 underlines the serious nature of the consecrated life. It is not just a question of wearing a habit, but of acquiring a new heart, without which we cannot become divinised (Text 3).

2) ANTHROPOLOGY

a) Man

Of course, we find traditional ideas from Origen in Macarius' anthropology: man is made up of three parts: body, soul and spirit (Text 4). He is created in the image and likeness of God, and Macarius takes up again the principle of homonymy developed by the Alexandrine: there are two men in every man, the exterior man and the interior man, each having its own meaning. For Macarius, the first is the 'old man', the second the 'new man'. Like Origen also, to designate the principal faculty of the soul, he uses either the word 'intellect', or the word 'heart' in the biblical sense, especially Collection II. In speaking of the body, Macarius is opposed to Manichean tendencies affirming that the body is not evil in itself: it is "the lovely tunic of the soul" which should take care not to tear it with the thorns of worry or scorch it with the fires of lust (II,4:3-4) destined to be transfigured.

Created in the image and likeness of God, man has kinship then with him, as the Cappadocians had noted (Text 5). It is this which constitutes man's dignity (Text 6). "Be conscious of your dignity" is an exclamation like that which will burst from the heart of St. Leo later, but is already found elsewhere: "Recognise that you are a noble creature, O man, recognise your dignity and your worth: you are a brother of Christ, a friend of the King, bride of the heavenly bridegroom." (II 27:1). Yet there is nothing in common between the nature of God and the nature of man (III 26:8, see below).

But man has fallen, Adam first and we afterwards (Text 7). The rest of the text shows that Christ has come to restore man's lost image: "He renews and remakes a heavenly image and brings forth a new soul. Thus Adam recovers his sway over death and his lordship of creation." As with the Greek Fathers, the Incarnation is the instrument of our salvation, for in assuming our nature, in taking our body, the Saviour has blended them with the Holy Spirit so that our nature might receive "the heavenly soul" (II 36:6). Salvation then is obtained through the contact of the divinity with the humanity. By his body which came into contact with death, Christ-God destroyed death: "It is by means of a dead body that our enemy was put to death" (II 52:2). But we have to co-operate with this salvation. First, by believing in order to be healed (Text 8), then by weeping in order to receive the Spirit (Text 9). (See also III 26:3,5, below).

                                       HOMILY II, 5 : THE TRUE CHRISTIAN

1-3 People in the world are complex beings, troubled by ceaseless and unquiet thoughts, by dread, by fear, by unease and by their own cravings.

4-5 On the contrary, after many a struggle and after a long time, Christians do achieve stability, freedom from agitation. They are at peace.

6 The dew of the Spirit has found its way in, their heart has been smitten by love for Christ, the King of heaven. Straining towards him, they free themselves from all love of the world, break every earthly tie.

7 But they are few who break every tie with the world in this way.

8-9 To do it, they have to renounce their own will, renounce themselves.

10 For our love is what weighs us down.

11 If we love what is earthly and fleshly, our love keeps us chained, preventing us from taking flight towards God.

12 On the contrary, the person who directs all his love towards God and renounces himself, comes through all difficulties and trials.

13 For our love is what weighs us down. It is a burden, or it is light according to what we love: the things of heaven or the things of earth.

14-17 Different examples show that renunciation, self-stripping contribute to our salvation.

18 Conclusion: love God alone, strip oneself of all earthly love.

19 This is why asceticism is necessary, whereas we would prefer the rewards without having to make the effort.

20 Within trials, within sufferings borne with patience and in faith, are hidden our glory and the restoration of our heavenly inheritance.

21 By means of the spiritual combat, the practice of the virtues and of faith, we build ourselves a heavenly house to replace that of our body. It is the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us which brings this about.

22 Let us struggle on then so as not to be found naked when we shall have put off our body but, through our sharing in the Holy Spirit, be reclothed with the treasures we are garnering now. The trees which are covered once more with leaves and flowers in the spring are an image of Christians at the resurrection.

23 This is why April is the most important month for the true Christian. It is the time of resurrection when our bodies will be glorified by the power of the Holy Spirit who already dwells in them.

24 Moses prefigured the glory with which the Holy Spirit will clothe the bodies of the saints.

25 In the resurrection we shall have the wings of the Holy Spirit to bear us whithersoever the Spirit wills.

26 Whence the benefit of asceticism which brings about our sharing in the glory and holiness of the Spirit.

 

b) The spiritual combat

The spiritual combat finds a place in this falleness of man redeemed by Christ, for Christ himself had to fight to redeem sin (Text 10). Macarius still depends on Origen for this idea of the spiritual combat, present everywhere in his work. But if in Origen man could, by reason of his freedom, consent either to the pull of the flesh or to that of the Spirit, in Macarius who reifies evil, man is poised between grace and evil; his free-will will make him incline towards the one or the other. Man then must do violence to himself (Text 11). Discernment is necessary to carry on this fight (Text 12). If a person fights to the best of his ability, if he does violence to himself, God will make his efforts fruitful (Text 13). Homily 5, an outline of which we give on the previous page, stresses the role of asceticism and of the spiritual combat in the life of the 'christian'.

c) The virtues, humility

The spiritual combat is a factor of growth, and opens up the possibility of overcoming vice and acquiring virtue. All the virtues hold together - a stoic conception prevalent in Basil, and also found in Macarius (Text 14). Virtue is the opposite of vice. As in the Desert Fathers, the most difficult vice to overcome is pride, so very special attention is given to the virtue of humility. Macarius often comes back to it. Humility makes good sense (Text 15). It is characteristic of the Christian (Text 16). Humility often finds expression in tears, which are the nourishment of the soul and the sign of its desire (Text 17). A fine text (Text 18), sums up rather well the process to be undergone: faith, obedience through asceticism, the spiritual combat, should culminate in humility.

 

3) CHRIST AND THE HOLY SPIRIT

These two are generally closely linked in the thought of Macarius.

a) Christ

We spoke above of the Incarnation. If Christ has come to save us, it is in order to bring us the Spirit, who will mould us into his likeness. Macarius' language is not strictly theological even if at the beginning of the Great Letter, he makes a profession of faith that is close to that of Constantinople (381) and on occasion expresses a Christology that is accurate and carefully phrased (I,10:4). What he aims to do is awaken the love of the Saviour and the desire to imitate him. Indeed, Christ became incarnate and 'mingled' with his creatures so that we might imitate him (Text 19). This Incarnation is reproduced now in those who seek Christ (Text 20). It is clear from this text that in order to speak of Christ, who adapts himself to the needs of each, Macarius takes up the 'epinoļai' (thought) of Origen. Thus is Christ born spiritually in the soul (Text 21). Through his Passion he will seek out death, dispute with it and snatch the souls it holds in its grasp (III, 11). This Passion too is offered for our imitation (Text 22).

b) The Holy Spirit

We are struck, on reading the Homilies, by the place accorded to the Holy Spirit and his relationship with Christ. This feature links Macarius with the Syrians. The images used to describe the action of the Spirit are manifold. One occurring most frequently is that of wings. "The souls of the saints possess these wings even now to enable their minds to fly up towards heavenly thoughts" (II,5:25). At the resurrection they will "cover and clothe the naked bodies anew and take them up to heaven" (id.). Another image with a platonic flavour: "Holy souls are impelled and guided by the Spirit of Christ, who holds the reins" (II,1:9). The Spirit is also heavenly nourishment, salt and heavenly yeast (II,24), heavenly treasure, heavenly light. He is a garment, for the soul is poor and naked when it is bereft of communion with the Spirit (II,18:3 & elsewhere). This good Spirit and friend of men is at once dew (II,5:6) and a fire which sweeps away the thorns (II,15:53).

It is he that teaches us true prayer: he collects our scattered thoughts, lifts them up to heaven, becoming as it were the wings of the soul (III,18:2). He teaches us humility and comes to pray in us (Text 23). It is in the Spirit that divine life unfolds; he assimilates us to Christ, etches in us the image of Christ (II,30:4-5). Thus communion with the Holy Spirit is sometimes union with the Spirit, sometimes a nuptial union with Christ in the Spirit. It is he that wounds the soul with love for Christ.

We give here by way of example an outline of Homily 18, "The Treasure of the Spirit".

 

                                HOMILY II, 18: THE TREASURE OF THE SPIRIT


1 Christ and the Spirit are a treasure within, enabling us to practise all the virtues and thus increase our spiritual riches.

2 Let us beg God to give us the treasure that is his Spirit, without whom we are needy and naked.

3 The possession of the Lord, this true treasure, enables us to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, to accomplish all justice, to observe all the commandments.

4 Example of a rich person who has all the resources to give a banquet, and of a poor person who has to borrow everything, pay it back afterwards and, when he has done so, finds himself as poor as ever.

5 Also, those who are richly endowed with the Holy Spirit, draw upon their own wealth to do good to others. But the person less well endowed borrows from the spiritually wealthy person and, after he has communicated these goods, remains poor and naked. He is neither happy nor filled with the joy of the Spirit.

6 We ought, then, to pray God to let us find his own riches in our heart: the true treasure which is Christ together with the vigour of the Spirit. After having found it, we shall try to be of help to others by explaining the heavenly mysteries.

7-9 Those who bear Christ within, giving them light and repose, are guided by the Holy Spirit, by grace working within them. The action of the Holy Spirit in the soul is described under the following images: a banquet, repose of the bride within the arms of the bridegroom, angelic lightness, divine intoxication, the gift of tears, intense joy, ardour in the combat, repose, possession of wisdom.

10 The person who is united with the Spirit becomes all light, all eye, all spirit, all joy, all gentleness, all happiness, all charity, all compassion, all goodness and all sweetness.

One characteristic of Macarius with regard to the Spirit, is to present him as a Mother, which demonstrates still more his dependence on Syrian spirituality. In several places in Collection II, he depicts the Christian as a child (15:26) and even as a quite small child (31:4; 45:7) calling for his mother (Text 24).

But in Collection III, this mother is the Holy Spirit. The subject is treated at length in Homily 27. After a passage very like Text 24, in which he presents the soul as a very small child who can do nothing much but cry for his mother, Macarius continues (Text 25).


4) PRAYER

According to this last text, prayer is a cry to God, therefore the expression of desire. But we know enough of Macarius now, his insistence on asceticism, the spiritual combat, to be sure that in his scheme of things prayer will not be isolated from good works. In his Great Letter, Macarius presents it as being the crown of the virtues: "The crown of all good zeal and the summit of all virtuous practices is perseverance in prayer, thanks to which we can each day obtain the other virtues by imploring them of God". This cry to God which is prayer, Text 25 explains - and the same thing is found in quite a few other places in the Homilies - attracts the Spirit, who gives his grace in order to help us practise the virtues. Macarius also opposes the extremist Messalians who consider that prayer is sufficient and so dispenses with the works of virtue (Text 26). He also reproves those among them who think that prayer should be externalised by loud utterances. He shows them, on the contrary, that such externalisation should be excluded as it can only disturb other people, and that the essence of prayer resides in one's inner attention (Text 27). In the next text, Macarius distinguishes between two kinds of recollection, one that might be called active, the result of personal effort, and the other, the reward of such effort, brought about passively by God's action. We have already seen this in Text 13; the same idea is taken up again here (Text 28).

Everything can be a help to prayer: the acknowledgement of our ills and our poverty (Text 29) just as much as the contemplation of natural reality (Text 30). To the purified soul all things are pure and all things lead to God (Text 31). Then, continual prayer - the continual remembrance of God - is reached (Text 32).

Once purified, the soul becomes fit to receive within itself the prayer of the Spirit. It is a higher degree of prayer, therefore, that Macarius distinguishes from 'natural' prayer and which he calls 'true prayer'. In it the Spirit teaches the soul the mysteries of God directly (Text 23).

5) THE SUMMIT

Macarius speaks with an air of personal assurance when he describes these high degrees of mystical union (Text 33). He explains in Homily 17 that the friends of the king, used to the customs of the royal palace, are not discomforted when they become kings. "Just so Christians who are being prepared to reign in the age to come, will not be discomforted since they have come to know the secrets of grace beforehand" (4). He goes on (Text 34).

But perfection is not completion: these sublime graces whet the appetite of the soul even more, for God is infinite while man is a finite being who can never exhaust the Godhead. The theme of epectasis dear to Gregory of Nyssa, is also found in Macarius (Text 35). There is no worse danger than saying, "It is enough, we now need nothing more." For "the Lord is infinite and unattainable and Christians do not venture to say that they have attained him, but remain humble, seeking him day and night" (II,26:17). Or again (Text 36).

This is because we are still on earth and this perfection attained here by the saints is but a foretaste of what will be granted then when, after the resurrection, "the risen body will be covered with a new and divine garment and nourished with heavenly food" (II,12:14).

 

We give on the next page the third outline of a Homily, taken this time from Collection III, in which we find quite a few of the topics singled out in this course.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Mason, A.J. Fifty Homilies of St Macarius the Egyptian S.P.C.K. 1921

Maloney, George S.J. Pseudo-Macarius: The Fifty Homilies and the Great Letter. CWS. Paulist Press

 

                           HOMILY III, 26: THE DESTINY OF THE CHRISTIAN


1 Christian hope does not look to this earth. Its object is greater than the earth, greater
than heaven. It gives itself to the pursuit of the Good and the Beautiful.

2 The Good, the Beautiful, is the Lord, the inheritance and the life of the Christian.
Before him, man is free. God asks of him faith and love.

3 God alone can free us from sin. He frees from sin those who believe in him and love
him. To believe in the Lord, to love him, depends on you.
Example of a sick person who, though unable to move, is on the look out for the doctor.
So also, even though the soul can do little, it can always call on God.
4 Another example of a sick person, but seen from a different angle: just as a sick person,
laid low by fever, cannot work on the land, so "the one who has been judged worthy of
the heavenly fire of the Spirit of life and who is possessed by the power of the divine fire,
is hindered from giving himself to the works of sin, drawn as he is by love and affection
for the divine Spouse."
Greatness of the soul: at once in the body and outside the body, it is destined to be the dwelling of God, and is made in his image.

5 Return to the idea developed in 3, but taking a prisoner as example. The soul is in a prison. As a prisoner can only cry out for someone to open up for him, the soul can only cry to the Lord and wait for the advent of his grace.

6 When the soul clings to the Lord, the Lord "takes pity on it, loves it and clings to it."
"The soul becomes one spirit with the Lord, one only alloy, one only thought."
The soul has entered into possession of the Lord in heaven, the Lord has taken possession of the soul on earth.

7 The greatness of the soul, created by God to be a bride who can be united with him and
become one spirit with him.

8 Nevertheless, what a difference between the Creator and the creature! And yet, in his love and infinite mercy, God has willed that we be united with him, partners with him, that we be his bride, noble and pure, and destined endlessly to rejoice in his presence.

 

 

10. PSEUDO-MACARIUS


REVISION

 

1) Why do we speak of 'Pseudo'-Macarius? Who was he?

2) What are the characteristic features of his doctrine?

3) In what context should this doctrine be situated?

4) Note the main features of his anthropology.

5) Which virtue, among the others, does he most emphasise?

6) What is special to him in his teaching on the Holy Spirit?

7) What is the place of the Holy Spirit in prayer?

10. PSEUDO-MACARIUS


 

TEXTS

 

1. II, 3:1-2

The brothers should live together in great love whatever they are doing, whether praying, reading the Scriptures, or working at some task, in order to obtain that mutual charity which is the foundation of all. God will then be pleased with their pursuits and those who pray, those who read and those who work can build each other up reciprocally in sincerity and simplicity....

The brothers should be loving and cheerful towards each other as they go about their tasks. Let the one who is working say of the brother who is praying: "The treasure which my brother gathers belongs to me too, as it is held in common." For his part, let the brother who is praying say of the brother who is reading, "The profit which my brother draws from his reading enriches me as well." And the brother who is working should say in his turn, "The service which I render is a help to everybody." For just as the members of the body though many form but one body and help each other, while each is engaged in its own task - just as the eye sees for the whole body, the hand acts for the other members, just as the foot walks sustaining them all, so ought the brothers to behave towards each other.

Let him who is praying not judge the person who is working, saying, "Why is he not praying?" He who is working should not judge the person praying, saying, "He is lingering over his prayer while I am working." Let him who is serving not judge the others, but let each one, whatever he is doing, do it for the glory of God. The person reading will experience joy and love for the person praying if he says, "He is praying for me." And he who is praying will think of the one working, "What he does, he does for the common good."

2. II, 56:7

Sometimes through the effect of grace his soul rejoices interiorly, for the Saviour can be both thoroughly demanding and kind. But often, too, consolation goes and grace allows Satan to buffet him. Satan rouses his evil passions, makes him sleepy, subject to acedia and atony (out of sorts) and lots of other things that cannot be described. All this happens, so that in his pain and sorrow he may call on the Lord with steadfast faith and tire himself out in prayer. Then once more, if it sees him persevere and truly seeking God's mercy, grace frees him from all vexations of the enemy. Then it makes his heart merry, as was indeed intended, and purifies it of all the guile of the enemy. Indeed, it desires that man should not obtain grace except at the price of struggle and effort; it does not want a man to experience only sweetness so that his mind may not become lazy but rather vigilant and committed to the war against Satan.

3. III, 10:4

You will find those who have renounced the world, but whose soul is sick... There are many who wear a habit exteriorly but their understanding is weakened, and they wander aimlessly for ever. They need to acquire a new heart, a heavenly understanding in the interior man, a divine soul within the soul, a body in the body, so that they may become a twofold being. You give your trust: trust will be given you in return; you love: you will be loved in return; you acknowledge God: he will acknowledge you in return; for over and above his nature, man receives a reality which is foreign to him, a good that is heavenly, and he becomes a twofold being.

 

 

4. II, 32:6

Man was created in the image and likeness of God; he has two eyes, two eyebrows, two hands, two feet. If it should happen that he only has but one eye, one hand, one foot, he is incomplete. If a bird has only one wing, it cannot fly. It is the same with human nature: if it is not united with the heavenly nature and in fellowship with it, it is not what it ought to be; it remains naked and defective, reduced to its own measure, and full of uncleanness. Is not the soul called precisely the temple and dwelling-place of God, and the spouse of the King? Indeed it is said, "I will dwell with them and walk with them." This is why God was pleased to come down from the holy heavens and assume your rational nature, assume your flesh which was taken from the earth and mingle them with his own divine Spirit, so that you, yes, you, earthy as you are, should receive a heavenly soul.

And when your soul enters into communion with the Spirit and the heavenly soul penetrates your own, you are in God a perfect man, his co-heir and son.

5. II, 45:5

God created the heavens and the earth, the sun and the moon, the waters, fruit-bearing trees and living things of all kinds. But in none of them does God find rest. The whole of creation is subject to him, but he has not established his throne in it nor entered into union with it. His delight has been only in man. He has entered into communion with him and in him he finds his rest. Do you see now the kinship of God with man and man with God? This is why the wise and prudent, who have surveyed the whole range of creatures, fail to find their rest save in the Lord and why the Saviour took his delight in none of these creatures save only man.

6. II, 15:43-44

Christians know that the soul is more precious than all created things, for man alone has been created in the image and likeness of God. Look at the heavens, how great they are! And the earth, and all the great and precious things it contains! Nevertheless man is more precious than they, for God's goodness has been reserved for him alone. And yet, the monsters of the sea, the mountains, the wild beasts appear outwardly to be greater than man. Be aware, then, of your dignity. See how precious you are whom God has placed above the angels in coming himself to help and redeem you.

God and his angels came to save you. The King, the Son of the King, held council with his Father, and the Word of God was sent, clothed with human flesh, his divinity hidden, so that like might be saved by like, and he gave his life on the cross. Such is God's love for men. He who is immortal chose to be crucified for you. See, how "God has so loved the world as to give his only Son for it." "How with him, will he not give us everything?" The soul, then, is great indeed. What value it has in the eyes of God! For God and his angels seek its fellowship with them and in their kingdom!

7. II, 11:5

Adam had been created pure by God in order that he should serve him, while the other creatures had been given to him for his service. He was indeed appointed king and lord of all creatures. When the evil word approached and conversed with him, he did not at first entertain it except outwardly with his ears, but then it penetrated into his heart and took possession of his whole self. When he was thus reduced to captivity, the whole of creation which served him and was subject to him, became captive with him. Through him death came to reign over every soul; through his disobedience the image of God in him was completely effaced.

8. II, 20:8

If the Lord came on earth and was so concerned for bodies destined to corruption, how much more concerned must he have been for the immortal soul created in his likeness? It is because of our lack of faith, because we draw back, because we do not love him with all our heart and do not truly believe in him, that we have not obtained spiritual healing and salvation. Let us believe in him, then, let us really draw near to him so that he may speedily bring about true healing in us.

9. II, 20:1

If a person be despoiled of the divine and heavenly garment, that is to say, the power of the Spirit, let him weep and implore the Lord so as to receive from heaven the spiritual garment with which to cover his denuded soul with the divine energy. For he who does not wear the garment of the Spirit is covered with the great shame of his disreputable passions.

10. I, 55;3

Let us be like the anvil which does not yield under the hammer, no trace of softness, carelessness or boredom under the blows of affliction; if we are struck, let us overcome our adversary by patience. For our Saviour went through the world under the rain of blows, insults, persecution, mockery and spit; finally, impious men subjected him to the vile punishment of death on a cross. He bore it all for our salvation, leaving us a living example so that those who really believe in him and would become co-heirs with him might advance on the same way of temptation, affliction and death. Through great suffering, through dying finally on the cross, he emerged the victor. Crucified, he has crucified and, dying, he has condemned and put to death sin committed in the flesh. He has destroyed the hostile powers.

If we endure with alacrity and courage every infliction and assault by the Evil One, 'even unto death', then we too shall overcome the adversary through our faith, patience and hope in the Lord; once proved worthy, we shall be set free. We shall be filled with the holiness of the Spirit and become heirs of eternal life, which comes from him.

11.53:15-16

The person who would truly be a Christian must submit to toil and a struggle, not of the flesh but of the mind, against his thoughts. With all his strength of will he must accustom himself to rest in thoughts that are good and pure, to direct his mind to what is right, at every moment awaiting in faith the visit of the Spirit. By means of such a struggle, he will arrive at purification so that he can turn to his own edification whatever he sees in the world, bringing pure thoughts to bear on everything....

He that would always escape the thoughts suggested by the Evil One should be sure to provide himself with a shelter and refuge in the Lord, ceaselessly keeping in his heart the thought of him and trusting in him. Thus he will combat the evils which overwhelm us, whether they be from the external world or from the evil powers within, and altogether get rid of bad habits or sinful dispositions. Through such combat, while holding on to their hope in God, have the Fathers won his favour.

12. II, 4:1

Those who would lead a strictly Christian life should above all concentrate all their attention and energy on exercising the soul's faculty of understanding and discernment. It is in acquiring a sure grasp of good and evil, in distinguishing always between pure nature and those passions contrary to nature, that we shall find it possible to lead a straightforward and upright life. Using the faculty of discernment as a kind of eye, we shall be able to live without getting bound or mixed up with evil suggestions; we shall then be judged worthy of receiving divine gifts and become worthy of the Lord.

13. II, 19:3

When any one draws near to the Lord, he must at first do violence to himself in order to accomplish what is right even if his heart is not in it, and always hope for God's mercy with invincible faith. Let him do violence to himself in order to love without love, to be gentle without gentleness, to be compassionate and merciful; let him do violence to himself in order to bear contempt, to remain patient when scorned, not to be angry when he is held of no account or disgraced, according to the saying: "Beloved, do not seek revenge." Let him do violence to himself in order to pray without the ability to pray spiritually.

When God sees how he is struggling and doing violence to himself, although his heart is not in it, he will give him true spiritual prayer, true charity, true gentleness, sincere compassion, true goodness - in a word, he will fill him with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

14. II, 40:1

About which activity to prefer or put first, know this, beloved: all the virtues stand together and form a spiritual chain, as it were. The one is linked to the other, prayer to charity, charity to joy, joy to gentleness, gentleness to humility, humility to the will to serve, the will to serve to hope, hope to faith, faith to obedience, obedience to simplicity. The same thing is true for the opposing camp in which the vices stand together no less: hate is linked to anger, anger to pride, pride to vain glory, vain glory to weak faith, weak faith to hardness of heart, hardness of heart to negligence, negligence to soft living, soft living to boredom, boredom to want of patience, want of patience to the love of pleasure.

15. I, 54:5,3

If God wished to enquire into and draw up a balance sheet, nothing would be found there to man's credit. The wealth and all the goods of the world, thanks to which each one can do some good, all these belong to God. Who has made the earth and all that is in it? Who created the body and who made the soul? If God wills it, the earth causes the plants to grow; if he does not so will, nothing grows. If he wills it, you enjoy good health; if he does not so will, you are not well. Why, then, should man take credit to himself for this state of things, or be proud of it or pretend to be something? Everything is in God's hand; man possesses everything because he has received it; he possesses it as a gift. Being itself he possesses as a gift, and to a large extent he finds his peace thus: the soul acknowledging God with a true and enlightened understanding and a sure knowledge, fully informed by faith, and having learnt how things really stand, attributes to God everything good which it does, all the labours it endures for him and all that it understands and knows; it refers everything to him, does not think that it has achieved anything whatsoever but ascribes to God, itself, and all that it has.

16. II, 15:17

If you see someone standing tall and puffed up with pride because of graces received, note well that, even if he works miracles and raises the dead, if he has not got a humble and lowly opinion of himself, is not poor in spirit and despised, he is a prey to evil without even realising it. In spite of his miracles, he is not to be trusted.

For it is a mark of the Christian who is pleasing to God to try and remain hidden from the eyes of men and, even if he has all the treasures of the King, to conceal them and say often: "They do not belong to me; someone else has confided them to me and will reclaim them when he feels like it."

But if someone says, "I am well-off, I have all I need; my fortune is made, I need nothing more", he is not a Christian but deluded and a tool of the devil.

Once one has savoured God, desire for him becomes insatiable. The more one tastes, the more one eats, the more one is hungry. Those who have experienced this burn with a passionate and wholly spontaneous love towards God. The more they strive to progress and advance, the more they think thmselves poor, indigent and wanting everything. They say: "I am not worthy even to have the sun shining on me." Humility like this is the mark of the Christian.

 

 

17. II, 25:8

The tears which spring from a really great affliction and from an anguished heart, which is both in possession of the truth and burns with interior ardour, are nourishment for the soul provided by the Bread which came down from heaven. This bread was shared with Mary, as she sat in tears at the feet of the Saviour, as he himself testified: "Mary has chosen the better part which shall not be taken away from her." What precious pearls these blessed tears! What docility and eagerness to hear! What courage and wisdom! What keenness of spirit, inspiring a passionate love of the immaculate Spouse! What burning desire of the soul for the God the Word! What intimate communion of bride and heavenly bridegroom!

18. II, 19:1

He who would draw near to the Lord, would be deemed worthy of eternal life, and become the dwelling-place of Christ, would be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to bear the fruits of this same Spirit and obey purely and without reproach the precepts of Christ, should in the first place firmly believe in the Lord, then commit himself without reserve to his commandments, completely renouncing the world so that his mind may be no longer occupied with anything visible. He ought always to persevere in prayer, continually on the watch, in confident expectation of the Lord, for his coming and his help and always keeping this as his one goal in life.

He ought further to do violence to himself because of the sin in him, in order to accomplish all that is right and observe the commandments of the Lord. Let him then be humble before all others, see himself as the meanest and worst of all, not seek honour, praise or glory from men as the Gospel says, but have continually before his eyes nothing but the Lord and his commandments and desire to please none but him in complete meekness of heart, as the Saviour says, "Learn of me because I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

19. II, 4:9-10

The infinite, inaccessible, uncreated God, in his gentle, infinite and inconceivable goodness, took a body to himself. He became small, as it were, with respect to his inaccessible glory, so that he might be united with his invisible creatures, I mean the angels, and the souls of the saints, to enable them to share in the life of the godhead. By nature the angel, the demon, the human soul, though subtle certainly, are all bodies, but in their substance, properties and form, they are subtle bodies in keeping with the subtlety of their nature, while our bodies in keeping with their substance are dense bodies. The soul, which is subtle, lays hold of the eye by which it sees, the ear by which it hears, the tongue by which it speaks, the hands - in a word, the whole body. Grasping the body thus, the soul is mingled with it and through it performs all its vital activities.

In the same way, the infinite and incomprehensible God, in his gentle goodness made himself small and, coming down from his inaccessible glory, took the members of our body which he likewise laid hold of. In love and meekness, he changed himself, took a body, mingles with holy souls who are pleasing and faithful to him, grasps them and in the words of St Paul becomes one spirit with them.

20. idem, 11

In his indescribable kindness, his meek and incomprehensible goodness, He who is as he wills and what he wills, can transform himself, become small and, taking a body, assimilate himself to holy, worthy and faithful souls to enable them to see the Unseen and to touch the Untouchable by means of the subtle nature of the soul. In this way these souls become conscious of his sweetness and, through the experience of his kindness, revel in the rays of an unspeakable delight.

When he wills, he becomes a fire which burns up all evil passions coming from outside, as it is said: "Our God is a consuming fire." When he wills, he becomes inexpressible and unimaginable rest so that the soul may rejoice in the divine repose. When he wills, he becomes joy and peace to warm and coddle the soul.

21. III,28:2,1.

Let the wise virgin realise that she must bear Christ within herself as Mary did; as Mary bore him in her womb, you ought to bear him in your heart. You will then be able to sing and understand the psalms, saying, "So are we in your presence: we have conceived, we writhe as if we were giving birth; we have not given the spirit of salvation to the earth." (LXX).

22. III, 6:4

You that live in poverty, draw down the wealth of heaven thanks to this very poverty... In penury or in poverty do not lose your ardour. Keep as your model and as your goal the Lord, who trod the same path.

When you are tired and your body is in pain, remember the Lord's body, how he was struck by Pilate and how he suffered moving from place to place. When you have no roof over your head, remember that the Lord of creation when he was here on earth, said, "Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head." When you walk, remember that the feet of the Lord were covered with dust all the time that he was on earth, except once when he was seated on an ass in order to fulfil the prophecy. When your eyes fill with tears, remember that the Lord wept for your fall, imploring the Father with cries and tears that you might escape death. When you are mocked, think of the blows and the spitting that were his lot and hold fast in your humiliation. Likewise reflect, when you lie on the ground, that it is no harder than the crown of thorns that was placed on his head.

23. II, 19:9

The Spirit himself will teach us that true prayer which is at present beyond our power even when we force ourselves to it. He will teach us true humility, which we are incapable of now even by doing violence to ourselves. The same goes for compassion of heart, gentleness and all the commandments of the Lord. He will teach us to observe them in truth without difficulty or duress, for the Spirit is able to fill us with his gifts. If we obey in this way the precepts of God, through the action of his Spirit who alone knows the will of the Lord, if this Spirit renders us perfect in him and if he is perfected in us, purifying us from all spot and stain of sin, he will present our soul to Christ like a beautiful bride, pure and blameless. Then shall we rest in God, in his kingdom, and God will rest in us through endless ages.

 

24. II, 46:3

If a small child is unable to do anything for itself, unable even to go towards its mother on its own feet, it will at least roll itself over continually, weeping and crying as it searches for her. The mother will have compassion on him, delighting to see her infant trying to get to her with such a determined effort and so much anguish. Since the child cannot go to her, it is she herself, because of the great longing he has for her and because she too is constrained by love for him, who will pick him up in her arms, utter endearments to him and tenderly nourish him.

God, who is our friend, acts in the same way towards the soul who comes to him, burning with desire. More than that, impelled by his deep love and the gracious goodness proper to his nature, he unites himself closely with its understanding, becoming one spirit with it, as the Apostle says. Indeed, if the soul clings to the Lord, and if the Lord, moved by love and mercy, comes to unite himself closely with such a one willing to dwell uninterruptedly in his grace, they will then become one spirit, being and understanding fused in one.

25. III, 27:4

Those who have not advanced beyond the silliness of the world remain a prey to passion; held in the grip of evil, they are incapable of doing what they must to obtain life. If they experience distress and seek God's help, bestir themselves for the sake of eternal life, with tears and pleas call on their heavenly mother, the Holy Spirit; if they seek no solace in the world and abide only in union with the Spirit and in their longing for the nourishment she gives, that excellent heavenly mother will draw near to these souls that seek her. She will lift them up in her life-giving arms, warm them with the spiritual and heavenly food of delicious, desirable, holy, pure milk, so that they will recognise the heavenly Father, and grow each day into spiritual maturity until they arrive at the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God.

26. II, 53:3

In God's sight, it is not necessary to spend the entire day on one's knees in prayer. Undoubtedly it is an excellent occupation; it is really a good thing to pray and altogether to persevere in prayer. It heads every other occupation in importance, but if not accompanied by the virtues to be found in the other members, prayer is a dead thing. Prayer is pleasing to God if accompanied by good works: not hating one's brother nor speaking against anyone, being humble not superior, not thinking that we are somebodies, but rather fulfilling all the works of justice. If we seek the Lord thus in all sincerity and holiness, he will come to our assistance without delay. If we do not seek him in this way, what we do will be regarded as unsubstantial as a dream and our prayer being superficial will avail nothing before God.

27. II, 6:3

The true basis of prayer is to keep guard over our thoughts; we should carry it out in such great calm and peace as to give no scandal to others. People will be edified by the one who has received the grace of prayer from God and prays quietly to the end, "for God is not a God of agitation, but of peace." Those given to loud cries during prayer behave like coxswains shouting at the rowers to keep time; they cannot pray everywhere, not in churches nor in the villages, perhaps only in the desert can they do it as they like. Those on the other hand who pray quietly, no matter where they may be, edify everybody.

28. II, 31:2

Let the soul collect and discipline, as one would unruly children, the thoughts which sin has scattered far and wide; let it bring them into the house of the body while it fasts and loves, waiting for the Lord to come and give it the grace of true recollection.

29. III, 16:8

Let us then approach him, the gate that leads to life, and knock that he may open unto us; let us ask to receive him, the Bread of life. Let us say to him, "Lord, give me the Bread of life so that I may live, because I am horribly racked by the pains of an evil hunger and am on the way to perdition. Give me the lightsome garment of salvation to cover my soul's shame, for I am naked, deprived of the power of your Spirit, and ashamed of the indecency wrought by my passions."

And if he says to you, "You had a garment, what have you done with it?", answer him, "I fell among thieves who robbed and left me half-dead, then they stripped me and took my garments... Give me the oil of gladness and the wine of spiritual joy so that I may apply them to my wounds and live again. Heal me, restore me to health, for my enemies, those fearful robbers, have left me lying, half-dead." Happy the soul, needy and wounded as it were, who prays tirelessly and ceaselessly, with perseverance and with faith, for it will receive what it has asked for; it will obtain healing and an eternal remedy and will be avenged of its enemies, the sinful passions. God has promised it, and he is faithful.

30. II, 33:4

When the Lord sees that the soul musters its powers as well as it can, that it seeks and watches for its Lord night and day and calls upon him as he has commanded without ceasing, then shall he do what is right by it, according to his promises. He will purify it of it sins and take it to himself, a bride without spot or blemish.

If you believe all this is true, as indeed it is, keep a watch on yourself, see whether you have found your guiding light and the true food and drink that is our Lord himself. If you have not found them, seek them night and day. When you see the sun, think of seeking the true Sun because of your blindness; When you see the light, turn your eyes towards your own soul to see if you have found the good and true Light. For visible things are a shadow of the true realities of the soul.

31. II, 53:15

By engaging in a struggle with his thoughts, a Christian can arrive at such a degree of purification that he can turn whatever he sees in the world to his own edification. He can think purely about everything. Worldly riches and pleasures will make him think of true and heavenly riches, of glory and unfading delights, of which those are but a shadow. Indeed, this world is an image of the heavenly and eternal world.

Let us then turn to our advantage whatever we see within, so that we do not give up meditating on the good, for it is possible successfully to accomplish what is good through struggle, sweat and spiritual travail. Indeed, God renders all things truly pure.

32. II, 43:3

The Christian must always keep in mind the thought of God. Indeed, it is written, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart." It is not only when trotting off to the chapel that he loves the Lord. The thought of God still remains with him and he still loves him tenderly just as well while walking, talking or eating. It is said, "Where your heart is, there your treasure is also." In fact, that to which our heart is attached, to which our desire draws us, that is our God. If your heart ceaselessly desires God, he is the Lord of your heart.

If after having professed renunciation and embraced poverty, exile and fasting, a monk remains attached to himself, to the things of this world, to his house, to love of his parents, he may have left the world by the front door, but he has returned and falls back into it by a concealed door.

33. II, 8:1

A person's heart may be filled with the power of God the moment he has fallen to his knees. His soul rejoices in the Lord as a bride in her husband, or as Isaiah says, "As a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so will the Lord rejoice over you." It can happen that, having spent the whole day seeing to his duties, he gives himself for an hour to prayer. The interior man is enraptured and gently transported to the infinite depths of that other world, so much so that his mind is totally exiled from this one, raised up and ravished to the heights. At moments like these, he completely forgets his earthly concerns; he is filled and held by thoughts which bear him towards divine, heavenly, infinite and inconceivable realities, towards marvels human lips may not utter. Such is the experience, that he would fain ask that his soul might depart from this life during this moment of prayer.

34. II, 17:4

Those who even now are enraptured and transported to the world to come contemplate its beauty and its wonders. We are still on the earth, but "our homeland is in heaven"; as far as the mind, the interior man, is concerned, we live and dwell in that other world. Just as the physical eye, if it is healthy, always sees the sun clearly, so the perfectly purified spirit sees the radiant glory of Christ continually; it is with the Lord day and night just as the body of the Lord, united to the divinity, is always with the Holy Spirit.

However, people do not reach this stage in a moment; they do so through many trials, tribulations and struggles. There are some of them in whom grace and evil dwell and abide at the same time: two kinds of citizenship, one of light and the other of darkness, both exercise their influence on the heart.

35. II, 10:1

Those lovers of truth and of God who, fired by a great hope, long to put on Christ, do not really need the guidance of others. They cannot bear, even for a single moment, to be without their heavenly desire and impassioned love of our Lord. Being completely and unreservedly nailed to the cross of Christ, they sense they are progressing spiritually day by day towards the nuptial chamber. Smitten by the desire of heaven, athirst for righteousness and all the virtues, they are consumed by an ardent and insatiable desire for the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Even if, because of the grace of their faith, they be judged worthy of understanding the divine mysteries, of sharing in the joy of heaven, they still place no trust in themselves and do not imagine that they are somebodies. On the contrary, the more spiritual gifts they receive, the more insatiable their desire for heaven, the more ardent their thirst for God. The more they discern spiritual progress in themselves, the more hunger and thirst they have to receive grace and grow in it. The more richly endowed they are spiritually, the more they think themselves poor, for their spiritual desire for their heavenly Spouse has become insatiable.

36. II, 10:4

The true lover of God and of Christ, were he to accomplish ten thousand acts of righteousness, would consider himself to have done nothing at all, so insatiable is his desire for God. Even if he had worn out his body with fasting and vigils, he would act as if had not yet begun his toilsome pursuit of virtue. In spite of the various gifts of the Spirit, the revelations and the heavenly mysteries of which he has been deemed worthy, he is conscious, in his limitless and insatiable love of the Lord, of not having done anything yet. Throughout the day, he experiences hunger and thirst in his great faith and love, and he perseveres in prayer, insatiable when it comes to the mysteries of grace and the acquisition of virtue.

His soul is smitten by the impassioned love poured into him by the heavenly Spirit, who continually awakens in him by the action of his grace, a burning desire for his heavenly Spouse. This desire urges him to aspire to the mysterious and indescribable communion with him in its fullness, through the sanctifying action of the Spirit. The countenance of the soul is unveiled and, face to face with his heavenly Spouse, it fixes his eyes on him in a spiritual, inexpressible light. The soul becomes one thing with Christ in unshakeable faith. Conformed to his death, she looks forward avidly and ceaselessly to death for his sake and in the invincible hope that the Spirit will free her completely from darksome passion and from sin.

Then, purified by the Spirit, holy in body and soul, he is judged worthy of becoming a pure vessel, able to contain heavenly perfume and to receive the true King, Christ himself. He is now rendered worthy of eternal life, having become even in this life a pure dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit.

10. PSEUDO-MACARIUS


 

EXPLANATION

OF THE TEXTS

 

1.

We have here, then, the word "Brother" to designate the monk. Macarius often uses the word "Christian", since the monk takes the Christian life seriously and tries to live it to perfection, e.g. Homily II, 5, the outline of which will be found on the third page of the course, is addressed to the Christian who has left the world. Which does not mean it should not be an ideal for the Christian in the world!

Note the sense of fraternal charity and of the unity of all in the one body, the Body of Christ, which this text exemplifies.

2.

<Atony' is a term very close to acedia, and indeed is a result of acedia: acedia = breaking off of the relationship with God and so the forfeiture of grace and of divine succour. The result is a loss of spiritual tone (a-tony).

Grace returns when one comes back to God through prayer and supplication. An important theme in Macarius: cf. further on, the comparison with a small child who can do nothing but cry to his mother.

At the end, the mention of vigilance, nepsis.

3.

"So that man may become a twofold being" refers to the notion of the exterior man and the interior man, the earthly man and the heavenly man. It is summed up in Homily II,15:22: "If a person loves God, God's love becomes part of him. Once a man has believed in him, God endows him with heavenly faith as well, and man becomes a twofold being." And again, "The Lord thought it well for the Christian to have two souls, one created, and the other heavenly coming from the divine Spirit." (52:5). The idea recurs in the following text (4).

5.

The kinship of the soul with God, due to the fact that alone among creatures, man has been "created in the image and likeness of God", implies that he must seek him, his final end.

7.

Temptation comes when one listens willingly to the word of Satan. However, one remains free. It is when man welcomes it into his heart and allows it to penetrate him through and through that he commits sin and so is reduced to slavery and become subject to death.

11.

Mention of the "thought of God", trusting in him, which helps in the struggle against thoughts.

13.

For Macarius, the spiritual life has two phases. First there is the active, even wilful, phase in which the brother must fight the spiritual fight, thus proving to God that he is really seeking him. But when we have abandoned our will to God, and given proof of our desire for him by our perseverance, God himself intervenes and gives us what our efforts have been unable to bring about: true prayer, true love, true meekness.

This idea also lies behind Texts 18 and 23.

19.

Macarius takes up an Origenist idea, according to which, God alone is incorporeal. All other creatures, being created, have either a material body, like man, or a "subtle", "ethereal" body. Macarius compares the way in which the soul, a "subtle" body, is united to our earthly body and that in which God, who is incorporeal, is united to holy souls by means of the Incarnation.

23.

The rest in question is rest in God, the reward of humility, promised by Jesus: "Learn of me because I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls." The soul recognises that it is dependent on a God who is love. This rest will find its fulfilment in the vision of heaven. As God is rest, he will rest in us just as we shall rest in him.

But Macarius also recognises an evil rest in which the soul fails to recognise its real benefactor and rests in the goods of this world (II,45:3). Those who know the rest given through grace reject rest in the pleasures of the world.

24.

Here we have a passage in Macarius, and not the only one, in which we find the teaching of the 'little way' of St. Therese of Lisieux. It is our weakness which most moves the heart of God. If in the spiritual life, our efforts seem unfruitful, we can always cry to God, plead our helplessness and beg his help.

We can see here the importance of grace for Macarius, who has sometimes been accused of semi-pelagianism! Grace is the expression of the motherhood of God, as the following text shows even more clearly.

26.

Macarius' thought is very balanced: he upholds the importance of prayer, but this is no more than a day-dream without good works.

34.

This is the theologia of Evagrius, but more concretely expressed by someone who has lived it._

 

 

10. PSEUDO-MACARIUS


 

REVISION

ANSWERS

 

1) Why do we speak of 'Pseudo'-Macarius? Who was he?

We speak of 'Pseudo' (= false) Macarius because the person hidden under this name is not, as was once thought, Macarius the Great, founder of Scete. He was a spiritual writer who lived in the region of Mesopotamia and had contacts with Messalianism.

 

2) What are the characteristic features of his doctrine?

He places great emphasis on evil, whence the need for the spiritual combat. He also greatly stresses prayer directed to Christ and to the Spirit. He gives a central position to the Holy Spirit.

 

3) What is the context of this doctrine?

The context is a loosely cenobitic framework.

 

4) Note the main features of his anthropology.

Man is composed of body, soul and spirit, which is the ancient threefold division. He is created in the image and likeness of God, which makes him akin to God. Man fell but Christ came to restore his dignity to him. We have to collaborate in the work of salvation.

 

5) Which virtue, among the others, does he most emphasise?

He greatly emphasises humility, the mark of the Christian.

 

6) What is special to him in his teaching on the Holy Spirit?

Macarius gives all sorts of titles to the Holy Spirit. He shows that he is a good friend of man. Better, he presents him as a Mother.

 

7) What is the place of the Holy Spirit in prayer?

It is he that teaches us true prayer. He collects our scattered thoughts and comes to pray in us.