Saint Makarios of Egypt
This homily teaches that no one, unless he is empowered by Christ, is capable of overpowering the stumbling blocks of the evil one. It deals with what those who eagerly seek the divine glory need to do. It also teaches that through the disobedience of Adam we have descended into a slavery to fleshly passions from which we are delivered by the mystery contained in the cross.It teaches us, moreover, that great is the power of tears and of the divine fire.
1. Those upon whom the divine law is stamped not with ink and letters, but implanted in hearts of flesh, illumined with the eyes of the mind and intent with a constant yearning for a hope that is not sensible or visible but interior and immaterial, have the power to conquer the stumbling blocks of the wicked one, this by the power that can never be surpassed. But those who have not been honored by the Word of God nor instructed in the divine Law are "vainly puffed up" (Col2:18). They believe that by their own free will they can abolish the sources of sin, something which is condemned only by the mystery found in the cross. For that free deliberation lies in the power of man to resist the devil, but this power is not absolute control over the passions. "Unless the Lord builds the house" (Ps 127:1).
2. It is in vain to go against the asp and the basilisk (Ps 91:13) and tread under foot the lion and the dragon, unless one also first purges himself as far as one has strength and is strengthened by him who said to his Apostles: "Behold, I have given you power to trample upon serpents and scorpions and upon all the power of the enemy" (Lk 10:19).
If man's nature had the ability outside of the complete armor of the Holy Spirit "to stand against the deceits of the devil" (Eph 6:11), the Apostle would surely not have said: "The God of peace will bruise Satan under your feet shortly" (Rom 16:20); and again: "Whom the Lord will destroy with the Spirit of his mouth" (2 Thes 2:8). This is why we have also been commanded to beg the Lord: "Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one" (Mt 6:13). If we are not delivered by the more powerful assistance from the fiery darts of the evil one and not deemed worthy to be the adopted sons, then we live on this earth with no purpose. We are found far from the power of God
3. Therefore, whoever wishes to become a partaker of the divine glory and to see, as in a mirror, the form of Christ in the ruling power of his mind, must, with unquenchable love and inexhaustible desire, with all his heart and strength, by night and day, seek the help of God which powerfully comes from him, in which help it is impossible to share unless, as I said before, a person abstains from the pleasure of the world, from the desires of the opposing power, which is foreign to the light and is an activity of evil, having no likeness to good activity and is completely alien to it. Therefore,if we want to know why we, since we were created for honor and placed in Paradise, became finally"compared to the beasts that possess no understanding and were made like to them" (Ps 99:12, 20),having fallen from the pristine glory, know that we, by transgression, became slaves of carnal passions. We excluded ourselves from the blessed region of the living (Ps 116:9) and were led into captivity. We still sit along the shore of Babylon (Ps 137:1). The fact that we are still held in Egypt means that we do not yet possess the land of our inheritance, "flowing with milk and honey"(Ex 3:8). We have not yet been immersed in the leaven of sincerity (1 Cor 5:8), but we are still in the leaven of evil. Our heart has not yet been sprinkled by the blood of God, for "the snare of hell" (Prv9:18) and the hook of evil is still lodged in it.
4. We have not yet accepted the happiness in Christ's salvation, for "the sting of death" (1 Cor 15:55)has its roots in us. "We have not yet put on the new man who has been created after God in holiness"(Eph 4:24), because we have not yet put off "the old man that is corrupt according to the sinful lusts"(Eph 4:22). We have not yet "given birth to the image of the heavenly" (1 Cor 15:49) nor have we been made "conformed to his glory" (Phil 3:21). We have not yet adored "God in spirit and in truth"(Jn 4:24), since "sin reigns in our mortal body" (Rom 6:12). We have not yet seen "the glory of the incorruptible" (Rom 1:23), because we work under "the moonless night" (Ps 11:2). We have not yet put on the armor of light (Rom 13:12) because we have not yet thrown off the armor and the spears and the works of darkness. We have not yet been "transformed by a renewal of the mind," since we are still "conformed to this world" (Rom 12:2) "in the vanity of the mind" (Eph 4:17).
We are not yet "glorified with Christ" because we have not yet "suffered with him" (Rom 8:17). We do not yet "carry the marks of him in our body" (Gal 6:17), since we do not live in the mystery of Christ's cross. For we are still "in the passions and lusts" of the flesh (Gal 5:24). We have not yet become "heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ" (Rom 8:17) because the "spirit of bondage" is still in us and not that "of adoption" (Rom 8:15). We have not yet been made "the temple of God" (1 Cor 3:16) and the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, for we are still the temple of idols and the receptacle of evil spirits because of our attachment to the passions.
5. Indeed, we have not yet attained to the simplicity of a life-style and to the enlightenment of our mind. We have not yet been deemed worthy to receive "the guileless and spiritual milk" (1 Pt 2:2)and intellectual growth. The day has not yet dawned upon us, nor "the day star risen in our hearts" (2Pt 1:19). We have not been mingled with "the sun of righteousness" (Mal 4:2), nor do we yet shine by his rays. We have not yet received the likeness (Gn 1:26) of the Lord nor have we become"participators of the divine nature" (2 Pt 1:4). We have not yet become the true royal purple nor the authentic image of God. We have not yet been captivated by divine love nor wounded by the spiritual love of the Bridegroom. We have not yet known that ineffable fellowship and have not known the power and peace that are found in sanctification. In a word, we are not yet "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set aside" (1 Pt 2:9), because we are still"serpents, a brood of vipers" (Mt 23:33).
6. How can we be found to be anything but serpents, we who do not obey God but are in the disobedience that has come by the serpent? I cannot discover how to weep befittingly over this situation. I do not know how to cry aloud and weep to him who can expel from me the error planted within me. "How shall I sing the song of the Lord in a foreign land?" (Ps 137:4). How shall I weep over Jerusalem? How am I to flee from the severe slavery of Pharoah? How am I to abandon the foul dwelling place? How shall I deny the bitter tyranny? How shall I go forth out of Egypt? How shall I pass over the Red Sea? How shall I journey through the vast wilderness?
How shall I not perish, if bitten by the snakes?
How shall I conquer the foreigners? How shall I destroy the pagans within me?How shall I receive the messages of the divine Law upon my tablets? How shall I see the true pillar of light and the cloud from out of the Holy Spirit? How shall I take delight in the manna of eternal delight? How shall I drink the water from the life giving rock? How shall I pass over Jordan and come into the good land of promise? How shall I see the Leader of the Lord's army whom, when Josuah, son of Nun, saw, he fell down at once and worshiped him?
7. For unless I pass through all these and kill the pagan tribes living within me, in no way will I enter and find rest "in the sanctuary of God" (Ps 73:17) nor will I become a participator in the King's glory. For this reason work diligently so as to become a child of God, having no fault and "to enter into that rest" (Heb 4:11) whither the precursor, Christ, has entered on our behalf (Heb 6:20).
Strive to be numbered in the heavenly church with "the firstborn" (Heb 12:23) so that you may be found "on the right hand of the majesty" (Heb 1:3) of the Most High. Strive to enter the holy city, the Jerusalem, full of peace, that is above where Paradise is. You have no other way to become worthy of these amazing and blessed types, except that day and night you pour out tears according to him who says: "Each night I wash my bed and water my mattress with my tears" (Ps 6:6). For you are not ignorant that "those who sow in tears will reap in joy" (Ps 126:6). For this reason the Prophet boldly declares: "Do not silence my tears" (Ps -162-39:13). And again: "Keep my tears before your sight as you have promised" (Ps 56:8). And, "My tears have been my bread day and night" (Ps 42:3). And in another psalm: "I have mingled my drink with weeping" (Ps 102:9).
8. For such a tear, that truly is shed out of much sorrow and anguish of heart in the knowledge of the truth and with the burning in the bowels, is food for the soul, supplied by the heavenly Bread of which Mary preeminently partook as she sat at the feet of the Lord and wept, as the Savior himself testified. For he says: "Mary has chosen the better part which will not be taken from her" (Lk 10:42,7:38). Oh, what precious pearls, those contained in the flowing of blessed tears! Oh, that immediate and prompt hearing! Oh, what a strong and wise mind! Oh, the intensity of the love of the Lord's Spirit that moves powerfully toward the spotless Bridegroom! Oh, what a concentration of desire in the soul toward God the Word! Oh, what intimate communion of the bride with the heavenly Bridegroom!
9. Imitate her, O child, imitate her, I say, who saw nothing but him alone who said: "I have come to cast fire on the earth and how I desire but that it be already enkindled" (Lk 12:49). For there is a burning of the Spirit which puts hearts on fire. For that reason the immaterial and divine fire enlightens souls and tests them as pure gold is tested in the furnace. But it burns out any evil, as if it were thorns and stubble. For "our God is a consuming fire" (Heb 12:29), "taking revenge on those who do not know him in flaming fire and who do not obey his Gospel" (2 Thes 1:8). This fire exerted its power over the Apostles when they spoke with tongues of fire (Acts 2:35). This fire surrounded Paul in the voice that enlightened his mind while blinding his sense of sight (Acts 9:3).For it was not in the flesh that he saw the power of that light. This fire appeared to Moses in the bush(Ex 3:2). This fire, in the form of a chariot, caught up Elijah from the earth (2 Kgs 4:11). The blessed David, while seeking out the power of this fire, said: "Search me, Lord, and try me. Burn out my reins and my heart" (Ps 26:2).
10. This fire inflamed the heart of Cleophas and his companion when the Savior spoke to them after the resurrection. From the same source also angels and the ministering spirits partake of the shining fire according to what has been said: "Who makes his angels spirits and his ministers a flaming fire"(Heb 1:7). This fire burns up the beam in the interior eye; it renders the mind pure so that recovering its natural power of seeing, it may constantly gaze on the wonderful works of God according to him who says: "Open my eyes and I will ponder the wonders of thy law" (Ps 119:18). This fire also drives out demons, takes away sins, and has the power of resurrection. It develops immortality,the illumination of holy souls, and the strengthening of the rational powers. Let us beg that this fire come also to us so that, constantly walking in the light, we may never for even a moment "dash our feet against the stone" (Ps 91:12), "but shining as lights in the world," we may "hold forth the word of eternal life" (Phil 2:15), so that, enjoying ourselves among the saints of God with the Lord, we may find rest in life, glorifying the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, to whom be glory forever.Amen.