Best when viewed with Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.

Macarius of Egypt (300 - 391)

They told us also about two fathers who had lived there, the two Macarii, like twin lights illuminating the heavens, of whom one was an Egyptian by birth and had been a disciple of blessed Anthony, the other an Alexandrian. As their names suggest, the virtues of their souls and the grace of heaven were in them marvellously combined. The one Macarius was equal to the other in feats of abstinence and in virtue of soul, and only excelled the other in that he possessed, as if inherited, the graces and powers of blessed Anthony. There were both there when someone in the district committed the crime of murder and someone else who was innocent was charged with the crime. He who suffered this calumny fled to their cell and those who pursued him came too, alleging that they were in danger unless they handed over the man accused of murder to the law. On the other hand he protested that he was innocent of this crime, and affirmed by an oath that he was not guilty of blood. At last since both sides were unshakable, Saint Macarius asked them where the man who had been killed was buried. They pointed out the place and he went to the tomb with the man and all those who accused him. There he knelt down and called upon the name of Christ, and said to those who stood nearby, "Now the Lord will show if indeed the man is guilty whom you accuse." Raising his voice he called the dead man by name and who was called replied from the grave. Macarius said to him, "By the grace of Christ, I ask you to say if this man who is accused here is the one who killed you". Then he replied in a clear voice from the grave, saying that this was not the man by whom he was killed. Stupefied they all fell to the ground and they begged him, grovelling at his feet, to ask the dead man who had killed him. "This," he said, "I will not ask; it is enough for me to have set the innocent free; it is not up to me to discover the guilty.
source: Lives of the Desert Fathers...trans by Norman Russell
Macarius of Egypt (ca. 300 – 391) was an Egyptian Christian monk and hermit. He is also known as Macarius the Elder, Macarius the Great and The Lamp of the Desert.

Macarius was born in Upper Egypt. A late tradition places his birthplace in the village of Shabsheer (Shanshour), in Al Minufiyah Governorate, Egypt around 300 A.D. At some point before his pursuit of asceticism, Macarius made his living smuggling niter in the vicinity of Nitria, a vocation which taught him how to survive in and travel across the wastes in that area.

At a young age, Macarius was forced to get married against his will. Thus, he pretended to be sick and ask for his parents' permission to go to the wilderness to relax. At his return, he found that his wife had died, and shortly after, his parents departed as well. Macarius subsequently distributed all his money among the poor and needy. Seeing his virtues, the people of his village brought him to the bishop of Ashmoun who ordained him priest.

A while later, a pregnant woman accused him of having defiled her. Macarius did not attempt to defend himself, and accepted the accusation in silence. However, when the woman's delivery drew near, her labor became exceedingly difficult. She did not manage to give birth until she confessed Macarius's innocence. A multitude of people then came asking for his forgiveness, but he fled to the Nitrian Desert to escape all mundane glory.

While at the desert, he visited Anthony the Great and learned from him the laws and rules of monasticism. When he returned to the Scetic Desert at the age of forty, he presided over its monastic community for the rest of his life. Ten years after going into the desert, he became a priest.

For a brief period of time, Macarius was banished to an island in the Nile by the Emperor Valens, along with Saint Macarius of Alexandria, during a dispute over the doctrine of the Nicene Creed. At their return on 13 Paremhat, they were met by a multitude of monks of the Nitrian Desert, numbered fifty thousand, among whom were Saint Pishoy and Saint John the Dwarf.
source: Wikipedia
Yet, however unsystematic in form, the Homilies presuppose a single underlying pattern of the Christian life. Beneath an every-varying imagery, evocative and colorful, the basic message of Mararius is very simple. Our spiritual journey falls into three main stages:

1. Initially the heart is under the dominion of evil. This is the consequence of Adam's disobedience: the Homilies take a somber view of the fall, and place heavy emphasis on the reality of inherited human sinfulness. "From the time that Adam transgressed the command, the serpent entered and became master of the house, and became like a second soul with the real soul" (H. 15:35). Although humans do not altogether forfeit freedom of the will, evil is pervasive and stubborn, and cannot be overcome without the assistance of divine grace.

2. Next comes the stage of spiritual struggle, when the heart is indwelt simultaneously by both sin and grace, the one fighting against the other. "There are some persons in whom grace is operative and working in peace. Within, however, evil is also present hiddenly, and the two ways of existing, namely, according to the principles of light and darkness, vie for dominance within the same heart" (H. 17:4).

3. Finally there comes a stage when sin is cast out from the heart by the Holy Spirit, working in cooperation with our human will. Cleansed from evil, the soul is not united to Christ the heavenly Bridegroom and is "mixed" or "mingled" with the divine Spirit, in this way attaining a state higher than that enjoyed by Adam before the fall. "When your soul has fellowship with the Spirit and the heavenly
soul enters into your soul, then you are a perfect man in God and an heir and son" (H. 32:6). Marcarius describes this third stage as "dispassion" or "freedom from passions" (apatheia), as "renewal above nature" or "new creation," and also as "divinization." Yet even so a person still continues subject to temptation and liable to fall: "Satan is never quieted.... As long as a person dwells in this world and is living in the flesh, he is subject to warring" (H. 26:14). There is no inalienable perfection in this present life.

Such is the basic progression envisaged by Macarius: from a heart possessed by evil, to a heart indwelt by sin and grace, and then ultimately to a heart that belongs to God alone.
source: Pseudo-Macarius: The Fifty Spiritual Homilies and the Great Letter...George A. Maloney
Monastery of St. Macarius the Great Website in the Scetis Desert, Egypt
Back to Previous Level