HOMILY OF ST MACARIUS OF EGYPT
St. Macarius of Egypt: What kind of change Christ works in the Christian
For as the enemy, when he had gotten man into his own hands, wrought him anew for himself, having clothed him with vile affections, and poured into him the spirit of sin; so also the Lord, having redeemed him from the enemy, wrought him anew, and poured his own Spirit into him. For he that changed the nature of the burning fire to bedew them that were in the furnace, and for Daniel’s sake tamed the nature of the lions, can also transform the soul that was grown wild by sin into his own goodness and peace by the Holy Spirit of promise.
For as the shepherd can heal a diseased sheep and keep him from the wolves, so the true Shepherd is able to heal the sheep that was lost, even man from the leprosy of sin. The priests and Levites, and the teachers that were before, were never able to heal the soul by their oblations of gifts and sacrifices; yea, they were not able to heal themselves. “For it was not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin.” But the Lord can heal every disease, and every sickness of the soul. And the true healing of the soul is from the Lord only.
The good shepherd therefore healeth the sheep. But the sheep itself can never heal the sheep. And unless man be healed, there is no entrance for him into the congregation of the Lord in heaven. Thus also was it said in the law through a shadow: “A leper shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord.” But he commanded the leper to go to the priest, who was to bring him into the house of his tabernacle, put his hands upon the leprosy, the place marked with the infection, and heal it. After the same manner, Christ, the true high priest of good things to come, in condescension to leprous souls, enters into the tabernacle of their body, takes care of their disorders, and healeth them. And thus will the soul be able to enter into the heavenly church of the saints of the true Israel. But every soul that bears the leprosy of sin in her affections, and will not come to the true high-priest and be taken care of now, finds no admission into the camp of the saints. It behoves therefore the soul that truly believeth in Christ, to be changed from her present nature into another nature, which is divine, and to be wrought new herself through the power of the Holy Spirit. And to obtain this, will be allowed to us who believe and love him in truth, and walk in all his holy commandments.
No man can of himself go over the sea unless he have a vessel, which is able to go upon the waters; after the same manner is it impossible for the soul to pass over the sea of sin, and the abyss of the powers of darkness unless it receive the Spirit of Christ that walks, and makes its way over all wickedness, by means of which he will arrive by a quick and straight passage at the heavenly port of rest.
But as a ship stands in need of a pilot, in order to sail well; the Lord himself is a pilot to the faithful soul, and conveys it through all the waves of wickedness, and the strong winds of sin, without Christ, it is impossible for any one to get over the wicked sea of the powers, of darkness. “They mount up”, says the Psalmist, “to the heavens, and go down again to the depths.” But he is well acquainted with the whole art of a pilot, and tramples upon their fierce waves. For he, says the apostle, “Having himself been tempted, is able to succour them that are tempted.”
We ought therefore to believe with our whole heart his unspeakable promises, to love the Lord, and to be industrious in all virtues, and to beg continually, that we may receive the promise of his Spirit entirely and perfectly; that so our souls might be quickened whilst we are yet in the flesh. For unless the soul shall in this world receive the sanctification of the Spirit through much faith and prayer, and be made partaker of the divine nature (through which it will be able without blame and in purity to per form every commandment), it is unfit for the kingdom of heaven. For whatever good a man has possessed in this world, the same shall in that day be his life, through the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit for ever! Amen.
St. Abba Macarius the Great (295-392 A.D.; also known as Macarius the Egyptian) was among the most influential Desert Fathers of Egypt, and a disciple of St. Anthony the Great. The Coptic Orthodox Church celebrates his feast day on April 5 (Baramhat 27) and the return of his body to his monastery at Scetis on August 25 (Mesra 19). The day appointed for his feast in Eastern Orthodoxy is January 19, while the Roman Catholic Church celebrates it four days earlier on January 15.
The current Coptic Orthodox Monastery of St. Macarius the Great  (video), which lies in Wadi Natrun, the ancient Scetis, 92 kilometers from Cairo on the western side of the desert road to Alexandria, was founded in 360 A.D. by the saint, who during his lifetime was spiritual father to more than four thousand monks of different nationalities-Egyptians, Greeks, Ethiopians, Armenians, Nubians, Asians, Palestinians, Italians, Gauls and Spaniards.
Not to be confused with St. Macarius of Alexandria , ; and St. Macarius the Martyr and Bishop of Edkao (near Assiut, Upper Egypt) . The relics of the three Macarii are today preserved at the aforementioned monastery.
St. Macarius, one of the founding fathers of monasticism, was born in the village of Shabsheer, Menuf, Egypt, around 300 A.D. (295 A.D. according to Coptic Orthodox Synaxarium) from good and righteous parents. His father's name was Abraham and his mother's name was Sarah and they had no son. In a vision at night, his father saw the angel of the Lord, who told him that God was about to give him a son, and his name will be known all over the earth, and he will have a multitude of spiritual sons. Shortly after this vision, they had a son and called him Macarius, which means "Blessed."
St. Macarius the Great was obedient to his parents, and the grace of God was upon him since his young age. When he grew up his father forced him to get married against his will, so he pretended that he was sick for several days. Then he asked his father if he might go to the wilderness to relax a bit. He went to the wilderness and prayed to the Lord Christ to direct him to do what is pleasing to Him. While he was in the wilderness he saw a vision, and it seemed that one of the Cherubim, with wings, took his hands, and ascended up to the top of the mountain, and showed him all the desert, east and west, and north and south. The Cherub told him, "God has given this desert to you and your sons for an inheritance." When he returned from the wilderness he found that his future wife, who was still virgin, had died, and Macarius thanked the Lord Christ. Shortly after, his parents departed, and he gave all what they had left to the poor and the needy. When the people of Shabsheer saw his chastity and purity, they took him to the bishop of Ashmoun (Egypt) who ordained him a priest for them. They built a place for him outside the city, and they went to him to confess and to partake from the Holy Mysteries.
Then it once happened that an unmarried pregnant girl accused him of fathering her child. The pious saint did not protest; he quietly accepted the responsibility she had unjustly laid on him, and was attacked and beaten by the villagers and the girl's family, who demanded that he support her. He did so, selling the baskets that he wove and giving the money to her parents. When the time came for the girl to give birth, she was in great agony and cried out that it was not St. Macarius, but another man who was her baby's father. As soon as they heard this, the villagers felt ashamed of the way they had treated the saint, and went to ask his forgiveness. When they arrived at his little hut, they found it completely empty; he had fled from their praise and flattery.
St. Macarius was now (c. 330 A.D.) on his way to Scetis, where he would spend most of the remaining sixty years of his life. He dwelt in the inner desert, in the place of the monastery of Sts. Maximus and Domadius (now known as the Coptic Orthodox Monastery of El-Baramous). He went to visit St. Anthony the Great, who said about St. Macarius when he saw him, "This is an Israelite in whom there is no guile." St. Anthony put on him the Holy Eskeem (Great Schema), then St. Macarius returned to his place.
When the number of monks increased around him he built a church for them. St. Macarius' relationship with his fellow monks was a very special one. To them he was the 'aged youth' because, although he was young, having been thirty when he came to Scetis, he had the depth and wisdom of a person much older. St. Macarius fame also grew all over the country and many kings and Emperors heard about the miracles that God performed at his hands. He healed the daughter of the king of Antioch that was possessed by an unclean spirit.
One day he thought that the world had no more righteous people, so a voice came to him from heaven saying: "In the city of Alexandria there are two women who feared God." He took his staff, his provisions, and went to Alexandria and he asked around until he reached their house. When he entered, they welcomed him, washed his feet with warm water, and when he asked them about their life, one of them told him, "There is no kinship between us and when we married these two brothers we asked them to leave us to be nuns but they refused. So we committed ourself to spend our life fasting till evening with many prayers. When each of us had a son, whenever one of them cry, any one of us would carry and nurse him, even if he was not her own son. We are in one living arrangement, the unity in opinion is our model, and our husbands work is shepherding sheep, we are poor and only have our daily bread and what is left over we give it to the poor and the needy." When the saint heard these words he cried saying, "Indeed God looks to the readiness of the heart and grants the grace of His Holy Spirit for all those who wish to worship Him." He bade them farewell and left returning to the wilderness.
It also happened that there was an erring monk who strayed many by his saying that there was no resurrection of the dead. The bishop of the city of Osseem (Egypt) went to St. Macarius and told him about that monk. Abba Macarius went to that monk and stayed with him until the monk believed and renounced his error.
St. Macarius also knew how to be kind to those outside the Christian community. He knew that loving words had a greater effect than harsh ones. The story is told of his once having walked with a younger monk, and passing by a pagan priest, whom the younger monk greeted rather insultingly. But St. Macarius gave him a loving greeting, so much so that the pagan asked why St. Macarius was so thoughtful. The monk answered that he felt sorry for one who did not know that all his worship and effort were in vain. So deeply impressed was the pagan that he ended by joining the monastery, and becoming a model Christian, who attracted many other pagans by his own love and care for them.
St. Macarius the Great also fought Arianism and was exiled c. 374 A.D. to an island in the Nile Delta because of his support to the Orthodox teachings of St. Athanasius the Great. While he was there with St. Macarius of Alexandria, a pagan priest's daughter began to have terrible fits, and everyone agreed she was possessed by a demon. The two monks were able to heal her, and in gratitude, the people tore down their pagan shrine and replaced it with a church. Hearing of this, the authorities were quick to send both monks back to their respective monasteries.
Following this incident, St. Macarius returned to Scetis, where he continued to build on the foundations of monastic living laid by St. Anthony and St. Pachomius. His monastery grew and prospered, as did monastic life in general.
St. Macarius the Great departed from our vanishing world in 390 (or 392 A.D. according to the Coptic Orthodox Synaxarium). He was ninety-seven years old. On the day of his departure, he saw Sts. Anthony the Great and Pachomius the Great, with a company of the saints. A manuscript in Shebeen El-Koum (Egypt) mentions that St. Babnuda, his disciple, saw the soul of St. Macarius ascending to heaven, and he heard the devils crying out and calling after him, "You have conquered us O Macarius." The Saint replied, "I have not conquered you yet." When they came to the gates of heaven they cried again saying, "You have conquered us", and he replied as the first time. When he entered the gate of heaven they cried, "You have overcome us O Macarius." He replied, "Blessed be the Lord Jesus Christ who has delivered me from your hands."
THERE IS AN EXCELLENT SERIES ON THE INVOCATION OF JESUS' NAME IN EAST AND WEST. A LIST OF THE ARTICLES WITH THEIR LINKS IS TO BE FOUND BY CLICKING HERE.