|Sts. Makarios of Egypt and Makarios of Alexandria (Feast Day - January 19)|
The pair of Makarii had a divine death,
Sharing in the most blessed life.
On the nineteenth the Makarii obtained the blessed land.
By St. Palladius, Bishop of Helenopolis
(The Lausiac History, chs. 17-18)
I hesitate either to speak or write the many great and incredible events that happened in connection with those famous men, the two Makarii, lest I should incur the suspicion of being a liar; indeed the Holy Spirit has declared that "the Lord destroys all them that speak falsehood" (Ps. 5:6). So do not disbelieve me, most believing one, for I am not lying. Of these Makarii the one was an Egyptian by race, the other an Alexandrian [i.e. Roman], a seller of sweetmeats.
First of all I will tell of the Egyptian, who lived a full ninety years. Of these he spent sixty in the desert, having retired there as a young man of thirty. And he was counted worthy to possess such great discernment that he was called the "aged youth." Because of this also he made the quicker progress. For when he was forty years old he received grace to contend against the evil spirits both by healing and forecasting the future. Also he was counted worthy of the priesthood.
He had two disciples with him in the inner desert called Scete. There was always one of them at his service near at hand because of those that came to be healed, while the other rested in an adjoining cell. After some time had elapsed, having seen into the future with prophetic eye, he said to the man who waited on him, named John, who afterwards became a priest in the place of Makarios himself: "Listen to me, brother John, and bear with my warning; for you are being tempted and the spirit of covetousness is tempting you. I have seen this, and I know that if you will bear with me you will be perfected in this place and glorified, 'neither shall any plague come near your dwelling' (Ps. 90:10); but if you will not listen to me, the end of Gehazi shall come upon you, of whose illness you are even now sick" (2 Kings 5:27). Now it came to pass when fifteen or twenty years had elapsed after the death of Makarios that he disobeyed, and accordingly after robbing the poor contracted elephantiasis, so that there was not found on his body a whole part, on which one could put his finger. So this is what the holy Makarios prophesied. Now concerning eating and drinking it is superfluous to relate, seeing that not even among the indolent is it possible to find gluttony or carelessness in these regions, owing both to the scarcity of necessaries and the zeal of the inhabitants. But concerning the rest of his asceticism I do speak, for he was said to be in a continual ecstasy and to spend a far longer time with God than with things sublunary. The following marvels are told of him.
A certain Egyptian, enamored of a lady married to a husband, and being unable to seduce her, consulted a magician, saying: "Lead her to love me, or contrive that her husband reject her." And the magician having received a sufficient sum, used magic spells and arranged for her to take the form of a mare. The husband having come in and seen her was surprised that a mare lay on his bed. He wept and lamented; he talked to the animal, but got no reply. He called in the priests of the village. He brought them in, showed her to them, but did not discover what had happened. During three days she neither took fodder as a mare nor bread as a human being, thus deprived of both forms of nourishment. Finally, that God might be glorified and the virtue of the holy Makarios appear, it entered into her husband's heart to take her into the desert. And having put a halter on her as upon a horse, he led her into the desert. When they came near, the brethren stood by the cell of Makarios, struggling with the woman's husband and saying: "Why did you bring this mare here?" He said to them: "That she may receive mercy." They said to him: "What is the matter?" The husband answered them: "She was my wife and was turned into a mare, and today is the third day that she has tasted nothing." They referred the matter to the Saint, who was praying within. For God had revealed the matter to him and he was praying for her. The holy Makarios therefore answered the brethren and said to them: "You are horses, since you have the eyes of horses. For she is a woman and has not been transformed, except in the eyes of deluded men." And he blessed water, and pouring it from the head downwards on to her bare skin he prayed. And immediately he made her appear to all as a woman. Then giving her food he made her eat and sent her away with her husband thanking the Lord. And he advised her thus: "Never give up the Church, never stay away from Communion. For these things happened to you because you did not attend the Mysteries for five weeks."
Here is another example of his asceticism. He made in the course of time a tunnel running under the ground from his cell for half a stade and finished it off at the end with a cave. And if ever a crowd of people troubled him, he would leave his cell secretly and go away to the cave and no one would find him. Now one of his zealous disciples told us this, and said that he used to say twenty-four prayers on his way to the cave and twenty-four as he returned.
A report was prevalent concerning him that he raised a dead man, in order to persuade a heretic who did not acknowledge that there was a bodily resurrection. And this report was current in the desert.
Once a young man possessed with a devil was brought to him by his lamenting mother, bound to two young men. And the devil had this method of working. After eating three bushels of bread and drinking a beaker of water, he would belch out the food and dissolve it into vapor, for in this way what had been eaten and drunk was dissolved as it were by fire. For there is a class (of demons) called fiery, since there are differences among demons, as also among men, not of nature but of character. This young man then, not receiving enough food from his mother, often ate his own dirt and drank his own water. As then his mother wept and implored the Saint, he took the lad and prayed over him beseeching God. And after a day or two, the malady having eased a little, the holy Makarios said to her: "How much do you want him to eat?" She replied: "Ten pounds of bread." So having rebuked her, saying this was too much, and having prayed over him with fasting for seven days, he put him on to (a regime) of three pounds, with obligation to work. And so having cured him he restored him to his mother. And this wonder God wrought through Makarios. I never met him, for he had fallen asleep a year before my entry into the desert.
Venerable Makarios of Alexandria the Citizen
But I did meet the other Makarios, the Alexandrian, a priest of the place called Cells. I sojourned in this Cells nine years. He survived for three years of my stay there. And some things I saw (for myself), some I heard from him, and some things again I heard from others. This then was the method of his asceticism. If ever he heard of any feat, he did the same thing, perfectly. For instance, having heard from some that the monks of Tabennisi all through Lent eat (only) food that has not been near the fire, he decided for seven years to eat nothing that had been through the fire, and except for raw vegetables, if any such were found, and moistened pulse he tasted nothing. Having practiced this virtue to perfection, he heard about another man, that he ate a pound of bread. And having broken up his ration-biscuit and put it into a vessel with a narrow mouth, he decided to eat just as much as his hand brought out. And he would tell the story thus in a joking manner: "I seized hold of a number of pieces, but I could not extract them all at once by reason of the narrowness of the opening, for like a tax-gatherer it would not let me." So for three years he kept up this practice of asceticism, eating four or five ounces of bread and drinking as much water, and a pint of oil in the year.
Here is another practice of his. He determined to dispense with sleep, and he told us how he did not go under a roof for twenty days, that he might conquer sleep, being burnt up by the sun's heat and shriveled up with cold by night. And he used to say this: "Unless I had soon gone under a roof and got some sleep, my brain would have so dried up as to drive me into delirium forever after. And I conquered so far as depended on me, but I gave way so far as depended on my nature that had need of sleep."
As he sat early in the morning in his cell, a mosquito settled on his foot and stung him. And feeling the pain he squashed it with his hand after it was full of blood. So, accusing himself for having taken vengeance, he condemned himself to sit naked for six months in the marsh of Scete, which is in the great desert. The mosquitos there are like wasps, and even pierce the hides of wild boars. So then he was bitten all over and developed so many swellings that some thought he had elephantiasis. Returning to his cell after six months, he was recognized by his voice that it was Makarios himself.
Once he desired to enter the garden-tomb of Jannes and Jambres (2 Tim, 3:8), so he told us. But this garden-tomb had once belonged to the magicians who had great power long ago with Pharaoh. Forasmuch then as they had the power for long periods, they built their work with stones faced four-square, and made their tomb there, and stored away much gold. They also planted trees, for the place is rather damp, and they dug a well besides. Since therefore the Saint did not know the way, he followed the stars by a kind of guesswork, crossing the desert, as one does at sea. Taking a bundle of reeds he planted them one each mile as landmarks in order to find his way as he returned. So having traveled nearly nine days he approached the place. Then the demon, who always withstands the athletes of Christ, collected all the reeds and put them at his head as he slept about a mile from the garden-tomb. So he arose and found the reeds, God having allowed this perhaps to try him further, that he might not trust in reeds, but in the pillar of cloud that led Israel forty years in the desert. He used to say: "Seventy demons came out from the garden-tomb to meet me, shouting and fluttering like crows against my face and saying: 'What do you want, Makarios? What do you want, monk? Why have you come to our place? You can't stay here.' I told them, 'Let me just go in and look round and go away.' So I went in and found a little brazen jar suspended and an iron chain against the well, rusted already by time, and some pomegranates with nothing inside because they had been dried up by the sun." So then he turned back and went on his way for twenty days. But when the water which he was carrying failed him and also the loaves, he was in great distress. And when he was nearly collapsing there appeared to him a maiden, so he declared, wearing a pure white robe and holding a cruse dripping with water. He said she was some distance, about a stade away from him, and he went on for three days, gazing at her as she stood with the vessel and being unable to catch up to her, as happens in dreams; but he lasted out sustained by the hope of drinking. After her there appeared a herd of antelopes, one of which with a calf stopped - there are many in those regions. And he said that her udder was flowing with milk. So, creeping under her and sucking, he was satisfied. And the antelope went as far as his cell, giving him milk, but not allowing her own calf to suck.
On another occasion, while digging a well near to some vegetable shoots, he was bitten by an asp. Now this beast is able to cause death. And having taken it with both hands he seized it by the jaws and pulled it in pieces, saying to it: "When God did not send you, how did you dare to come?"
Now he had several cells in the desert: one in Scete, the great interior desert, and one in the Libyan desert, and one at the so-called Cellia, and one on Mount Nitria. Some of these are without windows, and in these he was said to sit during Lent in darkness. Another was too narrow for him to stretch out his feet in it. Another, in which he met his visitors, was more spacious.
He healed so great a crowd of demoniacs that they cannot be counted. When we were there a highborn maiden was brought from Thessalonica, paralyzed for many years. He rubbed her for twenty days with holy oil with his own hands, praying the while, and sent her back to her city restored to health. After she had gone she sent him many generous gifts.
Having heard that the monks of Tabennisi had a splendid rule of life, he changed his clothes and put on the secular garments of a workman, and went a fifteen days' journey to the Thebaid, travelling through the desert. And having come to the monastery of the Tabennesiots he asked for their archimandrite, Pachomios by name, a man of great reputation and possessing the gift of prophecy - though the story of Makarios had not been revealed to him. So meeting him he said: "I pray you, receive me into your monastery that I may become a monk." Pachomios said to him: "You have already reached old age, and you cannot be an ascetic. The brethren are ascetics and you cannot endure their labors. You will be offended and will depart, cursing them." And he did not receive him either the first day or the second, till seven days had passed. But he persisted in waiting, fasting (all the time), and at last he said to him: "Receive me, father, and if I do not fast as they do and work, order me to be driven out." He persuaded the brethren to admit him; now the total number (of the occupants) of the first monastery was 1,400 men and remains so up to this day. Well, he entered. When a little time had passed, Lent came on and he saw each man practicing different ways of asceticism - one eating in the evening only, another every two days, another every five, another again standing all night but sitting down by day. So having moistened palm-leaves in large numbers, he stood in a corner and until the forty days were completed and Easter had come, ate no bread and drank no water, neither knelt down nor reclined, and apart from a few cabbage leaves took nothing, and them only on Sunday, that he might appear to eat. And if ever he went out in obedience to nature, he quickly came in again and took his stand, speaking to no one and not opening his mouth but standing in silence. And, apart from prayer in his heart and the palm-leaves in his hands, he was doing nothing. All the ascetics therefore, seeing this, raised a revolt against the superior, saying: "Where did you get this fleshless man from, to condemn us? Either drive him out, or know that we are all going." Pachomios, therefore, having heard the details of his observance, prayed to God that the identity of the stranger might be revealed to him. And it was revealed; and he took him by the hand and led him to the house of prayer, where the altar was, and said to him, "Here, good old man, you are Makarios and you hid it from me. For many years I have been longing to see you. I thank you for letting my children feel your fist, lest they should be proud of their ascetic achievements. Now go away to your own place, for you have edified us sufficiently. And pray for us." Then he went away, as asked.
On another occasion he told us this story: "Having perfected every kind of life that I desired, then I had another desire. I desired to keep my mind for five days only undistracted from (the contemplation of) God. And, having determined this, I barred the cell and enclosure, so as not to have to answer any man, and I took my stand, beginning at the second hour. So I gave this commandment to my mind: "Do not descend from heaven. There you have angels, archangels, the powers on high, the God of all; do not descend below heaven." And having lasted out two days and two nights, I exasperated the demon so that he became a flame of fire and burned up all the things in the cell, so that even the little mat on which I stood was consumed with fire and I thought I was being all burned up. Finally, stricken with fear, I left off on the third day, being unable to keep my mind free from distraction, but I descended to contemplation of the world, lest vanity should be imputed to me."
Once I visited this holy Makarios and found a village priest lying just outside his cell, whose head was all eaten away by the disease called cancer, and the actual bone appeared on the crown of his head. He had come to be healed and Makarios would not grant him an interview. So I besought him: "I pray you, pity him and give him his answer." And he said to me: "He does not deserve to be healed, for it has been sent him as a punishment. But if you want him to be healed, persuade him to give up performing services. For he was performing services, though living in fornication, and for this reason he is being punished and God is healing his soul." So when I said this to the afflicted man he consented, and swore that he would no longer exercise his priesthood. Then he received him and said: "Do you believe that God is?" He said to him: "Yes." "Were you able to mock God?" "No," he answered. He said: "If you recognize your sin and the chastening of God, on account of which you suffered this, reform yourself henceforward." So he confessed his fault and gave a promise that he would sin no more nor perform services, but embrace the position of a layman. Then he laid his hands on him and in a few days he was cured and the hair grew and he went away healed.
Before my eyes a young lad was brought to him possessed by an evil spirit. So, putting one hand on his head and the other on his heart, he prayed so much that he made him hang in mid-air. Then the boy swelled like a wine-skin and festered so that he became a mass of erysipelas. And having cried out suddenly, he produced water through all his senses, and calming down returned to his original size. So he anointed him with holy oil and handed him to his father, and having poured water upon him ordered that he should touch neither flesh nor wine for forty days. And so he healed him.
One day vainglorious thoughts troubled him, driving him out from the cell and suggesting to him as if by a divine dispensation that he should visit the city of the Romans to cure the sick. For grace acted powerfully in him against (evil) spirits. And when for a long while he would not obey, but was being vehemently pressed, falling on the doorstep of his cell, he put his feet outside and said: "Drag me, demons, pull me. For I am not going with my feet. If you can take me, then I will go." He swore to them: "Here I lie until evening. Unless you shake me, I will not listen to you." So, having lain there a long while, he got up, but when night came on they attacked him again, and having filled a two-bushel basket with sand and put it on his shoulders, he tramped about in the desert. Theosevios the Cosmetor, an Antiochian by race, met him and said to him: "What are you carrying, father? Give me the burden and don't trouble yourself." But he said to him: "I trouble my troubler. For he is insatiable and tempts me to go out." So having tramped about for a long time he went into his cell, having punished his body.
This holy Makarios told me the following - for he was a priest. "I noticed at the time of distributing the Mysteries that it was never I which gave the oblation to Mark the ascetic, but an angel used to give it him from the altar. I saw only the knuckle of the donor's hand." Now this Mark was a young man, who learned by heart the Old and New Testaments, exceedingly meek and continent beyond all others.
One day having leisure - Makarios then being in extreme old age - I went off and sat by his door, thinking him superhuman, seeing that he was so old, and listened to what he said and what he did. He was quite alone inside; being already a hundred years old and having lost his teeth, he was righting with himself and the devil and saying: "What do you want, bad old man? See, you have had oil and have taken some wine. What do you want more, you white-haired glutton?" - scolding himself. Then to the devil: "Do I owe you anything now? You won't find anything. Go away from me." And, as if humming to himself, he was saying: "Here, you white-haired glutton, how long shall I be with you?"
Paphnutios his disciple told us, that one day a hyena took her whelp, which was blind, and brought it to Makarios. And having knocked with her head at the door of the enclosure, she entered, Makarios sitting outside (his cell), and threw the young one down at his feet. And he took it and spat on its eyes and prayed, and immediately it recovered its sight. And its mother having suckled it took it and went away. And on the next day she brought the Saint the fleece of a large sheep. And the blessed Melania said this to me: "I got that fleece from Makarios as a gift to a visitor. And what marvel, if He who tamed the lions for Daniel, also made the hyena intelligent?"
And he said, that from the day he was baptized he never spat on the ground, it being then sixty years from his baptism. As to his bodily form, he was rather short, and beardless, having no hairs except on his lips and the tip of his chin. For owing to the excess of his asceticism the hairs of his beard did not even sprout.
One day, when I was suffering from accidie, I went to him and said: "Father, what shall I do? Since my thoughts afflict me saying, 'You are making no progress, go away from here.'" And he said to me: "Tell them, 'For Christ's sake I am guarding the walls'"
I have told you these few stories out of many relating to the holy Makarios.
Apolytikion in the First Tone
O God-bearing Makarios and Makarios, you were found worthy of attaining to blessedness. You had lived venerably, and having followed the path of divine law piously, you are partakers of divine glory and save those who cry: Glory to Him Who has strengthened you; glory to Him Who has crowned you; glory to Him Who through you works healings for all.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
The Lord placed thee in the house of discipline as a star enlightening the ends of the earth; thou didst settle in the desert as in a city and receive from God the grace to work miracles. We venerate thee, Makarios, Father of Fathers.