An Allegorical Explication of the Vision Described in the Prophet Ezekiel
By St. Makarios of Egypt
1. The blessed prophet Ezekiel having seen a vision from God, full of glory, made a relation of it, and committed it to writing; a vision full of mysteries, surpassing utterance. For he saw in a plain the chariot of the cherubim, four spiritual living creatures; each of which had four distinct faces: one the face of a lion, another that of an eagle, the third of an ox, and the last the face of a man. To every face there were wings, so that there were no hinder parts to any of them, nor any thing behind at all. Their necks were full of eyes, and their bellies in like manner were thick set with eyes; neither was there any one part about them at all free from eyes. There were also wheels to every face, a wheel within a wheel. And the Spirit was in the wheels. And he saw as it were the likeness of a man, and under his feet as it were a work of sapphire. And the chariot bore the cherubim, and the living creatures the Lord that sat upon them. Whithersoever they would go, it was straight-forward. And he saw under each cherub as it were the hand of a man supporting and carrying.
2. And this that the prophet saw, was true and certain. But the thing it signified, or shadowed forth beforehand, was a matter mysterious and divine, that very mystery which had been hid from ages and generations, but was made manifest at the appearing of Christ. For the mystery which he saw, was that of the human soul as she is hereafter to receive her Lord, and become herself the very throne of his glory. For the soul that is thought worthy to partake of the spirit of his light, and is irradiated by the beauty of his ineffable glory (he having by that spirit prepared her for his own seat and habitation), becomes all light, all face, and all eye: neither is there any one part in her but what is full of these spiritual eyes of light; that is, there is no part in her darkened: but she is all entirely wrought into light and spirit, and is all over full of eyes, having no hinder part, or any thing behind; but appears to be altogether face, by reason of the inexpressible beauty of the glory of the light of Christ, that rides and sits upon her.
3. And as the sun is altogether of one likeness, without any hinder part or defect, but is all throughout bedecked with light, without the least variety of part; or as the light is all over of an exact likeness with itself, and admits of no distinction of first or last: so the soul that is thoroughly illuminated by the inexpressible beauty of the glory of the light of the face of Christ, and partakes of the Holy Spirit in perfection, and is thought worthy to become the mansion and the throne of God, becomes all eye, all light, and all face, and all glory, and all spirit; Christ himself who governs and drives, and carries and supports her, thus preparing her, and thus gracing and adorning her with spiritual beauty. For "the hand", says the text, "of a man was under the cherub", because he it is that rideth in her, and directs her way.
4. But another way, it is applied to the church of the saints in heaven. And as it is said that the living creatures were exceeding high, full of eyes, and that it was impossible for any one to comprehend the number of the eyes, or the height; and as to behold and wonder at the stars in heaven was given to all men, hut to know or comprehend the number of them was not given: so may I affirm also of the church of the saints in heaven, that to enter in and enjoy it is granted to all that will but strive; but to know and comprehend the exact number there, is reserved for God alone.
5. The rider therefore is carried about in this chariot, and throne of living creatures that are all eye, or in other words, by every particular soul that is once become his throne or seat, and is perfect eye and light, he having placed himself thereon, and governing it with the reins of the Spirit, and directing her in the way, as he sees best. For as the spiritual living creatures went not whither they were willing of themselves, but at the discretion and pleasure of him that sat upon them, and directed the way: thus also does the same person hold the reins, drive and conduct the soul by his Spirit. Thus do they take their course even in heaven, not when they please, or as they are inclined themselves. And when this body is thrown off, he still manages the reins, and orders every motion of the soul in wisdom. And again, whenever he pleases, he comes into the body, and into the thoughts of the heart; and when he pleases, into the ends of the earth, and discovers to her mysteries without a veil. O, the noble and good, and only true Charioteer! Thus too shall our very bodies be honoured in the resurrection, the soul being thus glorified, and mixing with the Spirit in this present life. But the soul which still lives in the darkness of sin, belongs not to the body of light; but is indeed the body of darkness, and still sides with the faction of darkness. They only that have the life of light, that is, the power of the Holy Spirit, belong to the light. The soul in itself is a creature intellectual, and beautiful, and great, and wonderful, and a noble likeness and image of God. And it was through the transgression, that the affections of darkness gained entrance into it.
6. It remains then that whatsoever the soul mixes with, the same is it united to in very motion of the will. If therefore it has the light of God within itself, and lives therein, it belongeth to the light of rest; or if it has the darkness of sin, it inherits condemnation. But the soul that is desirous to live with God in rest and light eternal, ought to come to Christ the true high priest, to be slain and become dead to the world, and to its former life of darkness, and be removed to another life altogether divine.
7. As a person that is dead in a city, neither hears the voice of them that inhabit it, nor any sounds whatever; but is disposed of in some other place, where no voices and cries of that city come; so the soul, after it is once slain and dead in that city of corrupt affections, where it lives at present and converses, hears no more within itself, the clamour and bustle of the spirits of darkness; but is translated into the city of goodness and peace, into the city of the light of the Godhead, and there it lives and hears, and there it is wholly taken up, and talks, and reasons, and there does it work the works that are spiritual, and worthy of God.
8. Let us therefore pray that we may be slain by his power, and become dead to the world of wickedness, of darkness, and receive the life of the heavenly Spirit, and be translated from the evil state of darkness into the light of Christ, and be refreshed in life to all ages.
9. Sin detains and stops and hinders the soul, that it should not come near to God and carry off the victory. But where the Lord himself takes the reins of the soul into his hands, that person never fails of victory, because he skilfully governs and directs the chariot of the soul, into an heavenly and divine sense at all times. For neither does he war against sin, but as he has the supreme power in himself, he works himself the victory.
10. The cherubim then are driven not whither they are inclined of themselves to go, but the way which he that holds the reins directs. Which way so ever he is willing, there it is they go, and he carries them. "For there was (says the text), under them, the hand of a man." The holy souls are led and directed in their way, by the Spirit of Christ, guiding them where he pleases; sometimes into heavenly contemplation, sometimes into temporal things. Where his pleasure is, there do they wait upon him.
11. Do you, therefore, who hearest these things, look well to your self, whether you art possessed of them in thy own soul. And if you art not, you oughtest to have continual grief and sorrow of heart, and anxiety, as one separated hitherto by death from the kingdom. And as one that is wounded, cry to the Lord without intermission, and ask in faith, that he would make you also worthy of this true life.
12. For as the body is not supplied from its own nature with meat, drink, and clothing, but has the universal supply of life from without, being quite naked of itself; so the soul cannot attain to everlasting life from its own nature, but from the Divine nature; from his Spirit, from his light it is maintained in spiritual meat and drink, and the heavenly clothing, which are the life of the soul. For the Divine nature contains in it the very bread of life, and the living water, and the wine which cheereth the heart of man, and the oil of gladness, and the whole variety of the food of the heavenly Spirit, and the heavenly robes of light which are of God. In these does the eternal life of the soul consist. Woe to the body, when it shall stand upon the bottom of its own nature, because it corrupts and dies! And woe to the soul, if it shall presume upon the strength of its nature, and trust to nothing but its own works, not having the fellowship of the divine Spirit, because it dies, of course, not being thought worthy of the eternal life of the Godhead.
13. If therefore you art become the throne of God, and the heavenly Charioteer has seated himself upon thee, and thy soul is become all over a spiritual eye; and you art nourished with that food of the Spirit, and have been made to drink of the living water, and art clothed with the garments of light; lo, then you livest indeed, even the life which is truly eternal; your soul being at rest with the Lord; lo you art in actual possession, and have received these things from the Lord in truth, that you might live the true life. But if you art conscious to thyself of nothing of all this, lament and grieve, and mourn, because as yet you have not any share of the spiritual and eternal riches, neither have received the true life.
14. Be in pain, therefore, and entreat the Lord night and day, because you art sunk into the calamitous poverty of sin. But would to God that any had a quick sense of this pain, by reason of this their want! And that we might not live on in security, as if we were full. Because he that is troubled in good earnest, and seeks and prays to the Lord without ceasing, shall soon obtain redemption and the heavenly riches, as the Lord has said in the parable with relation to the unjust judge and the widow, "How much more shall God avenge them that cry to him night and day? I tell you of a truth, that he will avenge them speedily."
To whom be glory and power unto the ages. Amen.