January 19, 2014

Saint Makarios of Egypt as a Model for our Lives

St. Makarios the Great of Egypt (Feast Day - January 19)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Makarios the Egyptian lived in the fourth century. He spent most of his life in the desert with abstinence and prayer. His ascetic warfare is indeed miraculous and his teaching is the fruit of experience. That is, what he teaches is true theology, life-giving and salvific phrases, that come from a heart that is a temple of the Holy Spirit, which is why they sweeten the mind and heart and create inspiration and the mood for prayer.

The more he sought silence and hesychasm the more fame chased him, which is why very many people ran to the desert to hear his wise teachings and to be fed spiritually. Then he, having understood that a crowd of people gathered outside his cell, left through an underground tunnel which he had dug in part with his hands, that led to a cave, where he continued his prayer and beloved hesychasm. He did this out of love for people and not indifference toward them, since he loved them truly, and felt that he benefited them more with his prayers than with his words. His prayers had great power and through this God performed many wonders, many of which are recorded in detail by the historian Palladius, such as healing the sick and the demon possessed, as well as raising the dead.

One of the many miracles that God performed after having heard the prayer of His servant Makarios is the following:

One day a man was secretly murdered and soldiers without knowing who was guilty arrested an innocent man. He protested and shouted that he was innocent, but the soldiers did not listen so they led him to justice. However, he was able to escape and he fled to to the cell of the venerable Makarios. Soldiers entered the cell, arrested him and tied him up, meanwhile he kept shouting that he was innocent. The Venerable One took pity on him and went with all of them to the grave of the man who was murdered. He knelt and prayed fervently and after asked the murdered man if the alleged perpetrator was the one who murdered him. Then a voice was heard from the grave saying this man was innocent and that "another man murdered me, honorable Father". The Venerable One thanked him and told him to rest in peace. Then the soldiers freed the innocent man and pleaded with the Venerable One to show the guilty man by asking once again the man who was murdered. The venerable Makarios told them that it was sufficient that they were assured that the innocent man should not be punished and that he himself was not a judge to punish the one who was guilty.

In the Synaxaria there are cases mentioned which are both instructive and impressive. One of them is the following:

At one time as he was walking he encountered two youths of different sexes walking and passionately embracing one another. Instead of the Venerable One condemning them, he spoke to himself saying: "You miserable one, do you have as much love for Christ as these two youth together?" In this way he humbled himself, and condemnation departed.

He reposed in peace at an old age of around 90.

The sacred hymnographer, speaking of the venerable Makarios, says among other things the following:

"Striving for the blessedness that far surpasseth the mind of man, thou didst reckon, O wondrous one, strict abstinence as pleasure, poverty as riches, indigence as a secure possession and good glory as moderation. According to thy purpose, therefore, thou hast found thy desire on high, O Makarios, dwelling now, in the bright mansions of the Saints." (Vespers Sticheron)

In other words, the Venerable One loved God above all things and did not covet the temporary and perishable, but rather the blessedness of His Kingdom. For this reason he considered abstinence a delight, poverty as true wealth, landlessness as a secure possession and humility as true glory. This is why he managed to enjoy what he longed for and for which he struggled and now rejoices eternally in the heavenly mansions with the all the Saints.

The life and deeds of the venerable Makarios give us the opportunity to emphasize the following:

True wealth is that which does not wear away and thieves are unable to steal and remove it from the owner. Such is voluntary poverty obtained through charity, which in actuality is a deposit in the "treasury bank" of heaven. The wealth of a purified heart from the passions is a secure possession, because within this is treasured the uncreated Grace of God.

Anyone who hunts for temporary wealth and ephemeral glory in actuality divests themselves of freedom which was endowed by God, and they enslave themselves to people, who, in one way or another, helped him to obtain it, because they have them in the palm of their hand, as it is commonly called, and they can blackmail them whenever they want. Anyone who freely enslaves themselves to God and lives under His protection, according to His will, they, according to the venerable Makarios, accept "strength from on high and the heavenly love of the Spirit, and having received the heavenly fire of eternal life, they are loosed from every worldly and false love and are freed from every bond to evil". They remain truly free to love and do what is good and pleasing to God.

Someone who is truly free does not do what the passions, vices and weaknesses dictate, so that they sin, hate, tear down and destroy, but it is one who loves selflessly and respects, and who offers and is a benefactor in every way to his fellow man.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΟΣΙΟΣ ΜΑΚΑΡΙΟΣ Ο ΑΙΓΥΠΤΙΟΣ", January 2009. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.