January 19, 2018

Life and Sayings of Holy Abba Makarios the Great of Egypt


Macarius (Makarios) the Great (the Egyptian), born c. A.D. 300, was a former camel-driver, who traded in nitre. He was one of the pioneers of Scetis. He was ordained priest and lived as an anchorite in a village until he was falsely blamed for the pregnancy of a girl there; when he was cleared, he went to Scetis. Like many of the early monks, he traveled about and was not fixed in any one place, as these stories show. Cassian said of him, ‘He was the first who found a way to inhabit the desert of Scetis.' He was much influenced by Anthony the Great and visited him at least twice. He died in A.D. 390.


1. Abba Macarius said this about himself: ‘When I was young and was living in a cell in Egypt, they took me to make me a cleric in the village. Because I did not wish to receive this dignity, I fled to another place. Then a devout layman joined me; he sold my manual work for me and served me. Now it happened that a virgin in the village, under the weight of temptation, committed sin. When she became pregnant, they asked her who was to blame. She said, “The anchorite.” Then they came to seize me, led me to the village and hung pots black with soot and various other things round my neck and led me through the village in all directions, beating me and saying, “This monk has defiled our virgin, catch him, catch him and they beat me almost to death. Then one of the old men came and said: “What are you doing, how long w ‘ ill you go on beating this strange monk?” The man who served me was walking behind me, full of shame, for they covered him with insults too, saying, “Look at this anchorite, for whom you stood surety; what has he done?” The girl’s parents said, “Do not let him go till he has given a pledge that he will keep her.” I spoke to my servant and he vouched for me. Going to my cell, I gave him all the baskets I had, saying, “Sell them, and give my wife something to eat.” Then I said to myself, “Macarius, you have found yourself a wife; you must work a little more in order to keep her.” So I worked night and day and sent my work to her. But when the time came for the wretch to give birth, she remained in labour many days without bringing forth, and they said to her, “What is the matter?” She said, “I know what it is, it is because I slandered the anchorite, and accused him unjustly; it is not he who is to blame, but such and such a young man.” Then the man who served me came to me full of joy saying, “The virgin could not give birth until she had said ‘The anchorite had nothing to do with it, but I have lied about him.’ The whole village wants to come here solemnly and do penance before you.” But when I heard this, for fear people would disturb me, I got up and fled here to Scetis. That is the original reason why I came here.’

2. One day Macarius the Egyptian went from Scetis to the mountain of Nitria for the offering of Abba Pambo. The old men said to him, ‘Father, say a word to the brethren.’ He said, ‘I have not yet become a monk myself, but I have seen monks. One day when I was sitting in my cell, my thoughts were troubling me, suggesting that I should go to the desert and see what I could see there. I remained for five years, fighting against this thought, saying, perhaps it comes from the demons. But since the thought persisted, I left for the desert. There I found a sheet of water and an island in the midst, and the animals of the desert came to drink there. In the midst of these animals I saw two naked men, and my body trembled, for I believed they were spirits. Seeing me shaking, they said to me, “Do not be afraid, for we are men.” Then I said to them, “Where do you come from, and how did you come to this desert?” They said, “We come from a monastery and having agreed together, we came here forty years ago. One of us is an Egyptian and the other a Libyan.” They questioned me and asked me, “How is the world? Is the water rising in due time? Is the world enjoying prosperity?” I replied it was, then I asked them, “How can I become a monk?” They said to me, “If you do not give up all that is in the world, you cannot become a monk.” I said to them, “But I am weak, and I cannot do as you do.” So they said to me: “If you cannot become like us, sit in your cell and weep for your sins.” I asked them, “When the winter comes are you not frozen? And when the heat comes do not your bodies bum?” They said, “It is God who has made this way of life for us. We do not freeze in winter, and the summer does us no harm.” That is why I said that I have not yet become a monk, but I have seen monks.’

3. When Abba Macarius dwelt in the great desert, he was the only one living as an anchorite, but lower down there was another desert where several brothers dwelt. The old man was surveying the road when he saw Satan drawing near in the likeness of a man and he passed by his dwelling. He seemed to be wearing some kind of cotton garment, full of holes, and a small flask hung at each hole. The old man said to him, ‘Where are you off to? ‘He said, ‘I am going to stir up the memories of the brethren.’ The old man said, ‘And what is the purpose of these small flasks?’ He replied, ‘I am taking food for the brethren to taste.’ The old man said, ‘All those kinds?’ He replied, ‘Yes, for if a brother does not like one sort of food, I offer him another, and if he does not like the second any better, I offer him a third; and of all these varieties he will like one at least.? With these words he departed. The old man remained watching the road until he saw him coming back again. When the old man saw him, he said to him: ‘Good health to you.’ The other replied: ‘How can I be in good health?’ The old man asked him what he meant, and he replied, ‘Because they all opposed me, and no one received me.’ The old man said, ‘Ah, you did not find any friends down there?’ He replied, ‘Yes, I have a monk who is a friend down there. He at least obeys me and when he sees me he changes like the wind.’ The old man asked him the name of this monk. ‘Theopemtus,’ he replied. With these words he went away. Then Abba Macarius got up and went to the desert below his own. When they heard of it the brothers took branches of palm to go to meet him. Each one got ready, thinking that it was to him the old man was coming down. But he enquired which was the one on the mountain called Theopemptus, and when he had found out he went to his cell. Theopemptus received him with joy. When he was alone with him the old man asked him, ‘How are you getting on?’ Theopemptus replied, ‘Thanks to your prayers, all goes well.’ The old man asked: ‘Do not your thoughts war against you?’ He replied: ‘Up to now, it is all right,’ for he was afraid to admit anything. The old man said to him, ‘See how many years I have lived as an ascetic, and am praised by all, and though I am old, the spirit of fornication troubles me.’ Theopemptus said, ‘Believe me, Abba, it is the same with me.’ The old man went on admitting that other thoughts still warred against him, until he had brought him to admit them about himself. Then he said, ‘How do you fast?’ He replied, ‘Till the ninth hour.’ ‘Practice fasting a little later; meditate on the Gospel and the other Scriptures, and if an alien thought arises within you, never look at it but always look upwards, and the Lord will come at once to your help.’ When he had given the brother this rule, the old man then returned to his solitude. He was watching the road once more when he saw the devil, to whom he said, ‘Where are you going this time?’ He replied, ‘To arouse the memories of the brothers,’ and he went away. When he came back the saint asked him, ‘How are the brothers? ‘He replied that it had gone badly. The old man asked him why. He replied, ‘They are all obdurate, and the worst is the one friend I had who used to obey me. I do not know what has changed him, but not only does he not obey me any more, but he has become the most obdurate of them all. So I have promised myself not to go down there again at least not for a long time from now.’ When he had said this, he went away leaving the old man, and the saint returned to his cell.

4. One day Abba Macarius the Great came to Abba Anthony’s dwelling on the mountain. When he knocked on the door, Anthony came out to him and said to him, ‘Who are you?’ He replied, ‘I am Macarius.’ Then Anthony went inside and shut the door leaving him there. Later, seeing his patience, he opened the door and received Macarius with joy, saying to him, ‘I have wanted to see you for a long time, having heard about you.’ He rendered him all the duties of hospitality and made him rest for he was very tired. When evening came, Abba Anthony soaked some palm-leaves for himself, and Abba Macarius said to him, ‘Allow me to soak some for myself.’ He replied: ‘Do so.’ Having made a large bundle, he soaked them. Then sitting down in the evening they spoke of the salvation of the soul, while they plaited the leaves. The rope which Macarius was making hung down through the window in the cave. Going in early, blessed Anthony saw the length of Abba Macarius’ rope and said, ‘Great power comes out of these hands.’

5. Concerning the devastation of Scetis, Abba Macarius said to the brethren, ‘When you see a cell built close to the marsh, know that the devastation of Scetis is near; when you see trees, know that it is at the doors; and when you see young children, take up your sheep-skins, and go away.’

6. Again, wishing to comfort the brethren, he said, ‘A mother came here with her little child, possessed with a devil, who said to his mother, “Get up, woman, let us go away from here.” She replied, “I cannot walk any further,” and the little child said to her, “I will carry you myself.” I wondered at the devil’s tricks and how eager he was to make them flee.’

7. Abba Sisoes said, ‘When I was at Scetis with Macarius, we went up, seven of us, to bring in the harvest. Now a widow cried out behind us and would not stop weeping. So the old man called the owner of the field and said to him, “What is the matter with the woman that she goes on weeping?” “It is because her husband received a deposit in trust from someone and he died suddenly without saying where he had hidden it, and. the owner of the deposit wants to take her and her children and make slaves of them.” The old man said to him, “Tell her to come to us, when we take our mid-day rest.” The woman came, and the old man said to her, “Why are you weeping all the time like this?” She replied, “My husband who had received a deposit on trust from someone, has died and he did not say when he died, where he had put it.” The old man said to her, “Come, show me where you have buried him.” Taking the brethren with him, he went with her. When they had come to the place, the old man said to her, “Go away to your house.” While the brethren prayed, the old man asked 40 the dead man, “So and so, where have you put the deposit?” The corpse replied, “It is hidden in the house, at the foot of the bed.” The old man said, “Rest again, until the day of resurrection.” When they saw this, the brethren were filled with fear and threw themselves at his feet. But the old man said to them, “It is not for my sake that this has happened, for I am nothing, but it is because of the widow and the orphans that God has performed this miracle. This is what is remarkable, that God wants the soul to be without sin and grants it all it asks.” He went to tell the widow where the deposit was. Taking it, she returned it to its owner and thus freed her children. All who heard this story gave glory to God.’

8. Abba Peter said this about the holy Macarius: ‘One day he came to the cell of an anchorite who happened to be ill, and he asked him if he would take something to eat, though his cell was stripped bare. When the other replied, “Some sherbet,” that courageous man did not hesitate, but went as far as Alexandria to fetch some for the sick man. The astonishing thing is that no-one knew about it.’

9. He also said that when Abba Macarius received all the brethren in simplicity, some of them asked him why he mixed with them like this. He replied, ‘For twelve years I served the Lord, so that he might grant me this gift, and do you all advise me to give it up?’

10. They said about Abba Macarius that when he visited the brethren he laid this rule upon himself, ‘If there is wine, drink some for the brethren’s sake, but for each cup of wine, spend a day without drinking water.’ So the brothers would offer him some refreshment, and the old man would accept it joyfully to mortify himself; but when his disciple got to know 41 about it he said to the brethren, ‘In the name of God, do not offer him any more, or he will go and kill himself in his cell.’ When they heard that, the brethren did not offer him wine any more.

11. When Abba Macarius was returning from the marsh to his cell one day carrying some palm-leaves, he met the devil on the road with a scythe. The latter struck at him as much as he pleased, but in vain, and he said to him, ‘What is your power, Macarius, that makes me powerless against you? All that you do, I do, too; you fast, so do I; you keep vigil, and I do not sleep at all; in one thing only do you beat me.’ Abba Macarius asked what that was. He said, ‘Your humility. Because of that I can do nothing against you.’

12. Some Fathers questioned Abba Macarius the Egyptian, ‘Why is it that whether you eat, or whether you fast, your body is always emaciated?’ The old man said to them, ‘The little bit of wood that is used to poke the vine branches when they are burning ends by being entirely burnt up by the fire; in the same way, man purifies his soul in the fear of God, and the fear of God bums up his body.’

13. One day Abba Macarius went up from Scetis to Terenuthis and went into the temple to sleep. Now there were some old coffins of the pagans there. Taking one, he put it under his head as a pillow. The devils, seeing his audacity, were filled with jealousy and to make him afraid they called out, as though addressing a woman, ‘So and so, come to bath with us.’ Another devil replied from beneath him, as though among the dead, ‘I have a stranger on top of me, and I cannot come.’ But the old man was not afraid. On the contrary, he knocked on the coffin with assurance, saying, ‘Awake, and go into the darkness, if you can.’ Hearing this, the devils began to cry out with all their might, ‘You have overcome us. ‘Filled with confusion, they fled.

14. It was said of Abba Macarius the Egyptian that one day when he was going up from Scetis with a load of baskets, he sat down, overcome with weariness and began to say to himself, ‘My God, you know very well that I cannot go any further,’ and immediately he found himself at the river.

15. A man of Egypt had a paralytic son. He brought him to the cell of Abba Macarius, and put him down at the door weeping and went a good distance away. The old man stooped down and saw the child, and said to him, ‘Who brought you here? ‘He replied, ‘My father threw me down here and went away.’ Then the old man said to him, ‘Get up, and go back to him.’ The child was cured on the spot; he got up and rejoined his father and they returned to their own home.

16. Abba Macarius the Great said to the brothers at Scetis? when he dismissed the assembly, ‘Flee, my brothers.’ One of the old men asked him, ‘Where could we flee to beyond this desert?’ He put his finger on his lips and said, ‘Flee that,’ and he went into his cell, shut the door and sat down.

17. The same Abba Macarius said, ‘If you reprove someone, you yourself get carried away by anger and you are satisfying your own passion; do not lose yourself, therefore, in order to save another.’

18. The same Abba Macarius while he was in Egypt discovered a man who owned a beast of burden engaged in plundering Macarius’ goods. So he came up to the thief as if he was a stranger and he helped him to load the animal. He saw him off in great peace of soul, saying, ‘We have brought nothing into this world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.'(1 Tim. 6.7)’The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ (Job 1.2 1)

19. Abba Macarius was asked, ‘How should one pray?’ The old man said, ‘There is no need at all to make long discourses; it is enough to stretch out one’s hands and say, “Lord, as you will, and as you know, have mercy.” And if the conflict grows fiercer say, “Lord, help!” He knows very well what we need and he shows us his mercy.’

20. Abba Macarius said, ‘If slander has become to you the same as praise, poverty as riches, deprivation as abundance, you will not die. Indeed it is impossible for anyone who firmly believes, who labors with devotion, to fall into the impurity of the passions and be led astray by the demons.’

21. It was said that two brothers at Scetis had fallen into sin and that Abba Macarius of Alexandria had excommunicated them. Some brethren came and told Abba Macarius the Great of Egypt about it. He said, ‘It is not the brothers who are excommunicated; it is Macarius (for he loved him).’ Hearing that the old man had excommunicated him, Abba Macarius fled to the marsh. Then Abba Macarius the Great went out and found him eaten up by mosquitoes. He said to him, ‘So you have excommunicated some brothers; and yet they live apart in the village. I myself have excommunicated you and like a pretty young girl to the utmost privacy of her chamber, you have fled here. I have summoned the two brothers, and have learnt from them what 44 happened, and I have told them nothing has happened. Examine yourself, then, my brother, and see if you have not been the sport of the demons, for you have lacked perception in this matter. But repent of your fault.’ Then the other asked him, ‘Please give me a penance. ‘Faced with his humility, the old man said, ‘Go, fast for three weeks, eating only once a week.’ For it was his usual custom to fast for the whole week.

22. Abba Moses said to Abba Macarius at Scetis, ‘I should like to live in quiet prayer and the brethren do not let me.’ Abba Macarius said to him, ‘I see that you are a sensitive man and incapable of sending a brother away. Well, if you want to live in peace, go to the interior desert, to Petra, and there you will be at peace.’ And so he found peace.

23. A brother came to see Abba Macarius the Egyptian, and said to him, ‘Abba, give me a word, that I may be saved.’ So the old man said, ‘Go to the cemetery and abuse the dead.’ The brother went there, abused them and threw stones at them; then he returned and told the old man about it. The latter said to him, ‘Didn’t they say anything to you?’ He replied, ‘No.’ The old man said, ‘Go back tomorrow and praise them.’ So the brother went away and praised them, calling them, ‘Apostles, saints and righteous men.’ He returned to the old man and said to him, ‘ I have complimented them’. And the old man said to him, ‘Did they not answer you?’ The brother said no. The old man said to him, ‘You know how you insulted them and they did not reply, and how you praised them and they did not speak; so you too if you wish to be saved must do the same and become a dead man. Like the dead, take no account of either the scorn of men or their praises, and you can be saved.’

24. One day when Abba Macarius was going down to Egypt with some brethren, he heard a boy saying to his mother, ‘Mother, there is a rich man who likes me, but I detest him; and on the other hand, there is a poor man who hates me, and I love him.’ Hearing these words, Abba Macarius marveled. So the brethren said to him: ‘What is this saying, Abba, that makes you marvel? ‘The old man said to them, ‘Truly, our Lord is rich and loves us, and we do not listen to him; while our enemy the devil is poor and hates us, but we love his impurity.’

25. Abba Poemen asked him weeping, 'Give me a word that I may be saved.' But the old man replied, 'What you are looking for has disappeared now from among monks.'

26. One day Abba Macarius went to see Abba Anthony. He spoke to him and then returned to Scetis. The Fathers came to meet him, and as they were speaking, the old man said to them, ‘I said to Abba Anthony that we do not have an offering in our district.’ But the Fathers began to speak of other things without asking him to tell them the old man’s reply and he himself did not tell them. One of the Fathers said about this that when the Fathers see that the brethren fail to question them about something that would be useful, they ought to begin talking about it themselves; but if they are not urged on by the brethren, they should not say anymore about it, so that they shall not be found to have spoken without being asked, and to have said unnecessary words.

27. Abba Isaiah questioned Abba Macarius saying, ‘Give me a word.’ The old man said to him, ‘Flee from men,’ Abba Isaiah said to him, ‘What does it mean to flee from men?’ The old man said, ‘It means to sit in your cell and weep for your sins.’

28. Abba Paphnutius, the disciple of Abba Macarius, said, 'I asked my Father to say a word to me and he replied, "Do no evil to anyone, and do not judge anyone. Observe this and you will be saved.”'

29. Abba Macarius said, 'Do not sleep in the cell of a brother who has a bad reputation.'

30. The brethren came one day to Abba Macarius at Scetis and they found nothing in this cell except stagnant water. So they said to him, Abba, come up to the village, and we will get some clean water for you.’ The old man said to them, ‘Brothers, do you know so-and-so’s bakery in the village?’ and they said that they did. The old man said to them, ‘I know it, too. Do you know so-and-so’s field, where the river runs?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ The old man said to them, ‘I know it too. So when I want to, I can go there myself, without your help.’

31 . They said of Abba Macarius that if a brother came to see him with fear, like someone coming to see a great and holy old man, he did not say anything to him. But if one of the brethren said to him, as though to humiliate him, ‘Abba, when you were a camel-driver, and stole nitre and sold it again, did not the keepers beat you?’ If someone talked to him like that he would talk to them with joy about whatever they asked him.

32. They said of Abba Macarius the Great that he became, as it is written, a god upon earth, because, just as God protects the world, so Abba Macarius would cover the faults which he saw, as though he did not see them; and those which he heard, as though he did not hear them.

33. Abba Bitimius related that Abba Macarius said this: ‘When I was living at Scetis, two young strangers came down there. One had a beard, the other was beginning to grow one. They came towards me saying: “Where is Abba Macarius’ cell?” I said to them: “What do you want with him?” They replied, “We have heard tell of him and of Scetis and we have come to see him.” I said to them, “I am he.” Then they bowed low to me and said, “We want to live here.” Seeing that they were delicate and had been brought up in comfort, I said to them, “You cannot live here.” The elder said, “If we cannot live here, we will go somewhere else.” Then I said to myself, “Why chase them away and be a stumbling block to them? Suffering will make them go away of their own accord.” So I said to them, “Come and make yourselves a cell, if you can.” They said, “Show us a place, and we will make one.” The old man gave them an axe, a basket full of bread and salt, and showed them a lump of rock, saying, “Cut out some stones here, and bring wood from the marsh, make a roof, and live here.” He added, “I thought they would choose to go away, because of the hardship. But they asked me what work they should do here.” I replied, “Rope-making.” And I took some leaves from the marsh and showed them the rudiments of weaving and how to handle the reeds. I said to them, “Make some baskets, give them to the keepers, and they will bring you bread.” Then I went away. But they, with patience, did all that I had told them and for three years they did not come to see me. Now I wrestled with my thoughts, thinking, “What is their way of life? Why do they not come to ask me about their thoughts? Those who Macarius the Great live far off come to see me, but those who live quite close do not come. They do not go to anyone else either; they only go to church, in silence, to receive the oblation.” I prayed to God, fasting the whole week, that he would show me their way of life. At the end of the week, I got up and went to visit them, to see how they were. When I knocked, they opened the door and greeted me in silence. Having prayed, I sat down. The elder made a sign to the younger to go out and he sat plaiting the rope, without saying anything. At the ninth hour, he knocked, and the younger one returned and made a little soup and set the table at a sign of his elder brother. He put three small loaves on it and stood in silence. As for me, I said, “Rise, and let us eat.” We got up to eat and he brought a small water-bottle and we drank. When the evening came, they said to me, “Are you going away?” I replied, “No, I will sleep here.” They spread a mat for me on one side, another for themselves in the opposite corner. They took off their girdles and cowls, and lay down together on the mat. When they were settled, I prayed God that he would show me their way of life. Then the roof opened and it became as light as day, but they did not see the light. When they thought I was asleep, the elder tapped the younger on the side and they got up, put on their girdles again and stretched their hands towards heaven. I could see them, but they could not see me. I saw the demons coming like flies upon the younger one, some sitting on his mouth and others on his eyes. I saw the angel of the Lord circling round about him with a fiery sword, chasing the demons far from him. But they could not come near the elder one. When early dawn came, they lay down and I made as though I had just woken up and they did the same. The elder simply said to me “Shall we recite the twelve psalms?” and I said to him, “Yes.” The younger one chanted five psalms in groups of six verses and an alleluia and at each verse a tongue of flame came out of his mouth and ascended to heaven. Likewise with the elder, when he opened his mouth to chant it was like a column of fire which came forth and ascended up to heaven; in my turn, I recited a little by heart. As I went out, I said, “Pray for me.” But they bowed without saying a word. So I learned that the first was a perfect man, but the enemy was still fighting against the younger. A few days later the elder brother fell asleep and three days afterwards, his younger brother died too.’ When the Fathers came to see Abba Macarius, he used to take them to their cell, and 1 say, ‘Come and see the place of martyrdom of the young strangers.’

34. One day the old men of the mountain sent a delegation to Scetis to Abba Macarius with these words, ‘Deign to visit us so that we may see you before you go to the Lord, otherwise all the people will be grieved.’ So he came to the mountain and all the people gathered round him. The old men asked him to say a word to the brothers. When he heard this, he said, ‘Let us weep, brothers, and let tears gush out of our eyes, before we go to that place where our tears shall burn our bodies.’ They all wept, falling with their faces on the ground and saying, ‘Father, pray for us.’

35. Another time a demon approached Abba Macarius with a knife and wanted to cut his foot. But, because of his humility he could not do so, and he said to him, All that you have, we have also; you are distinguished from us only by humility; by that you get the better of us.’

36. Abba Macarius said, ‘If we keep remembering the wrongs which men have done us, we destroy the power of the remembrance of God. But if we remind ourselves of the evil deeds of the demons, we shall be invulnerable.’

37. Abba Paphnutius, the disciple of Abba Macarius, repeated this saying of the old man, ‘When I was small with other children, I used to eat bilberries and they used to go and steal the little figs. As they were running away, they dropped one of the figs, and I picked it up and ate it. Every time I remember this, I sit down and weep.’

38. Abba Macarius said, ‘Walking in the desert one day, I found the skull of a dead man, lying on the ground. As I was moving it with my stick, the skull spoke to me. I said to it, “Who are you?” The skull replied, “I was high priest of the idols and of the pagans who dwelt in this place; but you are Macarius, the Spirit-bearer. Whenever you take pity on those who are in torments, and pray for them, they feel a little respite.” The old man said to him, “What is this alleviation, and what is this torment?” He said to him, “As far as the sky is removed from the earth, so great is the fire beneath us; we are ourselves standing in the midst of the fire, from the feet up Macarius the Great 137 to the head. It is not possible to see anyone face to face, but the face of one is fixed to the back of another. Yet when you pray for us, each of us can see the other’s face a little. Such is our respite.” The old man in tears said, “Alas the day when that man was born!” He said to the skull, “Are there any punishments which are more painful than this?” The skull said to him, “There is a more grievous punishment down below us.” The old man said, “Who are the people down there?” The skull said to him: “We have received a little mercy since we did not know God, but those who know God and denied Him are down below us.” Then, picking up the skull, the old man buried it.’

39. They said of Abba Macarius the Egyptian that one day he went up from Scetis to the mountain of Nitria. As he approached the place he told his disciple to go on ahead. When the latter had gone on ahead, he met a priest of the pagans. The brother shouted after him saying, ‘Oh, oh, devil, where are you off to?’ The priest turned back and beat him and left him half dead. Then picking up his stick, he fled. When he had gone a little further, Abba Macarius met him running and said to him, ‘Greetings! Greetings, you weary man!’ Quite astonished, the other came up to him and said, ‘What good do you see in me, that you greet me in this way?’ The old man said to him, ‘I have seen you wearing yourself out without knowing that you are wearing yourself out in vain.’ The other said to him, ‘I have been touched by your greeting and I realize that you are on God’s side. But another wicked monk who met me insulted me and I have given him blows enough for him to die of them.’ The old man realized that he was referring to his disciple. Then the priest fell at his feet and said, ‘I will not let you go till you have made me a monk.’ When they came to the place where the brother was, they put him onto their shoulders and carried him to the church in the mountain. When the people saw the priest with Macarius they were astonished and they made him a monk. Through him many pagans became Christians. So Abba Macarius said, ‘One evil word makes even the good evil, while one good word makes even the evil good.’

40. They said of Abba Macarius that a thief went into his cell when he was away. Marcarius came back to his cell and found the thief loading his things onto a camel. So Macarius went into the cell, picked up his things and helped him load them onto the camel. When the loading was finished, the thief began to beat the camel to make it get up but in vain. Seeing that it did not get up, Abba Macarius went inside his cell, found a small hoe there, picked it up and put it onto the camel saying, ‘Brother, the camel wants to have this.’ Then the old man kicked it, saying, ‘Get up.’ At once the camel got up and went forward a little, because of his command. Then it lay down again and refused to get up until it was completely unloaded; and then it set off.

41. Abba Aio questioned Abba Macarius, and said: ‘Give me a word.’ Abba Macarius said to him: ‘Flee from men, stay in your cell, weep for your sins, do not take pleasure in the conversation of men, and you will be saved.’