January 5, 2019

A Theophany Story for All Enthusiasts for Perfection

By St. John Climacus

(Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 4:31)

I should be quite unjust to all enthusiasts for perfection if I were to bury in the tomb of silence the achievement and reward of Macedonius, the first of the deacons there.* This man, so consecrated to the Lord, just before the feast of the Holy Theophany, actually two days before it, once asked the pastor for permission to go to Alexandria for a certain personal need of his, promising to return from the city as soon as possible for the approaching festival and the preparation for it. But the devil, the hater of good, hindered the archdeacon, and though released by the abbot, he did not return to the monastery for the holy feast at the time appointed by the superior. On his returning a day late, the pastor deposed him from the diaconate and put him in the rank of the lowest novices. But that good deacon of patience and archdeacon of endurance accepted the father’s decision as calmly as if another had been punished and not himself.

And when he had spent forty days in that state, the wise pastor raised him again to his own rank. But scarcely a day had passed before the archdeacon begged the pastor to leave him in his former discipline and dishonor, saying: ‘I committed an unforgivable sin in the city.’ But knowing that Macedonius was telling him an untruth and that he sought punishment only for the sake of humility, the Saint yielded to the good wish of the ascetic. Then what a sight there was! An honored elder with white hair spending his days as a novice and sincerely begging everyone to pray for him. ‘For’, said he, ‘I fell into the fornication of disobedience.’ But this great Macedonius in secret told me, lowly though I am, why he voluntarily pursued such a humiliating course of life. ‘Never’, he assured me, ‘have I felt in myself such relief from every conflict and such sweetness of divine light as now. It is the property of angels,’ he continued, ‘not to fall, and even, as some say, it is quite impossible for them to fall. It is the property of men to fall, and to rise again as often as this may happen. But it is the property of devils, and devils alone, not to rise once they have fallen.’

* In Step 4 St. John is recalling the stories of certain men who were models of obedience from a certain unnamed monastery he had visited.