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April 17, 2021

Saint Makarios of Corinth as a Model for our Lives

St. Makarios of Corinth (Feast Day - April 17)

 By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Makarios lived in the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries (1731-1805). He was born in Trikala, Corinth, came from the famous Notaras family, and his parents were named George and Anastasia. His baptismal name was Michael. He was first educated in the Monastery of the Panagia, in his own homeland, by the teacher Eustathios who was from Kefallonia. He loved prayer and the hesychast life, and for this he went to the Holy Monastery of Mega Spelaion to become a monk, but his father had him return home. After his teacher reposed, he occupied himself with the work of a teacher successfully for some time. He was loved by the Corinthians for his learning, and especially for his ethos and the modesty of his life. For this reason, after the death of the Archbishop of Corinth, he was proposed to the Ecumenical Patriarch Samuel to be his successor. As Archbishop of Corinth he was devoted to the rational flock entrusted to him by Christ through the Church.

When the Russo-Turkish War broke out, the Turks dethroned the Saint, because "the family of Notarades who were of Byzantine origin participated in the uprising of 1770." He went to Zakynthos, then to Kefallonia, and finally ended up in Hydra, where he met the young Nicholas, later Saint Nikodemmos the Hagiorite, with whom he connected with a perpetual spiritual friendship until the end of his life. As it is known, these two Saints collaborated for the publication of the Philokalia of the Holy Neptics. Saint Makarios entrusted to Saint Nikodemos his manuscripts in order to correct them and to write the Preface. The biographer of Saint Nikodemos, Monk Euthymios, says that Saint Makarios "being with him (in Karyes of Mount Athos) he cried out to Nikodemos and begged him to look over the Philokalia. In this way the blessed one began his task." Father Theokletos Dionysiatis says that "Saint Makarios handed over to Saint Nikodemos the Philokalia manuscript, to clear away mistakes, prepare a prologue and a synopsis of the lives of the holy authors." And Saint Paisius Velichkovsky, in his letter to the Bulgarian monk Theodosius, mentions that Saint Makarios copied the manuscripts from the Mount Athos Libraries.

Saint Makarios was "the main carrier, the leading figure of the Hesychast movement, the so-called Kollyvades." He lived for a long time on Mount Athos and then in Patmos. However, he spent the last years of his life in Chios, where he reposed peacefully. At that time in Chios was Saint Athanasios of Paros, who was friends with the Saint and his biographer.

His life and conduct give us the opportunity to highlight the following:

The hesychast life is nothing but the evangelical life, that is, the struggle for the implementation of God's will and the attainment of the purpose for which man was created, which is his communion with God. The First-formed in Paradise, with their illumined nous, saw the glory of God and had communion with Him. After their fall into sin, they turned away from God, who is the source of Light, and for this reason their nous was darkened and they lost communion with Him.

The nous, which is the eye of the soul, to the post-fallen man is darkened and bound to earthly things. He is confused with reason and enslaved to passions, and instead of being concentrated in the heart, which is his natural space, his paternal home, he wanders here and there as a prodigal. His return to his paternal home, the heart, and from there to God, is done through repentance, asceticism, the sacramental life and prayer, especially through unceasing noetic prayer, that is, the continual invocation of the Name of Christ. Thus, the heart is purified and becomes the abode of the Holy Spirit, and the nous is illumined, and as it is written in the "Great Canon", it becomes "a nous that sees God", and then man "reaches by contemplation the innermost darkness and gains great merchandise."

Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, in the Preface he wrote to the Philokalia, invites Orthodox Christians, those who love God and desire communion with Him, and says to them, "Come, all who are participants in the Orthodox call, both laymen and monks, all who are seeking to find the Kingdom of God which is within you, and the treasure which is hidden in the field of your heart. And this treasure is sweet Jesus Christ. Thus, free from captivity of this world, and the wandering of your mind, and with your heart purified from the passions, with the unceasing awesome invocation of our Lord Jesus Christ, together with the other cooperating virtues taught by this work, you will be united with one another. And thus united will all be united with God, according to the entreaty of our Lord to His Father, Who said: 'That they may be one, as we are one.' Thus united with Him and altogether changed by the ecstasy which is effected by divine eros, may you abundantly be deified, possessing spiritual consciousness and a secure form of knowledge, and return to the original plan of God, glorifying the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. To this transcendentally Holy Godhead is due all glory, honor, and worship unto the ages of ages. Amen."

The study of the Holy Scriptures, the lives of the Saints and the words of the Holy Fathers of the Church, combined with asceticism, the sacramental life and prayer, attracts the Grace of God, who also illumines the soul, as well as creates a disposition for more prayer and a greater struggle for the practice of the divine commandments, the transformation of the passions, the acquisition of the knowledge of God and of divine love, which, according to Saint Isaac the Syrian, is Paradise. A prominent place among the readings beneficial to the soul is occupied by the Philokalia, which contains texts of the Holy Fathers, the so-called Neptics, and according to Father Theokletos Dionysiatis, “it is a treasury of nipsis, a guardian of the nous, a secret school of noetic prayer, an excellent outline of practical education, a guide without error of spiritual theoria, the paternal Paradise, the golden chain of virtues, the constant preoccupation with the name of Jesus, the trumpet that restores Grace and a means of theosis which is longed for a myriad times over."

May, by the Grace of God and our spiritual struggle, we be found worthy to find the precious treasure that is hidden deep in the depths of our hearts.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.