FIFTY SPIRITUAL HOMILIES OF St. MACARIUS THE EGYPTIAN, Excerpt from HOMILY V

Those who have the spirit of the world are in heart and mind bound in earthly bonds, but the others long after the love of the heavenly Father, having Him only before their eyes with much desire.

  THE world of Christians is one thing their way of living, their mind and speech and action sone and the way of living, and mind and speech and action of the men of this world is another.  Those are one thing, and these another, and the difference between them is great. The inhabitants of the earth, the children of this age, are like corn put in the sieve of this earth, sifted by restless thoughts of this world, and by the ceaseless tossing of earthly businesses and desires and of tangled material notions, while Satan waves their souls about, as he sifts in this sieve of earthly businesses the whole sinful race of man, ever since Adam fell by transgressing the commandment and came under the power of the prince of wickedness.  […]

  As the corn in the sieve is knocked by the man who sifts, and constantly shaken and turned in it, so the prince of wickedness holds all men by means of earthly affairs, and through these he shakes them, and agitates them, and tosses them, and knocks them on vain lines of thought,  and base desires, and earthly ties of the world, constantly taking captive and agitating and alluring all the sinful race of Adam ; as the Lord forewarned the apostles how the wicked one would rise up against them :Satan hath desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat ; but I have prayed My Father that your faith fail not. […]

  Not in a form or in outward figures lies the distinguishing mark of Christians. Most men think that the difference which distinguishes themselves from the world consists in a form and in figures; and lo ! in mind and frame they are like the world, undergoing the same shaking, and inconstancy of thoughts, and unbelief, and confusion, and helter-skelter as all other men. In out-ward form and appearance they differ from the world, and in a few points of religious ordinance; but in heart and mind they are bound with earthly bonds, never having acquired rest from God and the peace of the heavenly Spirit in their heart, because they never sought it from God, nor believed that He would vouchsafe these things to them.

  For it is in the renewing of the mind, and the peace of the thoughts, and the love and heavenly passion for the Lord, that the new creation of Christians distinguishes them from all the men of the world. This was the purpose of the Lord’s coming, to vouchsafe these spiritual blessings to those who truly believe in Him. Christians have a glory and a beauty and a heavenly wealth which is beyond words, and it is won with pains, and sweat, and trials, and many conflicts, and all by the grace of God.

  Therefore their longing is towards that love of the heavenly King, and having Him only before their eyes with great desire, they detach them- selves for His sake from all worldly affection, and withdraw  from every earthly tie, that they may be free always to cherish in their hearts that one longing, and to mix nothing else with it.

  Very few, however, are they who supply a good beginning with a good end, and come through to the end without falling, with no love but one, for God only, and detached from all else.  […]

  Many are pricked at heart, and many become partakers of heavenly grace, and are smitten with divine passion ; but because of the conflicts and struggles and labours and divers temptations of the devil to be borne on the way, they do not hold out, but are occupied with divers and sundry worldly desires,

  Great and unspeakable and inestimable are the promises made by God; and in proportion to them great faith and hope and labours and conflicts are required, and much trial. The blessings for which a seeker of the kingdom of heaven hopes are no trifle. Thou desirest to reign with Christ through ages without end; wilt thou not readily welcome the conflicts and labours and temptations of this short span of life, even unto death? The Lord cries, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily rejoicing and follow Me” and again, “If any man hate not father, mother, wife, children, brethren, sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple”.  But most men wish to attain the kingdom, and would like to inherit eternal life, but do not refuse to live to their own wills and to follow them out. Not denying themselves, they wish to inherit eternal life; and this is impossible.

Reading from the Synaxarion:

  Saint Macarius the Great was from the Thebaid of Egypt, a disciple, as some say, of Saint Anthony the Great. He was born about 331 and struggled in asceticism in the desert at Scete. Although young, he was called “the child elder” because of his great wisdom and austere manner of life. He was ordained presbyter and reposed in 391, at the age of sixty. There are fifty homilies ascribed to him.

  It is said of Saint Macarius that he became as a God upon earth, for even as God protects the whole world, so did he cover the faults he saw as if he did not see them. Once he came back to his cell to find a thief taking his things and loading them on a camel. Macarius’ non-possessiveness was so great that he helped the thief load the camel. When the camel refused to rise, Macarius returned to his cell and brought a small hoe, said that the camel wanted the hoe also, loaded it on, and kicked the camel telling it to get up. The camel obeyed Macarius’ command, but soon lay down again, and would not move until everything had been returned to Macarius.

  Apolytikion in the First Tone

Thou didst prove to be a citizen of the desert, an angel in the flesh, and a wonderworker, O Macarius, our God-bearing Father. By fasting, vigil, and prayer thou didst obtain heavenly gifts, and thou healest the sick and the souls of them that have recourse to thee with faith. Glory to Him that hath given thee strength. Glory to Him that hath crowned thee. Glory to Him that worketh healings for all through thee.

  Kontakion in the Fourth Tone

The Lord God established thee, O great ascetic, in the house of abstinence, like an unerring star that lit the farthest regions with guiding light, Father of Fathers, O righteous Macarius