3Deepest thanks to Dorothy Reeme and Suzy Caruther for their patience in deciphering my writingand typing up the manuscript and many footnotes. Thanks to Reverend Anthony Paul Clarkson,O.C.S.O., who allowed me to read excerpts from his doctoral thesis,
Christ in the Writings of Pseudo-Macarius;
to Bernard McGinn, editor of this Paulist Series, for his encouragement to help inobtaining some needed Greek texts; and to Georgia Christo for her editorial hints and helps.
"I read Macarius and sang," wrote John Wesley in his diary for July 30, 1736. There are countlessothers, alike in Eastern and in Western Christendom, who have experienced a similar joy throughreading Macarius. The Homilies are written with a warmth of feeling, an affectivity and enthusiasm,that are instantly attractive. Their message is one of hope, light and glory:The soul that is counted worthy to participate in the light of the Holy Spirit by becoming his throneand habitation, and is covered with the ineffable glory of the Spirit, becomes all light, all face, alleye. There is no part of the soul that is not full of the spiritual eyes of light. That is to say, there is nopart of the soul that is covered with darkness (H. [=
Collection II] 1:2).Yet at the same time the Homilies are devoid of facile optimism. The Christian journey, Macariuswarns us, is a struggle, a spiritual combat that continues right up to the end of our life: "I have notyet seen any perfect Christian or one perfectly free" (H. 8:5). If Macarius is to be termed anenthusiast, yet his is an enthusiasm rooted in the realism and austerity of the desert.Who is the author of the Spiritual Homilies? His precise identity is a mystery and is likely to remainsuch, unless fresh evidence comes unexpectedly to light. The complex debate concerning "Pseudo
Macarius" during the past seventy years is carefully summarized by Father George Maloney in hisIntroduction. There is general agreement that the author of the Macarian writings has no connectionwith the Coptic Desert Father, St. Macarius of Egypt (c. 300-c. 390). The milieu presupposed in theHomilies is definitely Syria rather than Egypt. Although the language used by the author is Greek,his highly distinctive -xi-vocabulary and imagery are Syrian. This is indicated with full andconvincing detail in the latest study of the Macarian problem, written by Columba Stewart, OSB:"
Working the Earth of the Heart
The Messalian Controversy in History, Texts, and Language toAD 431
(Oxford, 1991). Dom Columba concludes that the Homilies date basically from the 380s,and were probably written in Mesopotamia or Asia Minor.Macarius has links of some kind with the ascetic and "charismatic" movement known asMessalianism. Originating in Syria during the second half of the fourth century, Messalianismspread rapidly throughout the Mediterranean and was condemned as heretical at a series of synods,including the Council of Ephesus in 431. The Messalians were accused of undervaluing thesacraments and overemphasizing dreams, visions and the practice of continual prayer. It is difficult,however, to establish exactly what they believed and did. Like the twentieth-century "charismatic"movement, they were not a clearly defined group, and their standpoint was very probablymisunderstood by those who condemned them.Several of the phrases and images associated with the Messalians occur prominently in the text of the Homilies, although other Messalian tenets are more or less absent. Those who classify theHomilies as Messalian are bound to concede that they represent a moderate and qualified type of Messalianism. Hermann Dörries, in his fundamental study
Die Theologie des Makarios/Symeon
(Göttingen, 1978), even suggests that Macarius is, if anything,
-Messalian, although the