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Pseudo-Macarius: the Fifty Spiritual Homilies and the Great Letter

Pseudo-Macarius: the Fifty Spiritual Homilies and the Great Letter

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NOTE the actual TEXT after INTRO> starts at PAGE 30//1992//298 pages//
George A. Maloney, S.J., provides a great service by bringing to the public the first modern English translation of the spiritual homilies and Great Letter of Pseudo- Macarius, a Syrian monk of the fourth century whose identity is still the subject of scholarly investigation.
The Fifty Homilies, in the form of a practical, monastic pedagogy, reveal the typical traits of Eastern Christian asceticism, with particular emphasis on the spiritual combat, the action of the Holy Spirit, and the importance of interior prayer. The Great Letter discusses the purging of the passions to bring the Christian into a state of tranquility and integration, and addresses the monastic community with instructions regarding organization, humility, and prayer.
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1) THE AUTHOR
The anonymous author who was thought at first to be Macarius the Great, founder of Scete, was in fact a spiritual writer who lived in the region between Mesopotamia and eastern Asia- Minor in the second half of the fourth or in the beginning of the fifth century. The name of Symeon of Mesopotamia, a promotor of Messialianism, has been suggested because there are in these writings questionable opinions and ideas very close to Messalianism. The attribution to Symeon, however, rests on shaky premises. However it may be, Pseudo-Macarius is surely a profoundly spiritual person with a good knowledge of human nature. He was very well educated, had learnt much from his own milieu and from his reading and contacts with others. His writings reveal him as an imaginative person, with an artist's eye, who thinks pictorially rather than conceptually as he treats of the Bible, nature or society, but possessed of a very clear idea of the theology of the Trinity. He is clearly also a good teacher who can make sublime doctrine come alive. His rather large body of writings has had a great influence on posterity.
According to these writings, he was the head of communities of ascetics. There are indications which would lead us to believe that he practised a sort of ascetic exile. He seems to have some knowledge of Basil's writings as there are certain similarities in their works both in vocabulary and ideas; moreover, a text of Gregory of Nyssa seems to speak of Mesopotamian ascetics, "Like Abraham they have left country, family, and the whole world, and keep their eyes fixed on heaven.... their lips are vowed to silence... and they have a remarkable power over spirits." We have seen too that Gregory's Hypotyposis or De Instituto is a parallel version of Macarius' Great Letter. Probably Gregory's paraphrase was intended to put the writings of Macarius through the mill once more in order to distance it from Messalianism.
NOTE the actual TEXT after INTRO> starts at PAGE 30//1992//298 pages//
George A. Maloney, S.J., provides a great service by bringing to the public the first modern English translation of the spiritual homilies and Great Letter of Pseudo- Macarius, a Syrian monk of the fourth century whose identity is still the subject of scholarly investigation.
The Fifty Homilies, in the form of a practical, monastic pedagogy, reveal the typical traits of Eastern Christian asceticism, with particular emphasis on the spiritual combat, the action of the Holy Spirit, and the importance of interior prayer. The Great Letter discusses the purging of the passions to bring the Christian into a state of tranquility and integration, and addresses the monastic community with instructions regarding organization, humility, and prayer.
-
1) THE AUTHOR
The anonymous author who was thought at first to be Macarius the Great, founder of Scete, was in fact a spiritual writer who lived in the region between Mesopotamia and eastern Asia- Minor in the second half of the fourth or in the beginning of the fifth century. The name of Symeon of Mesopotamia, a promotor of Messialianism, has been suggested because there are in these writings questionable opinions and ideas very close to Messalianism. The attribution to Symeon, however, rests on shaky premises. However it may be, Pseudo-Macarius is surely a profoundly spiritual person with a good knowledge of human nature. He was very well educated, had learnt much from his own milieu and from his reading and contacts with others. His writings reveal him as an imaginative person, with an artist's eye, who thinks pictorially rather than conceptually as he treats of the Bible, nature or society, but possessed of a very clear idea of the theology of the Trinity. He is clearly also a good teacher who can make sublime doctrine come alive. His rather large body of writings has had a great influence on posterity.
According to these writings, he was the head of communities of ascetics. There are indications which would lead us to believe that he practised a sort of ascetic exile. He seems to have some knowledge of Basil's writings as there are certain similarities in their works both in vocabulary and ideas; moreover, a text of Gregory of Nyssa seems to speak of Mesopotamian ascetics, "Like Abraham they have left country, family, and the whole world, and keep their eyes fixed on heaven.... their lips are vowed to silence... and they have a remarkable power over spirits." We have seen too that Gregory's Hypotyposis or De Instituto is a parallel version of Macarius' Great Letter. Probably Gregory's paraphrase was intended to put the writings of Macarius through the mill once more in order to distance it from Messalianism.

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Published by: Hermit WithoutA permit on Mar 09, 2011
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04/05/2013

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This homily describes and deplores the tragedy of the person in whom,
because of sin, the Lord does not dwell. And concerning John the Baptist that
none of those born of women is greater than he.

1. Just as once God became angry with the Jews and handed Jerusalem over to the profanation by
their enemies "and they who hated them lorded it over them" (Ps 106:41), and there was no feast
celebrated any longer there, or any offering, so also with the human soul, God, being angry with it
because of violating his command, turned it over to its enemies, to the demons as well as to the
passions. And so, when these had seduced it, they completely ruined it and no longer was there any
feast or incense or offering sent up by it to God. Its monuments have been forgotten in the streets, 78
while terrifying beasts and serpent spirits of evil make their dwelling place in it. And just as a house,
if it has no master dwelling in it, collects darkness and shame and abuse and becomes filled with dirt
and dung, so the soul, which does not have its Lord celebrating with his angels in it, becomes full of
the darkness of sin and the disgrace of the passions and with all sort of ignominy.

2. Woe to the road if no one walks along it nor hears in it the voice of man, because it has become
the den of wild beasts! Woe to the soul in which the Lord does not pass along its route and from
which the Lord does not drive out by his voice the spiritual wild beasts of evil! Woe to the house
where the master does not abide! Woe to the earth which does not have a farmer to cultivate it! Woe
to the ship without a navigator, because it is carried along by the waves and by the heaving of the sea
and is lost! Woe to the soul which does not have the true navigator, Christ, in it, because finding
itself on the sea of frightful darkness and tossed to and fro by the heaving of the passions and beaten
by the winter storm of evil spirits, it finally gains perdition! Woe to the soul when it does not have
Christ, cultivating it with care so as to bring forth good fruits of the Spirit; because left sterile and
filled with thorns and thistles, its fruit finally is burning in the fire. Woe to the soul when it does not
have - 184- Christ as its Master dwelling in it, because being abandoned and filled with the foul odor
of passions, it finds itself a dwelling place of iniquity.

3. Just as the farmer, when he girds himself to cultivate the soil, must take the tools and clothing for
cultivating, so Christ the King, the heavenly and true cultivator, when he came to humanity made
barren by evil, put on the body and carried the cross as his tool and worked the barren soul and
removed from it the thorns and thistles of evil spirits and pulled up the weeds of sin and burned up
with fire every weed of its sins. And in this way he cultivated it with the wood of the cross and
planted in it the most beautiful paradise of the Spirit, bearing every fruit that is sweet and delectable
to God as its owner.

130

4. And just as in Egypt, during the three-day darkness, son did not see his father, neither did brother
see his brother, friend his true friend, since the darkness covered them, so likewise when Adam
transgressed the commandment and fell from his former glory and became subject to the spirit of the
world. The veil of darkness came upon his soul. And from his time until the last Adam, the Lord,
man did not see the true heavenly Father and the good and kind mother, the grace of the Spirit, and
the sweet and desired Brother, the Lord, and the friends and relatives, the holy angels with whom he
was rejoicing, dancing, and celebrating. And not only up to the last Adam, but even now those for
whom "the Sun of righteousness" (Mal 4:2), Christ, has not arisen and in whom the eyes of the soul
have not been opened and have not been enlightened by the true Light, are still under the same
darkness of sin, are plagued by the same influence of the passions and are subject to the same
punishment, since they lack eyes to see the Father.

5. For everyone should realize that there are eyes deeper within than these physical eyes and there is
a hearing deeper within than this hearing. Just as these eyes sensibly see and recognize the face of a
friend or a loved one, so also the eyes of the worthy and faithful person, being spiritually enlightened
by the divine light, see and recognize the true Friend, the sweetest and greatly desired Bridegroom,
the Lord, since the soul is completely illuminated by the adorable Spirit. 79

And thus, seeing with the
mind the desirable and only ineffable beauty, such a person is pierced with divine passionate love
and is directed in the way of all virtues of the Spirit. And so he possesses an unlimited and
inexhaustible love for the Lord he longs for. What then can be more blessed than that everlasting
voice of John as he points out before our eyes the Lord, saying: "Behold the Lamb of God, who
takes away the sin of the world" (Jn 1:29). - 185- 6. Indeed, "among those born of women there is no
greater than John the Baptist" (Mt 11:11). For he is the fulfillment of all the prophets. But all of them
prophesied about the Savior and pointed him out before the eyes of all, crying aloud and saying:
"Behold the Lamb of God" (Jn 1:36). What a sweet and beautiful voice of the one who directly
points out him whom he was announcing! No one of those born of women is greater than John. "But
he that is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he" (Mt 11:11) those who have been born
from above, of God, namely, the Apostles. They received the first fruits of the Paraclete Spirit. For
they were considered worthy to be his fellow‐ judges, sitting on the same throne. They were made
redeemers of men. You find them dividing the sea of evil powers and leading through the souls of
the faithful. You find them cultivators in the vineyard of souls. You find them bridesmen, espousing
souls to Christ, for it says: "I have espoused you to one husband" (2 Cor 11:2). You find them giving
life to men, and, in a word, you find them "in many ways and diverse manners" (Heb 1:1) serving
the Spirit. This is the little one that is greater than John the Baptist.

7. As the farmer drives a yoke of oxen and cultivates the earth, so in a similar way the Lord Jesus,
the good and true Husbandman, yoking the Apostles, two by two, sent them forth to cultivate the
earth of those who hear and believe in truth. But this also is worth saying: not only in the word
heard, as one who possesses the gift of speech and preaches them to others, is the Kingdom of God
and preaching of the Apostles, but the kingdom comes about in the power and work of the Spirit.
This happened unfortunately to the children of the Israelites who constantly studied the Scriptures.
They meditated on the Lord and yet, not accepting the truth for themselves, they gave it as an
inheritance to others. Likewise, in the case of those who explain the words of the Spirit to others,
they do not possess the word in power, yet to others they pass on the inheritance. Glory to the Father
and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit forever. Amen.

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