Saint Makarios the Egyptian Homily XXV

17 July 2021

How we came into bondage to the passions and are delivered by the Cross. Also the power of tears and the divine fire.

How then should we not be serpents, since we don’t behave in obedience to God, but in the disobedience which came by the serpent? Given this, I don’t know how best to lament the calamity. I don’t know how I should cry and weep to him who has the power to expel the delusion entrenched within me. ‘How shall I sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’. How shall I lament for Jerusalem? How shall I flee from the grievous bondage of Pharaoh? How am I to leave this vile dwelling-place? How can I renounce the bitter tyranny? How can I exit the land of Egypt? How can I cross the Red Sea? How can I cross the great wilderness? How shall I not be lost to the bite of a snake? How shall I defeat foreigners? How shall I destroy the heathen within me? How shall I receive the words of the law of God upon these tablets of mine? How shall I see the true pillar of light and the cloud, proceeding from the Holy Spirit? How shall I enjoy the manna of everlasting delight? How shall I drink the water from the life-giving rock? How shall I pass over the Jordan and into the blessed land of the promise? How shall  I see the Lord’s chief captain, at the sight of whom Joshua, the son of Nun, immediately fell down and venerated him? Yet unless I  accomplish all this and destroy the heathen within me, I can’t enter the sanctuary of God and be at ease, nor can I become a partaker of the glory of the King.

Therefore labor to become a child of God without blemish, and to enter into that rest, where Christ entered for us, as the forerunner. Labor to be enrolled in the church in heaven together with the firstborn, so that you may be found at the right hand of the majesty of the Most High. Labor to enter the holy city, pacified and sublime Jerusalem, where Paradise also is. You will not be able to perform these wonderful and blessed feats in any other way than by pouring out tears day and night, as did the person who said:  ‘Every night I wash my bed, and water my couch with my tears’ (Ps. 4, 6). You know well that they who sow in tears shall reap in joy (Ps. 125, 6). As the prophet boldly says, ‘Hearken to my tears; do not ignore me’ (Ps. 38, 13). And again, ‘Set my tears before you, according to your promise’ (Ps. 55, 9) and, ‘My tears have been my bread day and night’ (Ps. 41, 4). And in another psalm, ‘I have mingled my drink with weeping (Ps. 101, 10).

The tear that is really shed out of much affliction and anguish of heart, in the knowledge of the truth and with visceral burning, is, indeed, food for the soul, supplied from the heavenly bread, of which Mary formerly partook when she sat at the feet of the Lord and wept, according to the testimony of the Savior himself. For he says, ‘Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her’. Oh, those precious pearls in the flood of blessed tears! Oh, that keen and readily persuaded  attention! What a strong, wise mind! What sharpness of the Spirit of the Lord, drawn inexorably towards the unsullied Bridegroom! What a spur of desire in the soul for God the Word! What swift communion of the bride with the heavenly Bridegroom!

Imitate that soul then, my child; imitate the soul whose eyes were fixed solely on him, who said: ‘I have come to send fire upon the earth, and I wish that it had already been kindled’ (Luke 22, 49).  There is indeed a kindling of the Spirit, which makes hearts burst into flame. Because the immaterial and divine fire has the effect of enlightening souls and trying them, like unalloyed gold in the furnace.  Iniquity, on the other hand, it consumes like thorns or stubble: ‘for our God is a consuming fire’ (Heb. 12, 29);  ‘in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey his gospel. (2 Thess. 1, 8). It was this fire that worked in the apostles, when they spoke with fiery tongues. It was this fire which shone brightly on Saint Paul through the voice which  enlightened his mind, but blinded his sense of sight. For it was not without the flesh that he saw the power of that light. It was this fire which appeared to Moses in the bush. This fire, in the shape of a chariot, snatched up Elijah from the earth. The blessed David was seeking the action of this fire when he said, ‘Test me, Lord, and prove me: set fire to my reins and my heart’ (Ps. 25, 2).

It was this fire which warmed the heart of Cleopas and those with him while the Savior talked after His resurrection. The angels and ministering spirits share in the shining of this fire, according to what is said: ‘Who makes his angels spirits, and his ministers a flaming fire (Ps. 103, 4). It is this fire which consumes the beam that is in the inward eye, making the mind clear, so that it recovers its natural power of penetration and can see in perpetuity the wonderful things of God: ‘Uncover my eyes and I shall see the wondrous things of your law’ (Ps. 118, 18). This fire drives away devils, and destroys sin; and it’s the power of resurrection, and the action of immortality, the illumination of holy souls, and the constitution of rational powers. Let us pray that this fire may reach us also, so that, always walking in the light, we may never for a moment dash our feet against a stone. Rather, shining as lights in the world, may we hold fast the word of everlasting life, so that, enjoying God’s blessings, we may rest with the Lord in life, glorifying the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to whom be glory and dominion to the ages. Amen.