Thursday, January 19, 2006
Today is my Names Day so I thought I would tell something of Macarius. I like him so much. Each time I read his story I am encouraged. I began to look for more of his story when I noticed that many of the daily prayers that we pray are his. Just before my baptism I noticed that he reposed on the eve of my birthday so that clinched it for me. I would ask him to be my patron saint to look out for me and to pray for me. Also 1. He struggled hard to not care what people thought of him, only being mindful of what his Heavenly Father thought, and 2. He was an artisan, a weaver of baskets. Anyway here's his story.
Saint Macarius the Great of Egypt was born around 331 in the village of Ptinapor in Egypt. At the wish of his parents he entered into marriage, but was soon widowed. The Lord sent him an experienced Elder, who lived in the desert not far from the village. The Elder accepted the youth with love, guided him in the spiritual science of watchfulness, fasting and prayer, and taught him the handicraft of weaving baskets. At one point he was falsely accused by a woman from a nearby village of seducing her and fathering her child. The villagers dragged him out of his cell and jeered at him. St. Macarius endured the temptation with great humility. Without a murmur, he sent the money that he got for his baskets for the support of the pregnant woman. The innocence of St. Macarius was manifested when the woman, who suffered torment for many days, was not able to give birth. She confessed that she had slandered the hermit, and revealed the name of the real father. When her parents found out the truth, they were astonished and intended to go to the saint to ask forgiveness. Though St. Macarius willingly accepted dishonor, he shunned the praise of men. He fled from that place by night and settled on Mt. Nitria in the Pharan desert. Thus human wickedness contributed to the prospering of the righteous. Having dwelt in the desert for three years, he went to St. Anthony the Great, the Father of Egyptian monasticism, for he had heard that he was still alive in the world, and he longed to see him. Abba Anthony received him with love, and Macarius became his devoted disciple and follower. St. Macarius lived with him for a long time and then, on the advice of the saintly abba, he went off to the Skete monastery (in the northwest part of Egypt). He so shone forth in asceticism that he came to be called "a young Elder," because he had distinguished himself as an experienced and mature monk, even though he was not quite thirty years old. "When the saint reached the age of forty, he was ordained to the priesthood and made the head of the monks living in the desert of Skete. During these years, St. Macarius often visited with St. Anthony the Great, receiving guidance from him in spiritual conversations. St. Macarius worked many healings. People thronged to him from various places for help and for advice, asking his holy prayers. All this unsettled the quietude of the saint. He therefore dug out a deep cave under his cell, and hid there for prayer and meditation. Despite attaining such heights of holiness, he continued to preserve his unusual humility.One time the holy abba caught a thief loading his things on a donkey standing near the cell. Without revealing that he was the owner of these things, the monk began to help tie up the load. Having removed himself from the world, the monk told himself, "We bring nothing at all into this world; clearly, it is not possible to take anything out from it. Blessed be the Lord for all things!"
When the monks asked him how to pray properly, he answered, "Prayer does not require many words. It is needful to say only, "Lord, as Thou wilt and as Thou knowest, have mercy on me." If an enemy should fall upon you, you need only say, "Lord, have mercy!" The Lord knows that which is useful for us, and grants us mercy." One time St. Macarius sent a youth to a cemetery to rebuke and then to praise the dead. Then he asked him what they said to him. The young man replied, "They were silent to both praise and reproach." Macarius told him, "If you wish to be saved, be as one dead. Do not become angry when insulted, nor puffed up when praised." The prayer of St. Macarius saved many in perilous circumstances of life, and preserved them from harm and temptation. His benevolence was so great that they said of him: "Just as God sees the whole world, but does not chastize sinners, so also does Abba Macarius cover his neighbor's weaknesses, which he seemed to see without seeing, and heard without hearing."The monk lived until the age of ninety. Shortly before his death, Sts. Anthony and Pachomius appeared to him, bringing the joyful message of his departure to eternal life in nine days. After instructing his disciples to preserve the monastic Rule and the traditions of the Fathers, he blessed them and began to prepare for death. St. Macarius departed to the Lord saying, "Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit." Abba Macarius spent sixty years in the wilderness, being dead to the world. He spent most of his time in conversation with God, often in a state of spiritual rapture. But he never ceased to weep, to repent and to work. The saint's profound theological writings are based on his own personal experience. Fifty Spiritual Homilies and seven Ascetic Treatises survive as the precious legacy of his spiritual wisdom.Several prayers composed by St. Macarius the Great are still used by the Church in the Prayers Before Sleep and also in the Morning Prayers. His holy relics are in the city of Amalfi, Italy.
About ten years ago, my friend Josh sent me a picture of himself aboard a boat just off the Amalfi Coast. I didn't know anything about St. Macarius at the time and just came upon this photo a couple of days ago in packing. I just learned yesterday that St. Macarius's relics are in the city of Amalfi. I have decided to add that picture to my collection of things in my little box of things about Macarius and I hope to visit and venerate his relics sometime in my life.
Posted by kimberley francis at 12:12 PM