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HOMILIES ST ISAAC Epistle of Saint Makarios   28/11/2020 12:00 πμ
The First Syriac Epistle of Saint Makarios of Alexandria On the Christian Discipline.

(Translated from the Syriac text edition by W. Strothmann in Die syrische Uberlieferung der Schriften des Makarios 1, pp. 132-152. In the MSS this epistle bears different titles, one of which is 'The Twelfth Syriac Epistle of Saint Makarios of Egypt').




The Christian should estrange himself from the sin aroused in any of his members and be joined to all the members of righteousness. If a man's eye and his vision are sound, but his foot or hand is injured, then two of his members will be healthy, but illness will be present in the others. Such a man does not enjoy the perfect health of his entire body. Therefore the Christian should gain health in all his members.





A Christian's secret, his knowledge, and his discipline are alien to this world, and for this reason most men do not know them. Christianity is something alien to the artisans, the builders, the merchants, and the philosophers which one sees in the world. Now suppose there was a great city all of whose inhabitants were from the same great lineage, all princes or all rich men, but it happened that each of them was dispersed into a different province. The inhabitants of those regions would consider them barbarians, whereas they alone would be able to recognize each other on sight and to know that they spoke the same language and were citizens of the same city. In like manner Christians are citizens of a city which is alien to this world. They are citizens of a different age, their wisdom is different, the Spirit which dwells in them is lofty, their lineage is heavenly, their riches permanent, their worth everlasting. Their will is concordant with their Lord's.




Their intellect is that of Christ (Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:16). They are sons of light, sons of the bridal chamber, sons of rest, sons of the new testament.

The new language of things that are everlasting and imperishable is very different.

Take a king or a philosopher of this world: will he be conversant with faith through




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the language of life, will he partake of the true wisdom which is more lofty than heaven and earth? Who of such men could truly know in word and deed that all visible things in this world are mirages which delude the eyes? For a man cannot turn away from the world and enter into true life until he has journeyed through rugged passages.

As mist weighs down upon the air, so the power of sin filled Adam's heart. It also lies like smoke upon our will. Although the lovers of truth wage war against this smoke, they do not become partakers of the good part immediately, but only through much exercise and sweat. They are superior to those who do not struggle at all. When, however, they receive a little rest, they become puffed up with pride and suppose that they have reached freedom and perfection, not perceiving that they have been deluded.

Nothing is so destructive to a Christian as pride. Through pride the serpent found the occasion to beguile Adam with the promise that he would become a god (Vide Genesis 3:5). Even 'God resisteth the proud' (James 4:6). But the true sign of a Christian is the following: to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty, to endure hunger and thirst, to be poor in spirit, humble and contemptible in one's own eyes, and for a man to beseech God both day and night that he might stand firmly in the truth. But if it should seem to someone that he is satiated, wealthy, and in need of nothing, he partakes of the portion of delusion. The Apostle censures men of this sort when he says, 'Now ye are full, now ye are rich' (1 Corinthians 4:8), and again, 'Woe unto you that are rich' (Luke 6:24), and unto all who think themselves to be something (Cf. Galatians 2:6).




Changes occur in every man even as they do in the atmosphere. One moment there is cold, and soon after, burning heat, and then perhaps hail, and after a little, fair weather. This is the manner in which we are trained: now there is warfare, now grace comes to our aid. Sometimes a man's soul is found in a tempest and violent waves rise up against her. And sometimes a change occurs and she is helped by grace, she is filled with joy of heart, peace of God, and chaste and peaceful thoughts. If it should happen that after these things grievous occurrences should press upon us, we should not be sorrowful; and likewise, at a time of grace-given rest we should not boast. But in a time of joy let us expect affliction, and in a time of affliction let us expect help. In this manner our path is made smooth. But the man who deviates from it will be prey for wolves.



Do not marvel, O sagacious man, if you suffer affliction from persons who dwell with you, for you know that this is the work of the demons. Caiaphas, who crucified our Lord, sat on the seat of Moses, the seat which our Lord greatly honored (Vide Matthew 23:2). And the prophets were also persecuted by members of their own race. The high priesthood of Moses passed over to our Lord and from Him to the chief of the apostles, and from Peter to the Church of God, since the true priesthood belongs to the Church.

Now the Church




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bestows the baptism of fire and Spirit (Vide Matthew 3:11), and the circumcision of the heart (Vide Romans 2:29), whereupon the heavenly Spirit rests, and He dwells in the mind.




As long as we are in this body, we should not be without struggle (like a man who has no cares), because our faculty of free will is in subjection to fear until we reach our eternal city. There we shall be without labor and temptation, for yonder there is no need to be anxious and there is no affliction; there is no old age and no Satan; there is no warfare and no fear, but only rest, joy, and peace. Our Lord is called Redeemer because He gave Himself over to death in behalf of the rational nature of men and redeemed us all from captivity. He is also called Healer, because He healed us with a heavenly remedy and cured the passions of our souls. Jesus Christ is our King and God, but Satan is a tyrant and the ruler of all our evils.

God and His angels call us toward life, but the evil one and his hosts desire our perdition. Lo, the soul stands between the two camps, and she becomes the possession of the side to which her will inclines. Now a father, who is about to send his son to a city by a road whereon he will encounter wild beasts, provides his son with potions that will kill the beasts which attack him. So it is in our case as well. Let us, then, take pains to receive the heavenly potion which heals us, gives us life, kills the passions, and drives away evil spirits. It is not an easy thing for a man to acquire a pure heart. This can be done only by struggle and much toil, which cleanse the heart, give a man a good conscience, and completely uproot evils from him.



Grace supports the heart. But if a man becomes proud, he falls, for he does not know that as long as he is in this body, the smoke of sin is with him. Therefore all the righteous have pleased God by journeying the strait and narrow path (Cf. Matthew 7:14). Abraham was rich before men and before God, yet he called himself 'dust and ashes' (Genesis 18:27). And David said, 'I am a reproach of men, the outcast of the people, a worm and not a man' (Psalms 21:6). The prophets and the apostles endured reproaches and tribulations. And our Lord Himself, Who is the 'way' (Cf. John 14:6), did not come in His own behalf, but for our sake, that we might have a pattern in Him. The King and the Son of the King, God and the Son of God, humbled Himself and took on the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7), being God, and He gave us a healing remedy and healed our wounds.

The Jews despised Him when they saw Him in a humble aspect resembling our own, and it is painful for me to consider the moment when they cried out 'Crucify Him' (Luke 23:21), as the raving people was assembled. The Lord of majesty was humiliated and repudiated by all. Like a malefactor He was condemned to death by the judge and was abominated




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by the entire people. He heard ridicule from every quarter, from the Pharisees and from all men. It is painful for the heart to consider how they spit in His face, crowned Him with a crown of thorns, and smote His cheeks, as it is written, 'I gave My back to scourges, and I turned not My face away from the shame of spitting and My cheeks from buffeting' (Isaiah 50:6). Now if God willed to accept and to lower Himself to such sufferings, dishonors, and humiliations, then no matter how much you humble yourself, you whose nature is mud and subject to death, you will never resemble your Lord [in this]. God for your sake humbled Himself, but you, for your own sake, do not humble yourself. You are proud and puffed up. God came and took up your burden to give you His rest, but you do not wish to endure labors and suffering. By your labors your wounds are healed.

Not every man can discern precious stones. Many owners of pearls, being devoid










of discernment, do not know how great a treasure they possess. Prudent and wise men, however, know how to distinguish the value of both gold coins and counterfeit coins. Likewise among the brethren there are some whom grace accompanies although they do not know that the beckoning of grace is at work, and do not perceive from whence they are moved toward the good in their virtuous deeds, for they are not in harmony with, and do not see, what they have.

Wise men do not only pray at the time of prayer, but at all times they are diligent in prayer. For the warfare with evil is unremitting, the smoke of sin continually rises up, and like water from a spring, so thoughts well up in the soul. Be prepared to resist thoughts not only when you pray, but also during every work that you do, and even when you are sleeping. If you see a rich man in the world, immediately a thought whispers to you that he is very illustrious. But you should contradict it, saying, 'He is a corruptible being', and then show him (or it, i.e. The thought) that your concern is for eternal and imperishable riches. And if, again, a thought should point out to you a beautiful woman and instill in you lust for her, say to it: 'This is defilement which leads to destruction! Lo, the tombs are filled with the bones of the dead!' And if you see glorious things in the world, buildings and cities, you should [reflect to] build up your soul at all times, and your mind and will should be vigilant to contradict the sin that dwells within you.

Pray to God, saying, 'I beseech Thee, my Lord, have mercy on me!' Do this unceasingly when you are walking and when you are eating. When the good dwells in a man, prayer never ceases, because the Spirit prays continuously in him, this, however, is the stage of great and perfect men, namely, that when they are walking and when they are speaking, their prayer to God is unceasing.

The tempter wishes to tempt (or test) a man and to know what he is going to do.

He




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makes trial of him because he does not know whether or not a man listens to him until the soul surrenders her will to him. Nor do we say of Satan that he knows all the thoughts of the heart. Suppose there is a tree with many branches. A man can only grasp two or three branches, but the rest escape him. In the same manner the soul has many members like branches, that is, thoughts and reflections. A few of these Satan can know, but the rest he does not even perceive.

In one matter sin is stronger than we are, when evil thoughts well up in us. But in another we are helped by God through our asceticism and our prayer, if with fervent love we cry out to our Lord, that He deem us worthy of bearing the fruit of love, of belief in our Lord's Gospel, of seeking Him, and of drawing nigh Him. In the visible world a farmer tills the soil; but if rain from on high does not water it, the farmer's tillage will produce no profit from the ground. It is the same also with spiritual cultivation. Therefore a man should till the soil of his heart by toiling with his whole will, for God is pleased by a man's labors and his fruits. If, however, celestial clouds from above do not give rain and the showers of grace, a man's entire labor will be of no profit.

It is proper for a Christian even when he has done all he is commanded to do, all righteousness, to consider that he has done nothing (Cf. Luke 17:10). When he fasts strenuously, he should think that he does not fast; when he prays, that he is like a man who does not pray; and when he perseveres in prayer, that he is like a man who does not do so. He should fix in his soul the thought that he is only just beginning his labor and that he is not righteous before God, as a man who makes a new beginning each day.




Though he despises himself, his heart is filled with hope, joy, and expectation of that Kingdom and of salvation, reflecting that, 'If today I am not redeemed due to my sins, I shall be redeemed by grace tomorrow.' The man who plants a vineyard first reckons in his mind the harvest, the tribute he will give to the king, and the expenses he must pay from his household, then he undertakes the work. So it is also in our case. We endure the afflictions of the narrow way in hope of our salvation and that we shall be accounted worthy of eternal life. For without hope and joy the burden of labor and the hardship of tribulation and patience would weigh heavily upon us.

As a burning stick cannot escape from the fire, so the soul cannot escape from death except by labor. Satan is especially wont to delude us under the guise of good thoughts, and he assures us that by such things [as he suggests] we shall please God. Thus he deceives us and prevents us from being aware of our deception, and he catches us in his snare of destruction. It is expedient for the ascetic athlete, who strives in the contest, to enter into the thoughts of his heart and there valiantly to wage war with the devil's deception to test the passions which Satan incites in him, to renounce even his own soul, to be




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wroth with and to rebuke the lusts which afflict his heart, to stand up and war against his thoughts, and to wrestle with himself.

If in physical matters you preserve your body from corruption and from outward fornication, but inwardly you commit adultery and before God's eyes you fornicate by means of your thoughts, the virginity of your body will be of no profit to you. When a virgin is cajoled and loses her virginity, she is repudiated by her bridegroom. So it is also with the soul. If in her thoughts she commits fornication with the serpent, she is repudiated by Christ, her Bridegroom. 'Every one that looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery in his heart' (Matthew 5:28). Therefore if the mind agrees with any evil thought, the will accomplishes it. The fornication of the body is manifest, for it is wrought with women. The fornication of the soul is hidden, for the soul commits adultery with Satan through all the sinful passions. According to her own will the soul is a sister of God and His angels or of Satan and his hosts. If through the passions she commits fornication with the demons, she will be estranged from the heavenly Bridegroom.

Therefore let us compel our mind to take refuge in converse with Christ. A place of stillness is like the beauty of summer. I know many men who attained to the working of miracles and were caught up in the courts of Heaven; but like ones who luxuriate in the riches of grace, they set prayer at naught, and so fell to the nethermost parts of the earth and into the abyss of sin. This befell them firstly because they separated themselves from the brotherhood; secondly because they became puffed up, filled with pride, and imagined that they had become perfect; and thirdly because they were stubborn in the ways of their own will. Then they set prayer at naught, dared to be teachers [of others], presumed in their own minds to have attained to something, and imagined that they alone were perfect. But when, at last, the tempest rose up against them, they were swallowed up by great waves. The man who has laid hold of the truth is truly humble. He does not judge other men, the sinner, the pagan, or the Jew, but he is vigilant in his mind's understanding, lest he become enmeshed in their works, knowing that they are cripples.

Now the truth reigns in the Church, and unto Her belongs the priesthood.




[460] (illustration; Joy-Making Mourning).




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HOMILIES ST ISAAC FROM THE SEVENTH CENTURY
-FROM THE SEVENTH CENTURY.

7:1The noetic renewal of the saints is the crown of the intellect and the understanding which have communion with God through the revelation of His glorious mysteries, but the universal renewal is the general resurrection of all.
HOMILIES ST ISAAC FROM THE SEVENTH CENTURY
HOMILIES ST ISAAC Epistle to Abba Symeon


Part II – An Epistle to Abba Symeon of Caesarea.
(The Greek printed text addresses this epistle to Symeon the Wonderworker, while the Greek manuscripts have Abba Symeon of Caesarea. Judging merely by the content of the epistle it seems most unlikely that it was written to Saint Symeon of the Wondrous Mountain (Near Antioch) who is also called the Wonderworker).

Your Epistle, O Holy Man, is not simply written words, but as in a mirror you have depicted therein and made manifest your love for us. As you think us to be, so have you written; and you have shown by your very actions that you love us exceedingly, so that on account of your great love, you forget our measure. For that which it were meet for us to write to your holiness and to ask, so as to learn the truth from you (if we were solicitous over our own salvation), this you have anticipated and written to us by reason of the magnitude of your love. But probably you did this with the art of [[divine]] philosophy, so that by means of the subtle and spiritual questions you ask me, my soul

HOMILIES ST ISAAC Epistle to Abba Symeon
HOMILIES ST ISAAC First Epistle Saint Makarios
Makarios The Great). [451]



APPENDIX C – The First Syriac Epistle of Saint Makarios of Egypt.
(Translated from the Syriac text edition by W. Strothmann in Die syrische Uberlieferung der Schriften des Makarios 1 (Wiesbaden, 1981) pp. 74-84).

Abba Makarios writes to all his beloved sons, exhorting and greeting them before all else. When a man wishes to know himself, to seek God, and to repent of what he has done in the time when he was heedless, God by His grace gives him sorrow over his former deeds.
Hereafter God, in His tender mercy, gives him bodily hardship through fasting and vigil, through a multitude of many prayers and renunciation of the world. And he grants him to bear abuse, to despise bodily comforts, and to love weeping more than laughter.
After this a man is given mourning, weeping, humility of heart and of body, and the ability not to see another man's failings, but only his own. Further he is granted to recollect the day of his departure from this world and how he must needs come before God, to have always before his eyes the torments to come, and to have depicted before his heart the glory and honor which those who love God will receive.
HOMILIES ST ISAAC First Epistle Saint Makarios
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