Lenten Reading: St. Macarius the Great. Homily 10

By lowliness of mind and earnestness the gifts of the Divine grace are preserved, but by pride and sloth they are destroyed.

    

1. Souls that love truth and God, that long with much hope and faith to put on Christ completely, do not need so much to be put in remembrance by others, nor do they endure, even for a while, to be deprived of the heavenly desire and of passionate affection to the Lord; but being wholly and entirely nailed to the cross of Christ, they perceive in themselves day by day a sense of spiritual advance towards the spiritual Bridegroom. Being smitten with the heavenly longing, and hungering for the righteousness of the virtues, they have a great and insatiable desire for the shining forth of the Spirit. Even if they are privileged through their faith to receive the knowledge of Divine mysteries, or are made partakers of the gladness of heavenly grace, they put no trust in themselves, thinking themselves to be somewhat, but the more they are permitted to receive spiritual gifts, the more insatiable they are of the heavenly longing, and the more they seek on with diligence. The more they perceive in themselves a spiritual advance, the more hungry and thirsty they are for the participation and increase of grace; and the richer they spiritually are, the more do they esteem themselves to be poor, being insatiable in the spiritual longing for the heavenly Bridegroom, as the scripture says, They that eat Me shall yet be hungry, and they that drink Me shall yet be thirsty.1

2. Such souls, which have the love of the Lord ardently and insatiably, are meet for eternal life; for which reason deliverance from the passions is vouchsafed to them, and they obtain perfectly the shining forth and participation of the unspeakable and mystic fellowship of the Holy Spirit, in the fullness of grace. But as many souls as are feeble and slack, not seeking to receive here on earth, while they are still in the flesh, through patience and longsuffering, sanctification of heart, not in part, but perfectly, and have never hoped to partake in the Paraclete Spirit in perfection with all conscious satisfaction and assurance, and have never expected to be delivered through the Spirit from the passions of evil; or having at one time received the grace of God, have been deceived by sin and have given themselves over to some form of carelessness and remissness;

3. these, as having received the grace of the Spirit, and possessing some comfort of grace in rest and aspiration and spiritual sweetness, presume upon this, and are lifted up, and grow careless, without contrition of heart, and without humility of mind, neither reaching the perfect measure of freedom from passion, nor waiting to be perfectly filled with grace in all diligence and faith, but they felt assured, and took their repose, and remained satisfied with their scanty comfort of grace, the result of which advance to such souls was pride rather than humility, and they are at length stripped of whatever grace was vouchsafed to them, because of their careless contempt, and because of the vain arrogance of their self-conceit.

4. The soul that really loves God and Christ, though it may do ten thousand righteousnesses, esteems itself as having wrought nothing, by reason of its insatiable aspiration after God. Though it should exhaust the body with fastings, with watchings, its attitude towards the virtues is as if it had not yet even begun to labor for them. Though divers gifts of the Spirit, or revelations and heavenly mysteries, should be vouchsafed to it, it feels in itself to have acquired nothing at all, by reason of its unlimited and insatiable love to the Lord. All day long, hungering and thirsting through faith and love, in persevering prayer, it continues to be insatiable for the mysteries of grace, and for the accomplishment of every virtue. It is smitten with passionate love of the heavenly Spirit, continually stirring up within itself through grace an ardent aspiration for the heavenly Bridegroom, desiring to be perfectly admitted to the mystical, ineffable fellowship with Him in sanctification of the Spirit. The face of the soul is unveiled, and it gazes upon the heavenly Bridegroom face to face in a spiritual light that cannot be described, mingling with Him in all fullness of assurance, being conformed to His death, ever looking with great desire to die for Christ, and trusting with assurance to receive by the Spirit a perfect deliverance from sin and from the darkness of the passions; in order that having been cleansed by the Spirit, sanctified in soul and body, it may be permitted to become a clean vessel to receive the heavenly unction and to entertain the true King, even Christ; and then it is made meet for eternal life, being henceforward a clean dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit.

5. For a soul to reach these measures, however, does not come all at once, or without trial. Through many labors and struggles, and long time, and earnestness, with trial and manifold temptations, it gains the spiritual increase and advance, even to the perfect measure of freedom from passion, in order that willingly and bravely enduring every temptation with which it is plied by evil, it may then be privileged to obtain the great honors, and spiritual gifts, and heavenly riches, and thus become an inheritor of the heavenly kingdom in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and might for ever. Amen.

1 Ecclus. 24:21.
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