Lenten Reading: St. Macarius the Great. Homily 12

Concerning the state of Adam before he transgressed God's commandment, and after he had lost both his own image and the heavenly. The Homily contains some very profitable questions.


1. Adam, on transgressing the commandment, suffered a twofold disaster. He lost the pure and lovely possession of his nature, which was after the image and likeness of God; and he lost also that very image in which was laid up for him according to promise all the heavenly inheritance. Suppose there were a coin, bearing the image of the king, and it were stamped afresh with a wrong stamp; the gold is lost, and the image is of no value. Such was the disaster that befell Adam. Great riches and a great inheritance had been prepared for him. Suppose there were a great estate, and it had many sources of revenue in it; here a nourishing vineyard, there fruitful fields, there flocks and herds, there gold and silver; so valuable was the estate before the disobedience, the estate consisting in Adam's own vessel. But when he entertained evil intentions and thoughts, he was lost from God.

2. We do not say, however, that everything was lost, and destroyed, and died. He died from God, but to his own nature he lives. For behold, the whole world walks the earth, and does its business. But God's eye sees their mind and their imaginations, and as it were looks round them and past them, and makes no communion with them, because nothing that they think is well-pleasing to God. If there are houses of promiscuous reception and of ill-fame, and places where disorders and debaucheries are carried on, godly people, as they pass, loathe them, and seeing refuse to see, for these things are to them dead. So God casts an eye upon those who have revolted from His word and from His commandment, but His eye passes on from them, and makes no communion there, nor can the Lord find a resting-place in their thoughts.

3. Question. How can any one be poor in spirit, especially when he is inwardly conscious that he is a changed man, and has made progress, and has come to a knowledge and understanding which he did not possess before?

Answer. Until a man acquires these things and makes progress, he is not poor in spirit, but has some opinion of himself; but when he comes to this understanding and point of progress, grace itself teaches him to be poor in spirit, which means that a man being righteous and chosen of God does not esteem himself to be anything, but holds his soul in abasement and disregard, as if he knew nothing and had nothing, though he knows and has. This is a fixed thing, like a law of nature, in the mind of men. Do you not see how our forefather Abraham, elect as he was, described himself as dust and ashes,1 and David, anointed to be king, had God with him, and yet what does he say? I am a worm and no man, a very scorn of men, and the outcast of the people2

4. Those therefore who desire to be fellow-heirs with these, and fellow-citizens of the heavenly city, and to be glorified with them, ought to have this humility of mind, and not to think themselves to be anything, but to keep the heart contrite. Though grace works after a different manner in each individual Christian, and has a diversity of members, yet all are of one city, of the same mind, of the same tongue, recognizing one another. As there are many members in the body, but one soul is in them all and moves them, so one Spirit works differently in all, but they are of one city, and of one way. All the righteous have gone the straight and narrow way, being persecuted, tormented, reviled, living in goatskins, in dens, in caves of the earth.3 The apostles likewise say, Even unto this hour we both hunger and thirst, and are naked, and reviled, and have no certain dwelling-place.4 Some of them were beheaded, some crucified, others afflicted in various ways. And the Lord of prophets and apostles Himself, how did He fare, as if He had forgotten His divine glory? He was made an example for us; He wore in mockery a crown of thorns upon His head; He submitted to spittings, buffets, and the cross.

5. If God so fared on earth, thou oughtest also to copy Him. The apostles and the prophets fared thus, and we, if we would be built upon the foundation of the Lord and of the apostles, ought to copy them. The apostle says by the Holy Spirit, Be ye imitators of me, as I am of Christ5 But if thou lovest the glories of men, and desirest to be worshipped, and seekest repose, thou art turned out of the way. It behooves thee to be crucified with the Crucified, to suffer with Him that suffered, that so thou mayest be glorified with Him that is glorified. The bride must needs suffer with the Bridegroom, and so become partner and fellow heir with Christ. It is not feasible, without sufferings, and without the rough, straight, narrow way, to enter into the city of the saints, and be at rest, and reign with the King to ages without end.

6. Question. You said that Adam lost both his own image and the heavenly one. If then he partook of the heavenly image, had he the Holy Ghost?

Answer. So long as the Word of God was with him, and the commandment, everything was his. The Word Himself was to him an inheritance; He was his clothing, and a glory that was his defense;6 He was his instruction. He suggested to him to give all things names: "Call this heaven, this sun, this moon, this earth, this a bird, this a beast, this a tree;" as he was taught, so he named them.

7. Question. Had he the experience and fellowship of the Spirit?

Answer. The Word Himself being with him was everything to him, whether knowledge, or experience, or inheritance, or instruction. What does John say of the Word? In the beginning was the Word.7 You see that the Word was everything. If there was also an outward glory with him, let us take no offence at it; for it says that they were naked, and that they did not look at each other; and after transgressing the commandment they saw that they were naked, and were ashamed.

8. Question. Then before this, were they clothed with the glory of God for a cloak?

Answer. As in the case of the prophets, the Spirit wrought in them and taught them, and was within them, and appeared to them outwardly, so with Adam. The Spirit, when it pleased Him, was with him, and taught him, and suggested, "Speak thus," and he said it. For the Word was all things to him, and so long as he abode in the commandment he was a friend of God. And yet why should we be surprised if in spite of such conditions of existence he transgressed the commandment? Those who have been filled with the Holy Spirit still have the thoughts of nature, and have the will to comply with them. Thus Adam, though present with God in paradise, transgressed of himself by his own will, and obeyed the evil side. Still, even after the transgression, he had knowledge.

9. Question. What kind of knowledge?

Answer. When a robber is brought into court, and the trial begins, and the magistrate says to him, "When you were doing these wrong things, did you not know that you would be liable to be taken and put to death?" He has not the face to say "No." He knew, and when punishment ensues, he remembers and confesses all. And does not the whoremonger know that he is doing wrong? And the man who is stealing, does he not know that it is a sin? Thus, even without the scriptures, do not men know from natural reasoning that there is a God? They cannot say in that day, "We did not know that Thou, God, art." He says to them, " Did ye not know the thunders and lightnings from heaven, that there is a God who governs the creation?" Why then did the devils cry out, Thou art the Son of God; why art Thou come to torment us before the time?8 Even now at the shrines of martyrs they say, "You burn me, you burn me." They did not, then, know the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The transgression of Adam conveyed the knowledge.

10. Every one begins to ask, what state Adam was in, and what happened to him. Adam himself received the knowledge of good and evil. We hear from the scriptures that he was in a state of honor and purity, and on transgressing the commandment he was cast out of paradise, and God was wroth with him. So he learns what things are good for him; and having learnt what things are evil he secures himself, that he may not sin any more and fall into the condemnation of death. Now we know that the whole creation of God is governed by God. He it was that made heaven and earth, animals, creeping things, beasts. We see them all, but do not know the number of them. What man is there that knows? God only, who is in all things, even in the unborn offspring of the animals. Does He not know the things that are under the earth, and that are above the heavens?

12. Let us then leave these things, and rather seek, like good men of business, to gain possession of a heavenly inheritance and the things that are profitable to our souls. Let us learn to gain possessions that will stay by us. If you, who are but human, begin to search the thoughts of God, and to say, "I have found out something, and comprehend it," the human mind will be found surpassing the thoughts of God. But in this you are much mistaken; and the more you desire to search and get to the bottom, the more you get out of your depth, and fail to comprehend anything. Those visitations of His which happen to you what He works day by day in you, and how these are beyond expression or comprehension; you can do nothing but receive them with thankfulness, and believe. Have you been able to take cognizance of your own soul from the time when you were born till now? If so, declare to me the thoughts that spring up in you from dawn to dusk. Tell me the cogitations of three days. Nay, you cannot. If then you could not comprehend the thoughts of your own soul, how can you find out the thoughts and mind of God?

12. Nay, eat as much bread as you find, and leave the wide earth to pursue its way; go to the brink of the river, and drink as much as you need, and pass on, and seek not to know whence it comes, or how it flows. Do your best to have your foot cured, or the disease of your eye, that you may see the light of the sun, but do not enquire how much light the sun has, or how high it rises. The animal that is profitable for your use, that take: why do you go off to the hills and try to discover how many wild asses and other beasts dwell there? The babe, when it comes to its mother's breast, takes the milk and thrives; it does not search for the root and well-spring from which it flows so. It sucks the milk, and empties the whole measure; and another hour passes the breast fills up. The babe knows nothing of it, nor the mother either, although the supply proceeds from all her members. If then, you seek the Lord in the depth, there you find Him. If you seek in the water, you find Him there, doing wonders.9 If you seek Him in the den, there you find Him between two lions, guarding the righteous Daniel. If you seek Him in fire, there you find Him, succoring His servants. If you seek Him in the mountain, there you find Him with Elias and Moses. He is everywhere beneath the earth, and above the heavens, and within us as well.10 He is everywhere. So too your own soul is near you, and within you, and without you; for wherever you please, in countries far away, there your mind is, whether westward or eastward, or in the skies; there it is found.

13. Let us then seek above all things to have the brand and seal of the Lord upon us; because in the day of judgment, when the severity of God11 is shewn, and all the tribes of the earth, even all Adam, are gathered together, when the good Shepherd calls His own flock, all those who have the brand recognize their own Shepherd, and the Shepherd takes knowledge of those who have His own seal, and gathers them together from all the nations. Those that are His hear His voice, and go behind Him. The world is divided into two parts, and one flock is dark, which goes into eternal fire, and one is full of light, which is led up to the heavenly rest. What we now make our own, within our souls, the same then shines and is manifested, and clothes our bodies with glory.

14. As in the season of the month of Xanthicus,12 the roots buried in the earth put forth their own fruits, and their own blossoms and beauties, and bear fruit, and the good roots are manifested, and those that have thorns are made manifest, so in that day each one makes evident by his own body what he has done. The good things and the bad are alike manifested. There lies all the judgment and the retribution. There is another food besides this visible food. When Moses went up into the mount, he fasted forty days. He went up a man and no more; he came down possessed of God. Now see; we behold in ourselves that if the body is not supported by victuals, in a few days it is worn out; yet when Moses had fasted for forty days, he came down more full of vigor than all of them. It was because he was fed by God, and his body was provided with another and a heavenly food. The Word of God was made food to him, and he had a glory in his countenance. What happened to him was an example. That glory now shines inwardly in the hearts of Christians; at the resurrection, their bodies are covered, as they rise, with another, a divine, raiment, and are fed with a heavenly meat.

15. Question. What is meant by a woman praying with her head uncovered?13

Answer. Because in the apostles' time they wore their hair loose for a covering. For this reason the Lord and the apostles came into the world of creation, and taught it sobriety. The woman, however, stands as a type of the church. Whereas in the visible world the women at that time wore their hair undone for a covering, the church clothes and wraps her children in divine and glorified garments. And in the old days of the church of Israel the congregation was one, and it was covered by the Spirit, and they were clothed with the Spirit for a glory, although they themselves did not correspond with it. Well, the word "church" is used of the individual soul, as well as of many; for the soul gathers together all her faculties and is thus a church to God. For the soul was fitted for communion with the heavenly Bridegroom, and mingles with the heavenly One. This is observed both of the many and of the one. Thus the prophet says of Jerusalem, I found thee desolate and naked, and I clothed thee14 and so forth, as if he spoke of a single person.

16. Question. What does it mean when Martha said to the Lord about Mary, "I am hard at work about many things, while she sits beside Thee"?15

Answer. What Mary might well have said to Martha, the Lord, anticipating her, replied that she had left everything to sit at the Lord's feet, and bless God all day long. You see, her sitting was for love's sake. But that God's word may be made clearer, listen to this. If any one loves Jesus, and attends to Him in earnest, and not in a casual way, but in love abides by Him, God is already devising to make some return to that soul for its love, although the man does not know what he is to receive, or what portion God is about to give to the soul. When Mary loved Him, and sat at His feet, the gift that was added to her was no casual gift; He gave her a certain hidden virtue from His own substance. The very words which God spoke in peace to Mary were so many spirits, and a power; and these words entering into her heart were made a soul to her soul and a spirit to her spirit, and a divine power was filled into her heart. Where that power shall lodge, it cannot but abide permanently, as a possession not to be taken away. For this reason the Lord, who knew what He gave her, said Mary hath chosen the good part.16 But after a time the things which Martha had done so eagerly in the way of service brought her to that gift of grace. She too received divine power in her soul.

17. What is there to be surprised at if those who came to the Lord, and were personally attached to Him, received His power, when the apostles spoke the word, and the Holy Spirit fell on those who believed? Cornelius received power from the word which he heard; how much more, when the Lord spoke the word to Mary, or to Zacchaeus, or to the sinful woman who let her hair down and wiped the Lord's feet, or to the woman of Samaria, or to the robber, did power go out, and the Holy Spirit was mingled with their souls? And still those who love God, and leave all things, and persevere in prayer, are taught in secret things that they knew not. The truth itself is manifested to them, according to their choice, and teaches them, I am the truth.17 The apostles themselves, before the crucifixion, by continuing with the Lord, saw great signs how the lepers were cleansed and the dead raised up, and knew not how divine power goes up and down and ministers in the heart, and that they should be spiritually born again, and mingled with the heavenly soul, and become a new creation. Because of the signs that He did, they loved the Lord. But the Lord said to them, "Why marvel ye at the signs? I give unto you a great inheritance, which the whole world hath not."

18. His words seemed strange to them, until He rose from the dead, and carried up His body on our behalf above the heavens; and then the Paraclete Spirit entered into their souls and was mingled with them, and the Truth in person manifests itself in faithful souls, and the heavenly Man comes to be with the man that thou art, and becomes one communion with thee. As many as give themselves to serve, and eagerly do all things out of zeal and faith and the love of God, that very service after a time brings them into the knowledge of the truth itself. The Lord is manifested to their souls, and teaches them the ways of the Holy Spirit. Glory and worship to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, forever. Amen.

1 Gen. 18:27.

2 2 Ps. 22:6.

3 Heb. xi. 37 ff

4 1 Cor. 4:11.

5 1 Cor. 11:1.

6 Cp. Is. 4:5.

7 John 1:1.

8 Mark 3:11; cp. Matt. 8:29.

9 Ex. 15:11.

10 Cp. Grenfell and Hunt, Logia Jesu, p. 12. "I am with him. Raise the stone and there thou shalt find Me; cleave the wood and I am there."

11 Rom. 11:12.

12 It corresponded roughly with April; see Homily 5:15.

13 1 Cor. 11:5.

14 Ezek. 14.

15 Luke 10:41.

16 Luke 10:42.

17 John 14:6.

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