St. Macarius of Egypt
HOMILY 50 – “It is God that works wonders through His saints.”
1. Who was it that shut the doors of heaven? Elias? or was it God in him, who commanded the rain ? I trow that He who wields power over heaven was Himself seated in his mind, and that by his tongue the Word of God forbade rain to come down upon the earth, and spake again, and the gates of heaven were opened, and the rain came down. Likewise also Moses put down a rod, and it became a serpent, and he spake again and it became a rod; and he took ashes of the furnace and sprinkled, and it became boils; and again he smote, and there came lice and frogs. Could the nature of men do these things? He spake to the sea, and it was divided; to the river, and it was turned into blood. Well, it is plain that a heavenly power was dwelling in his mind, and did these signs through Moses.
2. David, how was he able, unarmed, to engage in battle with such a giant? And when he hurled the stone at the Philistine, by David’s hand the hand of God guided the stone, and it was the divine power itself that slew him and gained the victory. David could never have done it: he was too weak in body. Joshua, the son of Nun, when he came to Jericho, besieged it seven days, unable to do anything by his own nature; but when God commanded, the walls fell down of themselves. And when he entered into the land of promise, the Lord said to him, “Go forward to battle”; Joshua answered, “As the Lord liveth, I will not go without Thee.” And who is it that commanded the sun to stand still another two hours in the conflict of battle? – his nature alone, or the power that was with him? And Moses, when he engaged with Amalek, if he stretched out his hands towards heaven unto God, smote Amalek, but if he dropped his hands, Amalek prevailed.
3. But when you hear of these things happening, let not your mind travel far away; but since these things were a figure and shadow of the realities, apply them to yourself. When you shall stretch out the hands of your mind, and your thoughts, towards heaven, and shall be minded to cleave to the Lord, Satan shall get the worst of it with your thoughts. And as at Jericho the walls fell by the power of God, so now also the walls of evil that hinder your mind, and the cities of Satan, and your enemies, shall be utterly destroyed by the power of God. Thus, in the shadow, the power of God was continually present with the righteous, doing visible wonders; and the divine grace dwelt in them inwardly as well. Likewise upon the prophets also it wrought, and ministered the Spirit in their souls, to prophesy, and to speak, when there was need to say great things to the world. For they did not speak at all times, but when the Spirit that was in them would. Yet the power was always with them.
4. If, then, the Holy Ghost was poured out to such an extent upon the shadow, how much rather upon the New Covenant, upon the cross, upon the coming of Christ, where the outpouring and drunkenness of the Spirit took effect. It says, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh (Acts ii. 17). This is what the Lord Himself meant when He said, I will be with you until the end of the world (Matt, xxviii. 20.). For every one that seeketh, findeth (Matt. vii. 8). If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him (Luke xi. 13) with power and much assurance, as the apostle says (I Thess. i. 5).
Such things, then, are found by measure, and time, and much labour, and patience, and affection towards Him, the senses of the soul being exercised, as the scripture says (Heb. v. 14), through good and through evil, that is, through the crafts and plots and manifold besetments and lyings in wait of evil on the one hand, and on the other through the various gifts and divers helps of the working and power of the Spirit. He who discovers the plotting of evil, defiling the inward man by means of the passions, and is not acquainted himself with the help of the Holy Spirit of truth, strengthening his infirmity, and renewing his sour in gladness of heart, such an one goes his way without discernment, not discovering as yet the manifold dispensation of the grace and peace of God. And on the other hand, he who is helped by the Lord, and is found in spiritual mirth and heavenly gifts of grace, if he should imagine that he is no longer liable to be injured by sin, is deceived without his knowing it, not discerning the subtilty of evil, and not understanding the gradual growth of infancy to maturity in Christ. For through the supply of the Holy and Divine Spirit faith increases and makes progress, and at the same time every stronghold of wicked thoughts passes gradually to complete casting down.
Every one of us, therefore, ought to search whether he has found the treasure in this earthen vessel (2 Cor. iv. 7), whether he has put on the purple of the Spirit, whether he has seen the King and found rest in His near presence, or still serves in the outermost parts of the house. The soul has many members, and great depth; and besides, sin has come in and taken possession of all its members and of the ranges of the heart. Then, when man seeks, grace comes to him, and takes possession, it may be of two members of the soul. So the inexperienced man, being comforted by grace, imagines that grace has taken possession of all the members of his soul, and that sin is rooted out, But the greatest part is still under the power of sin, and only one part under grace; and he is cheated and knows it not.
We might write at greater length concerning these things to your sincerity of disposition, but we have given you thus briefly a starting point, that like men of understanding you may go to work upon it and search out the power of the words and become yet more understanding in the Lord, and increase your singleness of heart in His grace and in the power of the truth, so that holding fast your own salvation with all certainty, and being delivered from all interference of wickedness and craft of the adversary, you may have the privilege to be found unfallen and uncondemned in the day of judgment of our Lord Jesus Christ ; to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
Source: The Fifty Spiritual Homilies of St. Macarius the Egyptian, A. J. Mason, D.D., (SPCK 1921).