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Fifty Spiritual Homilies Of Saint Macarius The Egyptian

The believer ought to be changed in mind, and gather up all his thoughts in God; for in these all service of God consists.

1. THE believer ought to ask of God to be changed in his purposes, by an alteration of heart from bitterness to sweet, and remember how the blind man was healed, the woman with an issue of blood likewise obtained healing by the touch of His hem, the nature of lions was tamed, the nature of fire was deadened. Because God is the highest good; and unto Him thou oughtest to gather up thy mind and thoughts, and to think of nothing else, but to watch expectantly for Him.

2. Let the soul, therefore, be as one that gathers in straying children and admonishes the thoughts which sin has scattered, and bring them home into her body, always watching for the Lord in fasting and charity, when He shall come and gather her in truth. The future being uncertain, let her set her hope yet more upon her Pilot, with a good hope, and remember how Rahab, when living among aliens, believed the Israelites, and was admitted to share their privilege, while the Israelites in their affections turned back into Egypt. As therefore Rahab received no harm by dwelling among the aliens, but her faith made her at home in the portion of the Israelites, so sin shall not harm those who in hope and faith wait for the Redeemer, who at His coming changes the thoughts of the soul, and makes them godlike, heavenly, good, and teaches the soul prayer—prayer true, undistracted, unwandering. Fear not, He says, I go before thee, and will level the mountains; I will break in pieces the gates of brass and cut in sunder the bars of iron. And again, Beware, He says, that there be not a secret thought of wickedness in thy heart; say not in thy heart, This nation is strong and powerful.

3. If we do not become slothful and give over the field to the unruly thoughts of evil, but compel our minds to obey our will, forcing our thoughts to the Lord, assuredly the Lord will come to us with His will and take us in unto Himself in truth. All well-pleasing and all service are in the thoughts. Therefore endeavour to please the Lord, always looking for Him within, seeking Him in thy thoughts, and forcing and constraining thine own will and purpose to stretch upwards continually towards Him. Then see how He comes unto thee and makes His abode with thee. In proportion as thou gatherest up thy mind to seek Him, He is far more constrained by His own tender compassion and kindness to come to thee and give thee rest. He stands contemplating thy mind, thy thoughts, thy intentions, observing how thou seekest Him, whether with thy whole soul, not indolently, not carelessly.

4. And when He sees thy diligence to seek Him, then He manifests Himself and appears to thee, and imparts to thee of His own succour, and makes the victory thine, delivering thee from thine enemies. Having first contemplated thy seeking unto Him, and how thy whole expectation is without ceasing fixed on Him, He then teaches and gives thee true prayer, true charity, which is Himself in thee made all things—paradise, tree of life, pearl, crown, builder, husbandman, sufferer, incapable of suffering, man, God, wine and living water, lamb, bridegroom, warrior, armour, Christ all in all.

And as the babe knows not how to take care of itself, or do for itself, but looks only to its mother, waiting until she has pity on it and takes it up, so faithful souls always hope only in the Lord, ascribing all righteousness to Him. As without the vine the branch is dried up, so is he who desires to be justified without Christ. As is the robber and the thief, who does not enter through the entrance, but climbeth up some other way, so is he who is justified to himself without the Justifier.

5. Let us therefore take this body of ours, and make an altar of it, and lay upon it every intention of ours, and beseech the Lord that He would send from heaven the great invisible fire, and consume the altar and everything upon it, and that all the priests of Baal, which are the opposing activities, may fall; and then we shall see the spiritual rain coming in the soul like a man’s footprint, so that it becomes the promise of God in us, as it is said in the prophet, I will raise up and build again the tabernacle of David which is fallen, and will build again the ruins thereof, in order that the Lord with His own loving kindness may shine upon the soul which is dwelling in night and darkness, in the drunkenness of ignorance, so that it may wake to soberness and walk without stumbling, performing the works of day and of life. For where the soul feeds, thence is it nourished, either from the world, or from the Spirit of God; and God is there nourished, and lives, and rests, and goes up and down.

6. To conclude, every one, if he will, shall prove himself, whence he is nourished, and where he lives, and what condition he is in, so that having thus perceived, and gained an accurate estimate, he may give himself perfectly to the movement towards that which is good. Well, in praying, take heed to yourself at prayer, observing your thoughts and your motions, where they come from, whether from God or from the adversary, and who it is that supplies your heart with nourishment, the Lord, or the world-rulers of this age. And when, O soul, thou hast proved and known, ask the Lord with labour and longing for heavenly nourishment and growth and the motions of Christ, according to the saying, Our conversation is in heaven, and not, as some imagine, in a shape or fashion. Behold, the mind and disposition of those who have only a form of godliness is like the world. Behold their agitation, and the fluctuation of their purposes, their unstable judgment, their timidity and fear, according to that which is said, Groaning and trembling shalt thou be upon the earth. According to their unbelief and the confusion of their unstable thoughts, they are tossed about every hour, like all the rest of men. Such men only differ from the world in fashion, not in mind, and only in bodily observances of the outer man; while in heart and mind they are pulled this way and that way in the world, and are involved in earthly ties and those of unprofitable cares, not having gained the peace from heaven in their hearts, as the apostle says, Let the peace of God rule in your hearts—the peace which reigns and renews the minds of believers in the love of God and of all the brotherhood. Glory and worship to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, for ever. Amen.

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