That’s the title of the fourth homily of Macarius. I thought of his homilies after meditating a bit on today’s Gospel reading. You know, the part that goes “strive to enter through the narrow gate…“
I’ve struggled with that particular passage before, even spilled some ink on it in this space.
But back to Macarius: are they really the homilies of the great Desert Father who helped bring me into the Catholic Church? Some say no. But whether they are, or are not, makes no difference to me in the grand scheme of things.
So without tripping up on whether these thoughts are from my favorite Abba, or if they are from an admirer riding on the frayed edges of his tattered robe, I present the homily in it’s entirety.
HOMILY 4: There is a wide difference between Christians and the men of this world
The world of Christians, and their way of life, and their mind, and discourse, and practice, is one thing; and that of the men of this world, another. And the difference between them is very wide. For the children of this world are tossed to and fro by unsettled seasonings, by earthly desires, and a variety of gross imaginations, whereby Satan is continually sifting the whole sinful race of men.
For the word that was spoken to Cain by his Maker, “You shall go mourning and trembling, and be tossed about upon the earth”, is a type and image of all sinners, as to their inward state. For thus is the race of Adam tossed about with the incessant suggestions of fear and dread, and every kind of disturbance, the prince of this world tossing to and fro the soul that is not born of God; and variously disturbing the thoughts of mankind, as corn that is continually shifted about in a sieve; and shaking and ensnaring them all in worldly deceits, and the lusts of the flesh, with fears and troubles.
As from one Adam the whole race of mankind was spread over the earth, so one taint in the affections was derived down into the sinful stock of men; and the prince of malice is sufficiently able to shift them all in restless, and gross, and vain, and troublesome reflections. For as one and the same wind is enough to stir, and shake all plants and seeds whatever, so the prince of wickedness, as an hidden and blustering wind, tosseth to and fro all the race of men upon earth, and, carrying them about with unsettled thoughts, enticing them with the lusts of the world, fills every soul with ignorance, blindness, and oblivion, if it is not born from above.
For in this do true Christians differ from the whole race of mankind besides: they have their heart and mind constantly taken up with the thoughts of heaven; and, through the presence and participation of the Holy Spirit, do behold, as in a glass, the good things which are eternal, being born of God from above, and thought worthy to become the children of God in truth and power; and being arrived, through many conflicts and labours, to a settled and fixed state, to an exemption from trouble, to perfect rest, are never sifted more by unsettled and vain thoughts. Herein are they greater and better than the world. Their mind and the desire of their soul are in the peace of Christ, and the love of the Spirit; and they have passed from death to life. Wherefore the alteration peculiar to Christians does not consist in any outward fashions, but in the renovation of the mind, and the peace of the thoughts, and the love of the Lord, even the heavenly love. Herein Christians differ from all men besides. The Lord has given them truly to believe on him, and to be worthy of those spiritual good things. For the glory, and the beauty, and the heavenly riches of Christians are inexpressible, and purchased only with labour, and pains, and trials, and many conflicts. But the whole is owing to the grace of God.
Now if the sight of even an earthly king is desired by all men (except those persons that are spiritual, who look upon all his glory as nothing through their having experientially known another heavenly glory); if, I say, the men of this world are so desirous to behold an earthly king, with his splendour and glory, how much more are those upon whom that dew of the Spirit of life has dropped, and wounded their hearts with love for Christ, bound fast to that beauty and unspeakable glory, and the inconceivable riches of the true and eternal King; with desire and long-suffering after whom they are captivated, turning wholly to him, to obtain those unspeakable good things, which through the Spirit they actually behold already; and for whose sake they esteem all the glories, honours, and riches of earthly kings as nothing?
For they arc wounded with the divine beauty; their desire is towards the heavenly King; and placing him only before their eyes in the abundance of their affection, they, for his sake, disengage themselves from all love of the world, and draw back from every earthly clog, that so they may be able ever to retain in their hearts that only desire. And they that are Christians in truth and power, rejoice at their departure out of the flesh, because they have “that house which is not made with hands.” And therefore, if the house of the body be destroyed, they are in no fear; for they have the heavenly “house of the Spirit” and that “glory which is incorruptible.”
Let us therefore strive by faith to be possessed of that clothing, that when we resume the body, there be nothing wanting which may glorify our flesh in that day. For every one, so far as he has been thought worthy by faith to be made partaker of the Holy Spirit, in the same proportion shall his body also be glorified in that day. For that which the soul has treasured up within, in this present life, shall then be made manifest outwardly in the body.
For as the trees that have got over the winter do, by an invisible power, put forth from within, and shoot out leaves, flowers, and fruits as their clothing; and in like manner, as the flowers of the grass come out of the bosom of the earth and the earth is covered and clothed, so, in the day of the resurrection, and through the power of the a Sun of Righteousness, there shooteth out from within the glory of the Holy Spirit, covering the bodies of the saints, which glory they had before, within hidden in their souls. For whatever [the soul] has at present, the same comes forth at that time outwardly in the body.
Therefore ought every one of us to strive, and be diligent in all virtue, and to believe and to seek it of the Lord; that the inward man may be made partaker of that glory in this present life, and have that holiness of the Spirit, that we may have at the resurrection wherewith to cover our naked bodies, and refresh us to all eternity in the kingdom of heaven. For Christ will come down from heaven and raise to life all the kindred of Adam that have slept from the beginning of the world and he shall separate them all into two divisions; and them that have his own mark, that is, the seal of the Spirit, he shall place on his right hand. And then shall the bodies of these shall be surrounded with a divine glory from their good works, and themselves shall be full of the glory of the Spirit which they had in their souls in this present life. So that, being thus glorified in the divine light and snatched away to “meet the Lord in the air, we”, as it is written, “shall ever be with the Lord”, reigning with him, world without end. Amen.
There’s that word “strive” again. Back, to the future, huh? Read them all.