Thursday, February 5, 2009

One particular incident in the life of Saint Makários has been remembered as an example of the Saint’s non-possessive attitude. This whimsical story also shows God’s providential care for those who will follow Him along the narrow way of self-denial in accordance with His word: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me (Saint Luke 9:23).

They said of Abba Makários that a thief went into his kéllion when he was away. The elder came back and found the thief loading his things onto a camel. So Makários went inside, picked up his things, and helped the thief load them onto the camel. When they were finished the thief began to beat the camel to make it get up, but in vain. Seeing that it did not get up, Abba Makários went into the kellí, found a small hoe, brought it out and put it onto the camel saying, Brother, the camel wants this too. Then the elder kicked it and said, Get up. At once the camel got up and went forward a little, because of his command. Then it lay down again and refused to get up until it was completely unloaded. And then it set off.

But someone else told it this way:

Abba Makários came up to the thief as if he were a stranger and helped him to load the animal. When they were done, he saw him off in great peace of soul saying, We’ve brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it. The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away: blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Saint Makários the Great of Egypt was born at the beginning of the 4th Century. As a child he worked with his father, who owned camels that were used to carry natron from the Wadi el-Natroun. His father was also the priest of the village in which the Saint was born and brought up. Already in his youth Saint Makários was known for his great wisdom and holiness of life, and so was called the young elder. After his father, he himself was ordained to serve as priest in the village.

At the age of about forty he retired to the desert at Skítis, which he helped to establish as a hermit community. After more than 1600 years, the Monastery of Saint Makários still exists as a cenobitic community at Skítis. One of the great monastic elders of our time, Abba Matta el-Meskeen, or Matthew the Poor, was instrumental in bringing about the current revival of life at the monastery. He lived there from 1969 until his blessed repose in 2006.

At Vespers for Saint Makários we chant of the struggles in self-restraint and non-possessiveness of this important founder of Christian monastic life:

Fourth Tone. Unto them that fear Thee.

Striving for the blessedness that far surpasseth the mind of
man, * thou didst reckon strict abstinence * as pleasure,
O wondrous one; * poverty as riches; * never to possess, as to have abundance in all things; * and moderation as glory passing great. * According to thy purpose, therefore, thou hast found thy desire on high, * O Makários, dwelling now * in the bright mansions of the saints.

Saint Makários is commemorated on 19 January/1 February.