Monday, 15 April 2013

Saint Makarios of Egypt-How to fulfill the promises and the prophecies of God by means of various trials and temptations

How to fulfill the promises and the prophecies of God by means of various trials and temptations. We are freed from the attacks of the evil one by clinging to God alone. 
Homily 9

1. The spiritual power of God's grace, working within the soul, does so with the greatest patience,wisdom, and mystical touching of the mind. The individual also struggles with great patience in the opportunities that come his way. But then the work of grace works perfectly in him. This is seen in the fact that his free will, after great temptation, is clearly bent on pleasing the Holy Spirit and he himself has for a good length of time demonstrated uprightness and perseverance. Let us exemplify this principle of the spiritual life from some clear examples found in Holy Scripture.
What I am saying is exactly borne out in the case of Joseph. What a long time it took to fulfill the predestined will of God in his regard and to fulfill his visions. By how many labors, afflictions and distresses was he not proved first, and did he not strenuously bear all of them? Through all of these he was found to be the upright and faithful servant of God. He was then made king of Egypt and provided food for his own blood family.

And the prophecy of all of those things not seen was accomplished and the will of God was fulfilled after a long time and much providential direction. The same is handed down about David. God anointed him king by the prophet Samuel. And after he was anointed, he constantly had to flee from Saul, who persecuted him, seeking to kill him.Where, then, was the anointing of God? Where was there any promise that was being fulfilled with any immediacy? For a short time after his anointing, David was grievously afflicted and fled into the desert. He had so little to eat that he took refuge among the pagan tribes because of Saul's plots against him. This was the one whom God anointed to be king, suffering so many afflictions. 
After he was tried, afflicted, tempted for some time, and, having patiently endured it all by placing all his trust only in God and fully believing "what God has done for me by the prophet's anointing and what God foretold about me, without a doubt must come about (1 Sm 16:13, ff)," after a long waiting,finally God's will was fulfilled. And David reigned after so many temptations. And then the word of God was manifested and the anointing given by the Prophet was shown to be sure and true. The same story with Moses. God, since he had foreknown and predestined him to be the leader and the savior of his people, arranged that he would become the son of Pharaoh's daughter. And thus he grew up with regal wealth and pomp and luxury, having been instructed "in all the wisdom of the Egyptians" (Acts 7:22). 
When he reached adulthood and had become very respected, he rejected all of these things, choosing rather the affliction and reproaches of Christ, as the Apostle says, "rather than to enjoy for a time the pleasures of sin" (Heb 11:24). He became a refugee from Egypt. How long a time did he spend in the tasks of a shepherd, he who was the son of a king and brought up in the lap of so many pleasures and royal luxury? And finally, after having been tested -84-by God and found faithful with much patience because he had sustained many trials, he was made the savior and leader, the king of the people Israel, and God made him "as a god for Pharaoh" (Ex 7:1). For through him God struck Egypt and showed great and amazing things to Pharaoh through him, and finally drowned the Egyptians in the sea.
See, after so long a space of time, and after so many trials and afflictions, the will and plan of God was fulfilled.5. The same also happened to Abraham. How long before God promised to give him a son?However, he did not do this immediately. But for how many years did he not have to endure trials and temptations? But he patiently bore all that came to him. He firmly believed that he who had promised would not lie but would fulfill his word. So he was found faithful and obtained what was promised.
 So also Noah was ordered by God in his five-hundredth year to build an ark. God announced that he would bring about a flood over the whole earth. This he brought about only in Noah's six-hundredth year. For one hundred years Noah patiently waited, yet never doubted for a moment that God would do what he had said. He was completely convinced that what God had spoken without a doubt had to happen. So, tested with a firm and integrated will, faith, patience, and great docility, he alone with his family was saved since he kept perfectly God's commandment.7. 
We have offered these examples from Holy Scripture to show that the power of divine grace is in man and the gift of the Holy Spirit which is given to the faithful soul comes forth with much contention, with much endurance, patience, trials, and testings. Through such, man's free will is put to the test by all sorts of afflictions.And, when man does not grieve the Spirit in any way but is in harmony with grace by keeping all the commandments, then he is regarded as worthy to receive freedom from all passions. He also receives the full adoption of the Spirit, which is always a mystery, along with spiritual riches and wisdom which are not of this world, of which true Christians are made participators. For this reason such persons differ in all things from other men who have the spirit of this world, for they are endowed with prudence, understanding, and wisdom.8. Indeed, a person of this type "is able to judge all men" (1 Cor 2:15), as it is written. 
He knows from what viewpoint he speaks, and where he stands and what levels of perfection he has already experienced. But no one of the world can know and judge him. Only a person who has the like heavenly and Divine Spirit can know one who is like -85-him, as the Apostle says: "We teach spiritual things spiritually. An unspiritual person is one who does not accept anything of the Spirit of God. He sees it all as nonsense. But the spiritual man judges everything, but he himself is judged by no one" (1 Cor 2:13-15). 
Such a one regards all the precious things of the world, riches, luxury, and all sense pleasures, and even its knowledge and everything else of this world, as an object to be spurned and despised.9. Just as one who suffers from a burning fever is sickened by and rejects any food or drink that you may offer him even if it were very delicious, because he is on fire with a fever and is really burning up from it, so those who are burning with a holy and venerable longing for the heavenly Spirit are wounded in their soul with love for the love of God. They burn with a divine and heavenly fire which the Lord came on this earth to enkindle. How he wishes that it be quickly accomplished! They are enflamed with a heavenly longing for Christ so that everything that is of this world, considered as outstanding and precious, is reputed base and despised on account of the fire of their love for Christ who binds them, burns them, and enflames them with a passion for God and for the heavenly good things that lead to love.
From such a love nothing of the earth or underworld will separate them, as the Apostle Paul testified: "Who will separate us from the love of Christ?" (Rom 8:35), and all else that follows.10. But one cannot possess his soul and the love of the heavenly Spirit unless he cuts himself off from all the things of this world and surrenders himself to seek the love of Christ. His mind must be freed from all crass and material concerns so that he may be totally taken up with only one aim,namely, to direct all these things according to the commandments so that his whole concern, striving,attention, and preoccupation of soul may be centered on the search for transcendent values as the soul may strive to be adorned with the Gospel virtues and the heavenly Spirit and may become a participator in the purity and sanctification of Christ.
All of this is done so that, having said goodbye to everything else, and having cut himself off from all gross and earthly impediments and having freed himself from all carnal love or affection toward parents and relatives, a person may not give attention to any other thing or be distracted by such,whether it be the passion for power or glory or honors, or carnal, worldly friendships or any other earthly concerns. He can concentrate totally on seeking the soul's intellectual being and he can labor valiantly and wait in hope for the coming of the Spirit. The Lord -86-speaks in a similar way: "In your patience possess your souls" (Lk 21:19). And again: "Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you" (Mt 6:33).11. It is, therefore, possible that anyone, who thus really strives and perseveringly attends to himself either in prayer or in obedience or in doing any work according to God, should be able to escape from the darkness of the evil demons. For the mind that never ceases to be attentive to itself and to seek the Lord can possess its soul, which loses itself in the passions. It does this by always bringing itself with a certain violence and constancy into captivity to the Lord and by clinging only to him as it is said: "Bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor 10:5).
It does this so that, by such battling, longing, and diligent seeking, the mind may be rendered worthy to be with the Lord in "one Spirit" (1 Cor 6:17) of the gift and grace of Christ, resting in the vessel of the soul which has empowered the mind to do every good work. It leads the mind away from"insulting the Spirit of the Lord" (Heb 10:29) through any self-will and any temptation to yield to the concerns of this world or honors or dignities or selfish opinions or carnal passions or association with evil men.12. For how lovely it is when a spiritual person consecrates himself totally to the Lord and clings to him alone. He walks in his commands, never forgetting. Reverently honoring the overshadowing presence of the Spirit of Christ, he becomes one spirit with him and one being, just as the Apostle says: "He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit" (1 Cor 6:17). But if anyone gives himself over to cares or glory or dignities, or is concerned with human honors and diligently sets his heart on these,and if he is full of worldly thoughts or is disturbed or held in bondage to anything of this world,should he want to leap over such, flee from them, and get rid of such dark passions in which he is held captive by the demonic forces, he will be unable to do so. The reason is that he loves and does the will of the dark powers. He does not totally despise the pursuits of evil.13. Let us, therefore, prepare ourselves so that we may approach the Lord with perfect promptitude and full intent. And let us become passionately in love with Christ to do his will. And let us "think upon his commandments so as to do them" (Ps 103:18). Let us separate ourselves completely from any attachment to the world and turn our souls completely to him alone. Let us keep him alone before our eyes as our concern and striving. If because of our creatureliness we give ourselves -87-less diligently to divine obedience, nevertheless, let the mind not swerve from love of the Lord and from ardent seeking of him. But if we strive in such an intention, keeping always straight on the path of justice and always being attentive to ourselves, we shall obtain the promise of his Spirit. Through grace we will be freed from the destructive power of the dark passions which attack the soul so that we may be considered worthy to enter into the eternal Kingdom to enjoy Christ forever, glorifying the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit unto ages of ages. Amen.

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