The Macarian Legacy: The Place of Macarius-Symeon in the Eastern Christian Tradition

By Marcus Plested | Go to book overview

2 The Lineaments of the Macarian Vision

Macarius is far from systematic in his teaching, yet is remarkably consistent in his language and imagery. 1 He has relatively few 'master themes', pursued with ever increasing ingenuity and virtuosity. The present chapter is a short outline of these central themes, given as a prelude to the investigation of the place of the Macarian writings within the wider Christian tradition.


2.1 Sources

No Christian author writes in isolation, and Macarius is no exception. He is reticent as to his sources but is by no means unusual in this. The only texts quoted are either biblical or apocryphal; the only non-scriptural characters mentioned are Aristotle, Plato, and Isocrates: great cities of knowledge laid waste because of the absence of the Spirit of God (ii 42.1). Macarius certainly draws much from the Syriac Christian tradition: the feminine quality ascribed to the Holy Spirit, the tradition of poetic symbolism, the extensive use of clothing metaphors and nuptial imagery, and the concept of the two souls. The Syriac background is, however, by no means the only thought-world to have influenced him. Macarius is often presented as an example of biblical or Semitic Christianity, over and against the Hellenizing current associated with Origen and Evagrius. The attempt to juxtapose and hold apart these 'currents' does not stand up to analysis in the case of Macarius. Much of his thought-world is fundamentally Hellenic in inspiration. He works within the type-antitype, noetic-sensible framework, more typical of the Hellenic than the pre-fifth-century Syriac tradition. His pattern of exegesis and Christology is that of

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The Macarian Legacy: The Place of Macarius-Symeon in the Eastern Christian Tradition
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Place of Macarius-Symeon in the Eastern Christian Tradition v
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations xii
  • Introduction 1
  • I the Macarian Writings and Their Historical Context 9
  • 2 The Lineaments of the Macarian Vision 30
  • The Background 46
  • The Background 59
  • 5 Mark the Monk 75
  • The Legacy 133
  • 7 The Asceticon of Abba Isaiah 176
  • 8 Maximus the Confessor 213
  • Conclusion 255
  • Bibliography 259
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