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

By Marcus Plested | Go to book overview
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The Background

Hausherr made a bold and influential attempt in 1935 to classify certain distinct 'currents of spirituality' within the Eastern Christian tradition. His article, 'Les Grands Courants de la spiritualité orientale', has made it conventional to oppose, or at least to juxtapose, the 'spiritualité intellectualiste' of Evagrius of Pontus and the 'école du sentiment ou de surnaturel conscient' associated with the anonymous author of the writings ascribed to Macarius the Great, elder of Egypt. Hausherr does not insist on this classification, admitting that this schema is simply an abstract working tool; to add the facts would be 'une autre conférence à faire, plus intéressante sans doute que le schématisme trop abstrait que vous venez d'entendre'. 1 A later article presents a somewhat subtler analysis, maintaining the basic intellective-affective distinction yet distinguishing within the latter group, within those who yearned for a conscious experience of the Holy Spirit, two further 'orientations':

l'une qui se rapproche des intellectuels [i.e. the two Gregories and Evagrius] tout en appuyant fortement sur le sentiment et qui dépend sans doute pour une part d'Origène: le porte-parole en est le pseudo-Macaire; l'autre ignorant tout le vocabulaire savant et se basant uniquement sur la révélation de l'Esprit promise dans l'écriture [e.g. Ammonas].

Hausherr presents Macarius as an intermediary between the learned and 'l'esthétisme des simples' and describes his 'mystique de la lumière' as 'une vulgarisation à l'usage d'une foule qui non ascendit ad sublimia'. He also makes the important point that this double aspect in Macarius makes him susceptible to two differing interpretations, 'une plus philosophique et une plus commune et matérielle'. 2

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