In seeking to establish the place of Macarian writings within the Eastern Christian tradition during the first three hundred years of their existence, the Messalian question has, naturally, proved central. The connection between the writings and the anti-Messalian lists that has clouded so much twentieth-century Macarian scholarship has been shown to be much less straightforward than previously supposed. I have argued that if, as seems most likely, the Messalian Asceticon condemned at Ephesus did indeed contain a selection of Macarian material, then this material was condemned because of its superficial affinities with a body of anti-Messalian propositions already built up by the earlier councils of Antioch, Side, and Constantinople. Thus not only must we avoid a facile equation of Macarius with Messalianism—the circularity warned of by Stewart—but must also recognize that the Macarian elements within the anti-Messalian lists represent an additional layer of material, inconsistent with the primary layer and derived, ironically, from a writer who addresses precisely the same concerns as those reflected in the primary layer.
The tragedy of the Ephesine condemnation is that it implicitly rejected the Macarian approach to the reform of the Messalian tendency. This approach should be seen as essentially analogous to the Cappadocian model of monastic reform, a model governed not by the condemnation of half-imagined foes, but by the harnessing and assimilation of the extreme ascetic tendencies. Gregory of Nyssa's reworking of Macarius' Great Letter is an eloquent testimony to the Cappadocian approval of Macarius' ascetic teaching. Imitation is, after all, the sincerest form of flattery. The association with the Cappadocians was to prove fundamental for the subsequent history of the Macarian writings within the Eastern Christian tradition.
I asserted in my opening chapter that the exploration of the Macarian legacy in the later Christian tradition will help elucidate the real nature of Macarius' relations with the Messalian
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Publication information: Book title: The Macarian Legacy: The Place of Macarius-Symeon in the Eastern Christian Tradition. Contributors: Marcus Plested - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 2004. Page number: 255.
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