The Fifty Spiritual Homilies; and, The Great Letter

The Fifty Spiritual Homilies; and, The Great Letter

The Fifty Spiritual Homilies; and, The Great Letter

The Fifty Spiritual Homilies; and, The Great Letter


The writings of Pseudo-Macarius, a Syrian monk of the 4th century, bring to Western Christianity a holistic "heart" spirituality that offers a necessary complementarity to the "head" spirituality of the West. The homilies reveal the typical traits of Eastern Christian asceticism and The Great Letter instructs the monastic community.


"I read Macarius and sang," wrote John Wesley in his diary for July 30, 1736. There are countless others, alike in Eastern and in Western Christendom, who have experienced a similar joy through reading Macarius. The Homilies are written with a warmth of feeling, an affectivity and enthusiasm, that are instantly attractive. Their message is one of hope, light and glory:

The soul that is counted worthy to participate in the light of the Holy Spirit by becoming his throne and habitation, and is covered with the ineffable glory of the Spirit, becomes all light, all face, all eye. There is no part of the soul that is not full of the spiritual eyes of light. That is to say, there is no part of the soul that is covered with darkness (H. [= Homilies, Collection II] 1:2).

Yet at the same time the Homilies are devoid of facile optimism. The Christian journey, Macarius warns us, is a struggle, a spiritual combat that continues right up to the end of our life: "I have not yet seen any perfect Christian or one perfectly free" (H. 8:5). If Macarius is to be termed an enthusiast, yet his is an enthusiasm rooted in the realism and austerity of the desert.

Who is the author of the Spiritual Homilies? His precise identity is a mystery and is likely to remain such, unless fresh evidence comes unexpectedly to light. The complex debate concerning "Pseudo‐ Macarius" during the past seventy years is carefully summarized by Father George Maloney in his Introduction. There is general agreement that the author of the Macarian writings has no connection with the Coptic Desert Father, St. Macarius of Egypt (c. 300-c. 390). The milieu presupposed in the Homilies is definitely Syria rather than Egypt. Although the language used by the author is Greek, his highly distinctive . . .

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