Prologue entry for 01/19/23 (read on 02/01/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. The Venerable Macarius The Great
Macarius was an Egyptian and one of the younger contemporaries of Anthony the Great. His father was a priest. Out of obedience to his parents, Macarius married. However, his wife died shortly thereafter and he withdrew to the wilderness, where he spent sixty years in labor and struggle, both inwardly and outwardly, for the Kingdom of Heaven. When they asked him why he was so thin, both when he ate and when he did not eat, he responded: “From the fear of God.” So much did he succeed in cleansing his mind of evil thoughts and his heart of evil desires, that God bestowed upon him the abundant gift of miracle-working, so that he even raised the dead from the graves. His humility amazed both men and demons. A demon once said to him: “There is only one thing in which I am unable to surpass you. It is not in fasting, for I do not eat anything. It is not in vigils, for I never sleep.” “But what is it?” asked Macarius. “Your humility,” answered the demon. Macarius often told Paphnutius, his disciple: “Do not judge anyone, and you will be saved.” Macarius lived to be ninety-seven years old. Nine days before his death, St. Anthony and St. Pachomius appeared to him from the other world and informed him that he would die within nine days; and it came to pass. Before his death, Macarius also had a vision in which a Cherubim revealed to him the blessed heavenly world, commended his effort and his virtue, and told him that he had been sent to take his soul into the Kingdom of Heaven. Macarius reposed in the year 390 A.D.
2. The Venerable Marcarius Of Alexandria
Macarius was born in Alexandria and was at first a fruit vendor. He was baptized at age forty, and as soon as he was baptized he immediately withdrew to lead a life of asceticism. Together with Macarius the Great, he was at first a disciple of St. Anthony. After that, he became the abbot of the Monastery called “The Cells,” located between Nitria and Scetis. He was somewhat younger than Macarius the Great, and also died later. He lived to be more than a hundred years old. Tormented by demonic temptations, especially the temptation of vanity, he humbled himself by the most rigorous labors and ceaseless prayer, lifting up his mind constantly toward God. Once, a brother saw him fill a basket with sand, carry it uphill and empty it. Astonished, the brother asked him: “What are you doing?” Macarius answered, “I am tormenting my tormentor,” meaning the devil. He reposed in the year 393 A.D.
3. Saint Arsenius, Bishop Of Corfu
Arsenius augmented and restructured the Order of the Sacrament of Holy Unction [Anointing with Oil] to its present form. He reposed in the year 959 A.D. His relics repose in the cathedral church in Corfu.
4. Saint Mark, Archbishop Of Ephesus
Mark was famous for his courageous defense of Orthodoxy at the Council of Florence [1439 A.D.], in spite of the opposition of the emperor and the pope. He reposed peacefully in the year 1452 A.D. On his deathbed Mark implored his disciple George (later the glorious Patriarch Gennadius) to beware of the snares of the West and to defend Orthodoxy.
5. Blessed Theodore, Fool-For-Christ Of Novgorod
Prior to his death, Theodore ran up and down the streets, shouting to everyone: “Farewell, I am traveling far away!” He reposed in the year 1392 A.D.
Hymn Of Praise
Saint Macarius The Great
In Egypt, in the desert,
Great loved reigned
Among the simple monks,
As in the kingdom of the saints.
Was as a Cherubim among them.
In every good deed
An example to the monks was he.
Macarius became ill.
For him, a monk went out to seek wild strawberries;
He went forth, found and brought them
To soothe his elder's pain.
Macarius did not want to eat them.
He said: "There is a brother more ill.
Bring them to him;
This gift is more needed for that brother."
The second ailing brother wept,
And to the gift-bearer said: "Forgive me!
But my neighbor is more needy
Of this charity than I."
The gift-bearer took away the gift
And, to that neighbor, gave it,
This one gave it to a third,
And that one to a fourth, all in order,
From cell to cell,
And from brother to brother,
Until the last one came with the wild strawberries
To Macarius's door!
"Behold, father, you are ill!"
Macarius began to weep,
Seeing this wonderful brotherly love—
But he did not want to eat them.
He spilled them over the hot sand,
And to God he gave thanks,
That the dead, arid desert,
Because of love had become Paradise.
A brother loves his brother
More than he loves himself.
"O Lord, this gift,
The gift of love, is a gift from Thee!"
Examples of meekness in enduring assaults, such as we find in the Holy Fathers, are simply amazing. Returning once to his cell from a journey, Macarius the Great saw a certain thief removing his belongings from his cell and loading them onto a donkey. Macarius did not say anything to him, but rather began to help him conveniently load all the things onto the donkey, saying to himself: For we brought nothing into this world (I Timothy 6:7). Another elder, when thieves stole everything from his cell, looked around and noticed that they had not taken a bundle with money which lay hidden somewhere, and immediately took this bundle, called out to the thieves and gave that to them also. Again, a third elder came across thieves as they were robbing his cell and cried out to them: “Hurry, hurry before the brothers come, that they may not prevent me from fulfilling the commandments of Christ: Of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again (Luke 6:30).”
Contemplate the Lord Jesus as the Salt of the earth:
- As the Salt which gives flavor to this life in general;
- As the Salt which preserves mankind from decay–which would otherwise be totally decayed, from one end of its history to the other;
- As the Salt of my own life.
on victory over the world
“In the world ye shall have tribulation;, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The Conqueror of the World, the One and Only, with these words teaches His followers not to fear the world. Indeed, the world appears very strong; however, is not the One Who created the world stronger than the world? The world is very frightening for him who does not know that God rules the world, and that He has the authority to hold it in existence as long as He wills and to return it into nonexistence whenever He wills. But to him who knows this, the world is not frightening. Compared to Christ the Lord, this world is as a fabric woven of weakness itself; while in Christ the Lord, there is not a single weakness. To him who does not know this, the world is frightening; but he who knows it has no fear of the world. The world has loaned us a body, and because of this it wants to acquire our soul. How can the world overpower us if we stand as soldiers of the Conqueror of the world? The Conqueror of the World gives us weapons for the battle. By His example He teaches us how to fight, reveals the hidden enemy, shows us the path of attack and retreat, holds us in His hand, protects us under His wing, preserves us with His Life-giving Body, and gives us to drink of His Life-giving Blood. Moreover, He encourages us by crying out: “Take courage!” Brethren, what then can the world do when its defeat is sealed by the victory of Christ? O Lord, the Conqueror of the World and our victorious Commander, be close to us always, that we may not become frightened; and direct us, that we may always be close to Thee in heart, mind and soul. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.