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Macarius of Egypt, Spiritual homilies from diferent sources
Written by Macarius of Egypt.
Translation edited by the Revd D.R. Jennings, with corrections and additional editorial work by the Monachos.net Library Project.
HOMILY 1: An allegorical explication of the vision described in the prophet Ezekiel
1. THE blessed prophet Ezekiel having seen a vision from God, full of glory, made a relation of it, and committed it to writing; a vision full of mysteries, surpassing utterance. For he saw in a plain the chariot of the cherubim, four spiritual living creatures; each of which had four distinct faces: one the face of a lion, another that of an eagle, the third of an ox, and the last the face of a man. To every face there were wings, so that there were no hinder parts to any of them, nor any thing behind at all. Their necks were full of eyes, and their bellies in like manner were thick set with eyes; neither was there any one part about them at all free from eyes. There were also wheels to every face, a wheel within a wheel. And the Spirit was in the wheels. And he saw as it were the likeness of a man, and under his feet as it were a work of sapphire. And the chariot bore the cherubim, and the living creatures the Lord that sat upon them. Whithersoever they would go, it was straight-forward. And he saw under each cherub as it were the hand of a man supporting and carrying.
2. And this that the prophet saw, was true and certain. But the thing it signified, or shadowed forth beforehand, was a matter mysterious and divine, that very mystery which had been hid from ages and generations, but was made manifest at the appearing of Christ. For the mystery which he saw, was that of the human soul as she is hereafter to receive her Lord, and become herself the very throne of his glory. For the soul that is thought worthy to partake of the spirit of his light, and is irradiated by the beauty of his ineffable glory (he having by that spirit prepared her for his own seat and habitation), becomes all light, all face, and all eye: neither is there any one part in her but what is full of these spiritual eyes of light; that is, there is no part in her darkened: but she is all entirely wrought into light and spirit, and is all over full of eyes, having no hinder part, or any thing behind; but appears to be altogether face, by reason of the inexpressible beauty of the glory of the light of Christ, that rides and sits upon her.
3. And as the sun is altogether of one likeness, without any hinder part or defect, but is all throughout bedecked with light, without the least variety of part; or as the light is all over of an exact likeness with itself, and admits of no distinction of first or last: so the soul that is thoroughly illuminated by the inexpressible beauty of the glory of the light of the face of Christ, and partakes of the Holy Spirit in perfection, and is thought worthy to become the mansion and the throne of God, becomes all eye, all light, and all face, and all glory, and all spirit; Christ himself who governs and drives, and carries and supports her, thus preparing her, and thus gracing and adorning her with spiritual beauty. For "the hand", says the text, "of a man was under the cherub", because he it is that rideth in her, and directs her way.
4. But another way, it is applied to the church of the saints in heaven. And as it is said that the living creatures were exceeding high, full of eyes, and that it was impossible for any one to comprehend the number of the eyes, or the height; and as to behold and wonder at the stars in heaven was given to all men, hut to know or comprehend the number of them was not given: so may I affirm also of the church of the saints in heaven, that to enter in and enjoy it is granted to all that will but strive; but to know and comprehend the exact number there, is reserved for God alone.
5. The rider therefore is carried about in this chariot, and throne of living creatures that are all eye, or in other words, by every particular soul that is once become his throne or seat, and is perfect eye and light, he having placed himself thereon, and governing it with the reins of the Spirit, and directing her in the way, as he sees best. For as the spiritual living creatures went not whither they were willing of themselves, but at the discretion and pleasure of him that sat upon them, and directed the way: thus also does the same person hold the reins, drive and conduct the soul by his Spirit. Thus do they take their course even in heaven, not when they please, or as they are inclined themselves. And when this body is thrown off, he still manages the reins, and orders every motion of the soul in wisdom. And again, whenever he pleases, he comes into the body, and into the thoughts of the heart; and when he pleases, into the ends of the earth, and discovers to her mysteries without a veil. O, the noble and good, and only true Charioteer! Thus too shall our very bodies be honoured in the resurrection, the soul being thus glorified, and mixing with the Spirit in this present life. But the soul which still lives in the darkness of sin, belongs not to the body of light; but is indeed the body of darkness, and still sides with the faction of darkness. They only that have the life of light, that is, the power of the Holy Spirit, belong to the light. The soul in itself is a creature intellectual, and beautiful, and great, and wonderful, and a noble likeness and image of God. And it was through the transgression, that the affections of darkness gained entrance into it.
6. It remains then that whatsoever the soul mixes with, the same is it united to in very motion of the will. If therefore it has the light of God within itself, and lives therein, it belongeth to the light of rest; or if it has the darkness of sin, it inherits condemnation. But the soul that is desirous to live with God in rest and light eternal, ought to come to Christ the true high priest, to be slain and become dead to the world, and to its former life of darkness, and be removed to another life altogether divine.
7. As a person that is dead in a city, neither hears the voice of them that inhabit it, nor any sounds whatever; but is disposed of in some other place, where no voices and cries of that city come; so the soul, after it is once slain and dead in that city of corrupt affections, where it lives at present and converses, hears no more within itself, the clamour and bustle of the spirits of darkness; but is translated into the city of goodness and peace, into the city of the light of the Godhead, and there it lives and hears, and there it is wholly taken up, and talks, and reasons, and there does it work the works that are spiritual, and worthy of God.
8. Let us therefore pray that we may be slain by his power, and become dead to the world of wickedness, of darkness, and receive the life of the heavenly Spirit, and be translated from the evil state of darkness into the light of Christ, and be refreshed in life to all ages.
9. Sin detains and stops and hinders the soul, that it should not come near to God and carry off the victory. But where the Lord himself takes the reins of the soul into his hands, that person never fails of victory, because he skilfully governs and directs the chariot of the soul, into an heavenly and divine sense at all times. For neither does he war against sin, but as he has the supreme power in himself, he works himself the victory.
1O. The cherubim then are driven not whither they are inclined of themselves to go, but the way which he that holds the reins directs. Which way so ever he is willing, there it is they go, and he carries them. "For there was (says the text), under them, the hand of a man." The holy souls are led and directed in their way, by the Spirit of Christ, guiding them where he pleases; sometimes into heavenly contemplation, sometimes into temporal things. Where his pleasure is, there do they wait upon him.
11. Do you, therefore, who hearest these things, look well to your self, whether you art possessed of them in thy own soul. And if you art not, you oughtest to have continual grief and sorrow of heart, and anxiety, as one separated hitherto by death from the kingdom. And as one that is wounded, cry to the Lord without intermission, and ask in faith, that he would make you also worthy of this true life.
12. For as the body is not supplied from its own nature with meat, drink, and clothing, but has the universal supply of life from without, being quite naked of itself; so the soul cannot attain to everlasting life from its own nature, but from the Divine nature; from his Spirit, from his light it is maintained in spiritual meat and drink, and the heavenly clothing, which are the life of the soul. For the Divine nature contains in it the very bread of life, and the living water, and the wine which cheereth the heart of man, and the oil of gladness, and the whole variety of the food of the heavenly Spirit, and the heavenly robes of light which are of God. In these does the eternal life of the soul consist. Woe to the body, when it shall stand upon the bottom of its own nature, because it corrupts and dies! And woe to the soul, if it shall presume upon the strength of its nature, and trust to nothing but its own works, not having the fellowship of the divine Spirit, because it dies, of course, not being thought worthy of the eternal life of the Godhead.
13. If therefore you art become the throne of God, and the heavenly Charioteer has seated himself upon thee, and thy soul is become all over a spiritual eye; and you art nourished with that food of the Spirit, and have been made to drink of the living water, and art clothed with the garments of light; lo, then you livest indeed, even the life which is truly eternal; your soul being at rest with the Lord; lo you art in actual possession, and have received these things from the Lord in truth, that you might live the true life. But if you art conscious to thyself of nothing of all this, lament and grieve, and mourn, because as yet you have not any share of the spiritual and eternal riches, neither have received the true life.
14. Be in pain, therefore, and entreat the Lord night and day, because you art sunk into the calamitous poverty of sin. But would to God that any had a quick sense of this pain, by reason of this their want! And that we might not live on in security, as if we were full. Because he that is troubled in good earnest, and seeks and prays to the Lord without ceasing, shall soon obtain redemption and the heavenly riches, as the Lord has said in the parable with relation to the unjust judge and the widow, "How much more shall God avenge them that cry to him night and day? I tell you of a truth, that he will avenge them speedily."
To whom he glory and power, for ages. Amen.
HOMILY 2: That God alone is able to deliver us out of the bondage of the wicked ruler
1. LET us beseech God that he would divest us of the old man, because he alone is able to take away sin from us, they being stronger than us that have taken us captive, and detain us prisoners in their own kingdom. But he has promised to rescue us from this sore bondage. As when the sun shines, and the wind blows, the sun indeed has a distinct nature of his own, and the wind likewise another nature, and yet no man is able to make an actual separation of the wind from the sun unless God alone shall make the wind to cease, that it may blow no longer; even so is sin blended with the soul, although both retain their own nature. It is impossible therefore to separate the soul from sin, unless God make a calm and put a stop to this evil wind which dwells in the soul and body.
2. And again, as a man that sees a bird flying may desire also to fly himself, but not having wings, it is impossible he should fly; just so a man may be willing to be pure, and without blame, and without spot, and to be always with God; but he has not wherewithal to compass it. He is willing to fly up into the divine air, and into the liberty of the Holy Spirit; but, unless he receive wings for his purpose, he can never do it.
3. Let us therefore beseech GOD that he would give us "the wings of the dove", his Holy Spirit, that so "we may fly to him and be at rest"; and that he would separate the evil wind, and cause it to cease from us both in soul and body: for he only is able to bring it to pass. It is only " he Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world." He alone it is that showed this mercy to them that believe in him, that they are redeemed from sin. And for those that wait for him, and hope in him, and seek after him, will he work this unspeakable salvation.
4. As in a dark and cloudy night a boisterous wind blows, and searches and shakes every plant and seed, so man also, when he is fallen under the power of the devil, and is in the midst of the night and darkness, is ruffled, and shocked, and tossed about by the dreadful wind of sin that blows. It moreover searches his whole nature, his soul, his thoughts, and mind. And all the members of his body share in the commotion; and nothing is left free from it; neither is there the least part, either of soul or body, but what suffers from the sin that dwells in us. There is also the day of light, and the divine wind of the Holy Spirit, that breathes upon souls, and refreshes them that are in the light; and pierces through the whole substance of the soul and its thoughts; and withal gently fans and refreshes all the members of the body with divine and inexpressible rest.
5. The Lord has also put on them the raiment of the kingdom of light, surpassing all description -- the garments of faith, of hope, of love, of joy, of peace, of goodness, of kindness -- and all the other robes of light and life; the divine, living robes of that rest which is unspeakable: that as God himself is love, and joy, and peace, and kindness, and goodness, so may the new man be through grace.
6. And as the kingdom of darkness and sin are hid in the souls of sinners, until the day of the resurrection, at which time their very bodies also shall be covered over with the darkness which lies now hid in the soul, thus also does the kingdom of light now enlighten and reign in the souls of the saints; but is hid from the eyes of men 'til the day of the resurrection; at which time the body itself shall be covered and glorified by the light of the Lord, that the body may reign together with the soul; which even now is actually refreshed and enlightened with the light eternal, Glory be to his mercies and tender compassion, for that he has pity on his servants, and enlighteneth and delivers them out of the kingdom of darkness, and vouchsafes his own light to them, and his own kingdom: to whom be glory and power, for ages! Amen.
HOMILY 3: Christians ought to go over the course of this world with care, that they may attain the praise of God
1. WHAT shall God do with him that gives himself up to the world, and is deceived by the pleasures of it, or drawn away with the hurry of earthly distractions? The man upon whom he bestows the succours of his grace, is he who divorces himself from gross pleasures, and at all times forcibly urges his mind towards the Lord, both denying himself, and seeking after the Lord only. This is the person whom God takes into his special care, that keeps himself disentangled from the snares of this world; that "works out his salvation with fear and trembling"; that with the utmost heed passes through all the toils of the world, both seeking after the Lord for his assistance, and hoping in his mercy to be saved through grace.
2. As iron, or lead, or gold, or silver, when cast into the fire is freed from that hard consistency which is natural to it, being changed into softness, and so long as it continues in the fire, is still dissolved from its native hardness -- after the same manner the soul that has renounced the world, and fixed its desires only upon the Lord, and has received that heavenly fire of the Godhead, and of the love of the Spirit, is disentangled from all love of the world, and set free from all the corruption of the affections; it turns all things out of itself, and is changed from the hardness of sin, and melted down in a fervent and unspeakable love for that heavenly Bridegroom alone, whom it has received.
3. But I tell thee, that if these very brethren, so much desired by him, draw back from that love, he too is turned away from them. For that very thing is the soul's life and refreshment, namely, the hidden and unspeakable communion of the heavenly King. For if the love of that fellowship which is in the flesh causes a separation from father, mother, and brethren, and sets one at liberty from all love besides, how much more shall they, as many as have been thought worthy to partake of that Holy Spirit, who is the heavenly object of our love, come entirely off from the love of the world, and all things else appear to them as impertinent superfluities, in that they have been perfectly overcome with heavenly desire, and united to the falling down of it? There are their desires, there are their thoughts employed; there do they live, there do their thoughts rove up and down; there is the mind continually taken up, being overcome with divine and heavenly love, and spiritual desire.
4. What remains then, beloved brethren, but that, having such good things laid before us, and so great promises being made us by the Lord, we throw off all impediments, renounce all love of the world, and give ourselves wholly to that only good; that so we may obtain that unspeakable love of the Spirit, which the blessed Paul has exhorted us to hasten after; saying, "Follow after charity", that we may be changed from our own hardness by the hand of the Most High, and may come to the spiritual sweetness and rest, having been wounded with the love of the divine Spirit. For the Lord bears an exceeding friendly affection for man, waiting with compassion for the time when we shall entirely turn to him. For though through the abundance of ignorance, and childishness and corruption we are turned away from life, and multiply impediments upon ourselves, yet he is touched with abundance of compassion for us, suffering long till we return to him, and are enlightened in our inward man, that our faces may not be covered with shame at the day of judgement.
5. Lo! his bowels yearn, and he bears long; and though we sin, he holds his hand, waiting for our repentance; and he is not ashamed to receive us again when we fall, as the prophet has said: "Shall they fall, and not arise? shall he turn away, and not return?" Only let us be sober, seeking assistance from him, and he, for his part, is ready to save us. For he accepts this warm effort of our will, and the forwardness that proceeds from a good purpose; but the whole regulation of it he works in us himself.
6. Let us therefore, beloved, as the children of God; having put off all carelessness and sloth, be brave, and ready to follow after him, never adjourning from day to day; for we know not the time of our departure out of the body. The promises made to us are great, and beyond expression; insomuch that all the glory and beauty of heaven and earth, with all the furniture and variety, riches, splendour, and delight of the visible creation, bear no proportion to the treasure of one single soul.
7. How then shall we stand out against such promises, and not be willing to come entirely to him, and devote ourselves to him, to love him only, and to admit of neither rival nor partner with him? But, behold, notwithstanding all these things, and the great glory that has been given, and the tender compassions of our Lord, from the beginning, towards us; and notwithstanding his inexpressible goodness to us, demonstrated by his suffering upon the cross, yet do we still refuse to depart from our own will, and from the love of the world, and from engagements and habits which are evil. And yet, after all, lo! he continues to be kind, cherishing and preserving us invisibly, not delivering us over according to our sins, to the power of evil, nor yet suffering us to perish by the deceitfulness of the world; but, through his great kindness and long-suffering, looking down upon us, expecting when it will be that we turn to him.
8. But if it appears to us impossible to turn from a multitude of sins, let us call to mind how our Lord, when conversing with mankind, by his goodness restored the blind to their sight, cured the sick, healed every kind of disease, raised the dead that were gone down into corruption, made the deaf to hear, cast a legion of devils out of one man and recovered him to his right mind; how much more will he convert the soul that turns to him, and petitions him for mercy, and bring it into the cheerful state of freedom from passions, into an establishment of every virtue, and a renovation of the mind from the deadness of infidelity, and ignorance, and want of fear.
9. For if he was moved with so much compassion towards bodies which die, and readily did for every one what he requested, how much more to an immortal soul, that is subject neither to dissolution nor corruption, yet labours under the disease of ignorance and malice, and of infidelity and want of fear; but comes notwithstanding to the Lord, seeking to him for help, and desiring to receive from him the grace of his Spirit for its redemption, salvation, and delivery from every corrupt affection.
1O. Therefore has he admonished us to beg of him the gift of grace with boldness, without intermission, and without fainting. For it was for the sake of sinners that he came into the world, that he might turn them to himself, and heal them that believe on him. Only let us withdraw ourselves from the deceits of the world, and reject all wicked and vain thoughts, and ever cleave to him to the uttermost of our power; and he is ready to supply us with his help. For he is merciful, and quickening, and healing the disorders that were incurable, and working redemption for them that call upon him, and hang upon him with application and desire. To such a soul as this does God vouchsafe his help, which looks upon all things else as superfluous, and acquiesces in nothing that this world affords; but expects to rejoice in the rest of his benignity. And thus, having through faith attained to the heavenly gift, and daily advancing in goodness, and continuing in the way of righteousness to the last, it is thought worthy to partake of eternal salvation.
HOMILY 4: There is a wide difference between Christians and the men of this world
1. THE world of Christians, and their way of life, and their mind, and discourse, and practice, is one thing; and that of the men of this world, another. And the difference between them is very wide. For the children of this world are tossed to and fro by unsettled seasonings, by earthly desires, and a variety of gross imaginations, whereby Satan is continually sifting the whole sinful race of men.
2. For the word that was spoken to Cain by his Maker, "You shall go mourning and trembling, and be tossed about upon the earth", is a type and image of all sinners, as to their inward state. For thus is the race of Adam tossed about with the incessant suggestions of fear and dread, and every kind of disturbance, the prince of this world tossing to and fro the soul that is not born of God; and variously disturbing the thoughts of mankind, as corn that is continually shifted about in a sieve; and shaking and ensnaring them all in worldly deceits, and the lusts of the flesh, with fears and troubles.
3. As from one Adam the whole race of mankind was spread over the earth, so one taint in the affections was derived down into the sinful stock of men; and the prince of malice is sufficiently able to shift them all in restless, and gross, and vain, and troublesome reflections. For as one and the same wind is enough to stir, and shake all plants and seeds whatever, so the prince of wickedness, as an hidden and blustering wind, tosseth to and fro all the race of men upon earth, and, carrying them about with unsettled thoughts, enticing them with the lusts of the world, fills every soul with ignorance, blindness, and oblivion, if it is not born from above.
4. For in this do true Christians differ from the whole race of mankind besides: they have their heart and mind constantly taken up with the thoughts of heaven; and, through the presence and participation of the Holy Spirit, do behold, as in a glass, the good things which are eternal, being born of God from above, and thought worthy to become the children of God in truth and power; and being arrived, through many conflicts and labours, to a settled and fixed state, to an exemption from trouble, to perfect rest, are never sifted more by unsettled and vain thoughts. Herein are they greater and better than the world. Their mind and the desire of their soul are in the peace of Christ, and the love of the Spirit; and they have passed from death to life. Wherefore the alteration peculiar to Christians does not consist in any outward fashions, but in the renovation of the mind, and the peace of the thoughts, and the love of the Lord, even the heavenly love. Herein Christians differ from all men besides. The Lord has given them truly to believe on him, and to be worthy of those spiritual good things. For the glory, and the beauty, and the heavenly riches of Christians are inexpressible, and purchased only with labour, and pains, and trials, and many conflicts. But the whole is owing to the grace of God.
5. Now if the sight of even an earthly king is desired by all men (except those persons that are spiritual, who look upon all his glory as nothing through their having experientially known another heavenly glory); if, I say, the men of this world are so desirous to behold an earthly king, with his splendour and glory, how much more are those upon whom that dew of the Spirit of life has dropped, and wounded their hearts with love for Christ, bound fast to that beauty and unspeakable glory, and the inconceivable riches of the true and eternal King; with desire and long-suffering after whom they are captivated, turning wholly to him, to obtain those unspeakable good things, which through the Spirit they actually behold already; and for whose sake they esteem all the glories, honours, and riches of earthly kings as nothing?
6. For they arc wounded with the divine beauty; their desire is towards the heavenly King; and placing him only before their eyes in the abundance of their affection, they, for his sake, disengage themselves from all love of the world, and draw back from every earthly clog, that so they may be able ever to retain in their hearts that only desire. And they that are Christians in truth and power, rejoice at their departure out of the flesh, because they have "that house which is not made with hands." And therefore, if the house of the body be destroyed, they are in no fear; for they have the heavenly "house of the Spirit" and that "glory which is incorruptible."
7. Let us therefore strive by faith to be possessed of that clothing, that when we resume the body, there be nothing wanting which may glorify our flesh in that day. For every one, so far as he has been thought worthy by faith to be made partaker of the Holy Spirit, in the same proportion shall his body also be glorified in that day. For that which the soul has treasured up within, in this present life, shall then be made manifest outwardly in the body.
8. For as the trees that have got over the winter do, by an invisible power, put forth from within, and shoot out leaves, flowers, and fruits as their clothing; and in like manner, as the flowers of the grass come out of the bosom of the earth and the earth is covered and clothed, so, in the, day of the resurrection, and through the power of the a Sun of Righteousness, there shooteth out from within the glory of the Holy Spirit, covering the bodies of the saints, which glory they had before, within hidden in their souls. For whatever [the soul] has at present, the same comes forth at that time outwardly in the body.
9. Therefore ought every one of us to strive, and be diligent in all virtue, and to believe and to seek it of the Lord; that the inward man may be made partaker of that glory in this present life, and have that holiness of the Spirit, that we may have at the resurrection wherewith to cover our naked bodies, and refresh us to all eternity in the kingdom of heaven. For Christ will come down from heaven and raise to life all the kindred of Adam that have slept from the beginning of the world and he shall separate them all into two divisions; and them that have his own mark, that is, the seal of the Spirit, he shall place on his right hand. And then shall the bodies of these shall be surrounded with a divine glory from their good works, and themselves shall be full of the glory of the Spirit which they had in their souls in this present life. So that, being thus glorified in the divine light and snatched away to "meet the Lord in the air, we", as it is written, "shall ever be with the Lord", reigning with him, world without end. Amen.
HOMILY 5: Concerning those things that happen to Christians in the time of prayer, and concerning the degrees of perfection
1. A MAN goes in to bow the knee, and his heart is filled with a divine power, and his soul rejoiceth with the Lord, as the bride with her bridegroom. The inward man is snatched away to yet farther devotion, into the unfathomable depth of that world in much sweetness, insomuch that his whole mind is estranged, being raised and carried off thither; so that, for that time, there is a cloud of oblivion upon the thoughts of the earthly wisdom; for his thoughts are filled with Divine and heavenly things, things infinite and incomprehensible, certain wonderful things, which are impossible to be uttered.
2. Sometimes the love flames out and kindles with greater strength; but at other times it is more slow and gentle. As the same fire at certain seasons burns with a stronger heat and flame, but at others abates and burns dim, so this lamp sometimes burns and shines out, when, it is more strongly enkindled by an extraordinary infusion of the love of God; but again it is imparted in measure, and then the light is comparatively dull.
3. At another season the light which was shining in the heart has disclosed a yet more inward, profound, and concealed light, insomuch that the whole man, being absorbed in that sweetness and contemplation, was master of himself no longer, but was to this world as a mere fool and barbarian, by reason of the superabundant love and sweetness of the hidden mysteries: so that the person being for that time set at liberty, arrives to such degrees of perfection as to become pure and free from sin. But after all this, grace has withdrawn itself, and the veil of the adverse power has come upon him; it appears in past however, and he stands in one of the lower rounds of perfection. And one that is rich in grace, at all times, by night and by day, continues in a perfect state, free and pure, ever captivated with love, and elevated to God.
4. But if a man should have these things always present before him, he would not be able to undertake the dispensation of the word. Neither could he bear to hear of, or have any concern for, himself or the morrow; but purely to sit in a corner in a state of elevation, so that the perfect degree of all has not been given, that a man may be in a capacity to attend the care of the brethren, and the ministration of the word. Nevertheless, "the middle wall of partition is broken down, and death is overcome."
5. Grace, even in this present life, operates thus: it calms all the members and the heart, so that the soul, out of the abundance of joy, seems like a little child, conscious of no ill; and the man no longer condemns the Gentile, or the Jew, or the man of the world. But the inward man looks upon all with an eye of purity, and rejoices over the whole world, and desires to respect and love all, the Gentiles as the Jews. At another time, as the son of a king, he confides in the Son of God as his own father, and the doors are opened to him, and he goes into many mansions. And the farther he goes in, they are again opened to him in proportion, from one hundred mansions to an hundred others, and he is rich: and the more he is enriched, there are again others, and those newer wonders, discovered to him. And he is entrusted, as the son and heir, with things that cannot be spoken by human nature, nor pronounced by the mouth and tongue.
Glory be to God! Amen.
HOMILY 6: The gifts of grace are preserved by a humble mind and a ready will, but destroyed by pride and sloth
1. THE souls that are lovers of truth and of God, and desirous to put on Christ completely, though they may suffer in some measure a state of emptiness, yet being wholly nailed to the cross of Christ, they perceive, day after day, an experiential sense of their advances towards the spiritual Bridegroom. And being wounded with an heavenly desire, and hungering after righteousness, they have an insatiable longing for the Spirit to shine out upon them. And though they are thought worthy to receive, through faith, the knowledge of divine mysteries, or are made partakers of the gladness of heavenly grace, yet they have no confidence in themselves: but the more of spiritual gifts they enjoy, the more insatiable is the heavenly desire they are filled with; the more they are sensible of the spiritual progress in themselves, the more hungry and thirsty are they after the increase of grace; and the richer they spiritually are -- but so much the more do they seem to themselves to be in want, and are carried out with a spiritual desire after the heavenly Bridegroom, as says the wise man: "They that eat me shall yet be hungry, and they that drink me shall yet be thirsty."
2. Souls like these, that have a fervent and insatiable love for the Lord, are thought worthy of the redemption from vile affections, and receive the irradiation and presence of the Holy Spirit, which is unspeakable, and the mystical fellowship in the fullness of grace. But as many souls as are destitute of manly vigour and activity, are still but as in the flesh, having never entertained any hopes of receiving the sanctification of their heart through patience and long-suffering, nor of enjoying the fellowship of the Spirit, with the utmost sensation and assurance. These, after having been once thought worthy of divine grace, have yet been insensibly circumvented by the evil one, and so have given themselves over to carelessness and remissness. And the reason is evident; after they have received the grace of the, Spirit, and actually enjoyed the comfort of grace in rest and spiritual sweetness, they trust in it; they are lifted up, and take no farther care, being neither of a contrite heart, nor humble mind; neither have they waited with all diligence and faith, to be perfectly filled with grace but instead of that, they were full, they were completely satisfied, and rested in the first consolation of grace. The progress such souls made tended more to elevation than humility; so that they were stripped again of that very gift, which before was vouchsafed to them, through their careless contempt of any thing farther and the vain swelling of their own opinion.
3. The soul that is truly a lover of God, and a lover of Christ, though it does righteous works without number, demeans itself however, as if it had wrought nothing at all, through the insatiable love it bears to the Lord. And though by fastings and by watchings it has even macerated the body, it applies itself to the pursuit of the virtues still, as if it never had begun before to take the least pains about them. Though it has been thought worthy of the several gifts of the Spirit, or favoured with revelations and heavenly mysteries; yet, by reason of its immense love for the Lord, does it seem to itself as if it had nothing in possession: but hungering and thirsting through faith and love, it is carried on insatiably in the persevering spirit of prayer to the mysteries of grace, and to every degree of virtue. And being wounded by the heavenly Spirit, continually exciting an inflamed desire after the heavenly Bridegroom, and longing to be completely admitted to the mystical and inexpressible communion with him in the sanctification of the Spirit; having the face of the soul unveiled, and looking with a steady eye upon the heavenly Bridegroom, face to face, in the light which is spiritual and not to be expressed, it mixes with him in all the fullness of assurance, becomes conformable to his death, ever waiting in the abundance of desire to die for the sake of Christ; and expecting to obtain, under the conduct of the Spirit, an entire redemption from sin and the darkness of the affections, that being purified by the Spirit, sanctified in soul and body, it may be made a vessel clean prepared for the reception of the heavenly ointment, and the residence of Christ, the true and heavenly King. And then is the soul filled with the heavenly life, and becomes the pure habitation of the Holy Spirit.
4. But these are heights which the soul does not reach all at once;, but through many labours and conflicts, with variety of trials and temptations, it receives spiritual growth and improvement, 'til at last it comes to an entire exemption from its old affections; holding out, with a cheerful and noble obstinacy against every succeeding temptation, it is then thought worthy of great honours and spiritual gifts, and becomes an inheritor of the heavenly kingdom in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
HOMILY 7: How the soul ought to demean herself in holiness and purity towards her Bridegroom, Jesus Christ
1. IF a glorious prince should take a liking to a poor woman that has nothing, and have her brought home to him for his spouse, she ought ever after to show all good will to this husband, and retain a constant love for him. But if she transgresses the bounds of decency and duty, then she is turned out of doors with disgrace and reproach, and is full of sorrow; reflecting from how great wealth she is fallen, and what glory she has lost. Thus also the soul, which Christ, the heavenly Bridegroom, shall espouse to himself, ought to please Christ, her lover; carrying herself in the house of this heavenly spouse with a fair deportment, and a grateful sense of the grace bestowed upon her. Lo! such a soul is actually invested with the full command of all her Lord's goods, and her body becomes the glorious tabernacle of his Godhead. But if she do not the things that are pleasing to him, and is not perfectly observant of his will, then with reproach and disgrace is she disrobed of all her honour, as no way proper for the communion of the heavenly King. And after that, there commences an universal grief and lamentation over that soul among all the saints and noetic spirits: angels, powers, apostles, prophets, and martyrs, mourn for her. For as "there is joy in heaven", as the Lord has said, "over one sinner that repenteth", so is there great grief and mourning in heaven over one soul that falls from eternal life.
2. We must therefore strive, and with the utmost prudence take care to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling." Whosoever therefore you are, that have been made partakers of the Spirit of Christ, look upon yourselves in no case whatever, whether small, or great, to be above advice; neither do any despite to the Spirit of grace, that you may be never excluded from the life which you have been made to partake of. Let us therefore beg of God, that we, as many as have been partakers of his grace, may minister acceptably in the service of the Spirit, according to his will; that thus serving him according to his will with a spiritual service, we may inherit eternal life.
3. Question: But can a man fall that has the gift of grace? Answer: If he grow careless, he certainly falls. For his enemies are never idle, nor backward in the war. How ought you then never to desist from seeking after God! For the damage which you sustain by your neglect is exceeding great, though you may seem to be even established in the mystery of grace.
4. Question: Are the perfect liable to affliction or war, or are they entirely free from care? Answer: An enemy never respites any from the war. And Satan is perfectly void of mercy: wherefore neither is he backward to set upon any man whatever, though he does not attack all in the same measure and degree.
5. But there is need of much pains and labour, that a man may seek and lay the foundations, 'til such a time as the fire shall come into the hearts of men, and purge away the thorns. And thus do they begin to be sanctified, giving glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit for ever. Amen.
HOMILY 8: That spiritual men are liable to temptations and fictions
1. As the experienced husbandmen, in a year of plenty, expect a time of dearth; and on the other hand, when dearth and difficulties overtake them, they are not dejected, for the know there will come a change. So in the spiritual state, when the soul falls into divers temptations, it is not surprised as at a strange or unusual thing; neither does it become despondent, because it knows that they come by permission, that it may be tried and disciplined by the evil that befalls it. Neither again, when it abounds in wealth and ease, is it free from apprehension, but expects a change.
2. For when a man is rich in grace, there is yet a remnant of corruption with him: he has One however that takes his part, and that comes to his assistance. Whenever therefore any one is in afflictions, and the storm of corrupt affections thickens upon him, yet ought he not to quit his hope -- for then sin gains ground. But when a man retains his hope in God, sin crumbles, as it were, and dries away.
3. As a well that runs and has all about it nothing but moist grounds, when the heat comes on, both itself and its adjacent bogs are dried up; thus it is with the servants of God in whom grace abounds; that dries up the concupiscence, not only that which is from the wicked one, but that also which is natural; because that now the men of God are greater than the first Adam.
4. Christians therefore belong to another world, are the sons of the heavenly Adam, a new generation, the children of the Holy Spirit, the bright and glorious brethren of Christ, perfectly like their Father, the spiritual and glorified Adam, of that very city, of the same kind, and of the selfsame power. He himself says, "Ye are not of this world, even as I am not of this world."
5. Yet a fear they still have upon them, not indeed that of novices, that live in a dread of wicked spirits; but a fear and concern as to how they may best employ the spiritual gifts they are entrusted with. And such a one as this looks upon himself to be despicable beyond all sinners. This reflection is as deeply rooted in him, as if it were his very nature. The more he advances in the knowledge of God, so much the less is he in his own eyes. And though he learns so much, he is still as one that knows nothing. But these things are wrought in the soul by the ministration of grace. The case is not unlike that of an infant in the arms of a young man; the bearer carries it about whithersoever he pleases: so does grace also carry the mind about, and bear it upwards into the very heavens, to the perfect world, and eternal rest.
HOMILY 9: Concerning the spiritual unction and glory of Christians
1. THE Christians, who are come the nearest to the King, are at all times devoted to the cross of Christ. And when they are anointed with the heavenly unction, they commence to be kings and prophets of the heavenly mysteries. For if the anointing oil that came from an outward plant had so much virtue that the persons anointed with it were constituted kings thereby; how much more do they who are anointed with the sanctifying and cheering oil of gladness, the heavenly and spiritual oil, receive the sign of that incorruptible kingdom, and everlasting power, the earnest of the Spirit, the very spirit of holiness and comfort? It is called the Comforter, by reason of that comfort and support it bestows upon them that are in afflictions. These being anointed from the tree of life, Jesus Christ, from the heavenly plant, are thought worthy to come to perfection; to the kingdom, and the adoption, being admitted to the secret councils of the heavenly King, and having free access to the Almighty, entering into his very palace, where are angels, and the spirits of the holy persons, though at the same time they live in this present world. For though they have not actually received the inheritance prepared for them in that world, they are secure from the earnest of the Spirit, which they have received, as if they were already crowned, and in possession of the kingdom. Nor does it seem a strange thing to them that they shall reign together with Christ, through the overflowing presence of the Spirit. For what reason? Even because though in the flesh, they have a relish of its sweetness, and that effectual working of his power.
2. For they that are to reign in the world to come are beforehand acquainted with the mysteries of grace. Indeed, since man transgressed the commandment, the devil has covered the whole soul with a dark veil. But when grace comes, the veil is thrown off; so that the soul, becoming pure and regaining its proper nature, a creature free from blame or spot, ever after beholds with a clear sight the glory of the true light and the true Sun of Righteousness flashing with his bright beams upon the heart itself.
3. For as when the heavens are done away, the righteous for ever after shall live in the kingdom, and light, and glory, beholding nothing else but after what manner Christ in glory is evermore at the right hand of the Father; so these also that are now taken out of the world, behold all the beauties and the wonders which are wrought there. For we that are upon earth, have our identification in heaven; all our transactions, and our whole civil conduct, is in that world as to our mind, and the inner man. For as the outward eye, when clear, perfectly beholds the sun, so the mind that is perfectly cleansed ever beholds the glory of the light of Christ, and is present with the Lord night and day -- just as the body of our Lord, being joined to the Godhead, is ever present with the Holy Spirit. But these are heights men do not immediately attain to, nor without labour and affliction and conflict.
4. But the unsteady and unskilled, whenever grace operates, imagine presently they have no more sin; whereas they that have discretion cannot deny that even we who have the grace of God may be molested again with evil thoughts. For we have often had instances of some among the brethren that have experienced such a degree of joy and grace as to affirm that for five or six years running they had no sin in them; and yet after all, when they thought themselves freed entirely from it, the corruption that lurked within was stirred up anew, and they were well nigh burnt up.
5. There is need therefore of great discernment, that a person may by experience know that things are really thus. I tell you moreover, that even the apostles were not altogether without apprehension. For with joy and gladness had they also a fear and trembling, proceeding from grace itself and not from corrupt nature. But that very grace was their security, that they might not turn aside.
HOMILY 10: The treasure of Christians, Christ and the Holy Spirit, variously exercising them towards perfection
1. IF any one in this world is possessed of a treasure, with that treasure he purchases whatever he has a mind to. Whatsoever he is desirous of he obtains with ease, and readily procures all possessions that suit his inclinations. So also they who have found the heavenly treasure of the Spirit, the Lord shining in their hearts, fulfil that entire extent of goodness there is in the commandments of the Lord, from that treasure that is within them, Christ; and by means of that do they amass together a large store of heavenly wealth. For by means of the heavenly treasure do they work every virtue in the whole circle of righteousness, and every commandment of the Lord, by the help of the invisible riches of the grace within them.
2. Whoever therefore possesses within himself this heavenly treasure of the Spirit, he fulfils in this spirit all the righteousness of the commandments, and the complete practice of the virtues, without blame, and in purity; moreover without compulsion or difficulty. Then let us beseech God, and seek diligently unto him, and pour out our supplications before him, that he would freely grant unto us the treasure of his Spirit, that we may be enabled to walk in all his commandments without reproof, and without blemish, and fulfil all the righteousness of the Spirit in purity and perfection.
3. For he that is poor, and naked, and a beggar, can purchase nothing in the world; but he that has a treasure at command, without trouble, is master of what possession he pleases. So the soul that is naked, and destitute of God, cannot, would it ever so fain, produce any of the fruits of the Spirit of righteousness in truth and reality, before it actually partakes of the Spirit itself.
4. It behoves every one therefore to oblige himself by force to petition the Lord, that he may receive the heavenly treasure of the Spirit, so as without difficulty to be able to perform all the commandments of the Lord, blameless and in purity; which before, even with violence, he could never do. For being poor and destitute of the communication of the Spirit, how should he come by such spiritual possessions? But the soul which, by faith and much patience, has found the Lord, the true treasure, produceth the fruits of the Spirit and performs all the righteousness and commandments of the Lord, which the Spirit has commanded, in and by it, with purity, and free from blame.
5. We ought therefore to beg of God with earnestness of heart, that he would grant unto us his riches, the true treasure of Christ, in our hearts, in the power and efficacy of the Spirit. And thus having found first within ourselves salvation and eternal life, we shall then profit others also, producing from that treasure of Christ within us all the goodness of spiritual discourses, and declaring heavenly mysteries. For so it pleases the good will of the Father, that he should dwell with every one that believeth. "He that loves me," says CHRIST, "shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." And again, "We will come unto him, I and my Father, and make our abode with him." Thus did the infinite kindness of the Father's will; thus was the inconceivable love of Christ pleased. And thus did the unspeakable goodness of the Spirit promise. Glory be to the tender mercies of the Holy Trinity, which surpass all expression!
6. Let us illustrate in some measure by examples the methods of the Spirit in the soul. At a certain time then are they elated, as at a royal banquet, and rejoice with joy and gladness not to be expressed. At another season are they as the bride, that in communion with the bridegroom enjoys divine pleasures. At other times they are as the angels, which are not clogged with this earthly tabernacle.
7. At other times, they are in grief and lamentation for all mankind, and interceding for the whole stock of Adam. They take up a wailing and a weeping for it; the love of the Spirit for the human nature kindling and flaming out within them. At other times the joy and love of the Spirit inflames them to that degree, that were it possible, they would snatch up every man into their own hearts, not making the least distinction of the bad from the good.
8. At other times they are humbled so far below every other person in the self-abasement of the Spirit, as to think themselves inferior to and less than all. At other times they are like a strong man, that, having put on the royal armour, and coming down in battle upon his enemies, fights valiantly against them and overcomes them. For in like manner, he too that is spiritual takes the heavenly weapons of the Spirit, and comes upon his enemies and fights them and treads them under his feet. At other times does the soul rest in great silence, and calmness and peace, being given up to spiritual pleasure, and rest unspeakable. At other times it is instructed by grace in a sort of understanding and wisdom not to be described, and a knowledge of the Spirit that is past finding out, in such things as it is impossible for the tongue to utter. So very various is the way of grace in them, and such variety is there in the manner after which it conducts the soul, refreshing it according to the will and pleasure of God. And with equal variety does it exercise her, thereby to restore her perfect and blameless, and pure to our heavenly Father.
9. These several refreshments of grace are expressed indeed very differently. However, there is no intermission of their influence; but one operation continually succeeds another. For when the soul is thoroughly cleansed from all its corrupt affections, and is united, by an ineffable communion, to the Spirit, the Comforter, and is thoroughly mixed with the Spirit, and is become spirit itself, then is it all light, all eye, all spirit, all joy, all rest, all gladness, all love, all heart, all goodness and clemency. As a stone in the bottom of the sea is every way surrounded with water, so are these every way drenched with the Holy Spirit and made like to Christ himself; possessing unalterably within themselves the virtues of the power of the Spirit, being blameless within and without, and spotless, and pure. For being brought to perfection by the Spirit, how is it possible they should outwardly produce the fruits of sin? But at all times, and in every instance, do the fruits of the Spirit shine brightly out in their whole deportment.
1O. And therefore let us also beseech God, and believe in love and abundant hope, that the selfsame Spirit may govern and lead us into all the will of God and may refresh us with all the variety of the rest he gives; that by the means of such an administration, and the exercise of grace and spiritual improvement, we may come to the perfection of the fullness of Christ -- as the apostle expresses it, "That ye might be filled with all the fullness of God." And again, "'Til we all come unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." The Lord has promised to all that believe in him and ask in truth, that he will give to them the mysteries of the ineffable communion of the Spirit. Therefore let us, having entirely devoted ourselves to the Lord, make haste to attain the good things we have mentioned before, being consecrated both in soul and body, and nailed to the cross of Christ, and giving glory to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit unto ages. Amen.
HOMILY 11: Christians that are willing to improve and increase ought to force themselves to every thing that is good
1. HE that is desirous to come to the Lord, and to become the mansion house of Christ and to be filled with the Holy Spirit, that so he may bring forth the fruits of the Spirit and perform the commandments of Christ in purity, ought to begin first with believing in the Lord, to give himself entirely up to the directions of his commandments, and to bid a universal farewell to the world, that so his mind may not be engrossed by any of the things that do appear.
2. He ought ever to continue instant in prayer, in the faith and expectation of the Lord, waiting at all times for his help, with the full bent of his mind continually fixed upon it. Then ought he to force himself upon every good work, and to all the commandments of the Lord. For instance, let him force himself to be of a lowly mind before all men, and let him esteem himself worse than they, not seeking honour or praise, nor glory from any one; but setting the Lord ever before his eyes, desirous of pleasing him only, in meekness of heart, as the Lord himself prescribes, "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls."
3. In like manner let him accustom himself to be merciful, kind, tender-hearted, and good to the utmost of his power, as our Lord expresses it: "Be ye merciful, even as your heavenly Father is merciful."
4. Above all things, let him keep inviolably in mind the humiliation of our Lord, and his manner of life, his meekness of conversation, as the standard that is never to be overlooked. And thus the things which he does now by violence, and with a reluctant heart, he will in time do freely, by being ever mindful of the Lord and in much love waiting for him. For the Lord, observing how he forces himself and even wrests his heart, though never so unwilling, shows mercy to him and redeems him from his enemies, and from the sin that dwells in him, filling him with the Spirit. And thus for the future, without compulsion or difficulty, does he perform the commands of the Lord in truth. Or rather, the Lord himself does his own commandments in him; and then he brings forth the fruits of the Spirit in purity.
5. But first he ought thus to force himself to that which is good; and though his heart be ever so much against it, to wait continually for mercy -- to force himself to show compassion, to endure contempt with a courageous patience; and though he is set at nought, not to be moved with indignation, as it is written, "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves"; to force himself to prayer, if he have not the spiritual prayer. Thus does God, beholding him in these conflicts, grant unto him the true prayer of the Spirit, the true love, the meekness of truth, the bowels of mercies, yea, all the fruits of the Spirit.
6. Yet if, any one forces himself to pray only for the gift of prayer, but exerts no such vigour after meekness, and humility, and love, and the other commandments of the Lord, this is sometimes granted him; but then it is apart, by itself, exactly according to his petition. But in his behaviour he is just as he was before: without meekness, for he sought it not; without humility, because he asked not for it; nor has he a love for all men, for as much as he never had any concern or agony in the offering up of his prayer for it. And in the execution of the work he is upon, he has not faith and confidence towards God, because indeed he has not discovered that he wants it; neither has he laboured to obtain from the Lord a steady and true affiance in him.
7. Therefore it behoves every one, as he forces himself to prayer, so also to an assurance in God; to humility, to meekness, sincerity, and simplicity; to all patience and long-suffering, with joy. Thus ought he, by an habitual violence, to esteem himself as nothing; to break himself of unprofitable discourse; ever to meditate upon the things of God, and to declare them with his mouth, and with his heart. The same way should he proceed to conquer "all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking"; to conform to our Lord's whole deportment; to a universal good conversation; to all the humility of meekness, so as neither to be exalted, nor high-minded, nor puffed up, nor to speak against any man.
8. To all these ought he to bring himself by downright force, that is desirous to be well-pleasing to Christ; that so, when he shall behold this forwardness and full intention of his, in thus compelling himself to all goodness, he may impart his whole self to him, the Lord himself performing all these things within him in purity, without trouble, and without compulsion, which before he was not able, not even with force and violence, to observe. Then all these exercises of virtue become to him as nature. For the Lord, when he comes and is in him, and he in the Lord, performs in him his own commands without labour, filling him with the fruits of the Spirit.
9. Whoever therefore is willing to please God in truth, and receive from him the heavenly grace, and to grow up and be perfected in the Holy Spirit, ought to force himself upon all the commandments of God, and to bring his unwilling heart in subjection to them, according as it is written, "Therefore hold I straight all thy commandments, and all false ways I utterly abhor." For as a man, in order to perseverance in prayer, acts with violence and constraint 'til he can bring himself to it, so also, in all instances, if he has a willing mind, he is violent and pressing with himself. Nay, and after he has obtained his petition, and is come to taste of God, and is made partaker of the Holy Spirit, he takes pains to improve the gift imparted to him.
1O. The Spirit itself then teaches him the true prayer, the true love, the true meekness which before he forced himself to, and sought after, and which took up the whole of his thoughts. And being thus grown up, and consummated in God, he is thought worthy to become the heir of the kingdom: for the humble man never falls. For whence should he fall, who is below all? Self-elevation is a great abasement; but self-abasement is a great exaltation, and honour, and dignity.
11. And thus the commandments of God being fulfilled by us through his Spirit, and that Spirit perfecting us in itself, and being itself completed in us, when once cleansed from all the pollution and stain of sin, it will then present our souls to Christ as beautiful brides, pure and blameless: we, on the one hand, reposing ourselves in God, in his kingdom; and God, on the other, taking up his rest in us to endless ages! Glory be to his mercies, and compassion, and love, for that he has vouchsafed to admit the race of mankind unto so great honour, to be the sons of his heavenly Father, and declared them to be his own brethren.
To him be glory for ever! Amen.