Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Lenten Citation (3): St. Makarios of Egypt

This Lent I will be posting some citations from the Philokalia on fasting, without commentary. I hope you find them helpful in your Lenten devotional practice.

Fasting is good and so are vigils, ascetic practice and voluntary exile. But all these things are but the start, the prelude to the citizenship of heaven, so that it is altogether senseless to put one's trust merely in them. It sometimes happens that we attain a certain state of grace but that evil, as we said above, lying in ambush within us, plays a trick on us: it deliberately withdraws and remains inactive, thus making us think that our intellect has been cleansed. In this way it produces in us the self-conceit of perfection, whereupon it stealthily attacks us and carries us down to the lowest depths of the earth. It often happens that young soldiers or brigands resort to tricks against the enemy: they set up ambushes and, catching their opponents unexpectedly from behind and surrounding them, they slaughter them. If that is what they do, then how much more skilled must evil be, that has dedicated itself for thousand years to the crucial task of destroying souls. It knows exactly how to devise such ambushes in the secret places of the heart, sometimes keeping quiet and inactive deliberately in order to entice the soul into the self-conceit of perfection. Indeed, the cardinal rule of the Christian life is not to put one's trust in acts of righteousness even if one practises all of them, or to imagine that one has done anything great; and even if one participates in grace, one must not think that one has achieved anything or reached the goal. On the contrary, one should then hunger and thirst, grieve and weep even more, and be totally contrite in heart.

St. Makarios of Egypt

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