Living as Christians in SocietyThe Wisdom of the MacarianHomilies Presbyter Dr Doru Costache www.sagotc.edu.au Kogarah Fellowship, 18 March & 8 April, 2013
Christians in Society • The tensions experienced in Lent are ever there • Christian life is always problematic • “Christians dwell in the world but are not of the world” (Letter to Diognetus 6.3) • “Let us now lay aside all earthly care” (Cherubic hymn) • Living as Christians in society: the challenge of being there, in a secular society, without belonging entirely there, given our specific ethos
Christians in Society • Two pseudomorphoses • Relativism: fitting in the secular society by losing Christian identity • Fundamentalism: preserving Christian identity in separation from and against the secular society • The challenge: finding a way of living in a secular society without compromising our ethos
Christians in Society • Can our tradition be of any help? • Two examples • The anonymous Letter to Diognetus (second or third century); chapters 5 and 6 • The pseudoepigraphicMacarian Homilies (fourth century); homily 5 • A common denominator: distinction between private (inner life) and public (external circumstances)
The Macarian Homilies • A collection of 50 homilies, brief treatises and dialogues • Attributed to St Macarius the Great, of the Egyptian desert • Illustrating a Syrian non-monastic, societal environment • A dualistic vision of human reality, advocating for the power of free choice and the need for divine grace • Darkness and light • Sacramental regeneration • Commitment to the path of inner light in a world dominated by darkness
The Macarian Homilies • Inner life and external circumstances – could this be the solution we seek? • Instead of fooling ourselves that we live in a Christian society, and also instead of trying to forcefully change the “mind” of the world, it is a matter of nurturing our inner life, the “heart” – the change begins within us, and its most probable manifestation on the outside is through all sorts of martyrdom
Fifth Macarian Homily • Eleven chapters/sections • (1) A great difference of mentality between Christians and the children of this world; description of the earthly cares of the children of this age, and how Satan influences them since the fall of Adam. • (2) More on how, from Adam onwards, Satan keeps the human soul in a state of agitation with earthly cares, pleasures and fears. • (3) Together with our race springing forth from Adam, evil passions spread throughout; this “darkness of ignorance, blindness and forgetfulness” has no dominion upon those “born from above” who have their mind in heaven.
Fifth Macarian Homily • Eleven chapters/sections • (4) A thorough description of the “true Christians” as spiritually reborn, people who whilst facing trials and tribulations found the inner peace with Christ and the Holy Spirit; by contrast, false Christians exhibit their identity in outward forms whilst their mind is still corrupted by the cares and passions of the world. • (5) More on the gifts bestowed on Christians by the Holy Spirit, and how the glory beheld by them is different from any form of transitory glory.
Fifth Macarian Homily • Eleven chapters/sections • (6) [The longest section] Continuation from the previous, speaking of a downwards movement of the sinners and the “upwards and Godwards” movement of Christians; where one’s heart is... There is an incomparable longing for Christ that is inspired by the Spirit to the true Christians, who are not afraid to undertake trials and toils for the sake of the Lord, and who surrender their will to God. Discussion on the impossibility to inherit life eternal without facing hardship or when still attached to worldly matters. Instead, those caring for earthly matters are easily deceived by the evil one; it is impossible for them to stop falling lower and lower into addictions and meanness. Examples of the tribulations experienced by the saints in the world (no monastic paradigms), and the comfort offered to them by the heavenly grace of the Spirit.
Fifth Macarian Homily • Eleven chapters/sections • (7) By virtue, true Christians clothe themselves with the Spirit, who in turn abides in them; thus, Christians have from the here and now a heavenly abode and fear not death. • (8) Having the Spirit within, Christians already defeat death. Consequently, the resurrection will just make manifest in their renewed bodies the ‘garment within,’ the glory of the Spirit. • (9) Continuation. The resurrection of all, anticipated by the springtime (northern hemisphere) festival of Christ’s resurrection, brings the glow of the Spirit’s glory upon the bodies of all that posses already the Spirit in this life. The blossoming flowers and trees in spring prefigure that future glory.
Fifth Macarian Homily • Eleven chapters/sections • (10) Steadfastness in virtue entertains the hope of being indwelled by the Spirit, a privilege that the saints receive from now and will be further renewed in the resurrection. The glowing face of Moses shows that this experience is possible in the here and now. • (11) Again on the inward experience of the spiritual gift, which will be externalisedat the resurrection. The gift of the Spirit is the wings that God provided Adam with, which ensure the Christians’ superiority to all other people. This treasure is ultimately what makes the difference between Christians and the rest of humanity, and which determines their specific frame of mind and their lifestyle. Eschatologically, true Christians will be arrayed with two glories – that of their virtues and that of the Spirit.
Wisdom • The fifth Macarian Homily deals with an ignored dimension of life, showing how in the absence of a spiritual discernment much of what we do ‘out of free will’ is inspired by the evil one and has deep roots in our passions/addictions. In discovering our true peace and freedom in the Lord, we are supposed to embrace the hardships of life whilst we nurture our inner being and continue our Godwards journey. Patience is rewarding; the glory which is within us will become our garment. • By avoiding to provide monastic examples, the Homily shows that this experience is possible within any external circumstances, including for Christians living in the world. • Only this inner experience makes possible the changing/renewal of the external world