Patristic Tradition

Abba Macarius the Great ( 01.02.2009 )

Just as Saint Makarios was returning to his cell one day, loaded down with palm leaves for his handicraft work, the devil stopped him, ready to assault him; but he could not. Some invincible force prevented him.

"You have tormented me a great deal, Makarios," the devil shouted at him fiercely. "I have battled you so many years and yet I cannot pull you down. But what more have you accomplished than I? Perhaps fasting? I, of course, do not eat. Vigils? I do not even need sleep. You have only one threat that frightens me."

"What is that?" the Saint asked with great interest.

"Humility," he unwillingly acknowledged, disappearing.


Abba Macarius said, 'Walking in the desert one day, I found the skull of a dead man, lying on the ground. As I was moving it with my stick, the skull spoke to me. I said to it, "Who are you?" The skull replied, "I was high priest of the idols and of the pagans who dwelt in this place; but you are Macanus, the Spirit-bearer. Whenever you take pity on those who are in torments, and pray for them, they feel a little respite." The old man said to him, "What is this alleviation, and what is this torment?" He said to him, "As far as the sky is removed from the earth, so great is the fire beneath us; we are ourselves standing in the midst of the fire, from the feet up to the head. It is not possible to see anyone face to face, but the face of one is fixed to the back of another. Yet when you pray for us, each of us can see the other's face a little. Such is our respite." The old man in tears said, "Alas the day when that man was born!" He said to the skull, "Are there any punishments which are more pain-ful than this?" The skull said to him, "There is a more grievous punishment down below us." The old man said, "Who are the people down there?" The skull said to him: "We have received a little mercy since we did not know God, but those who know God and denied Him are down below us." Then, picking up the skull, the old man buried it.'


"The more that we bear continually in mind the difficulties which by chance our brothers might have brought upon us," said Saint Makarios, "the more we are removed by this from God. When we forget those difficulties immediately, the demons do not dare to tempt us."


The youngest brothers of the skete surrounded Saint Makarios one day and asked him to teach them how to pray.

"The greatest mistake we make in praying," he replied, "is verbosity. It is sufficient for a man to learn to elevate his mind to the heavenly and to say with all of his soul, 'Lord, have mercy, as you know and as you will.' This is prayer.

"Again, when he feels the attack of the devil strongly upon him, or the rebellion of the lower passions, let him run with faith to the Heavenly Father and let him cry to Him, not with his mouth, but with his heart: 'Lord, help me.' He knows the way to help a soul which draws near to Him with trust."