There are many versions of the life of Makarios the Egyptian. Dates of birth range from 283 to 320. Stories agree that he died in 390. What emerges is the picture of a servant of Christ who sought a life consumed with prayer. One of the desert fathers, he left behind some fifty ascetical homilies and tracts to assist others in developing a life of prayer. The Eastern church includes several of his prayers in matins and vespers services.
In Advent, Makarios reminds us that prayer is a vital part of our celebration of God coming to us, “visiting the soul, making mysterious entry via any manner of countless paths”.
Well yes, we have a need to pray, though not
so much a prayer that’s fixed to any habit
of the body, nor to any public proclamation,
nor tied to some particular custom
of silence, and not necessarily fallen
to our aching knees. Rather, we ought
first to keep an attentive mind, leaning in
expectantly, and waiting on the God
until He comes visiting the soul, making
mysterious entry via any manner of
countless paths — the openings and varied senses of the soul. Just so,
we should be silent when we ought,
or, on occasion, raise a piercing cry,
or bruise our knees on stone — whatever–
so long as the mind is attached wholly
to God’s approach. As the body, performing
any demanding task, requires every member
to join in fixed attention to the chore, so
the soul demands such singleness
of rapt pursuit, in loving movement
to the Lord — undistracted, undeterred, but firm
and watchful, expecting His arrival, even now.
The words of St. Makarios have been arranged in this verse form by poet Scott Cairns and may be found in Cairns’ book Love’s Immensity: Mystics on the endless Life (Paraclete Press, 2007).
Our next Mystic for Advent will be St. Isaac of Nineveh.
Steve Bailey is a deacon at St. Laurence, Coquitlam and one of the blog masters of New Westminster Anglican blog. Your comments and contributions are always welcome.