Mystics For Advent Part Five: St. Makarios of Egypt

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”.

Awaiting Prayer

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.

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