St Macarius of Egypt: Are You a Source of Edification to All Everywhere?

Feast of the Glorious Prophet Elijah

THE TRUE foundation of prayer is this: to be very vigilant over thoughts and to pray in much tranquility and peace in order not to be a source of offense to others. For such a person, if he received God’s grace, will pray to the end in tranquility and will edify many others much more. “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Cor. 14.33). Those who pray with great noises are like coxswains who exhort the rowers to keep time. They seem unable to pray anywhere as they wish, not in churches, in villages, but only perhaps in deserted places.

But those who pray in tranquility are a source of edification to all everywhere. A person ought to labor to concentrate on his thoughts. He must cut away all underlying matter that leads to evil thoughts, urging himself toward God. He should not allow his thoughts to control his will, but he needs to collect them whenever they wander off in all directions, discerning natural thoughts from those that are evil. The soul, being tainted by sin, is similar to a large forest on a mountain or like reeds in a river or thick, thorny bushes. Whoever pass through such a place need to hold out their hands before them and with force and labor push aside whatever lies in their path. So also the thoughts that come from the adverse power beset the soul. Therefore, there is need for great diligence and mental alertness so that one may distinguish those outside thoughts that rise by the power of the adversary.

One person may rely totally on his own power, thinking that he can clear the mountains of the brush all by himself. Another controls his mind, keeping himself in tranquility and self-control. Without too much trouble he is more successful than the other. So also in prayer there are some who use unseemly cries as though they were relying on their own bodily grunts and groans, not realizing how their thinking deceives them, namely, that they could ever perfectly obtain success by their own efforts. There are others who attend to their thoughts and enter into an inner battle. By their understanding and discernment these are capable of success as they shake away the attacking thoughts and walk in the Lord’s will.

We find in the Apostle that he says whoever edifies others is greater than he who does not. “He that speaks in tongues edifies himself, but he that prophesies edifies the Church. Greater is he who prophesies than he who speaks in tongues” (1 Cor. 14.4-5). Let everyone, therefore, seek to edify others and he will then be considered worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven.

~St Macarius of Egypt, Homily 6


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