Feast of the Seven Holy Youths of Ephesus
IT IS THROUGH the renewing of the mind and the tranquility experienced in our thoughts and the love of the Lord and the love for heavenly things that every new creation of Christians distinguishes them from the men of this world. For this reason did the Lord come in order that he might deign to give these spiritual gifts to those who truly believe in him. Christians possess a glory and beauty and an indescribable heavenly richness that come to them with hard work and sweat, acquired in times of temptations and in many trials. All of this must be ascribed to divine grace. […]
Those who really wish to reach the goal by good living must not willingly allow and mix any other love or affection with that heavenly love lest they be hindered in their spiritual pursuits and fall back and finally lose their very own life. Just as God has made great, ineffable, and indescribable promises, so, too, they demand on our part great faith, hope, and effort and great struggles. The goods that a person seeks in striving for the Kingdom of Heaven are not of little importance. To reign with Christ forever, if this is what you desire, will you not be ready to bear manfully struggles and labors and temptations for the brief space of this life up until death? The Lord says, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily with joy and let him follow me’ (Mt 16.24). And again he says, ‘If anyone does not hate father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sister, yes, even his own life also, he cannot be my disciple’ (Lk 14.26). Most wish to obtain the kingdom and desire to have eternal life, but, following their own wills, they refuse to control them. They are rather more like the sower who sows vain desires. They refuse to deny themselves and still wish to receive eternal life, which is a thing impossible. […]
For whatever passion a person does not manfully fight against, that is an object of his love. Such an attachment dominates and holds him down. It becomes for him an impediment and a chain that prevents him from directing his mind to God and from pleasing him. In no way can he serve God alone and obtain the kingdom and reach eternal life. […]
Such as these are able to endure conflict to the end who have completely and with their whole heart loved God alone and who have freed themselves from all other loves for the world. Few, however, are found who enjoy such a love, turning away from all pleasures and desires of the world and who manfully endure the assaults and temptations of the evil one. […] Most want to possess the kingdom without labors and struggles and sweat, but this is impossible.
Likewise when we read in Scripture how such and such a just man pleased God, how he was made a friend and companion of God and how all the fathers were considered friends and participators of God, we forget one thing: What great afflictions they had to suffer, how much they had to endure on behalf of God, with what great courage they struggled and fought battles! We congratulate them and we wish to enjoy rewards and honors equal to theirs. We desire ardently to receive their outstanding gifts, but we fail to notice their labors, struggles, afflictions, and crucifixions. We eagerly want honors and dignities such as they received from God, but we are not ready to accept their labors and struggles.
Truly, I tell you this. Every person, even prostitutes, publicans, and the wicked, desires and wants all this, namely, to possess the kingdom easily without labors and struggles. But because of this there lie along the path temptations and many trials and afflictions and struggles and sweat in order to sift out those who have truly loved the Lord alone with might and main right up to death itself and have desired nothing else along with their love for him.
~St Macarius of Egypt, Excerpts from Spiritual Homily 5
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