Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Confession of Borrowed Treasure

St. Makarios of Egypt (also known as St. Makarios the Great: not the same St. Makarios who helped compile the Philokalia) was a Coptic monk from the 300s who has been well-revered in the East for his homilies. Though the homilies are now often called Pseudo-Makarian (they seem to have more of a Syrian background than an Egyptian one), they continue to be popular today. Some of them are even included in the Philokalia (though via an eleventh-century adaptation by St. Symeon Metaphrastis, "the Translator").

One section of these homilies (§88) cut me to the heart and prompted me to clarify something about this blog: the majority of the spiritual insights presented here are not my own. This may be obvious to some due to my extensive references, but I am confessing it for clarity's sake: in my work on this blog, I am more of a repeater and synthesizer than a spiritual forerunner. My goal is to channel the insights of past spiritual writers to my readers and only occasionally to provide insights of my own.

The homilies mention how when men who are rich in the Spirit enter spiritual discussion, "they draw as it were on their inner treasure-house and share their wealth with their hearers." On the other, those "who do not have stored in the sanctuary of their heart the treasure from which springs forth the bounty of divine thoughts, mysteries and inspired words"--I must admit, I am one of these people very often--"speak merely from the tip of the tongue." This statement, on the shallowness of those not rich in the Spirit, struck me, but the next passage, which I will quote in full, is what really cut me most:

"If they have listened to spiritual men, they preen themselves with what others have said, putting it forward as though it were their own and claiming interest on someone else's capital. Their listeners can enjoy what they say without great effort, but they themselves, when they have finished speaking, prove to be like paupers. For they have simply repeated what they have taken from others, without acquiring treasures of their own from they could first derive pleasure themselves and which they could then communicate profitably to others."

[Note: This passage is a continuation of the previously-quoted line, thus "they" refers to those "who do not have stored in the sanctuary of their heart..."]

I try to not emulate too much the behavior that is condemned in this passage. I do my best to cite anything I quote and any idea I relate, but I know I must fail sometime: no matter how I try, I will never be perfect, and I will always make mistakes. I offer my apologies for any times, in the past or in the future, in which I have or will claim credit for someone else's spiritual insights. My goal is that the relating of spiritual insights on my blog will enrich my own "inner treasure-house" as well as my readers' treasure-houses and not leave me completely as a "pauper." Hopefully someday, when my spiritual journey becomes more fruitful and I am more faithful to it, I will be able to provide insights of my own. Until then, I confess that my blog is mainly made of borrowed treasure from the treasure-houses of others, and I apologize for whenever I claim credit for insights not my own.

I will end by quoting the desire of the writer of these homilies:

"We must first ask God that these true riches may dwell within us, and then we can readily benefit others and speak to them of spiritual matters and divine mysteries. For God's goodness delights to dwell in every believer."

I hope this post was truthful and helpful. God bless!

St. Makarios of Egypt, pray for us!
St. Symeon Metaphrastis, pray for us!

Nota Bene: St. Symeon's adaptation of the Pseudo-Makarian homilies are taken from Volume III of the Philokalia , translated by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallisotos Ware. All quotes are from §88 of the homilies.

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