January 2: St. Macarius of Alexandria

This African saint, living in the late 4th century, was one of the Desert Contemplatives, and, following a stint as a confectioner, lived his life along the Upper and Lower Nile valleys in solitude and self-denial. The nature of his temptations was a tricky one–it was the temptation to go and work among the sick and the poor in Rome! The problem for Macarius is that the act he contemplated was a good one but his reason was so that he might attract public notice for his sacrificial work there. To help himself overcome this temptation, Macarius went out into the wilderness to walk for an entire day, with two great baskets of sand laid upon his shoulders. That apparently worked, as he was engaged in what he termed “tormenting the Tormentor.” The alchemy behind this seemingly pointless and painful endeavor comes clear as Butler writes of Macarius, “True humility alone could discover the snare which lurked under the specious gloss of holy charity.” What a phrase: the specious gloss of holy charity! What do you think?


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