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Monday, June 13, 2005

Selections from the Lives of the Fathers

http://www.vitae-patrum.org.uk/page67.html

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"43. (Also in II.29) We were given further proof of his faith by those who heard of the following incident from his own mouth. One night a demon in the shape of a monk came and knocked at the door of his cell and said, "Get up, Abba Macarius, and come to the meeting where all the brothers are gathered together for the Vigil."

But filled as he was with the grace of God he could not be deceived. He recognised him as a lying demon and cried, "Liar! Enemy of the truth! What benefit or fellowship are you likely to get from the meeting of the saints when they gather together?"

The other replied, "You must realise, Macarius, that no meeting goes on without us, let alone a gathering of monks. Come along, and you will see for yourself what we are doing"

The holy Macarius said, "May the Lord strike you down, you unclean spirit!" And he turned to prayer, begging the Lord to show him the truth about this boast of the demon. He went down to the meeting where the brothers were celebrating the Vigil, and again begged the Lord to show him the truth. Suddenly he saw something like black little Ethiopian boys running about hither and thither through the whole church, almost as if they were flying. As these Ethiopian boys ran about they were sporting with each of the brothers as they prayed or sang psalms. If they pressed two fingers on to anyone's eyes he went to sleep, if they put a finger into anyone's mouth he yawned. After the psalm, when they prostrated themselves for the prayer they ran about among them and would turn themselves into the appearance of a woman near one as he lay there in prayer, near another into someone building or carrying something, while others performed various different antics. Whatever images the demons produced those at prayer took deep into their thoughts. But when they tried any of these tricks on some of the other brothers they were violently driven back and thrown to the ground, no longer able to stand in front of them or walk past them. On other brothers they danced about on their necks and backs. When holy Macarius saw this he sighed deeply and wept copiously before the Lord, saying, "Look down, O Lord, don't keep silent, don't condone, O God (Psalms 83.1), but arise and scatter your enemies, make them flee from before your face (Psalms 68.1), for our souls reject their deceits."

When the service was over, to satisfy himself of the truth, he approached each one of those whom the demons had been mocking with their various shapes and appearances and asked them whether in their prayers they had had any thoughts of building anything, or going on a journey or any other of the various phantasms which he had seen being given to each one by the demons. Each one admitted that he had thought these things just as he described them. Thus it became absolutely clear that all the evil, unnecessary and empty thoughts each one had had while singing psalms or praying or sleeping had all been instilled by the wiles and illusions of the demons, but those dark Ethiopians and the thoughts they peddled had been driven back by those who had kept custody of their hearts in the fear and love of God. For if the mind is fixed on God, especially at the time of prayer, nothing evil, nothing else can enter in. "