A Brother is Instructed by Saint Macarius the Great to Learn from the Dead

St. Macarius the Great

A brother came to see Abba Macarius the Egyptian, and said to him, “Abba, give me word, that I may be saved.” So the old man said, “Go to the cemetery and abuse the dead.” The brother went there, abused them and threw stones at them; then he returned and told the old man about it. The latter said to him, “Didn’t they say anything to you?” He replied, “No.” The old man said, “Go back tomorrow and praise them.” So the brother went away and praised them, calling them, “Apostles, saints and righteous men.” He returned to the old man and said to him, “I have complimented them.” And the old man said to him, “Did they not answer you?” The brother said no. The old man said to him, “You know how you insulted them and they did not reply, and how you praised them and they did not speak; so you too if you wised to be saved must do the same and become a dead man. Like a dead man take no account of either the scorn of men or their praises, and you can be saved.

* This excerpt is from “The Sayings of the Desert Fathers” translated by Benedicta Ward

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