Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Catholic Hermit Shares Some Lights from Pseudo-Macarius and -Dionysius

In preface, an explanation of the construct of Pseudo-Macarius' intent of the word perfect Christian:

Macarius is not using the world perfect Christian to mean that such have become confirmed in grace and no longer need to be attentive to the sinful roots within them.  It means that such have advanced through long years of asceticism and inner attentiveness to the evil within and live more habitually in the contemplative union with the indwelling Trinity, a state that is always in process of greater growth, that encourages a hunger all the more to enter into the spiritual combat and never yield to sloth."

Now, to share what resonates with this Catholic hermit of Macarius' spiritual insights, gifted soul that he was circa 5th century and throughout the centuries vis a vis his homilies.

"Perfect Christians, who are considered worthy to reach a degree of perfection and to come close to the King, are continually dedicated to the cross of Christ.  Just like the anointing in the times of the prophets was considered absolutely a most precious thing, since kings and prophets were anointed, so also now spiritual persons, who are anointed with a heavenly anointing, become Christians by grace, so that they too become kings and prophets of heavenly mysteries.  Indeed, these are the sons and lords and gods, bound and held captive, plunged deeply, crucified and consecrated.  

"For the anointing with oil, a thing which came from a material plant, a visible tree, had so great a power that those who were anointed obtained a dignity beyond questioning (for ti was decreed that they were thus made kings).  Davide was anointed and immediately was exposed to persecutions and afflictions, and after the seventh year was he made king.

"How much more do all who have been anointed in mind and the interior man with the sanctifying and joy-giving, heavenly and spiritual 'oil of gladness' (Heb 1:9), receive the sign of that kingdom of imperishable and eternal power, namely 'the pledge of the Spirit.' (2 Cor 5:5), the Holy Spirit and the Paraclete?  Understand by the Paraclete, the one who consoles and pours out joy upon all who are heavily burdened."

Turning to the writings of Dionysius, this nothing consecrated Catholic hermit can grasp why the writings of this holy and sanctified man, also circa 5th c., influenced St. John of the Cross.  Dionysius was inspired to introduce the three ways of the spiritual life.  While his triad is termed the purification, the illumination, and the perfected, John of the Cross did not verge far in labeling the three ways of spiritual progression the purgative, the intuitive, and the unitive.

But Dionysius writes extensively of hierarchies, taking us from the temporal and tangible profoundly into the spiritual and mystical.  He casts out into the deep; he climbs the stairway to heaven and takes the reader with him, if they so wish to stretch their hearts and minds to what he is trying to impart.  

One wonders if Macarius and Dionysius had access to one or the others writings in their time period on earth.  For Dionysius writes of the threefold division of every hierarchy of God's creation:  inanimate, plants, animals, humans, celestial, and the sacred Godhead.  He explains further.

" our sacred tradition every hierarchy is divided in three.  There are the most reverend sacraments.  There are those, inspired by God, who understand and purvey them.  And there are those who are sacredly initiated into these.

"Now the most holy hierarchy among the beings of heaven possesses the native sacramental power of a most completely immaterial conception of God and of things divine.  It is their lot to be as like God and as imitative of God as is possible. These first beings around God lead others and with their light guide them toward this sacred perfection.  To the sacred orders farther down the scale they generously bestow, in proportion to their capacity, the knowledge of the workings of God, knowledge forever made available as a gift to themselves by that divinity which is absolute perfection and which is the source of wisdom for the divinely intelligent beings.  The ranks coming in succession to these premier beings are sacredly lifted up by their mediation to enlightenment in the sacred workings of the divinity. They form the orders of initiates and they are named as such.

"In succession to this heavenly and transcendent hierarchy the divinity extends its most sacred gifts into our domain and, in the words of Scripture, it deals with us as though we were 'babes.'  It bestowed on us in the hierarchy of the Law.  It veiled truth with obscure imagery. It employed the palest copies of originals.  It resorted to dense enigmas and to symbolism whose meaning is discerned with the maximum difficulty.  To avoid harm it granted only as much light as suited the weak eyes looking up to it. In this hierarchy of the Law the 'sacrament' consisted of an uplifting to worship in spirit...."

Dionysius continues on, explaining each level of spirit, of souls, and of their work and efforts in the divine power of the process of lifting up to God, of initiating the initiates with what they can understand, and then the next level of souls illuminating them (as they were illuminated and lifted up, as well, by God's grace and light), and then the sacred souls strive to perfect the illuminated, drawing them up likewise to sanctification, to become sacred, to union with the Divine.

This is enough to ponder, here.  Let our hearts and minds and souls consider these insights, and be open to whatever understanding and light the Holy Spirit wishes to impart in us.  At least let us realize that we are called to rise beyond the point of initiation, beyond the level of purification, and onto being illuminated, and then pray for the grace and sheer love and desire of God to be drawn up into that amount of perfection of which Macarius also writes and explains, so that His Real Presence, the Trinity, will make His abode in us, filling us with His will and divinity.

This may be too sublime for us to continue to attempt verbal description.  So this nothing Catholic hermit will cease attempting to express what these bright light souls of earlier centuries--enlightened and perfected Christians--can teach us of what the Holy Spirit has taught them of the loving and divine ascent...through Him, with Him, in Him forever.

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