PSEUDO-MACARIUS, HOMILIES OF, a number of spiritual writings that had a great vogue under the name of Saint MACARIUS THE EGYPTIAN. One should examine the author, the writings, the doctrine, and the collections that exist both in Coptic and in Arabic, since it concerns Egypt.
During the whole of the Middle Ages, and indeed, as Syriac manuscripts indicate, from as early as 534, several collections of works were attributed to Macarius the Egyptian, which reassured their numerous readers. But it has been known since the beginning of the twentieth century that this attribution is false and that the author is unknown. These writings speak frequently of the wars between Persians and Romans, which shows that the writer lived on the frontier between the two empires. He speaks only of a single river, the Euphrates, never of the Nile, which would be astonishing for an Egyptian. And finally, the significant traces of a Messalian tendency detected in these works indicates a Mesopotamian, rather than an Egyptian, author. Having ruled out Macarius the Egyptian as the author, one cannot attribute the authorship to any other writer more or less famous. The manuscript tradition attributes the homilies (the greater part of these writings) to one Symeon. It is customary to describe these homilies under the name Macarius/Symeon.
The works of Pseudo-Macarius include (1) a treatise called the Great Letter; (2) two letters; (3) some twenty pieces in the form of questions and answers (a well-known literary form); and (4) some fifty homilies and some thirty short pieces or collections of logia. It is appropriate to remark that the precise literary genre of each work is difficult to determine, for each of the pieces is transmitted differently in the different manuscripts, which are generally of late date (eleventh or twelfth century).
With regard to the versions in Greek, which seems to be the language of the original, the works divide into four collections. Collection one gives sixty-four logia, the first logion being the Great Letter (Berthold, 1973, p. 694). Collection two contains fifty spiritual homilies; this is the most widely diffused of the four collections (Dorries, Klostermann, and Kroeger, 1964). Collection three gives forty-three logia; it supplies twenty-eight pieces that are wanting in the preceding collection (Klostermann and Berthold, 1961-). Finally, collection four supplies twenty-six logia, but has not been published; all the same, its variants are given in editions of collection one. Two manuscripts contain in appendices seven pieces that were edited by Marriott (1918).
As noted, a hint of Messalianism has been detected in these writings, and that indeed very early, since they were condemned in part at the Council of EPHESUS in 431 and then indirectly, along with the doctrine of the Messalian movement, at the synods of Sidon in 380-393 and CONSTANTINOPLE in 426.
Four points need to be emphasized. First, the writings of Pseudo-Macarius are delivered within a monastic framework. This is important for one must take account of the fact that the author addressed himself to monks, not to simple Christians. If this author did not give concrete details, it is known that he spoke to cenobites, not to hermits or semihermits. Macarius the Egyptian lived a true eremetic life, unlike the cenobitic one observed by PACHOMIUS.
Second, he put the accent on spiritual conflict as a means of attaining perfection. This gave him occasion to underline the role of human freedom, to which he attributed the evil committed by humans. The author gave a list of virtues and vices, in conformity with those of the works of his time.
Third, since he has been judged to be largely influenced by the tendencies of the Messalian sect, the most efficacious means for him in this spiritual conflict is naturally prayer, which, according to him, is the first of the virtues.
Fourth, his spiritual theology is perhaps defined by the idea that grace, like human effort, must work for the salvation of each human being. For him, there is a balance between the influence of grace and the participation of each individual. He adopted the Messalian thesis that baptism does not totally root out the evil in the human heart—hence, the necessity for constant struggle to attain perfection and the indispensability of the action of the Holy Spirit.
There must have been a Coptic version of these various writings but there survive only sparse leaves of it (Geerard, 1974-1987, Vol. 2, nos. 2415, 2422), from which it is impossible to know what the Coptic version represented.
It is quite otherwise with the Arabic collection, of which we have two recensions: the Melchite (of which nothing need be said here) and the Coptic. The number of Coptic texts varies according to the manuscripts: often thirty-six discourses (maqalat) are counted, a part of which is found in the Greek collections; then forty-one questions and answers, the content of which blends what is transmitted by the Greek; and, finally, ten or twenty words (aqwal), of which a part is lost in Greek.
It will be noted that the collection, the content of which varies, is placed under the name of Simeon the Stylite, as it was by IBN KABAR. The oldest manuscripts are of the thirteenth century. An analysis of one of these manuscripts (Vat. Arab. 80) will be found in L. Villecourt (1918-1919; it also analyzes Vat. Arab. 84, the Melchite recension).
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