Golden Legend – Life of Macarius

Here followeth the Life of Saint Macarias, and. first the interpretation of his name.

Macarius is said of macha, which is as much to say as engine, and of ares, which is to say virtue. Or Macarius is said of macha, that is to say smiting, and of rio, that is to say master, for he was ingenious against the fallacy of the devil, virtuous of life, smiting in chastening his body, and master in the governance of prelacy.

Saint Macarius was in a desert, and entered in to a pit or sepulchre, whereas had been buried many bodies of paynims, for to sleep, and he drew out one of these bodies and laid it under his head instead of a pillow. Then came thither devils for to make him aghast and afeard, and said one to another: Come with me to bathe thee. And the body that lay under his head said: I may not come, for I have a pilgrim upon me Iying, that I may not move. For all this Saint Macarius was not afeard, but he beat the body with his fist, and said: Arise and go if thou mayst. When the devils saw that they might not make him afeard they cried with a great voice: Macarius, thou hast vanquished and overcome us twice. On a time as Macarius was nigh his house, the devil came with a great scythe on his neck, and would have smitten therewith Saint Macarius, and the devil said to him: Thou dost to me great violence and force for I may not prevail against thee. Lo! what thou doest I do, thou fastest and I eat not, thou wakest and I never sleep, but there is one thing in which thou overcomest me, and Macarius said: What is that? To whom the devil said: That is humility, and thy meekness by which I may not prevail against thee.

It happed on a time that a great temptation came upon Saint Macarius, and much tempted him, and anon he filled a sack full of stones, and laid it on his neck and bare it many journeys together through the desert. Then another hermit met him and demanded him why he bare so great a burden, and he answered: I travail my body because it suffereth not me in peace, and thus I vex him that vexed me. This holy abbot Saint Macarius saw passing tofore him a devil in the habit of a man, which was the clothing of a herald, all linen full of holes, and in every hole hung a phial, and he demanded him whither he went. The devil answered him, I go for to give drink unto these hermits, then demanded him, Saint Macarius, wherefore he bare so many phials. And he answered: I shall offer to them one, and if he may not drink of that one, I shall proffer him another, and so the third, and of all the other, each after other, until they may find something pleasant to them for to fall into temptation. And when he came again, Saint Macarius called him, and demanded him what he had found, and he answered that he had evil sped, for they were all so holy and blessed that they recked not of his drink, save one only which is named Theodistus. Then Saint Macarius arose and came to these hermits, and found them all in good point save him whom the devil had tempted. Then Saint Macarius did so much by his exhortation that he brought him again in the right way. Another time Saint Macarius met the devil and demanded him whence he came, and the devil answered: I come from visiting thy brethren, then said Saint Macarius: How do they? The devil answered: Evil. And he asked wherefore, and the devil said: For they all holy, and that worst is, there was on that was mine and I have lost him, for he is now made holier than the others. When Saint Macarius heard this he gave laudings and thankings to God. It happed on a time Saint Macarius found in his way the head of a dead man, and he demanded of it whose head it was, and the head answered: Of a paynim, and Macarius said to him: Where is thy soul? He answered: In hell; and he demanded if it were deep in hell, and he said: Deeper than is from heaven to earth. And after he demanded if there were any beneath him, he said that the false christian men be yet lower and deeper in hell, for as much as they have despited and villained the blood of Jesu Christ of which they were redeemed, so much the more be they tormented.

On a time Saint Macarius went in a desert and at the end of every mile he set a reed in the earth for to have knowledge thereby to turn again, and went forth nine days’ journey, and after, he slept. And the devil took all these reeds and bound them and laid them at his head, wherefore he had great labour for to come again into his house. An hermit which was in desert was much tempted for to go again to the world, and he thought in his heart that he should do more good to be among the people than he should do in his hermitage. Then he told all this to Saint Macarius, and Saint Macarius said to him: Thus shalt thou say to thy thoughts, that for the love of Jesu Christ I keep the walls of this cell.

It happed on a time that Saint Macarius killed fly that bit him, and when he saw the blood of this fly, he repented him, and so, repentant of that, would revenge it, and anon unclothed him and went naked in the desert six months, and suffered himself to be bitten of the flies. After this Saint Macarius when he had long lived, and God had showed many miracles for him, and had flowered in many virtues, he died and rendered his soul unto our Lord Jesu Christ, qui est benedictus in secula seculorum. Amen.