Sunday, February 1, 2009

The monk Makarios

On the feastday of St. Makarios (Macarius) the Great, I inevitably think of my friend Fr. Makarios.

Fr. Makarios was a simple monk of the Orthodox Church. He has since joined the choir invisible but I had the great blessing of meeting him and conversing at great length with him before he died.

A Trappist monk before he was 20, Fr. Makarios had been severely disillusioned by Vatican II; he travelled far from his Catholic roots before finding a home and peace in the Orthodox Church. He was a man who had drunk deep from the well of the Fathers and who had a profound and thorough knowledge of the lives and writings of the Saints. Happily, he had the unmonastic failing of garrulity (his term, not mine), and was more than willing to answer the myriad questions of a new convert to the Faith.

I credit him with introducing me to the mind of the Church, exposing me to Orthdoxy's monastic heart, teaching me the things that don't come up in catechism class. Through him I was exposed to the strange but beautiful asceticisms of the Stylites and the Fools-for-Christ, I learned of the Protecting Veil, I was told of the miracles with which God has blessed His Church, the wonders worked by His Saints. He also told me of the Saints' secret and hidden asceticisms, those that only death revealed. He introduced me to the Edenic "environmentalism" that reveals itself through the lives of the Saints and the ancient traditions of the monasteries.

Through Fr. Makarios, I was shown the heart of Orthodoxy. I stopped thinking of Orthodoxy as a spreadsheet of points that had to be argued or proved in defense against the Protestantism of my youth or the Catholicism with which I had flirted as a young man: through his unteaching I came to see the Orthodox Church as a pearl of great price and unparelleled beauty, as my Mother, holding me to her bosom.

And he told me stories from his life, a bit here, a piece there, to illustrate his points. I won't tell his story at this time - instead, I will tell the part of that story that I witnessed. Because I cannot think of Fr. Makarios without remembering the bees.

Fr. Makarios and the Bees

I and one other had been helping Fr. Makarios in the monastery's candleshop when he was called out. He blessed us to continue his work, and departed. During his absence a batch of honey-encrusted beeswax melted, attracting a small swarm of bees. They filled the small candleshop.

I got to work industriously killing them, keeping count as I went. The other followed suit. I was nearing 100 bees killed with plenty more to go when Fr. Makarios returned.

"V.!" he cried, "What are you doing?"

I got that sinking feeling that is awakened guilt. And I remembered him telling me that in a monastery, Eden is restored and man is no longer at enmity with Creation.

"I'm killing bees," I said.

"Why didn't you ask them to leave?" he asked. He gestured us towards the door, and shooed us out. "Out! Out!"

I couldn't respond to the absurdity of his question, and I was feeling myself in the wrong and out of place, so I meekly complied with his order.

We sat down outside the shop in an embarrassed silence. A couple minutes had gone by, when Fr. Makarios invited us back into the candleshop. A single bee buzzed about the celing where previously there had been many dozens.

"What happened?" I said, incredulous. "Where are the bees?"

"I asked them to leave," said he.

By God's grace, through Fr. Makarios the concept of a harmonious Creation was made real to me; around him Eden was restored.


I don't know when Fr. Makarios died, so I remember him today.

Remember Thy servant - schemamonk Makarios - in Thy Kingdom. вечная память. Through the prayers of Thy Saints, revealed and hidden, have mercy on us.

- V.