The Desert Fathers: Monks and Monasteries of the Egyptian Desert

The Desert Fathers: Monks and Monasteries of the Egyptian Desert
The Monastery of St. Paul of Thebes, Red Sea Desert, Egypt (1990)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

ST. MACARIUS - Grapes and Asceticism

Today's story is from the life of St. Macarius. The lives of the ancient Desert Fathers are filled with examples of great men and women who fasted, practiced feats of asceticism, and rejected all worldly things. The following story, though, demonstrates how these practices were manifested in even small ways and how they served to teach others then -- and now -- by their example.

BEGIN: Another time he (St. Macarius) was sent some fresh grapes. He desired to eat them, but showing self-control, he sent them to a certain brother who was ill and who was himself fond of grapes. When the brother received them he was delighted, but wishing to conceal his self-mastery, he sent them to another brother, pretending that he had no appetite for any food. When the next brother received the grapes, he did the same in turn, although he too had a great desire to eat them.

When at length the grapes had been passed round a large number of the brethren without any of them deciding to eat them, the last one to receive them sent them again to Macarius, thinking that he was giving him a rich gift. Macarius recognized them and after inquiring closely into what had happened, marveled, giving thanks to the Lord for such self-control among the brethren. And in the end not even he partook of the grapes. END

from "The Lives of the Desert Fathers," trans. by Norman Russell, (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications, 1980), p. 109