Chapter VII (continued) Life of St Posthumius, Book Ib
Posthumius could find nothing to say in reply to this, and even as he was turning all this over in his mind, Macarius gave up his spirit. Crowds of people soon gathered for his funeral rites.
Crowds singing psalms, others singing many different kinds of hymns, but all singing praises to God as if with one voice, until his body was carried to the sepulchre to be buried. There was no one completely overwhelmed by grief at Macarius having left the monastery so suddenly, for the Lord had provided Posthumius, someone like Macarius, to take up the governance of his flock.
Three days later Posthumius prayed to be given a fountain of pure teaching through Jesus Christ in the holy Spirit, which he might be able to pass on wisely to that great multitude. After a further three days, the Angel who had converted him came as usual, and confirmed him as the teacher and ruler of the monastery in that place from which Macarius had departed. He gave him a schedule of spiritual precepts and departed. Posthumius gathered all the brothers together and opened his mouth to teach them.
"My little children," he said, "hear the word which the Lord has spoken to you. It is his will that he should fill our minds with a clear Rule containing precepts of justice and love. I speak to you as a father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God. I have received these prescriptions from the hand of an Angel, so that for your edification I can speak to you about all the things which have been poured out into my heart. Listen carefully, then. The commands which come from my mouth are the commands of God."
1. Obedience to the seniors
The first rule of community living is that obedience should always be given to those in authority.
2. Chaste fear
The second is that those who live under the rule should serve the Lord in fear and purity.
The third is that you should live in this world in a spirit of temperance, godliness and justice.
4. Bodily discipline
The fourth is that you should discipline your body in everything, in order to promote the salvation of your soul by fasting and the mortification of the flesh. These are good works which you should delight in.
5. Frequent prayer
The fourth is that you should constantly be directed towards prayer, since the Apostle tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5.17). Praying and fasting, we shall keep the gifts of faith constantly in remembrance, and be able to overcome the plentiful presence of the demons.
The next deals with the sort of error which leads to the downfall of the soul, that is, beware of the evil of pride in all that you do. It was pride that cast the angel out of heaven in the foundation of the world, and we know that pride is the root of every other sin. To drive it out of our thoughts, pray always to God that he may clothe you with humility.
7. Flee Worldliness
Another deadly infestation in the flesh is the temptation to worldliness, the root of all monastic vices.
8. The bonds of Charity
Above all keep hold of the bond of charity among yourselves, and in unswerving faith never lose hope of hastening towards the kingdom of the God of eternity. The aim of monastic discipline is the pursuit of perfect love. These chains of charity and peace adorn the soul and are completely devoid of self-seeking. Therefore sincere love is all that is needed in this life, for those who love each other are called the children of the kingdom. Those who have perfect love are they who are spotless and eat bread in the kingdom of God (Luke 14.15). You will be perfect, therefore, if charity sets you on fire as a pure sacrifice, with zeal, seasoned with gentleness. The Lord Jesus will rejoice in you, for you have faithfully carried out what he has commanded. For the first of the laws laid down at Mount Sinai and given to Moses was: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul (Deuteronomy 6.5). And the second: thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Leviticus 19.18). There can be no love of God without love of neighbour. The plain truth of this precept is that the rule of charity should reign in every part of your body. Then will your love be fulfilled if you have laid the yoke of obedience on everything you purpose doing.
9. Obedience to each other
Obedience must be held in great honour in the community. It will profit you nothing, my little children, if you love each other but are not obedient to each other. Love without obedience causes dissension and weakens the conscience. Just as weeds prevent the seed from bringing forth fruit, so does disobedience render fasting in vain, nor does prayer being forth any fruit. So then, let anyone who desires to live in unity and share a common mind consider these commandments as being of major importance. And let anyone who is as yet far from perfection carry out what he can glean from the writings of the fathers. If a brother carrying a load on his back finds it too heavy for the weight on his shoulders and then, with the abbot present, comes across a pool of water for washing or irrigating, and takes it to be drinking water, he commits a sin if he drinks from it without asking the abbot first. And this is so even if he allows a junior companion with him to drink from it without permission from the abbot. Though he might be burning from the heat of the sun, if the abbot tests him by forbidding him to drink, he commits a sin if he grumbles about it, even if only in his thoughts. Furthermore, if you tread upon a thorn as you walk along, it should not be pulled out unless the abbot says so.
10. The rule for sleeping
Spread your woven vine branches out at a distance from each other. And when you retire to sleep keep a distance of a cubit between each person. For if your bodies are too close to each other it could encourage lascivious thoughts.
11. Keeping vigils
The night office is an especially spiritual work, because the demons hate the light and are busy at night. There is no reason for any seculars to be awoken until the hour for the common prayer of the brothers at cock crow. There is no need for the individual choirs to wake each other for prayer, but let the first person to awake beat his breast so that those still sleeping will also be woken up. Satan often rolls his nocturnal darkness around anyone deep in sleep, so therefore I say to you, my little children, be vigilant for you know not the hour when the thief will come (Matthew 24.43).
12. The Love of God
Strive also to be pleasing to God in the spiritual quality of your life. Let the precepts of the law and the divine commandment to love God be lodged with wisdom in the depths of your heart. You need not be wise in anything other than what the simplicity of the Scriptures of God enjoin. There are many who have other ideas about God and fall away from the love of him and the love of one's neighbour. People like this should heed what the prophet Baruch says about the 'peace of righteousness and the glory of godliness' (Baruch 5.4). When God sees the brotherly love exercised by his people to be without blemish then he makes them all to become partakers of the friendship of God. Wherefore those who love God in the glory of doing a good work perform a good work also in rendering null and void any love of this world in each other. They declare that any thoughts coming from the devil into the hearts of the servants of God are profane, and their desire is to live like anchorites in so far as they deny the body even while still living in this world. It is the things of heaven they delight in, they no longer seek after the things of earth, for they have thrown down the foundations of secular darkness and trampled them underfoot.
13. Speech tempered with salt
Since you are fashioned to enjoy the kingdom of heaven it is fitting that you please the Creator by maintaining your virginity in mind and body, guarding the fruits of your faith and the tenor of your speech as carefully as possible. It is a shameful thing that anyone might have cause to accuse a monk either in small matters or in great. We must be above reproach; as the Apostle teaches, let your speech always be tempered with salt (Colossians 4.6). This is the seasoning which the Evangelist means when he says, 'You are the salt of the earth' (Matthew 5.13). I beg you not to let it depart from you, lest in departing from you it be cast out of the congregation and reviled by the tongues of the enemy.
14. Avoiding slander
I beg you, my little children, according to the programme which I received from the Angel's hands, to have no truck with the ungodly who speak evil, who without cause are forever attacking the Church of Christ with their biting tongues.
15. The avoidance of dissension
Cast our from your midst any disagreements you may have with one another, for you know that our Lord is not a Lord of disagreement but of peace. If a brother, at the suggestion of the devil, has a grievance against another brother, let him put it out of his mind in faith and obedience. Remember it is not I who say this, but God who has taught me by the hand of his messenger.
16. Hospitality to pilgrims in obedience to superiors
If you wish to give evidence of your obedience to superiors, show hospitality to strangers and obey the precepts of the Lord (Hebrews 13.2).
17. Avoiding anger
The soldier of God should in no circumstances show anger, either to his brothers or to outsiders.
18. Avoiding contention
Whatever the occasion, let no one presume to pass judgment on any secular servant of God, for there is a distance to be kept between us and them. Do not allow anyone to go to law with you; it is better for a monk to suffer deceit and injustice than that the voice of a soldier of Christ be raised in anger.
19. Business dealings not suitable for monks
It is not right for a monk to take part in business deals for the sake of making money. Rather he should be bargaining for the rewards of heavenly benefits. Let him promote the word of salvation, let him persuade souls into heaven, let him overcome the competition from worldly desire. For a Christian heart of any sort is triumphant, especially the heart of a servant of God. By the exercise of the divine power of prayer it puts out of business the diabolic deceiver of souls.
20. The demon put to flight by the sign of the Cross, prayer, fasting, recourse to God.
If a demon fills you with dread, run to the shelter of the Cross. He will be put to flight immediately. His wiles are not proof against frequent prayer and fasting. My little children, you need have no cause for alarm if whole armies of demons assail you; the numerous ranks of Angels are able to come to your aid. When crowds of demons seem to be growing in strength, cast your eyes up to heaven and say, 'Lord Jesus Christ, help me for I am weak'. When the servant of the prophet Elisha was frightened by those coming to attack them from Samaria, the prophet said, 'Open the eyes of your servant, Lord that he may see, for those who are for us are more than those against us' (2 Kings 6.17). Even so, the legions of the angels of God will come to your aid, and strengthen your faith.
"These are the commandments, my little children. If they are lodged in your hearts, however weak, I have explained how they are weapons against the devil. I would not want to have passed over in silence the attacks he brings to bear on us, so that you are able to resist his malice.
"Once when I was sitting on a mountainside, an enormous army of soldiers came towards me. When I saw them in the distance I immediately recognised them as angels of Satan. But I cast all terror aside, fell to the ground on my knees and prayed to God that they might go away, calling upon the Lord my redeemer. And that approaching throng, like straw caught up by the wind, was suddenly brought to naught. So I gave thanks to the Lord through our Lord Jesus Christ who quickly brought me victory in the contest, and straightaway heard my prayer. I have been attacked over and over again, but the Lord has saved me out of all. Therefore, my little children, be constant, for the Lord is eager to set us free. Love the Lord, therefore, and hate the malignant enemy, and the God of mercy will be with you, that you may escape from his treachery. Amen."
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