Saint Macarius the Great is one of the monastic leaders of the fourth century. He was a disciple to Saint Anthony the Great. In studying the life of Saint Macarius, we read:
The Lord of Glory sent a cherub; he led him into this mountain, and when he had set his seal on Abba Macarius by placing his hands on his breast as though taking its measure, Abba Macarius said to him, “What is this?” The cherub said to him, “I have weighed your heart.” Abba Macarius said to him, “What do you mean?” The cherub said to him, ‘They will name this mountain after your heart; Christ has given it to you as an inheritance.”
The idea behind the weighing of the heart might seem odd to us. But to a fourth century reader, the concept resonates, relating to popular ancient Egyptian culture. Ancient Egyptians used to believe that after death, the gods would know how good an individual was by taking his or her heart and weighing it against a feather. The only way someone would make it to the afterlife was if the heart weighed less than the feather.
The vision testifies to the righteousness of Saint Macarius, who spent time in the monastic desert area known as Sheheet, which also means, “The Weighing of the Heart”. The monastery is where one weighs his heart and give an account of his spiritual progress. This is not only a virtue intended for monks, and we must keep that in mind when we visit any monastery. Our visit is not a day out with friends. It is a time to spend in solitude and weigh the heart.
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