St. Macarios the Great was born around 300 A.D. A former camel driver and trader, he was one of the earliest pioneers of “Scetis,” an area in the Egyptian desert near Alexandria that is renowned for the richness of its ascetic life. St. Macarios lived before monasteries were established and as with many monks of his time was a wanderer, not living in any particular place for very long. He visited St. Anthony the Great in the Red Sea Desert at least twice. St. Macarios died around 390 A.D.
A brother came to see Abba Macarios the Egyptian, and said to him, “Abba, give me a word, that I may be saved.” So the old man said, “Go to the cemetery and abuse the dead.” The brother went there, abused them and threw stones at them; then he returned and told the old man about it. The latter said to him, “Didn’t they say anything to you?” He replied, “No.”
The old man said, “Go back tomorrow and praise them.” So the brother went away and praised them, calling them, “Apostles, saints, and righteous men.” He returned to the old man and said to him, “Did they not answer you?” The brother said, “No.”
The old man said to him, “You know how you insulted them and they did not reply, and how you praised them and they did not speak; so you too, if you wish to be saved, must do the same and become a dead man. Like the dead, take no account of either the scorn of men or their praises, and you can be saved.”
“The Desert Christian,” by Sr. Benedicta Ward, (New York: MacMillan, 1975), p. 132