God has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them we may participate in the divine nature. 2Pet 1:4
Makarios the Great was a Syrian spiritual director who ministered in the fourth century near the border area of Cappadocia (Turkey) and Syria. He was a disciple of St. Antony, the first of the desert fathers. In his teachings, Makarios often stressed the importance of a felt experience of God. He saw this as an indicator of the Holy Spirit, through whom we come to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8). Such experiences of God cause us to grow in our desire to be united with God as the object of our love.
For most early theologians, the highest expression and purpose of faith was the union of the soul with God. It is why God became man through Jesus—to unite Himself to our humanity so that our humanity would be united with His divinity. As Makarios taught, “The infinite God diminished Himself in order to be united with His creatures, so they can be made participators of divine life.”
The apostle Peter, as well, teaches that God’s promises in Christ—in whom the fullness of both humanity and divinity are joined—represent an invitation to “participate in the divine nature” (2Pet 1:4). And we do so by submitting our lives to the Holy Spirit. This is why theologians often refer to the third person of the Trinity as “the agent of our participation.” Spiritual maturity then is the fruit of our ongoing response to the Spirit’s invitation which we participate in through the yielding of our hearts.
One of Makarios’ most memorable metaphors for the passive way we make ourselves available to the Holy Spirit is that of the heart serving as a “resonating chamber.” In the same way that the body of a guitar or a violin serves to amplify the sound of the plucked or bowed string, so our bodies become a place where the song of the Spirit re-sonates within. He writes,
As breath sounds when passed through a flute, so does the Holy Spirit make music in the holy and God-bearing saints who, from a pure heart, become hymns and psalms to God.
Echoing the insight of other desert saints, Makarios recognizes the resulting “music” as that of the Holy Spirit lifting us up in the praise of God. It is the Spirit within us—the “Word” which does not come back empty—who returns praise to Christ through the instrument of our yielded hearts. As Makarios expreses,
The Spirit, taking possession of the soul, now sings a new song to the Lord with the timbrel of the body and so it sends up praises, through the believer, to the life-giving Christ.
If such be the case, all the more should our desire be to make room for the Holy Spirit’s resonance in our souls. Let us heed the Psalmist’s call to worship when he says: “Awake my soul! Sing and make music to your God.” As we offer our hearts as instruments of His praise, we will discover what it means to truly worship in Spirit and truth (Jn 4:24).
I will sing and make music.
Awake, my soul!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.