Macarius, a monk from 4th century Egypt, tells us why God sent Jesus, his Son, into a world that’s become a desert, an empty house, an unused path. One reason monks like him preferred to live in the desert was their belief that a redeeming God could make a desert flower again.
“When a farmer prepares to till the soil he must put on clothing and use tools that are suitable. So Christ, our heavenly king, came to till the soil of humanity devastated by sin. He assumed a body and, using the cross as his ploughshare, cultivated the barren human soul. He removed the thorns and thistles which are the evil spirits and pulled up the weeds of sin. Into the fire he cast the straw of wickedness. And when he had ploughed the soul with the wood of the cross, he planted in it a most lovely garden of the Spirit, that could produce for its Lord and God the sweetest and most pleasant fruit of every kind.”
Artists, like the one who painted Macarius (above), clothed the desert monks in the finest, brightest clothes, though in real life they were surely quite shabbily dressed. Yet because they were God’s redeemed they were robed in fine cloths, no matter how their neighbors saw them. They walked in a “lovely garden of the Spirit that could produce for its Lord and God the sweetest and most pleasant fruit of every kind.”
They were signs of a redeemed world.