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The Table Video

Gerald Sittser

Spirituality in the Here and Now

Professor of Theology / Senior Fellow in the Office of Church Engagement, Whitworth University
October 18, 2016

Gerald Sittser of Whitworth University tells the story of Macarius of Egypt, who learns from two sisters about living for God everyday, right where we are. It’s not about living in the desert or the city; rather, everything is spiritual.


This is a story of the great Macarius. There were two Macarius’ by the way. One of Alexandria, part of Egypt. This is, I think the Macarius of Egypt. But one day, he’s praying. He’s been out in the desert, living in a cell practicing the severe ascetic disciplines for years. And an angel comes to him and says, you have not yet reached the level of spirituality of two women living in the city. Well, he hears the word women and then city. And already he realizes, he is in trouble, right. He can’t believe that women and city would actually lead to a deeper spiritual life that he has. Well, he is curious.

So, he goes into a nearby city and I don’t know how this happens but somehow finds these two women. Knocks on the door. They come to the door. He said, tell me, what you are doing? How could you live such an amazing spiritual life? And they said, well we don’t know. We were just with our husbands at last night. Now that’s a code word for had sex with their husband. So, now Macarius is not just dealing with women and city, but sex. And then, they say we’ve been sisters, living together for a long time.

And we asked our husbands if they would release us from the demands of marriage, so that we could go to the desert to practice the kind of life you live. But, they said, no, you stay and live with us. And so, we have simply tried to live for God everyday, right where we are. And the punch line of the story is Macarius says, all of a sudden, I realized that it’s not whether we live in the city or the desert, whether we live as married people or single people, whether we live strict, celibate, ascetic lives or lives in the world.

It’s that we learn to live for God, right where we are. And they poke fun of themselves a lot. There are so many little code stories that are mocking fanatics. Old men who haven’t become wise as I have indicated. Somebody’s got to translate this stuff. I use these stories all the time in my teaching and in my preaching. [peaceful spiritual music]