How can anyone be poor in spirit, especially when he is inwardly conscious that he is a changed man, and has made progress, and has come to a knowledge and understanding which he did not possess before?
Until a man acquires these things and makes progress, he is not poor in spirit, but has some opinion of himself.
But when he comes to this understanding and point of progress, grace itself teaches him to be poor in spirit.
This means that a man being righteous and chosen of God does not esteem himself to be anything, but holds his soul in abasement and disregard, as if he knew nothing and had nothing, though he knows and has.
This is a fixed thing, like a law of nature, in the mind of men. Do you not see how our forefather Abraham, elect as he was, described himself as dust and ashes (Gen. 18:27), and David, anointed to be king, had God with him, and yet what does he say? “I am a worm and no man, a very scorn of men, and the outcast of the people (Ps. 22:6).
Those therefore who desire to be fellow-heirs with these, and fellow-citizens of the heavenly city, and to be glorified with them, ought to have this humility of mind, and not to think themselves to be anything, but to keep the heart contrite.
[…] All the righteous have gone the straight and narrow way. […] And the Lord of prophets and apostles Himself, how did He fare, as if He had forgotten His divine glory? He was made an example for us; He wore in mockery a crown of thorns upon His head ; He submitted to spittings, buffets, and the cross.
If God so fared on earth, thou oughtest also to copy Him. The apostles and the prophets fared thus, and we, if we would be built upon the foundation of the Lord and of the apostles, ought to copy them.
The apostle says by the Holy Spirit, “Be ye imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” But if thou lovest the glories of men, and desirest to be worshipped, and seekest repose, thou art turned out of the way.
It behoves thee to be crucified with the Crucified, to suffer with Him that suffered, that so thou mayest be glorified with Him that is glorified. The bride must needs suffer with the Bridegroom, and so become partner and fellow-heir with Christ.
It is not feasible, without sufferings, and without the rough, straight, narrow way, to enter into the city of the saints, and be at rest, and reign with the King to ages without end.
Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 12, 3-5, trans. by A.J. Mason DD.