St Macarius is one of the monastic leaders of the fourth century. He was a disciple to St Anthony the first monk. In his life we read this story.
“The Lord of Glory sent a cherub, he led him into this mountain and when he had set his seal on Abba Macarius by placing his hands on his breast as though taking its measure, Abba Macarius said to him, “What is this?” The cherub said to him, “I have weighed your heart. Abba Macarius said to him, “What do you mean?” The cherub said to him, “They will name this mountain after your heart; Christ has given it to you as an inheritance.”
The idea behind the weighing of the heart might seem odd to us but to a fourth century reader it resonates with popular ancient Egyptian culture. Ancient Egyptians used to believe that after you die the gods would know how good you were by taking your heart and weighing it against a feather. The only way you would make it to the afterlife was if your heart weighed less than the feather.
So basically the vision testifies to the righteousness of St Macarius. Until now this part of the desert which became a centre of monasticism until today known as wilderness of sheheet or scetes which means “The Weighing of the Heart”. Therefore the monastery is where one weighs his heart and give an account of his spiritual progress. This is not only a virtue dedicated for monks but we need to keep this in mind next time we visit a monastery. Our visit is not a day out with friends but every time you visit a monastery you must dedicate some time to spend alone and weigh your heart.
~ Fr Anthony St Shenouda