How Should We See Unbelievers?

There is a remarkable reading that comes up every year in the Breviary attributed to Saint Macarius, a bishop of the early Church. I marvel at its vivid and pictorial quality. And yet at the same time, I find questions that arise in my mind as to the general application of the text. For the text states, in effect, that if the soul does not have Christ living within, it falls into utter disrepair and a contemptible state.

Allow me to have Bishop Macarius speak for himself and then I would like to pose a couple questions.

When a house has no master living in it, it becomes dark, vile and contemptible, choked with filth and disgusting refuse. So too is a soul which has lost its master, who once rejoiced there with his angels. This soul is darkened with sin, its desires are degraded, and it knows nothing but shame.

Woe to the path that is not walked on, or along which the voices of men are not heard, for then it becomes the haunt of wild animals. Woe to the soul if the Lord does not walk within it to banish with his voice the spiritual beasts of sin. Woe to the house where no master dwells, to the field where no farmer works, to the pilotless ship, storm-tossed and sinking. Woe to the soul without Christ as its true pilot; drifting in the darkness, buffeted by the waves of passion, storm-tossed at the mercy of evil spirits, its end is destruction. Woe to the soul that does not have Christ to cultivate it with care to produce the good fruit of the Holy Spirit. Left to itself, it is choked with thorns and thistles; instead of fruit it produces only what is fit for burning. Woe to the soul that does not have Christ dwelling in it; deserted and foul with the filth of the passions, it becomes a haven for all the vices.

From a homily attributed to Saint Macarius, bishop
(Hom. 28: PG 34, 710-711)

Again, a remarkably vivid and creative description of the Soul without Christ.

But herein lies my question: Is this obviously the condition of all non-believers, or of those who stray from the faith? I have occasionally had an agnostic or atheist write in to insist that they are very happy and fulfilled. I have also known non-believers in my own life who were seemingly happy and did not live reprobated lives. They had married and raised children, they were not horribly lacking in natural moral virtue. Conversely I, like you have met sworn believers who were very lacking in moral virtue or kindness.

Yet to read St Macarius, it would seem that the condition of the soul without Christ is to head straight downhill into a moral morass.

I suppose my own answer to my question is that St Macarius speaks in a general sort of way and that each person’s personal journey will be affected by any number of variables and factors.

But I would like to know what you think.

At one level we ought to be careful to not simplify the lives of unbelievers. They come in many forms and degrees. I am not unsympathetic to the complaints that, at times, we Christians simply presume that all unbelievers are unhappy and must, somehow be depressed. I for my part, am also annoyed when non believers oversimplify the faith, the scriptures and we who believe.

To be clear, I do not accuse St Macarius of over-simplifying. As I have said, I think he speaks in a general sort of way and the dangers he announces are often the case.

I especially think he is right when the “person” in question is a culture or nation. We have clearly seen how our own Western culture has suffered gravely as it has “kicked God to the Curb.” It is not outlandish to describe the Western world as a house that has no master living in it….dark, vile and contemptible, choked with filth and disgusting refuse…darkened with sin, its desires are degraded, and it knows nothing but shame.. Increasingly this is our lot in the West.

But individuals are more complicated. The effects of unbelief are often more subtle in them, and even without faith it is possible to have natural virtues.

At some level this provides hope that no one is beyond remedy or reach. And while natural virtue can never be sufficient to save any soul, it can, at least open a person to God and provide fertile ground for grace, and even prevenient graces.

I’d like to get some of your thoughts on this. What are some important distinctions to make? How do you understand the words of the Bishop St. Macarius? How should we regard the state of soul of unbelievers and those who have relapsed from or renounced the faith?

Please understand, I do not ask these questions rhetorically. I ask them genuinely and do indeed seek your thoughts of St. Macarius’ vivid description and how it may or may not apply today.

39 Replies to “How Should We See Unbelievers?”

  1. I’m not sure what this might have to do with perception of unbelievers, but the The Cloud of Unknowing keeps coming to mind. I think I read parts of this book years ago. Although I’m sure I didn’t understand it, I recall (with the help of Wikipedia) it dealt with the via negativa road to discovering God.

    “And therefore, though it may be good at times to think specifically of the kindness and excellence of God, and though this may be a light and a part of contemplation, all the same, in the work of contemplation itself, it must be cast down and covered with a cloud of forgetting. And you must step above it stoutly but deftly, with a devout and delightful stirring of love, and struggle to pierce that darkness above you; and beat on that thick cloud of unknowing with a sharp dart of longing love, and do not give up, whatever happens.”

    Concepts like via negativa road, cloud of forgetting and cloud of unknowing give me pause about what the experience of unbelief, agnostic or athiest may or may not actually be? Excluding what inhabits Hell, can God ever be totally absent in anything He creates?

      1. Monsignor Pope,

        I once heard Mother Angelica describe Hell, Gehenna, i.e., the lake of fire, as the complete absence of God.
        To paraphrase Mother: When we die, we are judged by Christ Himself. We see Him face to Face, the Beatific Vision, I believe? If I’m not in the state of Grace, I will be sent to the lake of fire, with the full knowledge that I will never be in God’s Presence ever again. I will never experience Pure Love ever again.

        This explanation of Hell has always helped me understand what is at stake when I willfully sin against God. Even if I don’t always receive the Sacrament of Penance with the urgency that I should, when I’m not in a state of Grace. Please, pray for me, Monsignor.
        God Bless!

  2. This might be slightly off the mark, but I write this from my own experience, especially with evangelisation-
    I always used to approach non believers as those “in need of salvation” and people who might end up in hell if, maybe just if, I didn’t do my small part in speaking to/praying for/etc,etc. Needless to say, not only did it put an enormous pressure on me in doing things, but also, really affected the way I related to people because I saw them negatively. But it was only recently that I changed my attitude from seeing people as those in need of salvation to those who have been created by a loving Father – their existence which was evidence that they were loved by God. And then, when I did street evangelisation and talked to people, boy,was there a difference!
    I don’t know their particular state of life; I don’t know whether they were happy or depressed, steeped in sin or living an upright life – and i didn’t have to; the fact that they existed told me they were loved by the same God who loved me. And that was a great place to start! It really worked!
    I guess finally, only Jesus knows the state of a person’s soul. But if we all lived up to our calling, came alongside people and spoke to them in love – Christ would woo them to Himself just as He wooed us.

    1. Yes, a lot of truth here. My on;y wonderment at what you say is that Jesus and the Apostles, while they surely spoke in love, did appeal to fear and often employed rather string denunciations of sine and an unambiguous call to repent. It is finding the balance and communicating the love that is often difficult, which you indicate well.

  3. I am no theologian first of all. It is hard for me to answer this question without knowing the times in which this homily was written and the audiene that it was intended. Now saying all of that here is what I think. I think the first paragraph applies to those that have fallen away from the faith and the second paragraph describes those who never knew Christ. Your point about natural virtues is very important but it still does not describe what a Christian definition of ‘happy’ or ‘good’. The definitions are normally defined based on feelings and emotional state of being. I’m sure you can explain what I mean more fully. In the end both conditions lead to destruction.

  4. Hi Monsignor,

    It seems to me that the saint is speaking in parables and that he intends the primary application to be to his flock, which is to say the baptized, and mostly believers, though of course not all that have the sacraments believe. I agree the saint is speaking in a general way.

    There are of course different kinds of unbelievers in Christ: for instance, those that follow other religions, Christian heretics, those that are of good will but invincibly ignorant through no fault of their own, those fallen away from Christ, pagans, and so on. I wouldn’t want to apply what he is saying too strictly and equally to all unbelievers in Christ, since in each case their unbelief is of a different quality. I think he is drawing the contrast as ideally as possible. That does not have the same application to every soul and every kind of soul.

    By his homily I am reminded again of the verse from the veni Sancte Spiritus: ‘Without Thy Godhead, nothing can; have any price or worth in man; nothing can harmless be.’


  5. It seems to me that he is talking primarily about a relapsed believer. He writes: “When a house has no master living in it, it becomes dark, vile and contemptible, choked with filth and disgusting refuse. So too is a soul which has lost its master, who once rejoiced there with his angels.” This, I think, is crucial.

    A believer who has relapsed into mortal sin has consciously rejected the presence of the Holy Spirit and knowingly chosen something contrary to the love of God and neighbor. Compare this with a pagan who has not consciously rejected the Holy Spirit but remains only ignorant. This pagan still has some sense of the natural moral law and the ability to cultivate the four natural virtues. They lack faith hope and charity but they have not necessarily pushed them away. Lacking charity is not the same thing as sinning against charity.

    Thus, I think the condition that Macarius is speaking of may only apply to believers who sin mortally or to unbelievers who consciously reject God’s grace, not to those who are unbelievers through ignorance. These, it seems, can still achieve the natural virtues even if they are devoid of sanctifying grace.

    Just a proposal.

    1. Yes, your remark reminds me of Hebrews 6 which speaks of how hard it is to save those who: have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance

  6. I guess my first thought is that it would be interesting to read a lot more of St. Macarius. I certainly would not want to have some exegete my entire theology from a snippet of one talk I gave.
    Second thought, I just finished re-reading Mere Christianity for the umpteenth time. Lewis remakrs that God does not wish to make us ‘nice’. He wants to turn us into the fullness of His Image and Likeness. As you note, natural virtue is not enough to save someone, so while natural virtue may have a preparatory purpose ultimately it is not good IN ITSELF but only insofar as it leads to Christ.
    Just some thoughts.

  7. I wonder if the atheists who feel happy and fulfilled without God, and seem to have “natural virtues” come from a line of atheists? I don’t think so. I think that ultimately, St. Macarius is right, but sometimes it takes a few generations for the corruption to grow. I look at atheists who come from Christian families, and insist that their “values” are their own, as trust babies living off an inheritance they did not earn. In their pride and ego, they cannot see that they are enjoying a legacy, but unfortunately they are not producing fruits from this legacy. They are merely using it up–just as trust babies rarely earn a living, but live off the fruits of their ancestors. The next generation from them gets less, and so on, until it is “spent”, and the result is the corruption that St. Macarius talks about.

  8. “Happy are they who mourn for they shall be consoled.” In the beattitudes, ‘happy’ doesn’t signify simply an emotional state; I think this is most clearly seen in the beattitude I quoted. Those who are mourning aren’t emotionally happy. Happy, here, primarily points towards an objective reality of ‘being in a good/stable state.’ Secondarily, points to the satisfaction found in this state. I think this can be best understood by refering to my own experience. I recall times of extreme duress during which I was wailing and crying, yet I could feel myself being embraced by the love of my Father. The experience was extremely satisfying because everything I could ever want was present with me even though I was suffering. I was in an objectively good state and experienced myslef being in that state. I think that’s what the beattitude is trying to explain.

    Drawing from my experience, while atheists may be emotionally happy. I don’t see any reason to believe that their in an objectively good state. St. Paul writes, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse…” Scripture seems to be clear that everyone is able to know the existence of God and has no excuse for not knowing Him; atheists are fully culbable for their unbelief.

    Fr. Barron tries to see religiousity in Hitchen’s pursuit of justice, but the key question is whether or not this is an expression of supernatural virtue. There’s a tendancy among Catholics to cheapen the theological virtues. We forget that by faith, hope, and charity we mean a participation in God’s own self-knowledge and love. Since he openly ridiculed God and consistently demonstrated that he didn’t understand what we mean by God, it is difficult to see how he had the supernatural gift of faith.

    As for how to understand St. Macarius, atheism is the disorder of the soul. It is the thistles and the beasts. A well ordered machine completes its function. A well ordered person praises the Lord. Are all atheists assulted by their passions? I would distinguish between two types of slaves: the willing and unwilling slave. The unwilling slave will experience how cruel his master is. When he tries to run away, he will be beaten. The willing slave has been conquered by his master. He is patterned his desires on those of his master and these new desires dominate him. He just doesn’t experience this as being dominated because he consents to his master’s desires.

  9. By reading the passage in light of eternity – his description being of a soul eternally without Christ – it strikes me as ultimately true regardless of the current temporal condition of any individual atheist. If a soul ends in Hell everything St. Macarius says above easily applies to it, even if said soul lived a “happy” life.

  10. Consider Saul of Tarsus before he became St. Paul. Externally, and as he would have described himself, he would have been as happy, well-adjusted, and purpose-filled as your unbelieving friends.

    But what did he have to say about his former condition after he converted?

    Msgr., if you were baptized as an infant and reared in the Church you lack the personal experience of the difference, and the difference is often only clear from that perspective. Don’t be surprised that the external evidence is in many cases hard to see.

    1. I tend to agree with you, Howard. We are relying on the testimony of someone as to the state of their happiness, particularly if they are “unbelievers”, and therefore it is difficult to know if they are being completely honest or if they would not be exponentially happier in the fullness of God’s love, the Church.

      I also think in some of these cases that some of the “happiness” is still a result of Christ as the Master of the house. God is God whether an individual believes in him or not. God simply doesn’t remove all love from a person because they are mislead. Ultimately I think non-believers who claim to be happy are in denial about the state of their souls and are unaware of what true happiness is.

      As for the statement about believers who lacked moral virtue, I would say that these are not real believers at all. You cannot be a believer and follower if you do not obey the Father’s Commandments.

  11. The Catholic Church is pretty clear when it comes to unbelievers. Natural virtue is insufficient. Without supernatural virtue, it is impossible to please God.

  12. Jesus said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing. …” Matthew 23: 27,28, NAB

    Surely the scribes and Pharisees seemed to be living successful, moral, and honorable lives. They were leaders of the community. But for all their appearance of rectitude and sanctity, Jesus saw into their souls and saw what was not visible to the world.

    If today we see people in our contemporary community who by outward measures are successful, happy, moral, and honorable, can we trust those appearances as proof of the condition of their souls?

    If it was true in Jesus’s day, is it not likely still true that there exists great and significant difference between a man’s public life (even his private life) and that part of him that only God sees and knows, his soul?

  13. Reading this I remember what C.S. Lewis said frequently–that we have to think of other people as beings that will go on for eternity. He says that when we think of going to Heaven or Hell, we have to remember that the moral trajectory on which we travel at this instant will continue forever. We will continue to get better or worse to infinity. In a sense, that is what makes Heaven or Hell. So I think that if we take what St. Macarius says and put “eventually” in front of it, it makes perfect sense and perfect truth.

  14. I think the answer requires us to look at the writing of St. Macarius the same way we look at Sacred Scripture…..within its historical context. At the time the saint lived, the Christian world was expanding, so his writings may have been keeping this expansion in mind and talking about those who had not heard of Christ. These days we are living in a post-Christian culture. People have already accepted a master of their house and subsequently evicted him in favor of the promises of the world, the flesh, or the devil. They have a completely different mindset than the people Macarius referred to. With this in mind, we must still preach the Gospel at all times, but have a keen awareness that conversion does not come from our actions themselves, but rather by the Holy Spirit working through our actions.

  15. Msgr, if you’ll allow me to leave theology aside and make a comment that ends up
    just “begging your question”:

    Let me focus on the statement “I have occasionally had an agnostic or atheist write in to insist that they are very happy and fulfilled. I have also known non-believers in my own life who were seemingly happy and did not live reprobated lives. “.

    I was away from the church for 30 years. I have had two particularly joyful experiences in my life.
    One occurred while I was lapsed in the period where I was taking an SSRI (anti-depressant). The other
    was returning to the Church. Quite frankly, to date the former experience was the longer lasting.
    Though I shudder when contemplating my sins while lapsed, civil society
    would not have found my behavior wanting (I didn’t commit any felonies).

    I refuse to judge or even counsel anyone
    else, but for my part, I gave up the SSRI; there were several reasons
    but one major one is that over time I had an extreme problem (then philosophical,
    now religious) with my perception that happiness could be found in a brain chemistry tweak:
    I was disturbed to find that I was
    happy, or at least content, in situations where I thought many persons would not and should not be.
    I made some financial and career decisions that in retrospect seem dubious (though not criminal).

    To come to my point: God would seem to work in mysterious ways through brain chemistry. If we believe
    that faith and reason are not in opposition, it seems reasonable to assume that some unbelievers are “blessed”
    with naturally advantageous brain chemistry and raised in an environment
    of Judeo-Christian heritage that encourages them to live
    what we would call relatively virtuous lives. I leave it to you and others to explore what God intends
    by this.

  16. SpeakIng from experience, before my conversion, I thought my life was pretty good. I thought my thoughts and actions were just fine But after I got to know Christ and the Church, it was as if somebody turned on the light in the room. I then realize I had only been seeing by a dim light before. I didn’t know there were beasts in the room with me until that light turned on.

  17. An unbelieving person can be happy, after a certain manner, in his spiritual ignorance. But that happiness is a pale shadow compared to the happiness that same person could have if he were to accept the Christian Faith. A person in torment experiences a temporary cessation of suffering, for example, through a pain killer, that person does experience a temporary relief of pain and may rejoice and experience temporary happiness at the relief. But that rejoicing and happiness – again – is a pale shadow compared to the rejoicing and happiness that person will experience if restored to full, vigorous health. So it is between the spiritual health of a non-Christian and a spiritually-healthy Christian,

  18. Some one has probably already pointed this out…

    Living here on the Oregon coast, I know that if I were to lock my door and not come back, my house would very quickly fall apart. Back when I lived in the desert, I could have left and the house would probably have held up for quite some time. Nonetheless, eventually it would also deteriorate. Without Christ, our spiritual house might hold up for quite some time, but it would, nonetheless, eventually fall. A happy atheist is still going to have to eventually deal with heaven and hell.

  19. I think as others said above St Macarius was probably speaking primarily to those who turn away from Christ. The second paragraph seems to suggest a broader application. In the first paragraph he mentions that the soul is filled with shame, this would be consistent with someone who is persisting in mortal sin. I think the second paragraph is totally correct in it’s description of unbelieving persons in general. The first paragraph seems to describe a person who at least has the grace of feeling shame for his/her behavior. As I think you said it’s reminiscent of the letter to te Hebrews. The second paragraph seems to go on to describe a person whose conscience is seared or who has never experienced the grace of conversion.
    Of course there are many people who experience much joy and fulfillment naturally because God has provided us with everything necessary for happiness and fulfillment in creation. The more a person lives in a way that’s consistent with the natural law the more happy and fulfilled they’ll be. The crucial difference is the light that a person receives from God in the way of supernatural grace. A person devoid of that light will inevitably be a victim to not only his own diordered desires but will also be subject to whatever moral climate is prevalent in that
    individuals’ culture. Without the light of supernatural grace the individual conscience will be formed in that context. Looking at our culture I think it’s evident what a powerful influence cultural moral ideology has on it’s members. There are many in our culture who refer to themselves as Catholic yet they reject dogmatic teachings of the magisterium thus losing the right to call themselves by that name. Now if people who should know better can be deceived into accepting blatantly immoral acts such as abortion and homosexual relationships as moral goods what chance (barring divine inspiration) does someone who knows nothing of God have of rising above their own selfish and disordered desires and thinking? I hope this makes sense I’m not a theologion either so please forgive me for any lack in what I may offer.

  20. It is one thing to have God in our hearts and to be reassured in knowing it and knowing that we can call out to Him and He will help us and to know that He has given us eternal life because we received Him in the Holy Eucharist. It is a blessing to know these things and to get to know God even here on earth. It is a blessing to have the ability to, with full knowledge, say “I do” to the One with whom we plan to live for eternity.

    It is quite another not to realize He is available to us in this way (the un-evangelized) and to suffer because we did not know enough to exert our will to call upon a God we did not yet know when we needed Him the most. For these people, I believe that if they are doing good deeds, they are unknowingly movnig toward the One God that they do not know – that they have not yet acknowledged as existing. They are waiting to be enlightened still. They suffer less only because they are surrounded by others who have God and bring them their “light.”

    In the Catholic Church, it is as if we are like a spiritual bride who has said yes to a marriage proposal; while we suffer with Christ, we are reassured of His full fidelity per our promises and our actual conduct.

    For non-believers, there is no reassurance yet, but only an faint invitation for a lasting commitment. If the Church reaches them, there will be less suffering on earth. Even if the Church is in their presence, it is like being close to a bakery and being able to smell the bread, but not yet allowed to taste of it.

  21. it must be remembered that those who live in this life, back turned to God, can feel somewhat content in this life for 2 reasons …
    -because they still enjoy the natural goodness that God has put at their disposal (‘he is kind to the selfish and ungrateful’)
    -because they can ‘freeload’, i.e. take advantage of God’s earthly created blessings without having to give honor to their source, it leads to a mistakens self-assuredness, a kind of smugness.

    these will not stand the test of the final judgment when these blessings disappear

    I am reminded of an old joke. … the devil challenges God to an art contest.
    God says “ok”.
    The devil says “I will take some dirt and…”
    God interjects, “Wait a minute, you create your OWN dirt”.
    Game over

    The rain is falling on the just and unjust alike. One day, when one has moved far enough away from God there will be no rain … it will be as fire.

  22. I turned my back on the Church for 20+ years. During that time, I could have been one of those people you speak of who had no discernible spiritual life but appeared to have a life that was worthy of envy. I owned my own cool and hip business, I played music semi-professionally, I had a cool girlfriend….you get the picture. Occasionally, I run across one of my journals from that period and am reminded what a mess I was inside. Most of the time, I didn’t appear miserable even to myself, but, reading from the record, I apparently had lots of issues when I sat down by myself with a pen and paper before me. I’m not in the position to say that’s the case for everyone who appears to be living apart from God, but I’m saying that it is certainly hard to tell from appearances what is really going on in any person’s life.
    One other thing: I once heard a Baptist minister say something along these lines: we will not be judged as much for what we do as for what we would do if we could get away with it.

  23. My understanding is that some unknown number of unbelievers has a Baptism of Desire.
    If Baptized then they are justified, and if justified, they have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
    I think a lot of the talk here assumes the Holy Spirit does not dwell with the unbeliever, which isn’t necessarily so.
    On the other hand those who are “water” Baptized, and claim Christian faith may in fact have committed un-repented mortal sin or are in fact apostate, and the Holy Spirit does not dwell in them.

  24. I think the comment that comes closest would be the one on 24 January 1:47 PM that says “a kind of ‘don’t know what you’re missing’ point.”
    However my experience is more about a yearning to overcome a disorganized life and make a committment to practice my faith in a coherent manner, so that comment is more from an outside (but somewhat extensive) viewpoint.
    One thing I’d like to stress though is an assumption that I felt I was continually running into when checking out such things as the Christian coffee shops that were so popular in the 1970’s, outreach groups, bible discussions by a church which encouraged those outside the congregation, and the like.
    It almost always seemed that there was such a burning hunger to find the “lost sheep” the prodigal type or other desperate people in great need of comfort and salvation that I almost felt gang swarmed upon entering. People rushing over going to offer some vague assurances that seemed condescending to the point where I occasionally felt insulted by familiar biblical concepts being presented to me, as an adult, in much more simplified terms than I could recall from Anglican Sunday School when I first attended these at eight years of age.
    On this one I may have been hyper sensitized by the end of my three years of Anglican experience which I left partly because I had begun isolating from just about everything real and partly because how they’d seemed to become so excited and (seemingly) pushy about wanting to give me theological information way beyond my eleven years of age. A few years ago a friend pointed how; when I’d related this experience and how it felt like being pushed to leap from grade school to university; that it wasn’t very common that someone went to church regularly from eight years ’till eleven years old when that person’s immediate family didn’t go to church and neither encouraged me – nor discouraged me from attending. I guess the point that I’m trying to make here would be about not getting too excited and overwhelming toward a child (or anyone) who shows a bit more interest than one might expect. This may illustrate how, when a person is new to faith or showing an interest and checking out the possiblity of going further, we should probably give them room to grow instead of giving them the “hard sell”
    At any rate; when I mentioned this to a friend who I used to meet where an impromptu non denominational group met for bible discussion; she happened to know those involved in the Christian coffee shop I’d already departed from, and passed my feelings on to them. What came of this I don’t know.
    My point here is about, where the title asks how we see them, that we should look and find out what they may already know and how their spiritual life is instead of pre conceived notions. To see we need to take a genuine look.
    Another thing that was guaranteed to drive me away from groups in a hurry was people who quoted Holy Scripture and never gave a reference. By this I don’t mean topics which came up spontaneously during an informal chat but, rather, a formal (or somewhat formal) presentation. After years of encountering such I began to contemplate mentioning John 3:20 which mentions evil fearing/hating light. I never got around to it and still haven’t decided if I should have or not.

  25. I think St. Macarius was referring to how the condition of the soul is and how God sees it or even how it will appear
    to us should God allow us to see it. It appears to me to be sort of supernatural insight into the souls of people, believers and non-believers, whose outward appearances seem good but have souls that reflect unbelief.

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