July 19: Macrina, Monastic and Teacher, 379
July 19, 2010 10 Comments
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About this commemoration
Macrina (340–379) was a monastic, theologian and teacher. She
founded one of the earliest Christian communities in the Cappadocian
city of Pontus. Macrina left no writings; we know of her through the
works of her brother St. Gregory of Nyssa (page 266). In his Life of
St. Macrina, Gregory describes her as both beautiful and brilliant, an
authoritative spiritual teacher.
Macrina persuaded her mother Emmelia to renounce their wealthy
lifestyle and to help her establish a monastery on the family’s estate.
Macrina’s ideal of community emphasized caring for the poor and
ministering to the wider community. She literally picked up young
women who lay in the road starving. Many joined her order.
Gregory credits Macrina as the spiritual and theological intelligence
behind her siblings’ notable careers in the Church. Gregory, and their
brothers St. Basil (page 426), St. Peter of Sebaste, and Naucratios went
to her often for theological counsel. Macrina frequently challenged
her celebrated brothers. She told Gregory his fame was not due to his
own merit, but to the prayers of his parents. She took Basil in hand
when he returned from Athens “monstrously conceited about his skill
in rhetoric.” Under her influence, Basil and Peter renounced material
possessions and turned away from secular academia to become monks
and theologians. Basil and Peter wrote a Rule for community life,
ensuring that Macrina’s ideas for Christian community would have
lasting authority. Basil, Gregory and Peter all became bishops, in no
small measure because of Macrina’s influence, and became leading
defenders of the Nicene faith.
Gregory visited Macrina as she lay dying on two planks on the floor.
He relates Macrina’s last words as a classical Greek farewell oration
imbued with Holy Scripture. In both his Life of St. Macrina and in his
later treatise of The Soul and Resurrection, Gregory presents Macrina
admiringly as a Christian Socrates, delivering beautiful deathbed
prayers and teachings about the resurrection.
I Merciful God, thou didst call thy servant Macrina to
reveal in her life and her teaching the riches of thy grace
and truth: May we, following her example, seek after
thy wisdom and live according to her way; through Jesus
Christ our Savior, who liveth and reigneth with thee and
the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
II Merciful God, you called your servant Macrina to reveal
in her life and her teaching the riches of your grace and
truth: May we, following her example, seek after your
wisdom and live according to her way; through Jesus
Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the
Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 51:13–22
Preface of a Saint (2)
Text from Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
Links related to Macrina
We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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