Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Macrina, Elder and Younger

Macrina the Elder (c. 270 – c. 340) was the mother of Saint Basil the Elder, and the grandmother of Basil the Great, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Saint Peter of Sebaste, and Saint Macrina the Younger.  She studied theology under Gregory Thaumaturgus, and handed down his teachings to her granddaughter who passed them on to Basil and Gregory.  Her home was at Neocaesarea in Pontus and during the persecution of Christians under Galerius and Diocletian, she was forced to flee with her husband to the shores of the Black Sea where she was widowed. She is the patron of widows and an intercessor against poverty.  She died c. 340 CE.

Macrina the Younger was born in 324 CE at Caesarea in the region of Cappadocia. Her father Saint Basil the Elder, moved the family to Pontus on the shores of the Black Sea during the persecution of Christians under Galerius.  When she turned twelve, the age of eligibility for marriage in those days, Macrina’s father arranged for her to be married to a Christian man from a good family. But, her fiancé died unexpectedly before the marriage could take place and Macrina vowed to live life as a widow rather than seek another spouse. 

Macrina’s disciplined life based on an ascetic ideal profoundly influenced the rest of the family.  After her children were grown, Macrina’s mother Emiliana joined her in the ascetic life. They established a monastery and convent on the family estate in Pontus.  Macrina suffered from breast cancer but refused treatment. Instead she asked her mother to make the sign of the cross over the place where the tumor had been detected and it miraculously disappeared.  After the death of her mother in 379 CE, Macrina died and her younger brother Peter became abbot of the monastery.  Her brother Gregory composed a “Dialogue on the Soul and Resurrection” based on a conversation he had with her as she lay dying.