Saints Series: Macrina the Younger

Macrina the Younger

Macrina the Younger was a great teacher and vital to early church history, but is often overlooked because she was a woman. Saint Macrina the Younger was the older sister of St. Basil and St. Gregory of Nyssa, two important figures in early church history. She was born in Annesi near Cappadocia (modern day Turkey) around 330 AD to a deeply Christian family and she was named after her grandmother, who is also a saint because of how she had been true to her faith in the face of persecution. At the age of 12, as was customary at the time, Macrina the Younger’s family arranged her marriage to a young relative who was planning on becoming a lawyer. She agreed to the marriage. However, after everything was arranged for the wedding to take place, the young groom died. Macrina then refused to consider any other suitors and vowed herself to celibacy.

When Macrina’s brother, Naucratius, died, she was the one who offered her family strength and consolation. Her brother, Basil, had been very close to Naucratius. Basil had went to the best schools and had become a great orator and had taken a position teaching rhetoric. He had brushed Macrina off as uneducated, when she told him that he had become vain and would do better to follow the advice of Christian authors, instead of the pagan ones he often quoted. However, Basil was so shaken by the death of his brother that he quit his teaching position and left all of his other honors that he had worked so hard for and asked Macrina to teach him the secrets of religious life.

Macrina taught her family that living a life similar to the ascetics of the desert, a life of simplicity and prayer, would be most pleasing to God. She and her mother along with some other women withdrew to the family holdings near Annesi. There she would live for the rest of her life. Basil went to Egypt to learn more about the monastic life and would later become a great teacher of monasticism in the Greek-speaking church. Since Macrina was the one who inspired Basil to learn about monasticism, she could be called the founder of Greek monasticism.

We can emulate Macrina by being willing to share our knowledge with others in order to help them grow closer to God. We can do this through hosting or attending Bible studies and being willing to contribute to the conversation.

This is part of a monthly series of newsletter articles written by Intern Bridget.