Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Mac who?

I've found in the calendar another female saint I knew nothing about. We will celebrate Macrina's feast day July 19. Note the "experts" thought she couldn't be the "Teacher" and theologian her brother Gregory described, because she was a woman.

I shamelessly cribbed this bio off this Web site.

Gregory's Life of Macrina can be found here.

About St. Macrina

St. Macrina (ca. 330- 380) was the eldest child in a family of saints. Her grandparents (one of whom was also named Macrina, so our patron is more precisely called St. Macrina the Younger) were martyrs. Her parents are also recognized as saints. They saw to it that she was very well educated. Macrina in turn became the teacher of her younger brothers Basil, later bishop of Caesarea, now Kayseri in Turkey, and Gregory, later bishop of the nearby small city of Nyssa. These brothers themselves became two of the greatest teachers in the Universal Church.

There is every reason to believe—based on their own testimony—that if Macrina had not attended to their education, and later, their spiritual growth, we would not know them today.

There is a wonderful little speech in Gregory’s life of his sister in which Macrina rebukes Basil, who has just returned from a brilliant university career in Athens, and warns him not to be so uppity — just the sort of thing it is easy to imagine a big sister saying to a little brother gotten too big for his britches!

She was equally firm in guiding her parents’ spiritual lives, and seems to have been as wise in practical management as she was in spiritual direction. Like another great teacher-saint much nearer our time, St. Therese of Lisieux, Macrina knew what she wanted, or more to the point what God wanted for her, and how to get it.

She was a consecrated widow (though therein lies a tale) and eventually the head of a double monastery of women and men established under St. Basil’s auspices. Although her teaching survives only in the words of her brother Gregory, and indirectly in the influence she had on him and Basil (perhaps also on their friend Gregory of Nazianzus), St. Macrina certainly deserves a place among the Fathers and Mothers of the Church.

An English translation of the charming Life of Macrina by her younger brother St. Gregory of Nyssa, in the form of a letter to a mutual friend, is available online. There is also a translation of the dialogue she had with Gregory on her deathbed On the Soul and Resurrection, described by him in the Life. Macrina is the person titled The Teacher in this dialogue, though many scholars have tried to deny this, on the assumption that no woman could be such a theologian. (If you follow the link to the dialogue, be aware that the “Argument” is the editor’s summary; scroll down to the title to begin the dialogue itself.)

As a teacher of several of the greatest of the Church Fathers; as a pioneer of women's independent religious life; as a loving sister and daughter; as a saint who nurtured others to sanctity; as a clear-minded practical worker for the poor and sick; as a woman whose power, intellectual ability, and sacred calling has sometimes been challenged or even denied altogether; and as a woman unafraid to preach, govern, and act publicly as a model for others, St. Macrina is a fitting patron saint for a congregation in Grinnell.

The feast of St. Macrina is July 19th. This is the troparion (a special short hymn of praise sung in the liturgy) for her feast:

The image of God was faithfully preserved in you, O Mother, for you took up the Cross and followed Christ. By your actions you taught us to look beyond the flesh, for it passes, but rather to be concerned about the soul that is immortal. Therefore, O Holy Macrina, you now rejoice with the angels.


Grandmère Mimi said...

I learned about Macrina when I posted on Gregory of Nyssa and Basil. That was quite a family, wasn't it.

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