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Macrina, Ss.


Macrina the Elder ; d. Neocaesarea, c. 340. Grandmother of basil and his holy siblings, and disciple of gregory thaumaturgus, Macrina was a Christian witness and exile during diocletian's persecution. She had a great influence on the early education of her grandson Basil.

Feast: Jan. 14.

Macrina the Younger, granddaughter of Macrina, the Elder, superior of one of the earliest communities of women ascetics; b. Neocaesarea, Cappadocia, c. 330; d. by the river Iris in Pontus, December of 379 or 380. Macrina was the eldest daughter of SS. Basil and Emmelia, and sister of SS. Basil the Great, gregory of nyssa, and Peter of Sebastea (d. c. 391). She had a great influence in this remarkable family, chiefly with her brothers Basil and Peter, both of whom she persuaded to a religious vocation. She rejected a proposed marriage and simultaneously with Basil chose the ascetic life, becoming locally renowned as a nun and spiritual directress. Returning from a synod of Antioch (379), Gregory of Nyssa visited her and wrote her life at the request of the monk Olympus. An unusual number of manuscripts of this biography coming from the environs of Pontus suggest a strong local cult after 379, which spread through the East in the Greek, Egyptian, Syrian, and Arab Churches. She is mentioned or elaborately described in numerous calendars and menologies. Her cult in the West is late since the life was not translated into Latin until the 16th century.

Gregory's Life of Macrina is a remarkable piece of early hagiography that provides information on contemporary monastic and liturgical life and furnishes biographical details concerning her brothers. Gregory's Macrinia, or dialogue "On the Soul and Resurrection," purports to be a record of deathbed conversation. She is the principal interlocutor and is described as "the Teacher." While the theological views are undoubtedly Gregory's, it is revealing that he can represent her with verisimilitude as so learned.

Feast: July 19.

Bibliography: gregory of nyssa, "Vita S. Macrinae," ed. v. w. callahan, in Gregorii Nysseni Opera, ed. w. jaeger (Leiden 1960) 8.1:347414; The Life of St. Macrina, tr. and ed. w.k. l. clarke (London 1916); Vie de sainte Macrine, Fr. tr. p. maraval (Paris 1971). j. quasten, Patrology, 3 v. (Westminister, MD 1950) 3:261. Acta Sanctorum July 4:589604. j. daniÉlou, "La Résurrection des corps chez Grégoire de Nysse," Vigiliae christianae 7 (1953) 154170. f. j. dÖlger, "Das Anhängekreuzchen der hl. Makrina," Antike und Christentum 3 (1932) 81116. r. albrecht, Das Leben der heiligen Makrina auf dem Hintergrund der Thekla-Traditionen (Göttingen 1986). j. pelikan, Christianity and Classical Culture: The Metamorphosis of Natural Theology in the Christian Encounter with Hellenism (New Haven 1993). f. dÍaz, La hermandad más santa y fina: Basilio el Magno y Macrina, ed. m. del mar venegas (Madrid 1994).

[d. meehan]

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