St. Macrina the Elder: Patron of Widows
The saint of the day for January 14th is St. Macrina the Elder, a learned woman gifted with wisdom and counsel. Our knowledge of her life is limited and comes mainly from the testimony of the great Cappadocian fathers of the Church as well as from her grandchildren and the panegyric of St. Gregory of Nazianzus and St. Basil. We do know that Macrina was widowed and is the patron of widows and an intercessor for poor people.
This lady was the grandmother of saints, the most notable being the brothers Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa. It was Macrina and her husband who founded the faith of the family and passed it on as a splendid treasure to her children and grandchildren. That faith was born of suffering and persecution.
St. Macrina the elder was a native of Cappadocia, in what is now eastern Turkey. It was here that the great apostle of Cappadocia, St. Gregory the Wonderworker, established the faith around the year 250. When he arrived in the territory, it was said, there were only seventeen Christians in the town of Neo-Caesarea; when he died in 268, there were only seventeen pagans.
Macrina was born about the time of Gregory’s death, and it was the faith of this ardent apostle that became the way of life for her family. Early in the next century, during the persecution of the Emperor Galerius, Macrina and her husband were forced to leave their home and to live in the wooded hills of Pontus for seven years, during which they suffered much. They were often without food. Later, during another persecution, their property was seized by agents of the emperor, and they lived in almost total destitution. When the persecution ended, they were honored as confessors of the faith, a much revered title among the Christians of that time.
It was at his grandmother’s knee that Basil received his first instructions in the Christian faith, and it was from her that he and his family were nourished in that Christian discipline that made them saints. Macrina was known to have treasured and read the writings of Gregory the Wonderworker, and it was the fire and zeal of his writings that was passed on to Basil and his brother.
The exact date of Macrina’s death is not known. She is revered as a saint in the calendars of both the Eastern and Western Churches.
~ Excerpted, in part, from The One Year Book of Saints” by Rev. Clifford Stevens published by Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., Huntington, IN 46750.
“I am speaking of the illustrious Macrina, by whom we were taught the words of the most blessed Gregory [Thaumaturgos], which, having preserved until her time by uninterrupted tradition, she also guarded, and she formed and molded me, still a child, in doctrines of piety.”
~ Saint Basil