St. Macrina the Younger: Virgin and Ascetic
The saint of the day for July 19 is St. Macrina the Younger, a nun in the early Church. Her younger brother, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, wrote her biography, which centers on her virginity and asceticism. St. Gregory tells us that Macrina “reached the highest summit of human virtue by true wisdom.”
St. Macrina the Younger (330-380) was the eldest child in a family of saints. Her grandparents were martyrs. Her parents, Basil and Emmelia, are also recognized as saints. She was well educated by her mother and was able to read at an early age. Macrina, in turn, became the teacher of her younger brothers Basil, later bishop of Neocaesarea, and Gregory, later bishop of Nyssa, who themselves became two of the greatest teachers in the Universal Church.
At age 12, Macrina was engaged to be married, but when her fiancé died quite suddenly, she decided she would not marry despite subsequent offers. Instead, she dedicated her life to raising her brothers and assisting her mother with housework, cooking, and directing the servants. She also devoted a good part of her time to prayer. After her siblings had grown up, they called her Macrina the Great, as they had in their childhood, a sign of the high respect they had for her.
On the death of their father, Basil took her, with their mother, to a family estate in Pontus. Here, with their servants and other companions, they consecrated themselves to God and led a contemplative life. Macrina succeeded her mother in becoming the head of the double monastery of women and men founded by Basil.
Kissing an iron crucifix that held the relics of the Cross of the Savior, which she always had close to her, St. Macrina the Younger died peacefully in the year 379. She was buried beside her parents.