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210 Macarius of Alexandria

R. P. C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian


Doctrine of Cod (Edinburgh, 1988), 79-64.
Macarius of Alexandria (d. c. 394)
One of the early hermit monks who lived
in the vicinity of Antony the Great. In
355 he was ordained priest to serve the
monastic communities at Kellia (see
Nitria, Scete), and gained a great repu-
tation for his sanctity and wisdom as an
elder among the Desert Fathers. Along
with Macarius the Great I (not to be con-
fused with Pseudo-Macari us: see Macar-
ius the Great II), he is often known as one
of the "Two Macarii," symbols of the the-
ology and praxis of the Desert Fathers.
E. T. Meyer, trans., Palladius: The Lausiac
History (New York, 1965), chap. 18;
. J. Festugiere, ed., Historia monachorum
in Aegypto (Brussels, 1961), chap. 29.
Macarius the Great I (c. 300-390)
The "real" Macarius the Great (as distinct
from the "Pseudo-Macarius" who later
took over his identity in the textual tra-
dition: see Macarius the Great II) was the
monastic founder of the colonies of Scete
(Wadi el Natrunsee Nitria) in the
Egyptian wilderness south of Alexan-
dria. He was a supporter of Athanasius
the Great, and a leading Desert Father
who features in the collection of desert
wisdom known as the Sayings of the
Fathers (Apophthegmata Patrum). The
monastic historians Palladius and Rufi-
nus speak a little about him, but basically
next to nothing was recorded of his life; a
fact that made him an ideal candidate for
the subsequent attribution of important
monastic texts that were not really his.
E. T. Meyer, trans., Palladius: The Lausiac
History (New York, 1965), chap. 17;
Rufinus, History of the Monks chap. 28.
Macarius the Great II (Pseudo-
Macarius) (fl. late fourth century)
Macarius the Great is also the pseudony-
mous name for a Syrian writer who was
an important monastic leader of a circle
that had earlier been criticized for certain
excesses in its spiritual theology. Some
have identified him as Symeon of
Mesopotamia (named as the group
leader by Theodoret), and he is now often
known as either Macarius-Symeon or
Pseudo-Macarius. The criticism of his
monastic heritage begins to be dis-
cernible from the 370s onwards. Sources
call his adherents Messalians (a corrup-
tion of the Syriac word for "people
of prayer"MshLni). In some Greek
sources they were known as the Euchites,
but later heresiologists add to the confu-
sion by thinking they were founded by a
certain Messalius (who never existed).
Even the objectionable element of the
movement was not clearly understood
by those criticizing it, and Epiphanius,
who attacked the Messalians in his Refu-
tation of All Heresies in 377, can only find
their "lack of discipline" as grounds for
censure. Other critics claimed they held
that baptism was not sufficient for a
Christian life, which had to be constantly
supplemented and sustained by prayer, a
doctrine that could be heretical or not,
depending on how it was received, by
enemy or friend. The movement was con-
demned at a session of the Council of
Ephesus I (431), which cites passages
from a key work, Asceticon. It is clear that
elements of this text were taken from the
homilies of Pseudo-Macarius. There are,
however, certain themes that, whether
"Messalian" or not (and the relationship
of Pseudo-Macarius to any precise Mes-
salian movement is still a dubious con-
tention), do seem to be constitutive for
the circle of Syrian ascetics for whom he
was writing. These are the idea that sin
dwells in a human heart like a serpent
and the human being has a tendency to
spiritual dissolution that needs to be off-
set by constant prayer and inner atten-
tiveness. The school also advocated the
abandonment of traditional monastic
ideas of hard labor as a form of ascesis,
advocating instead a wandering lifestyle,
that focused more on spiritual with-
Macrina 211
drawal and recollection (probably why
local bishops disliked them). Another
typical theme seems to be the strong
stress on the sensible consciousness (aes-
thesis) of the working of the Holy Spirit in
the innermost heart. This monastic fam-
ily taught that if a person was not deeply
conscious of the Spirit's presence, then
that person was clearly unregenerate.
Those possessed of the Spirit could often
feel the presence as a vision of light
or warmth. Pseudo-Macarius himself
shows signs of all these elements; indeed,
the spirituality of the attentive heart and
the constant invocation of penthos ("joy-
making mourning") are major contribu-
tions that he makes to the development of
international Christian spirituality. There
is little indication that he takes any of
these ideas to an objectionable extreme.
His work, chiefly the Great Letter and the
Fifty Spiritual Homilies, influenced Greg-
ory of Nyssa's ascetical theology, and
went on in latzer Byzantium to be a major
source of the hesychastic renewal from
the eleventh century onward.
J. Gribomont, "Monasticism and Asceti-
cism," in B. McGinn and J. Meyendorff,
eds. Christian Spirituality: Origitis to tlie
Uth Century (New York, 1993), 89-112;
W. Jaeger, Two Rediscovered Works of Ancient
Christian Literature (Leiden, Netherlands,
1965); C. Malortey, Ps. Macarius: The 50
Spiritual Homilies and the Great Letter
(CWS; New York, 1992); J. Meyendorff,
"Messalianism or Anti-Messalianism: A
Fresh Look at the 'Macarian' Problem," in
Kyriakon. Festschrift. / Quasten. II (Munster,
Germany, 1971), 585; S. Tugwell, Ways of
Imperfection (London, 1984), 47-58; idem,
"Evagrius and Macarius," in C. Jones,
G. Wainwright, and E. Yarnold, eds.. The
Study of Spirituality (Oxford and New York,
1986), 168-75.
Macedonianism see
Pneumatomachianism
Macrina (c. 327-380) Macrina was an
ascetic in Cappadocia. She was the elder
sister of Basil of Caesarea and Gregory
of Nyssa, and granddaughter of Mac-
rina who had been the disciple of Gre-
gory Thaumaturgos, the great Origenist
theologian whose authority was almost
"patronal" in Cappadocia. Betrothed,
and soon "widowed" while only twelve
years of age, she appealed to church
laws that equated betrothal with a wed-
ding to block her father's plans to have
her married again, and instead lived as
an ascetic at home, teaching her brother
Gregory of Nyssa while Basil was
away studying rhetoric. On her father's
death Macrina transformed their coun-
try estate in Pontus (Annesoi) into a
familial monastery. There Basil was won
over to asceticism (it has often subse-
quently been attributed as his idea), and
it was the site of Gregory of Nazianzus's
and Basil's construction of the rule of
monasticism (the Ascelicon attributed to
Basil), which had great subsequent influ-
ence in the Eastern churches. Macrina
established a community, where it is
possible she followed Eustathius of
Sebaste's radical ideas about monastic
life, such as invoking social equality
among monastics. The men of the family
do not appear to have agreed with this
leveling of social ranks. Macrina may
also have retained an attachment to
Eustathius, who was condemned by the
family because he resisted the Nicene
confession of the homoousion and the
deity of the Holy Spirit of God. As a
result, Basil condemned his sister to a lit-
erary annihilation, although Gregory of
Nyssa wrote a moving Life of Macrina as
a testament to her ascetical philosophy.
In Letter 19 he speaks of her, and in his
treatise On the Soul and the Resurrection
he presents her, like the dying Socrates,
musing on the immortality of the soul
from her deathbed.
V. W. Callahan, Gregory of Nyssa: The Life
of Macrina (FOTC 58; Washington, D.C.,
1967), 161-191; idem. On the Soul and the
Resurrection (FOTC 58; Washington, D.C),
195-272; S. Elm, Virgins of God: The Making
of Asceticism in Late Antiquity (Oxford,
1994); J. Laporte, The Role of Women in