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Macrina the Younger

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Macrina the Younger
Bornc. 327
Caesarea, Cappadocia
(modern-day Kayseri, Turkey)
Died19 July 379
(modern-day Anatolia, Turkey)
Venerated inEastern Orthodox Church
Oriental Orthodoxy
Roman Catholic Church
Anglican Communion
Feast19 July
14 June (with Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory Nazianzus; Lutheranism)

Macrina the Younger (Greek: Μακρίνα; c. 327 – 19 July 379) was an early Christian consecrated virgin. Macrina was elder sister of Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Naucratius and Peter of Sebaste. Gregory of Nyssa wrote a work entitled Life of Macrina in which he describes her sanctity and asceticism throughout her life. Macrina lived a chaste and humble life, devoting her time to prayer and the spiritual education of her younger brother Peter.

She is regarded as a saint in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Anglican churches.



Macrina was born at Caesarea, Cappadocia. Her parents were Basil the Elder and Emmelia, and her grandmother was Macrina the Elder. Among her nine siblings were two of the three Cappadocian Fathers, her younger brothers Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, as well as Peter of Sebaste and the famous Christian jurist Naucratius. Her father arranged for her to marry, but her fiancé died before the wedding. After having been betrothed, Macrina did not believe it was appropriate to marry another man, but saw Christ as her eternal bridegroom.[1]

Macrina had a profound influence on her brothers and her mother with her adherence to an ascetic ideal. In Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Macrina he remembers her as a child who was devoted to study of the scriptures, especially the Wisdom of Solomon, and those parts of it which have an ethical bearing, "such parts as you would think were incomprehensible to young children were the subject of the girl's studies".[2]

Macrina, who resolved never to leave her mother,[3] moved with her to one of their rural estates and lived within a community of virgins who came from both an aristocratic and a non-aristocratic background.[4] All members were free, and slaves got the same rights and obligations as their masters. The death of the brother Naucratius shocked her mother and gave to Macrina a priority role in the domestic life.[4]

In 379, Macrina died at her family's estate in Pontus, which with the help of her younger brother Peter she had turned into a convent of virgins. Gregory of Nyssa composed a Dialogue on the Soul and Resurrection (peri psyches kai anastaseos), entitled ta Makrinia (P.G. XLVI, 12 sq.), to commemorate Macrina, in which Gregory purports to describe the conversation he had with the dying Macrina, in a literary form modelled on Plato's Phaedo.[5] Even when dying, Macrina continued to live a life of sanctity, as she refused a bed, and instead chose to lie on the ground. Her feast day is 19 July.



Macrina is significant in that she set the standard for being a holy Early Christian woman. She contributed to her brother's writings and his belief that virginity reflected the "radiant purity of God".[1]

Universalists, including Thomas Allin and J. W. Hanson, claim Macrina as a committed universalist, citing passages from the Dialogue on the Soul and Resurrection which they believe demonstrate her conviction that all sinners and demons will at last be purified and confess Christ.[6][7]

Macrina is honored in the Church of England and in the Episcopal Church on 19 July.[8][9]

See also



  1. ^ a b Peter Brown, The Body and Society, Columbia University Press, 1988, 272.
  2. ^ Gregory of Nyssa, Life of St. Macrina, Macrina's childhood
  3. ^ Gregory of Nyssa, Life of St. Macrina,
  4. ^ a b Cvetković, Vladimir (February 22, 2021). "Sex, gender and Christian identity in the patristic era" (PDF). Philosophy and Society. 32 (2): 168. doi:10.2298/FID2102162C. ISSN 0353-5738. OCLC 9124689286. S2CID 237879618. Archived (PDF) from the original on July 16, 2021.
  5. ^ Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Women and words, in Frances Young, Lewis Ayres, Andrew Louth, eds, The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature, (2010), p385
  6. ^ Thomas Allin Universalism Asserted 1887 p121
  7. ^ J. W. Hanson Universalism: The Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church during Its First Five Hundred Years 1889 p105
  8. ^ "The Calendar". The Church of England. Retrieved 2021-03-27.
  9. ^ Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018. Church Publishing, Inc. 2019-12-17. ISBN 978-1-64065-235-4.



Primary sources


Secondary sources

  • Bear, Carl. "Funeral Music in Early Christianity." Cross Accent 22, no 3 (2014): 4–14.
  • Burrus, V. "Macrina's Tattoo." In The Cultural Turn in Late Ancient Studies: Gender, Asceticism, and Historiography, edited by Dale B. Martin and P. Cox Miller. 103–116. Durham: University of North Carolina Press, 2005.
  • Burrus, Virginia. "Is Macrina a Woman? Gregory of Nyssa's Dialogue on the Soul and Resurrection." In The Blackwell Companion to Postmodern Theology, edited by Graham Ward. 249–264. Malden: Blackwell, 2001.
  • Dury, John L. "Gregory of Nyssa's Dialogue with Macrina: The Compatibility of Resurrection of the Body and the Immortality of the Soul." Theology Today 62, no. 2 (2005): 210–222.
  • Frank, Georgia. "Macrina's Scar: Homeric Allusions and Heroic Identity in Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Macrina." Journal of Early Christian Studies 8, no. 4 (2000): 511-530.
  • Helleman, Wendy. "Cappadocian Macrina as Lady Wisdom." In Studia Patristica. 86-102. Louvain: Peeters, 2001.
  • Hotz, Kendra G. "Speaking Funk: Womanist Insights into the Lives of Syncletica and Macrina." In Women, Writing, Theology: Transforming a Tradition of Exclusion, edited by Emily A. Holmes and Wendy Farley. 71-94. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2011.
  • Jallistos, Metr and Ralph Townsend. "The House of St Gregory and St Macrina: The First Quarter Century." Sobornost 6, no. 2 (1984): 55-63.
  • Johnson, Maria P. "Daughter, Sister, Philosopher, Angel: The Life and Influence of St Macrina the Younger." Diakonia 31, no. 3 (1998): 176-186.
  • Levering, Matthew. "The Dying of Macrina and Death with Dignity." Trinity Journal 38, no. 1 (2017): 29-52.
  • McDonald, Durstan. "Macrina: The Fourth Capadocian?" In Prayer and Spirituality in the Early Church, edited by Pauline Allen. 1:367-373. Everton Park: Australian Catholic University Press, 1998.
  • McNary-Zak, Bernadette. "Gregory of Nyssa and His Sister Macrina: A Holy Alliance." Cithara 45, no. 1 (2005): 3-12.
  • Muehlberger, Ellen. "Salvage: Macrina and the Christian Project of Cultural Reclamation." Church History 81, no. 2 (2012): 273-297.
  • Pranger, M.B. "Narrative Dimensions in Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Macrina." In Studia Patristica.. 201-207. Louvain: Peeters, 1997.
  • Rousseau, Philip. "The Pious Household and the Virgin Chorus." Journal of Early Christian Studies 13, no 2 (2005): 165-186.
  • Sheather, Mary. "The Eulogies on Macrina and Gorgonia: Or, What Difference Did Christianity Make?" Pacfica 8, no. 1 (1995): 22-39.
  • Silvas, Anna M. Macrina the Younger. Philosopher of God. Turnhout: Brepols, 2008. ISBN 978-2-503-52390-3
  • Smith, J Warren. "A Just and Reasonable Grief: The Death and Function of a Holy Woman in Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Macrina." Journal of Early Christian Studies 13, no 2 (2005): 57-84.
  • Smith, J. Warren. "Macrina, Tamer of Horses and Healer of Souls: Grief and the Therapy of Hope in Gregory of Nyssa's De Anima et Resurrectione". Journal of Theological Studies 52, no. 1 (2001): 37-60.
  • Van Loveran, A.E.D. "Once Again: 'The Monk and the Martyr': St Anthony and St Macrina." In Studia Patristica. 528-538. Elmsford: Pergamon Press, 1982.
  • Wilson-Kastner, Patricia. "Macrina: Virgin and Teacher." Andrews University Seminary Studies 17, no. 1 (1979): 105-117.