Macrina the Younger

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Macrina the Younger
Macrina the Younger.jpg
Born c. 330
Caesarea, Cappadocia
Died 19 July 379
Venerated in Eastern Orthodox Church
Oriental Orthodoxy
Roman Catholic Church
Anglican Communion

July 19

June 14 (with Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory Nazianzus; Lutheranism)

Saint Macrina the Younger (c.330– 19 July 379) was a nun in the Early Christian Church and is a prominent saint in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Church. Her younger brother, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, wrote about her life focusing heavily on her virginity and asceticism.


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

Macrina had a profound influence upon her brothers and her mother with her adherence to an ascetic ideal. Her brother Gregory of Nyssa wrote a work entitled Life of Macrina in which he describes her sanctity throughout her life. Macrina lived a chaste and humble life, devoting her time to prayer and the spiritual education of her younger brother, Peter. Gregory presents her as one who consciously rejected all Classical education, choosing instead devoted study of Scripture and other sacred writings.

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 monastery and convent. 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 Macrina on her deathbed, in a literary form modelled on Plato's Phaedo.[2] Even on her deathbed, 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 the 19 July.

Saint Macrina is significant in that her brother, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, was able to set standards for being a holy Early Christian woman. He believed that virginity reflected the “radiant purity of God.”[3]


Universalists, including Hosea Ballou and J. W. Hanson, claim Macrina as a Universalist in her teachings, citing works which they believe demonstrate Macrina's belief that the wicked would all eventually confess Christ.[4][5][6]


  1. ^ Peter Brown, The Body and Society, Columbia University Press, 1988, 272.
  2. ^ Susan Ashbrook Harvey, 'Women and words', in Frances Young, Lewis Ayres, Andrew Louth, eds, The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature, (2010), p385
  3. ^ Peter Brown, The Body and Society, Columbia University Press, 1988, 272.
  4. ^ Hosea Ballou The ancient history of universalism p 173 "His grandmother, Macrina, under whom he received his juvenile education, and his first impressions of piety, had been, in her youth, a hearer of Gregory Thaumaturgus, in Pontus ; for whom she inspired her young scholar with a profound and lasting veneration. "
  5. ^ J. W. Hanson Universalism: The Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church 1889 p 105
  6. ^ Note: the clause 'in purgatory' was removed because of its biased nature. Disputes between Catholic and Orthodox Churches about the literal existence of purgatory are ongoing.


  • A. M. Silvas, Macrina the Younger. Philosopher of God, Turnhout, 2008, Brepols Publishers, ISBN 978-2-503-52390-3
  • Nester, Marie Yaroshak. We Are God's People, God With Us Publications, 2004, p. 99.
  • Burrus, V. "Macrina's Tattoo," in D. B. Martin and P. Cox Miller (eds), The Cultural Turn in Late Ancient Studies: Gender, Asceticism, and Historiography (Durham (NC), 2005), 103-116.


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