Turkey is an Islamic country today. It wasn't always so. The region occupied by Turkey used to be called Asia Minor and the church flourished there. An extraordinary preacher named Gregory the Wonder Worker led many people to Christ before his death in 270. Two of those converts were a woman named Macrina and her husband.
From time to time, the Roman empire persecuted Christians savagely. During one of these persecutions, Macrina and her husband fled into a nearby forest to escape from imperial soldiers. For seven years they went cold and hungry, eating wild plants that they found among the trees.
Finally, when the terror died down, they came home again. But their peace did not last long. The Empire confiscated their house and belongings and they were left with nothing at all. Despite these trials, the man and wife clung fast to the faith that Gregory had taught them. After the persecution ended, Christians honored the two as confessors of the faith. Macrina was later named a saint by the church and her feast is on this day, January 14. By her example and teaching she passed her faith on to her descendants.
Not many people can lay claim to as many prominent saints as Macrina and her husband. The godly couple had a son named Basil. He was father to ten children, three of whom became the most exceptional Christians of that era. These were Macrina the younger, Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa. Grandma Macrina imparted her faith to all three of them.
Macrina the younger became a great student of the Bible. She founded a female monastery. When she saw that her brother Basil had become proud of his ability as a lawyer and was drifting from the faith, she rebuked him. Basil didn't listen to her until one of his brothers died unexpectedly.
Basil then dedicated his life to Christ and became a powerful preacher. He founded a monastic order and encouraged the monks to enjoy art and beauty as well as feeding the poor and tending the sick. Basil and his brother Gregory of Nyssa were prolific writers. We owe much of our knowledge of the early eastern church to their books. Both wrote about their grandma. Basil praised her for teaching him to love the Christian faith from the time he was small.
If Macrina and her husband had not been faithful, what blessings the world would have lost! No wonder the eastern church honors Macrina's memory every year on this day.
- Butler, Alban. Lives of the Saints. Westminster, Maryland: Christian Classics, 1981, 1956.
- "Incredible Fourth Century Family." Worcester, PA: Christian History Institute. Glimpses # 123.
- Kirsch, J. P. "St. Macrina the Elder." The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton, 1914.
- Various volumes on saints, calendars of saints, encyclopedia and internet articles.