jeudi 30 juillet 2020

Sainte MARIE de JÉSUS du SAINT-SACREMENT (MARIA NATIVIDAD VENEGAS DE LA TORRE), vierge religieuse et fondatrice des Filles du Coeur de JÉSUS

Sainte Marie de Jésus du Saint-Sacrement

Fondatrice des Filles du Coeur de Jésus au Mexique (+1959)

Sainte María de Jesús Sacramentado Venegas, première Mexicaine canonisée, sut rester unie au Christ au cours de sa longue existence terrestre et c'est pourquoi elle porta des fruits abondants de vie éternelle. Sa spiritualité fut caractérisée par une singulière piété eucharistique, car il est clair que le chemin par excellence pour s'unir au Seigneur est de le chercher, de l'adorer, de l'aimer dans le très saint mystère de sa présence réelle dans le Sacrement de l'Autel.

Elle voulut prolonger son œuvre par la fondation des Filles du Sacré-Cœur de Jésus, qui poursuivent aujourd'hui dans l'Eglise son charisme de la charité envers les pauvres et les malades. De fait, l'amour de Dieu est universel, il désire parvenir à tous les hommes; c'est pourquoi la nouvelle sainte comprit que son devoir était de le diffuser, en prodiguant ses attentions à l'égard de tous jusqu'à la fin de ses jours, même lorsque son énergie physique diminua et que les dures épreuves traversées au cours de son existence affaiblirent ses forces. Très fidèle dans l'observance des constitutions, respectueuse envers les évêques et les prêtres, attentive aux séminaristes, sainte María de Jesús Sacramentado constitue un témoignage éloquent de consécration absolue au service de Dieu et de l'humanité qui souffre. (homélie de Jean-Paul II pour la canonisation)

Née Marie Venegas de la Torre à Zapotlanejo, Jalisco le 8 septembre 1868 - Fondatrice des Sœurs Filles du Cœur de Jésus - Béatifiée le 22 novembre 1992 par Jean-Paul II canonisée le 21 mai 2000 (première femme mexicaine à être canonisée) - biographie en espagnol.

À Guadalajara au Mexique, en 1959, Marie de Jésus du Saint-Sacrement (Marie Venegas de la Torre), vierge, qui passa cinquante-quatre ans à soigner les malades dans un petit hospice pour les pauvres, où elle fonda la Congrégation des Filles du Sacré-Cœur.

Martyrologe romain


Saint María Natividad Venegas de La Torre

Also known as

María de Jesús Sacramentado

María of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament

Mary of the Blessed Sacrament Venegas de la Torre

Nati (childhood nickname)


30 July


Youngest of twelve children in a pious Bible-reading, Rosarypraying family; her father was an accountant and her mother a homemaker. Natividad was early drawn to prayer and contemplation, and made her first Communion at age 9. Her mother died when Nati was 16. The family moved to Compostela, Nayarit, Mexico for financial reasons, and Nati spent even more time in church and in prayer. Her father died when she was 19, and her paternal uncle and aunt took over care of the children who were still at home.

Nati began teaching local children to read, was very active in parish life, became a catechist, and attended daily Mass. She joined the Daughters of Mary on 8 December 1898, and began discerning a call to religious life. Following an Ignatian retreat, she joined the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on 8 December 1905; the pious union was dedicated to care of the sickelderly and abandoned. She worked the next 54 years with the poor and sick in the small Sacred Heart hospital in Guadalajara, Mexico. She served as a nursepharmacist, housekeeper, and the community’s accountant and the hospital‘s bookeeper. Chosen Superior General of the Daughters in 1921. By 1924 she had written the formal constitutions of the Order, obtained diocean approval, and is considered the founder of the Congregation. She served as leader of the Daughters for 35 years during which they inceased vocations, opened hospitals and clinics, and founded several houses; she took the name María of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Wrote a number of pieces about her region.

Beginning in 1926, President Plutarco Elías Calles began enforcing anti-clerical laws, seizing Church property, shutting down Church institutions including schoolshospitalsorphanages and homes for the elderlyMass was prohibited, religious education outlawed, and all bishops were exiled from Mexico; this persecution started the Cristero War. Mother Nati managed to keep Sacred Heart hospital open during the repressions; when soldiers arrived to close it down, she overwhelmed them with kindness, and she and her sisters treated both soldiers and Cristeros, so the military held off enforcing the order to shut her down. Mother Nati insisted that the Eucharist not be removed from the hospital, and to prevent the soldiers from committing sacrilege, it was often hidden in bee hives on their property.

Mother Nati continued working with the patients until her last days, even when she had to get around in a wheelchair. Her final, bed-ridden days were spent in prayer for them, her hospital and her sisters.


8 September 1868 in La Tapona, Zapotlanejo, Jalisco, Mexico


30 July 1959 in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico of natural causes


13 May 1989 by Pope John Paul II (decree of heroic virtues)


22 November 1992 by Pope John Paul II

beatification celebrated in Saint Peter’s Basilica in RomeItaly


21 May 2000 by Pope John Paul II

first canonized Mexican

canonization celebrated in Saint Peter’s Square in RomeItaly

her canonization miracle involved the healing of Anastasio Ledezma Mora whose heart stopped during surgery, who went into a coma following resuscitation, and was healed following the prayers by the family for the intercession of Mother Nati


Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Guadalajara



Saint of the Day – 30 July – Saint María de Jesús Sacramentado Venegas de La Torre (1868-1959)

Posted on July 30, 2019

Saint of the Day – 30 July – Saint María de Jesús Sacramentado Venegas de La Torre (1868-1959) Religious Nun and Founder of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Guadalajara of which she is the Patron and of Nurses – Born María Natividad Venegas de la Torre on 8 September 1868 in La Tapona, Zapotlanejo, Jalisco, Mexico and died on 30 July 1959 in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico of natural causes, aged 90.

María de Jesús Sacramentado – María de Jesús Sacramentado Venegas de la Torre, was born in a town in the municipality of Zapotlanejo, Jalisco (Mexico) on 8 September 1868, baptised with the name of María Natividad.   The life of the young María Natividad was developed in a climate of simplicity, without extraordinary events, her childhood and adolescence with the nuances thatlife gives.  At the age of 19, she was orphaned and lived thereafter in the care of a paternal aunt.   María Natividad felt a strong attraction towards religious life and on 8 December 1989, she entered the flourishing Association of Daughters of Mary, in her native town.

On 8 December 1905 she attended some Spiritual Exercises and as a result of these, she decided to be part of the group of “Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus”, who cared for the sick in the Hospital of the Sacred Heart, newly founded by Canon Don Atenógenes Silva and Alvarez Tostado.  She distinguished herself by her humility, simplicity, affable relationship with the sisters, the sick and people in general, this immense charity drunk from the source of the Divine Heart of Jesus, whom she loved, in whom she always waited and whose devotion sought to instil in all.

She manifested a special treatment for the bishops and priests, attending them with true love, respect and obedience, seeing in them the prolongation of Christ High and Eternal Priest.   In the year of 1912 she was elected as the new Prioress, which position she held until 25 January 1921 when, at the first canonical elections, she was elected Superior General, shortly after, she wrote the Constitutions that would govern the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, these were approved in 1930, thus recognising the new Institute.

On 30 July 1959, she gave her soul to the Creator, full of peace, after receiving sacramental aid.   The miracle recognised for her Canonisation concerned Mr Anastasio Ledezma Mora, who was taken to the Hospital of the Sacred Heart to undergo a surgical operation.   After anesthesia, a cardiac arrest was manifested, which gradually increased until it ended in a complete arrest of the heart and arteries.   Immediately, resuscitation therapies were tried, although in vain, so the patient fell into a deep coma.

The medical nurses who were in the operating room, as well as the wife of the sick and the sisters (Daughters of the Sacred Heart), invoked the intercession of the Blessed Mary of Jesus Sacramented.   After 10 or 12 minutes, his heartbeat was restored to normal amazing the doctors especially as  the patient suffered no damage to the brain.   A few days later he underwent a hemicolectomy with definitive colostomy without any complications and left the hospital after recuperation, a perfectly well man…

Author: AnaStpaul

Passionate Catholic. Being Catholic is a way of life - a love affair both with God and Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, our most Blessed and Beloved Virgin Mother Mary and the Church. "Religion must be like the air we breathe..."- St John Bosco With the Saints, we "serve the Lord with one consent and serve the Lord with one pure language, not indeed to draw them forth from their secure dwelling-places, not superstitiously to honour them, or wilfully to rely on the, ... but silently to contemplate them for edification, thereby encouraging our faith, enlivening our patience..." Blessed John Henry Newman Prayer is what the world needs combined with the example of our lives which testify to the Light of Christ. This site will mainly concentrate on Daily Prayers, Novenas and the Memorials and Feast Days of our friends in Heaven, the Saints who went before us and the great blessings the Church provides in our Catholic Monthly Devotions. "For the saints are sent to us by God as so many sermons. We do not use them, it is they who move us and lead us, to where we had not expected to go.” Charles Cardinal Journet (1891-1975) This is a papal fidelity site. Loyal and Obedient to the Current Pope and to the Magisterium United With Him.




J.D. Long-García


St. María de Jesús Sacramentado Venegas (1868-1959), foundress of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, became Mexico’s first female saint in 2000. (Photo courtesy of the Hijas del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, Guadalajara, Mexico)

Santa Maria Venegas Assembly in Lake County, Ind., bears a unique name. It’s not often that a Knights of Columbus assembly or council is named after a woman, let alone a saint related to one of the assembly’s members.

Michael Velasco, the culture of life director for the Indiana state council, grew up hearing stories about his great-grandaunt, Sister María Natividad Venegas de la Torre, whom the family affectionately called “Tia Nati.” When his late father, John C. Velasco, was just a boy, Tia Nati nursed him back to health from malaria. John later fled to the United States as a teenager with his mother and two brothers, during the period of religious persecution in Mexico in the 1920s.

“After the announcement was made that Tia Nati was going to be canonized,” Michael recalled, “my father wept.”

At age 87, the senior Velasco traveled to Rome with his wife, June, to attend the canonization Mass on May 21, 2000. A year later, just months before his death, John became a charter member of Santa Maria Venegas Assembly, named after his grandaunt, the first Mexican woman to be declared a saint.


The youngest of 12 children, María Natividad Venegas de la Torre was born in Zapotlanejo, near Guadalajara, in the Mexican state of Jalisco on Sept. 8, 1868. Raised in a deeply religious household, Natividad, or Nati for short, learned to read the Bible at an early age and prayed the rosary each day with her family.

An energetic child, Nati was also drawn to contemplation. When playing hide-and-seek, she sought places where no one could find her so that she could pray.

Her mother, who had prepared Nati to receive her first holy Communion at age 9, died young, when Nati was 16. Her father, an accountant, then moved the family to Compostela, in the state of Nayarit, for economic reasons. Nati made frequent visits to their parish church there to gaze at an image of the crucified Christ called the “Lord of Mercy.” Nati’s father eventually brought the family back to Zapotlanejo, where he entrusted his children into the care of his brother and sister-in-law, Justo and Crispina Venegas Velasco. He died three years later in 1887.

Living with her aunt and uncle, Nati came to know the beauty of nature and agriculture. She would later write about the pastures, wheat, bananas, mangos and sugar cane, reflecting on God’s abundant generosity. Many who worked in the fields were illiterate, and Nati began teaching the children how to read and gave them religious instruction. She also participated in parish life and attended daily Mass.

In 1898, Nati joined the Association of the Daughters of Mary and began to give serious thought to a religious vocation, praying frequently before the Blessed Sacrament. In November 1905, her spiritual director recommended that she make an Ignatian retreat. Less than a month later, on Dec. 8, she joined the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a pious union of women dedicated to caring for poor and abandoned people at Guadalajara’s Sacred Heart Hospital. Sister Nati served in many roles — as nurse, pharmacist and the community’s accountant — and earned a reputation for knowing patients by name and creating a family environment at the hospital.

In 1921, Sister Nati was elected superior general, having made her temporary religious vows in 1915. In order for the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to receive official approval as a congregation, a bishop encouraged Madre Nati, as the sisters now called her, to write the constitutions. Though she did not consider herself competent to do so, she completed the task in 1924.


Beginning in 1926, Mexican President Plutarco Elías Calles strictly enforced the persecutory laws of the anti-clerical constitution that had been adopted nearly a decade earlier. The government seized Church property, Catholic schools and seminaries; shut down hospitals, orphanages and homes for the elderly; outlawed religious education; prohibited public worship; and exiled Mexico’s bishops. This sparked a rebellion known as the Cristero War, or Cristiada.

Against all odds, Madre Nati was able to keep the hospital open, said Sister Maria Rosa Bohórquez, a Daughter of the Sacred Heart who serves as the order’s general counsel. “Madre was not afraid. She would always say, ‘The Sacred Heart of Jesus will fix it all.’”

When soldiers tried to shut the hospital down, Madre Nati offered them food, disarming them through her compassion. The sisters treated injured government soldiers and Cristeros alike.

Madre Nati was also adamant that the Blessed Sacrament would be present at the hospital.

“To prevent the soldiers from committing sacrilege, the Eucharist was often hidden with the bees,” recounted Sister Clara Guenoveva Encarnación Luna, who knew the saint for many years. “The sisters always kept an empty hive for the Lord.”

On one occasion, when Madre Nati and a sister transported the Blessed Sacrament to safety in a shoebox, they boarded a bus filled with federal soldiers. If the sisters had been discovered, they would have likely been killed. Still, the saint remained calm, trusting in the Lord.

It was during this same period that John Velasco, who like his Tia Nati was born in Zapotlanejo, fled Mexico at age 15. His father and two uncles fought in the Cristero army against the anti-religious government, and their homes were frequently searched for ammunition and priests in hiding.

In fact, John’s family used to smuggle their parish priest, Father José Isabel Flores Varela, in and out of a secret room in their home so that he could celebrate clandestine Masses.

“If the soldiers had found the priest, I wouldn’t be here,” Michael Velasco said. “They would have killed everyone. They were merciless.”

Eventually, the soldiers caught Father Varela and hanged him — three times.

“Each time, just at the point of death, the soldiers let him down and asked the priest to denounce God,” Velasco said, “But he wouldn’t do it. Eventually, a soldier cut his throat.”

In 2000, Father Varela was one of the 25 Mexican martyrs, including six priests who were members of the Knights of Columbus, whom Pope John Paul II canonized together with Madre Nati, now known as Santa María de Jesús Sacramentado.


In 1930, when the constitutions of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus had received approval, Madre Nati declared, “We will celebrate the approval of the congregation without fear.”

This was also the year that she made her final vows and took the name María de Jesus Sacramentado (Mary of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament). She served as superior general of the congregation until 1954.

Sister Clara had met her two years earlier, during her interview for admission into the congregation at age 15.

“She was a very simple woman. You could approach her with confidence,” Sister Clara recalled, noting that the saint always had a ready smile.

All the sisters sought her gentle counsel and guidance, as did the doctors, priests and other coworkers. Together they cared for patients of all ages.

“The elderly are travelers who we must take care of before their life ends,” Madre Nati would say. “We must take care of them with all the tenderness possible.”

Sister Clara explained that the saint had many such sayings, and her words have become teachings for the sisters today:

“Suffering is short. Our joy will be eternal.”

“Those who are merciful with the needy of the world will not lack God’s mercy.”

“The weight of the cross is burdensome for those carrying it, but not for those who embrace it.”

“The hospital is the antechamber to heaven.”

Sister Clara served as Madre Nati’s nurse and shared a room with her for some time. The saint didn’t sleep much, she said, but the alarm was always set for 5 a.m. so that they could attend eucharistic adoration.

“We have to visit my Jesus,” Madre Nati would say.

Even toward the end of Madre Nati’s life, Sister Clara would often find her tending to patients from her wheelchair. Children at the hospital thought of her as a grandmother, and seminarians would sometimes remark that she loved them more than their own mothers did.

In all, Madre Nati lived at the hospital for 55 years until her death on July 30, 1959, at the age of 91.

“She didn’t live an extraordinary life,” Sister Clara said. “She lived an ordinary life in an extraordinary way.”

For Michael Velasco, who recalls growing up with the stories about his great grandaunt’s faith, courage and service to the poor, Tia Nati was always just a part of the family.

Sister Maria Rosa affirmed that Madre Nati continues to inspire all the sisters in their service to the sick and poor.

“She is known for her great charity and is still interceding for us from heaven,” Sister Maria Rosa said. “Even now she fills us up, she loved us so much.”

J.D. LONG-GARCÍA is editor in chief of The Tidings and Vida Nueva, the newspapers of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He is a member of Father Marcel Salinas Council 11536 in Mesa, Ariz.




vergine, fondatrice della Congregazione delle Figlie del Sacro Cuore di Gesù

In un piccolo villaggio del municipio di Zapotlanejo, Jal., Messico, l'8 settembre 1868 nasce Maria Navidad Venegas de la Torre. La sua vita si sviluppa in un clima di semplicità, senza eventi straordinari. Nella sua infanzia rimane orfana di madre e all'età di 19 anni muore suo padre e lei viene affidata alle cure di una zia paterna. Maria Navidad sentiva una forte attrazione per la vita religiosa; l'8 dicembre 1898 entra a far parte dell'Associazione delle Figlie di Maria e rafforza con questa esperienza il suo spirito di preghiera e con questo la sua vita interiore mentre cresce in lei l'amore per Gesù Eucaristia. 

Era l'anno 1905 e Maria Navidad desiderava ardentemente consacrare la sua vita al servizio dell'Amato, perciò, su invito del suo direttore spirituale partecipa ad alcuni Esercizi Spirituali nella città di Guadalajara, e come frutto di questi decide di entrare a far parte di una piccola comunità di signorine dedite alla cura degli infermi nell'Ospedale del Sacro Cuore fondato dal Vescovo Atenogene Silva y Alvarez Tostado. 

Esercitò come infermiera con abnegazione, era servizievole e squisitamente caritatevole; si distinse per la sua umiltà, semplicità per modi affabili con le sorelle, gli ammalati e le persone in genere; aveva un particolare modo di comportarsi con i vescovi e i sacerdoti in cui vedeva il prolungamento di Gesù Cristo Sommo ed Eterno Sacerdote. Il 25 gennaio 1921 fu nominata Superiora Generale; poco tempo dopo scrive le Costituzioni delle Figlie del Sacro Cuore di Gesù, che vengono approvate nel 1930 e con questo avvenimento l'Istituto è riconosciuto dalla Chiesa Diocesana; in questa data emette la sua Professione Perpetua prendendo il nome di Maria di Gesù Sacramentato. 

Il 30 luglio 1959 spirò affidando la sua anima al Creatore, piena di pace, dopo aver ricevuto i sacramenti. 

Fu beatificata da Sua Santità Giovanni Paolo II il 22 novembre 1992, Festa di Cristo Re, nella Basilica di San Pietro a Roma. Il miracolo riconosciuto per la sua Canonizzazione, riguarda il Sig. Anastasio Ledezma Mora, che fu portato all'Ospedale del Sacro Cuore, per essere sottoposto ad operazione chirurgica. Dopo l'anestesia, si manifestò una lentezza cardiaca, che aumentò gradatamente fino all'arresto totale del cuore e delle arterie. Al momento si tentarono terapie di rianimazione, ma invano, tanto che l'infermo cadde in coma profondo. I medici e gli infermieri presenti nella sala operatoria, così come sua moglie e le religiose Figlie del Sacro Cuore di Gesù, invocarono l'intercessione della Beata Maria de Jesùs Sacramentado. Dopo 10 o 12 minuti i battiti si ristabilirono e aldilà di quanto i medici potevano aspettarsi, l'infermo non patì alcun danno cerebrale e dopo pochi giorni fu sottoposto ad emicolectomia con colostomia definitiva, senza alcuna complicazione. Si considerò come sorprendente la ripresa del battito cardiaco gravemente interrotto.


Santa Maria de Jesus Sacramentado (Venegas de la Torre) Fondatrice

30 luglio

Zapotlanejo, Messico, 8 settembre 1868 - 30 luglio 1959

Nasce l'8 settembre 1868 a Zapotianejo in Messico. Il suo nome è Maria Navidadad Venegas de la Torre. L'8 dicembre 1898 entra a far parte dell'Associazione delle Figlie di Maria. Nel 1905 entra a far parte di una piccola comunità di donne dedite alla cura degli infermi nell'ospedale del Sacro Cuore di Gudalajara. Spese come infermiera buona parte della sua vita a favore dei malati. Fonderà l'istituto delle figlie del Sacro Cuore di Gesù. Nel 1921 viene eletta superiora generale della sua congregazione. Nel 1930 prende il nome di Maria di Gesù Sacramentato. Muore il 30 luglio 1959. (Avvenire)

Martirologio Romano: Nello stesso luogo, beata Maria di Gesù Sacramentato Venegas de la Torre, vergine, che per cinquantaquattro anni si dedicò alla cura degli infermi in un piccolo ospedale per i poveri, nel quale fondò la Congregazione delle Figlie del Sacro Cuore di Gesù.

“I vecchi sono viaggiatori che se ne vanno e bisogna accompagnarli con la maggior tenerezza possibile”: una frase così può solo stare sulle labbra di una persona sensibilissima ed attenta, premurosa e delicata, talmente innamorata di Cristo da vederlo in ogni persona anziana e sofferente. Ed è così delineata la figura e la personalità di Maria di Gesù Sacramentato Venegas de la Torre, la prima donna messicana proclamata santa.

Suo papà è un cattolico, tanto fervente e convinto da rinunciare agli studi universitari in giurisprudenza nel momento in cui si accorge che stanno minando la sua fede. Ed è questa testimonianza di cristiano coerente e coraggioso che riesce a trasmettere ai suoi dodici figli, che lo seguono nei suoi vari spostamenti in terra messicana, ma dovunque vanno a stabilirsi per prima cosa imparano a riconoscere nella parrocchia il loro punto di riferimento.

Maria Natividad (così battezzata proprio perché nata l’8 settembre dell’anno 1868) cresce fervorosamente devota e cristianamente convinta, formandosi spiritualmente tra le Figlie di Maria e lasciandosi guidare dai vari parroci che incontra sul suo cammino. A 16 anni è orfana di mamma, a 19 le muore anche il papà e va così a vivere da una zia, mentre in lei comincia a farsi strada l’idea di consacrarsi completamente a Cristo in un ordine religioso: una decisione che medita fino ai 37 anni, quando un corso di esercizio spirituali le chiarisce le idee.

Si consacrerà a Dio ma non, come le consigliano gli altri, in una congregazione di vita contemplativa. Preferisce fare di testa sua e sceglie di aggregarsi alla “Figlie del Sacro Cuore”, una comunità di pie donne che da più di vent’anni gestisce a Guadalajara un piccolo ospedale per i poveri. Non si tratta di una vera e propria congregazione religiosa, ma di un’associazione laicale riconosciuta dalla Chiesa, che sta aspettando il suo leader. Maria Natividad si tuffa per 16 anni nell’assistenza dei poveri e dei malati, accettando i vari incarichi che le vengono assegnati fino a quello di Superiora. Qualche mese dopo l’elezione è lo stesso vescovo diocesano a suggerirle di scrivere le Costituzioni per un’autentica comunità religiosa che poi possa essere approvata come Congregazione.

Forse nessuno poteva essere più inadeguato di lei per simile incarico eppure in tre anni riesce a far prendere forma alla Congregazione Religiosa delle Figlie del Sacro Cuore, che ancora oggi, nello spirito della fondatrice, si prende cura di anziani poveri e malati: in Messico, in Guatemala, nell’Honduras e, più recentemente, anche in Africa. Lei, sorridente e semplice, guida la nuova Congregazione fino al 1954, quando passa la mano alla nuova superiora tornando nell’ombra. Trascorre gli ultimi anni in mezzo a grandi sofferenze fisiche, spirando serenamente ultranovantenne il 30 luglio 1959.

Giovanni Paolo II la beatifica il 22 novembre 1992 e la proclama santa il 21 maggio 2000.

Autore: Gianpiero Pettiti



María de Jesús Sacramentado – María de Jesús Sacramentado Venegas de la Torre, nació en un poblado del municipio de Zapotlanejo, Jalisco (México) el 8 de Septiembre de 1868, la bautizaron con el nombre de María Natividad. La vida de la joven María Natividad se desarrolló en un clima de sencillez, sin hechos extraordinarios, su niñez y adolescencia con los matices que da la vida. A la edad de 19 años quedó huérfana de padre y madre quedando al cuidado de una tía paterna. María Natividad sentía fuerte atractivo hacia la vida religiosa, y el 8 de diciembre de 1989, ingresa en la floreciente Asociación de Hijas de María, en su lugar natal. 

El 8 de diciembre de 1905 asistió a unos Ejercicios Espirituales y como fruto de éstos, decide formar parte del grupo de “Hijas del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús”, que con ella completaban 6 para el cuidado de los enfermos en el Hospital del Sagrado Corazón, recién fundado por el Sr. Canónigo Don Atenógenes Silva y Alvarez Tostado. Se distinguió por su humildad, sencillez, trato afable conlas hermanas, enfermos y personas en general, esta inmensa caridad bebida de la fuente del Corazón Divino de Jesús, a quien amó, en quien siempre esperó y cuya devoción procuró inculcar a todas las personas de su alrededor. 

Manifestó un trato especial a los obispos y sacerdotes, atendiéndolos con verdadero amor, respeto y obediencia, viendo en ellos la prolongación de Cristo Sumo y Eterno Sacerdote. En el año de 1912 fue elegida Vicaria, puesto que ocupó hasta el 25 de enero de 1921 en el que, realizadas las primeras elecciones canónicas, resultó elegida Superiora General, al poco tiempo escribe las Constituciones que regirían a las Hijas del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, éstas fueron aprobadas en 1930, reconociéndose así el nuevo Instituto. 

El 30 de Julio de 1959 entregó su alma al Creador, llena de paz, después de recibir los auxilios sacramentales. El milagro reconocido para su Canonización pertenece al Sr. Anastasio Ledezma Mora, que fue llevado al Hospital del Sagrado Corazón para someterlo a una operación quirúrgica. Después de la anestesia, se manifestó una lentitud cardíaca, que aumentó gradualmente hasta finalizar en un paro total del corazón y de las arterias. Enseguida se intentaron terapias de reanimación aunque en vano, por lo que el enfermo cayó en coma profundo. 

Los médicos enfermeros que estaban en el quirófano, así como la esposa del enfermo y las hermanas (Hijas del Sagrado Corazón), invocaron la intercesión de la Beata María de Jesús Sacramentado. Después de 10 o 12 minutos, las palpitaciones se restablecieron y más allá de lo que los médicos esperaban, el enfermo no sufrió ningún daño en el cerebro; a los pocos días fue sometido a una hemicolectomía con colostomía definitiva sin complicación alguna. Se tuvo como admirable la reanudación de los latidos del corazón gravemente interrumpidos.


Voir aussi

lundi 27 juillet 2020

Sainte NATHALIE (NATALIA) et ses compagnons, martyrs à CORDOUE


Sainte Nathalie et ses compagnons

Martyrs à Cordoue (+852)

Aurèle et sa femme Nathalie, Felix et sa femme Liliose (Liliane) et le diacre palestinien Georges moururent martyrs sous le calife Abderrahman II.

L’Eglise se souvient en ce jour du beau témoignage de Foi que sainte Nathalie et ses compagnons, offrirent au Seigneur: en pleine persécution déclenchée par les Maures, sous le calife Abderrahman II, Nathalie et son époux Aurèle, Felix et son épouse Liliose (ou Liliane) ainsi qu’ un diacre prénommé Georges, furent arrêtés et condamnés à mort pour avoir refusé de renier leur Foi chrétienne et d’embrasser la religion musulmane. Du fond de leur prison ils ne cessèrent pas de louer leur Seigneur et Maître avant d’être décapités le 27 juillet 852. (Homélie de monsieur l’abbé Jean-Bernard Hayet, curé de la paroisse saint Joseph des Falaises-Bidart)

À Cordoue en Andalousie, l’an 852, les saints martyrs Georges, diacre et moine syrien, Aurèle et sa femme Sabigothe, Félix et sa femme Liliose. Dans la persécution des Maures, pris par le désir de témoigner de la foi dans le Christ, ils ne cessaient de louer le Christ dans leur prison et à la fin furent décapités.


Sainte Nathalie et ses compagnons

Martyrs à Cordoue (+852)

Aurèle et sa femme Nathalie, Felix et sa femme Liliose (Liliane) et le diacre palestinien Georges moururent martyrs sous le calife Abderrahman II.

L'Eglise se souvient en ce jour du beau témoignage de Foi que sainte Nathalie et ses compagnons, offrirent au Seigneur: en pleine persécution déclenchée par les Maures, sous le calife Abderrahman II, Nathalie et son époux Aurèle, Felix et son épouse Liliose (ou Liliane) ainsi qu' un diacre prénommé Georges, furent arrêtés et condamnés à mort pour avoir refusé de renier leur Foi chrétienne et d'embrasser la religion musulmane. Du fond de leur prison ils ne cessèrent pas de louer leur Seigneur et Maître avant d'être décapités le 27 juillet 852. (Homélie de monsieur l'abbé Jean-Bernard Hayet, curé de la paroisse saint Joseph des Falaises-Bidart)

À Cordoue en Andalousie, l'an 852, les saints martyrs Georges, diacre et moine syrien, Aurèle et sa femme Sabigothe, Félix et sa femme Liliose. Dans la persécution des Maures, pris par le désir de témoigner de la foi dans le Christ, ils ne cessaient de louer le Christ dans leur prison et à la fin furent décapités.

Martyrologe romain

En prenant appui sur le témoignage offert par sainte Nathalie et ses compagnons, nous demandons -selon les mots du Pape Benoit XVI-: "Que l'Amour du "Dieu avec nous" donne persévérance à toutes les communautés chrétiennes qui souffrent la discrimination et la persécution, et inspire les responsables politiques et religieux à s'engager pour le plein respect de la liberté religieuse de tous".

(Pape Benoit XVI. Message "Urbi et Orbi" du 25 décembre 2010).


Sainte Nathalie (+852)

 Fêté le 27 juillet

Nathalie fut martyrisé à cause de sa Foi. Si dure était alors la persécution musulmane à Cordoue que beaucoup de chrétiens devaient feindre de devenir musulmans s’ils voulaient garder la vie sauve. C’était ainsi pour Aurèle et sa femme Nathalie ainsi que pour leurs cousins Félix et sa femme Liliose. Or un jour, ils rencontrèrent un chrétien, juché sur un âne, le visage tourné vers la queue de la bête. Il avait été mis à nu et les deux bourreaux qui l’escortaient le fouettaient jusqu’au sang tandis qu’un crieur public dénonçait ses crimes religieux et que les passants le tournaient en ridicule. Aurèle et Nathalie, dès lors, cessèrent de feindre et pratiquèrent ouvertement leur foi. Nathalie et Liliose parurent dans les rues sans le voile que les femmes devaient porter sur leur visage selon les obligations musulmanes. Un moine quêteur, saint Georges, fut, comme eux, arrêté et tous cinq furent décapités.

Pourquoi feindre devant les hommes que nous sommes à Dieu ? Pourquoi leur cacher ce qui est notre force et notre joie ? Comment le découvriraient-ils si nous ne leur découvrions pas la vie qui est en nous et que nous voudrions voir vivre en eux ?

(Lectionnaire Emmaüs)


Retablo della cappella dei Santi Martiri di Cordoba 

Saint Natalia

Also known as





27 July


Half-MoorishConvert to ChristianityMarried to Saint AureliusMother of two. She and Aurelius knew that to openly practice their faith was a recipe for martyrdom. However, after making provision for their children‘s welfare, they became openly Christian, caring for the sick and poor, and talking openly about Jesus. Martyr.


as Sabigotho


beheaded on 27 July 852







JULY 27, 2020

Saints Natalia, Aurelius, Liliosa, Felix, and George, Martyrs

At the beginning of the Moslem rule in Cordova, Spain, during the 8th century, Christians were allowed to practice their Faith; later, however, when the domination became complete, the Mohammedan leaders began a systematic persecution of the Christians. One of the most prominent martyrs of the day was the Archbishop of Toledo, St. Eulogius, who also wrote a Memorial of the martyrs who suffered before him, among whom were those we honor today.

Natalia was a converted Moslem and her husband Aurelius was the son of an Arab and a Spanish woman. They conformed to Moslem customs outwardly but practiced their Christian faith in secret. One day Aurelius happened to see a Christian patiently enduring the scorn of the populace and the fierce blows of the whip for having publicly confessed his faith. This worked a dramatic change in Aurelius: from that moment on, he and his wife began to live their Christian faith openly. After setting aside enough money to take care of their daughter’s future, they distributed the rest of their possessions to the poor, and gave themselves over to penance and devotion.

Their example proved to be an inspiration for a relative of Aurelius named Felix, who had apostatized from the Church, and his wife Liliosa who had been practicing her faith in secret. Now, Felix returned to the Church and both gave up all pretense of dissembling. All four began to visit and minister to the Christians who were in prison.

It did not take long before all four of these dedicated servants of God were arrested and themselves thrown into prison. Also arrested with them was a beggar named George, who belonged to the monastery of St. Sabas in Jerusalem and had toured Egypt and Europe in search of alms for his house. Since he could not be accused of the same crime as the others “apostasy from the Moslem faith.” George in order to obtain martyrdom insulted Mohammed to the Cadi’s face. Thus, when the first four were condemned to death by beheading, George was also included. On July 27, 852, these saintly followers of Christ achieved the martyrdom they so avidly sought.


1. The most important thing a husband or wife can do for their spouse is to help them achieve salvation. These two couples understood that Christ and His Church had to come first in their lives, even though they knew full well that open profession of their faith would ultimately cost them their earthly lives. The heavenly crown they won for themselves far surpasses any suffering they had to endure on earth. So too may we all remember the glory that awaits us when we find ourselves in the midst of trials and persecution.

2. The monk George openly sought martyrdom — not something that most people would do. Natalia, Aurelius, Felix, and Liliosa tried to live in a Moslem society while remaining undercover Christians, but they finally realized that they could hide their faith in Christ no longer. If we ever find ourselves in the position where it would be more expedient to hide our faith, may we pray for the courage to profess it openly and face the consequences with courage and conviction. Our Lord tells us, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 10:32-33).


Sts. Natalie & Aurelius, Martyrs

St. Natalie and Aurelius

Saints Aurelius and Natalia (died 852) were Christian martyrs who were put to death during the reign of Abd ar-Rahman II,Emir of Córdoba, and are counted among the Martyrs of Córdoba.

Aurelius was the son of a Muslim father and a Christian mother. He was also secretly a follower of Christianity, as was his wife Natalia, who was also the child of a Muslim father. One of Aurelius’s cousins, Felix, accepted Islam for a short time, but later converted back to Christianity and married a Christian woman, Liliosa.

Under Sharia Law, all four of them were required to profess Islam. In time all four began to openly profess their Christianity, with the two women going about in public with their faces unveiled. They were all swiftly arrested as apostates from Islam.

They were given four days to recant, but they refused, and were beheaded. They were martyred with a local monk, George, who had openly spoken out against the prophet Mohammed. He had been offered a pardon as a foreigner, but chose instead to denounce Islam again and die with the others.

They are considered saints in the Roman Catholic Church, with a feast day of July 27.


The Holy Mother Church is the only  institution in the world that holds the entire truth and the guardian of truth itself for almost three millenia.


O  God, source of holiness and life, grant we beg You that through the intercession of Your holy martyrs Natalie and Aurelius we may obtain the fullness of life in Heaven through Christ our Lord. Amen


Arca de plata que guarda las reliquias de los Santos Mártires de Córdoba. Iglesia de San Pedro de Córdoba.

Santa Natalia e compagni Martiri a Cordova

27 luglio

Etimologia: Natalia = nascita, dal latino

Martirologio Romano: A Córdova nell’Andalusia in Spagna, santi martiri Giorgio, diacono e monaco siro, Aurelio e Sabigoto (Natalia), coniugi, e Felice e Liliosa, ugualmente coniugi, che durante la persecuzione dei Mori, mossi dal desiderio di testimoniare la fede in Cristo, gettati in carcere non cessarono mai di lodare Cristo e morirono, infine, decapitati.

Visse durante l’occupazione musulmana a Cordova, centro del califfato ommiade (756-1091) e il suo nome era Sabigoto, conosciuta poi con il nome di Natalia. Cristiana di fede, sposò Aurelio giovane dalla solida formazione cristiana (era nato da madre cristiana e da padre maomettano, divenuto orfano fu educato da una zia cristiana).

Essi vivevano da perfetti cristiani ma senza farsi riconoscere dai musulmani, ebbero l’occasione di assistere alle offese e insulti che il cristiano Giovanni subiva da parte dei maomettani, edificati dalla serenità di lui, sentirono il desiderio di subire anch’essi il martirio per Cristo

Questo desiderio venne rafforzato dalle visite che facevano in carcere ai futuri martiri, Giovanni, Eulogio, Flora e Maria, ma c’era un impedimento all’ardore di fede dei due coniugi, le due piccole figlie di cinque e otto anni, che rimaste sole sarebbero diventate musulmane, come tutti i loro parenti, secondo le disposizioni vigenti degli arabi.

Allora decisi, le portarono al monastero ‘Tabanense’ sotto la cura di Isabella, vedova del martire Geremia, lasciandole denaro a sufficienza per il loro mantenimento.

C’era anche un’altra coppia cristiana, che aveva gli stessi ideali, Felice e Liliosa, tutti e due figli di genitori, mori di razza, ma cristiani di religione, a loro si aggiunse un diacono Giorgio, monaco di S. Saba di Gerusalemme, giunto in Spagna per chiedere elemosine per il suo monastero e arrivato da Sabigoto (Natalia), si sentì dire da lei che aspettava proprio lui, perché in una visione le era stato promesso un monaco come compagno di martirio.

Anche Giorgio sentì il desiderio di dare la propria vita per Cristo; i cinque si accordarono affinché le due donne andassero nella moschea a viso scoperto, facendosi così riconoscere come cristiane; furono tutti arrestati e mentre le due coppie spagnole Natalia ed Aurelio, Liliosa e Felice furono condannati a morte, Giorgio essendo straniero venne rilasciato, ma non era quello che desiderava, allora si mise ad offendere Maometto e quindi venne decapitato insieme agli altri quattro, il 27 luglio dell’852 a Cordova.

I cristiani ricuperati i loro corpi, li seppellirono in vari monasteri e chiese, separati e distanti. Natalia (Sabigoto) fu sepolta nella chiesa dei SS. Fausto, Gennaro e Marziale, poi chiamata di S. Pietro.

Lo storico agiografo Usuardo nell’858, nel suo viaggio in Spagna, prese con sé i corpi dei santi Aurelio e Giorgio e li portò nel monastero parigino di Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

Sono celebrati tutti e cinque nel giorno del loro martirio, il 27 luglio.

Autore: Antonio Borrelli


Santos Jorge, Aurelio, Natalia, Félix y Liliosa. M. 850

Santa Natalia

Martirologio Romano: En Córdoba, en la provincia hispánica de Andalucía, santos mártires Jorge, diácono y monje originario de Siria, Aurelio y Sabigótona, esposos, y Félix y Liliosa, esposos también, que en la persecución desencadenada por los sarracenos, deseando dar testimonio de su fe cristiana, no cesaron de alabar a Cristo en la cárcel, donde fueron finalmente decapitados.

Aurelio, nacido en el seno de una familia distinguida musulmana, se quedó huérfano muy pequeño, y fue educado por una tía cristiana. Los parientes le obligaron a estudiar leyes y literatura árabes. Se casó con Sabigotona o Natalia, musulmana, que se convirtió al cristianismo. Fueron un matrimonio modelo en la alta sociedad cordobesa. 

Aurelio fue detenido en su casa de Córdoba, juntamente con su esposa Natalia, cuando celebraba una reunión familiar cristiana en compañía del matrimonio, Félix y Liliosa, y de un monje sirio, Jorge. Confesaron ante el cadí su fe y fueron encarcelados, se rieron de los halagos de sus enemigos que pretendían hacerles abjurar; fueron degollados (a Jorge, como era extranjero le ofrecieron la posibilidad del perdón, pero rehusó y prefirió unirse a sus compañeros), durante el emirato de Abderramán II.  


dimanche 19 juillet 2020

Sainte MACRINE la Jeune, moniale

Saint Macrina on the colonnade of St Peter's square.

Sainte Macrine la Jeune

Ainée d'une famille de saints! ( 379)

Macrine est la fille ainée d'une étonnante famille de saints qui donna à l'Église saint Basile de Césarée, saint Grégoire de Nysse et saint Pierre de Sébaste. Bien éduquée par une mère qui refuse de la laisser à une nourrice, malgré les usages de l'époque, Macrine apprend à lire dans le psautier qui accompagne tous les moments de sa vie quotidienne, tandis que sa main tient le fuseau. A douze ans, elle est l'objet de nombreuses demandes en mariage. Mais l'enfant choisit de se consacrer à Dieu et de vivre auprès de sa mère devenue veuve. La mort prématurée du fiancé choisi par son père évite à Macrine bien des problèmes de conscience. Macrine devient l'âme du foyer. Sa mère se repose entièrement sur elle. La maison familiale se transforme en petit monastère mêlant contemplation, hospitalité et bienfaisance. Basile et Grégoire reconnaîtront que l'influence de leur grande sœur fut pour beaucoup dans leur vocation au service de l'Église. Grégoire assista aux derniers instants de sa sœur, terrassée par la maladie mais pas anéantie. Ses derniers instants furent en effet une méditation sur la résurrection ce qui nous a valu de la part de l'évêque de Nysse, outre la vie de sainte Macrine, le grand dialogue "sur l'âme et la résurrection."

À Annésis, sur les bords de l'Iris dans le Pont, en 379, sainte Macrine, vierge, sœur des saints évêques Basile le Grand, Grégoire de Nysse et Pierre de Sébaste. Formée par la connaissance des saintes Écritures, elle se consacra à la vie solitaire, donnant ainsi un exemple admirable du désir de Dieu et de l'abandon des vanités du monde.

Martyrologe romain

Tu nous as délivrés, Seigneur, de la crainte de la mort. Tu as fait du terme de notre vie le commencement de la vie véritable...fais-moi remise de ma sentence afin que je prenne haleine et qu'une fois dépouillée de mon corps, je sois trouvée devant toi sans tache ni ride sur le visage de mon âme.

Prière de sainte Macrine mourante


pour les Agonisants

Voici une Prière d’une profonde humilité et d’une grande foi en la Miséricorde du Tout-Puissant et en l'assistance des anges et notamment en celle de l'Ange gardien au moment de la mort « Ô Seigneur, envoie-moi ton Ange de lumière pour me conduire au lieu de rafraîchissement » de Sainte Macrine la Jeune (324-379), sœur aînée de Saint Grégoire de Nysse, Saint Basile le Grand et Saint et Pierre de Sébaste.

La Prière de Sainte Macrine « Ô Seigneur, envoie-moi ton Ange de lumière pour me conduire au lieu de rafraîchissement » :

« Seigneur, Tu nous as affranchis de la crainte de la mort. C’est Toi qui as fait que la fin de cette vie fût pour nous le vrai commencement de la vie. Ô Toi à qui j'ai été consacrée dès le sein de ma mère, Toi que j'ai aimé de tout mon cœur et à qui j’ai consacré ma chair et mon âme dès ma jeunesse, envoie-moi ton Ange de lumière pour me conduire au lieu de rafraîchissement, là où coule l’eau de la paix éternelle près des saints Pères qui nous ont devancés ; fais-moi remise de ma sentence afin que je prenne haleine et qu’une fois dépouillée de mon corps, je sois trouvée devant Toi sans tache ni ride sur le visage de mon âme. Ainsi soit-il. »

Le 19 juillet, mémoire de notre vénérable Mère MACRINE et de ses quatre compagnes dans la vie ascétique

Soeur de Saint Basile (1er janv.) et de Saint Grégoire de Nysse (10 janv.)(1), Sainte Macrine était l'aînée des dix enfants de cette famille de Saints. Au moment de sa naissance (327), un mystérieux personnage était apparu à sa mère à trois reprises, lui ordonnant de donner à l'enfant le nom de Sainte Thècle, première-Martyre et modèle des vierges chrétiennes (cf. 24 sept.). Elle garda toutefois ce nom secret, et l'enfant reçut le nom de sa grand-mère, Macrine l'Ancienne, qui avait été disciple de Saint Grégoire le Thaumaturge (cf. 17 nov.), et avait vécu dans les forêts du Pont au temps de la Grande Persécution.

Sa mère se préoccupa de l'instruire, non dans la culture profane et les choses frivoles communes aux gens de sa condition, mais dans tout ce qui, dans l'Écriture inspirée, convenait à son âge et à sa formation morale, en particulier le livre de la Sagesse et les Proverbes. Les Psaumes de David l'accompagnaient dans toutes ses activités: en se levant, en se mettant au travail, en le terminant, au début et à la fin du repas, avant de se coucher et en se levant la nuit pour prier. Lorsqu'elle eut douze ans, sa beauté ne pouvant rester cachée, son père la fiança à un jeune homme de qualité et de bonne réputation, qui venait de terminer ses études, et qui avait promis d'attendre que Macrine eût atteint l'âge convenable pour l'épouser. Cependant celui-ci fut bientôt emporté par Dieu avant l'union, ce qui permit à la Sainte de réaliser son désir secret: vivre dans la virginité pour chercher Dieu. De nombreux prétendants se présentèrent, mais Macrine préférait se considérer comme veuve, sans même avoir goûté aux joies et plaisirs de la vie conjugale. A cause de son espérance en la résurrection, elle estimait en effet que son époux était parti en voyage. Se séparant donc de tout lien avec le monde, elle demeura avec sa mère, se mettant à son service pour toutes les tâches domestiques, mêmes celles qui étaient alors réservées aux esclaves, et l'assistant également dans l'éducation de ses frères et soeurs. Après la mort de son père (341), elle assuma elle-même la gestion de leurs grands domaines, situés dans le Pont, en Cappadoce et en Arménie, et, par son exemple, elle invita sa mère à se tourner vers les biens incorruptibles: la contemplation de Dieu et la vraie philosophie. Elles menaient ensemble la vie ascétique, s'adonnaient à la lecture et à la méditation des Écritures, et Macrine était pour tous à la fois protectrice, pédagogue et modèle de vertu. Une fois libérée de l'éducation de ses enfants, Emmélie répartit entre eux ses biens et transforma la demeure familiale d'Annisa(2) en Monastère. Elles firent de leurs servantes des compagnes d'ascèse, et Macrine réussit à convaincre Basile, qui rentrait d'Athènes après de brillantes études, de renoncer à une carrière prometteuse de rhéteur pour embrasser la vie évangélique. À côté du Monastère de femmes, qui grandissait par l'addition de veuves de nobles familles, se forma une communauté masculine, dirigée par le plus jeune frère de Macrine, Pierre, futur Evêque de Sébaste. Saint Naucrace (cf. 8 juin) s'était retiré dans un ermitage - qu'occupera ensuite Saint Basile - sur la rive opposée de l'Iris, et subvenait aux besoins de pauvres vieillards par les produits de sa chasse.

Délivrées de l'enchaînement aux nécessités du corps et des préoccupations de cette vie, Macrine et ses compagnes menaient dans leur retraite une vie aux confins de la nature humaine et de la nature angélique. On ne voyait chez elles ni colère, ni envie, ni haine, ni arrogance, ni rien de semblable; tout désir d'honneur ou de gloire était banni. Leur plaisir était la tempérance; leur gloire, de n'être connues de personne; leur fortune, de ne rien posséder. Elles vivaient du travail de leurs mains, mais restaient exemptes de préoccupations, car leur travail véritable consistait en la méditation des réalités divines, la prière incessante et le chant ininterrompu des hymnes. Il n'y avait pour elles aucune différence entre la nuit et le jour: car la nuit elles se montraient actives dans les oeuvres de lumière, alors que leur journée imitait le repos nocturne par l'absence de trouble de leur vie. Affiné par lascèse, le corps de Sainte Macrine était tel qu'il le sera lors de la résurrection. Elle versait des larmes à la mesure de sa boisson et tous ses sens étaient consacrés aux choses de Dieu, de sorte que, légère, elle cheminait dans les hauteurs avec les Puissances célestes. L'application à la vraie Philosophie selon le Christ, par la crucifixion de toutes les convoitises de la chair, lui permit de croître sans cesse en vertu jusqu'au sommet de la perfection.

Un jour une tumeur s'attaqua au sein de Macrine. Malgré les supplications de sa mère, elle refusa de recevoir les soins d'un médecin, jugeant que dévoiler aux yeux d'un homme une partie de son corps serait plus fâcheux encore que ce mal. Elle passa la nuit en prière dans l'église et oignit sa plaie de la boue faite par ses larmes. Au matin, elle demanda à Emmélie de tracer le signe de croix sur son sein, et l'abcès disparut, ne laissant qu'une petite cicatrice.

Elle avait atteint une telle impassibilité par son application aux choses de Dieu, qu'à la mort de Naucrace, survenue au cours d'un accident de chasse, elle fut pour sa mère et tout le reste de la famille un modèle de maîtrise de soi et de foi en la vie éternelle. Dans les deuils successifs qui frappèrent la communauté, elle montra une même grandeur d'âme, inébranlable comme un athlète exposé aux coups, tant devant la couche funèbre d'Emmélie, que lorsque Saint Basile, le soleil de l'Orthodoxie, s'endormit (379). Et, si elle fut alors affligée, ce fut moins pour la perte d'un frère, que de voir l'Église privée de son maître et de son soutien. Pendant la famine qui frappa la Cappadoce, en 368, le monastère d'Annisa devint une véritable ville, refuge et consolation de toute la population d'alentour, et par la prière de la Sainte les réserves de grain, qu'on distribuait à tous les nécessiteux, se renouvelèrent miraculeusement.

Peu de temps après le décès de Saint Basile, Saint Grégoire de Nysse apprit que sa soeur était tombée gravement malade et il lui rendit visite au Monastère après neuf ans d'absence. Il la trouva étendue sur une planche, abattue par la fièvre, mais gardant son esprit libre dans la contemplation des biens célestes, de telle sorte qu'il en rafraîchissait son corps comme par une rosée. Alors qu'ils se rappelaient le souvenir du grand Basile, au lieu de se lamenter, la Sainte profita de cette occasion pour disserter longuement sur la nature de l'homme, le sens de la création, l'âme et la résurrection des corps(3). Sur tous ces sujets, son discours s'écoulait comme l'eau d'une source, facilement et sans obstacle. Jusqu'au dernier instant, elle ne cessa de deviser en philosophe sur ce qui avait fait l'objet de son choix: l'amour de l'Époux invisible, qu'elle se hâtait de rejoindre, sans qu'aucun attachement à cette vie ne puisse la retenir. Quand elle sentit la fin approcher, elle cessa de s'adresser à ceux qui se tenaient près d'elle et, les yeux tournés vers l'Orient, étendant les mains vers Dieu, elle murmura cette prière: « Seigneur, c'est Toi qui as fait disparaître pour nous la crainte de la mort. C'est Toi qui as fait pour nous du terme de la vie d'ici-bas, le commencement de la vie véritable. C'est Toi qui donnes à nos corps le repos pour quelque temps et qui nous réveilleras à nouveau au son de la trompette dernière. C'est Toi qui laisses à la terre en dépôt le limon que Tes mains ont façonné, pour venir reprendre ce que Tu as donné, en transformant par l'immortalité et la beauté ce qui en nous est mortel et difforme. C'est Toi qui nous as délivrés de la malédiction et du péché, en devenant pour nous l'un et l'autre. C'est Toi qui as brisé la tête du dragon qui précipita l'homme dans l'abîme de la désobéissance, en le saisissant par le cou. C'est Toi qui nous as ouvert la route de la résurrection après avoir fracassé les portes de l'enfer et as réduit à l'impuissance celui qui régnait sur la mort. C'est Toi qui as donné à tous ceux qui Te craignent le signe de la Sainte Croix, pour anéantir l'Adversaire et donner la sécurité à notre vie. Ô Dieu éternel! Vers qui je me suis élancée dès le sein de ma mère, Toi que mon âme a aimé de toute sa force, Toi à qui j'ai consacré ma chair et mon âme depuis ma jeunesse et jusqu'à cet instant, place auprès de moi un Ange de lumière qui me conduise par la main au lieu du rafraîchissement, là où se trouve l'eau du repos, dans le Sein des Saints Pères. Toi qui as brisé la flamme de l'épée de feu et rendu au Paradis le Larron qui était crucifié avec Toi et qui s'en était remis à Ta miséricorde, souviens-Toi aussi de moi dans Ton Royaume, car moi aussi j'ai été crucifiée avec Toi, j'ai cloué ma chair par Ta crainte et j'ai été saisie de crainte à cause de Tes préceptes. Ne me sépare pas de Tes élus par un abîme infranchissable. Que le Jaloux ne se dresse pas contre moi sur mon chemin, et que mon péché ne soit pas placé devant Tes yeux si, à cause de la faiblesse de notre nature, je suis tombée dans le péché par pensée, par parole ou par action. Toi qui as sur la terre le pouvoir de remettre les péchés, remets-les moi, afin que je reprenne haleine et qu'une fois séparée de ce corps je paraisse devant Toi, l'âme irréprochable et immaculée, comme l'encens devant ta Face. »

A ces mots, la Sainte traça le signe de croix sur ses yeux, sa bouche et son coeur. Elle assista en silence à l'Office du soir, puis cessa dans un grand soupir tout à la fois sa prière et sa vie. Au cours des funérailles, présidées par Saint Grégoire, auxquelles assistait une foule immense, la beauté spirituelle de Sainte Macrine rejaillissait de manière éclatante sur son corps, qui avait été paré comme celui d'une fiancée. Accompagnée du chant des hymnes, comme pour les fêtes des Martyrs, elle fut ensevelie à Ibora, dans le tombeau où reposaient ses parents, en l'église des Quarante-Martyrs.

1). C'est St Grégoire qui a rédigé sa biographie, que nous résumons ici (SC 173).

2). Ou Annésis, près de Néocésarée dans l'Hélénopont.

3). Ce dialogue, largement amplifié, fut l'objet du traité de St Grégoire de Nysse, Sur l'âme et la Résurrection (PG 46, 11).


Sainte Macrine la jeune, Fresque de la cathédrale Sainte Sophie de Kiev.

Sainte Macrine naquit vers 327, l’aînée de dix enfants d’une vieille famille chrétienne de Cappadoce dont la foi fut mise à l’épreuve pendant la grande persécution de Dioclétien (284-305) – un de ses aïeux maternels avait gagné la palme du martyre – et également sous Maximin (306-310, dont la persécution obligea ses grands-parents maternels de se réfugier dans les montagnes du Pont pendant sept ans. Sa grand-mère paternelle fut sainte Macrine l’Ancienne, disciple de saint Grégoire le Thaumaturge, évêque de Néo-Césarée dans le Pont, élève d’Origène à Césarée de Palestine. Ses parents, Basile l’Ancien et Émélie, bien que non mentionnées dans les synaxaires byzantins, sont célébrés en Occident le 30 mai. Parmi les frères de Macrine figurent quatre saints de l’Église : Basile le Grand et Grégoire de Nysse (deux des trois grands théologiens cappadociens) ; ainsi que Pierre, évêque de Sébaste (Synaxaire, 9 janvier), et saint Naucrace (8 juin). Moins connue que ses illustres frères, sainte Macrine est néanmoins considérée le « véritable chef spirituel de la famille » (Synaxaire, 1er janvier) : c’est elle qui, après le décès du père, convainquit sa mère de renoncer à la jouissance de la fortune familiale, de libérer leurs esclaves et servantes, et de transformer la maison familiale en monastère. Macrine dirigeait le monastère des femmes et son frère Pierre, celui des hommes.

En 379, après le décès de la mère, de Naucrace et de Basile (fin 378), et après de longues années de persécution et de division à l’intérieur de l’Église dues à l’hérésie arienne, Grégoire de Nysse, de retour d’un synode à Antioche, rend visite à sa sœur, malade et mourante. Après son décès, Grégoire écrit la Vie de sainte Macrine, qui passe en revue l’histoire de la famille et le rôle de Macrine ; il y décrit en particulier ses entretiens avec Macrine, son dernier jour et son ensevelissement. Les extraits de la Vie de sainte Macrine qui suivent portent sur la fondation du monastère, la vie de la communauté et les entretiens de Grégoire et Macrine.

Vie et mort de sainte Macrine

par saint Grégoire de Nysse

Transformation de la maison familiale en monastère

7. Comme tout prétexte de vie trop matérielle leur avait déjà été enlevé, Macrine persuade sa mère de renoncer à son mode de vie accoutumé et à ses manières de grande dame, ainsi qu’aux services qu’elle avait jusqu’alors l’habitude de recevoir de ses servantes, pour prendre les sentiments du commun et partager le mode de vie des vierges qu’elle avait auprès d’elle, après en avoir fait, d’esclaves et de servantes qu’elles étaient, des sœurs et des égales. […]

11. Quand donc la mère eut été libérée du souci de l’éducation de ses enfants, ainsi que de la charge de leur instruction et de leur établissement, et qu’on eut procédé au partage entre les enfants de la plus grande part des ressources pour la vie matérielle, alors, comme on l’a déjà dit, la vie de cette vierge [Macrine] devient pour sa mère un guide vers ce genre de vie philosophique et immatériel [c’est-à-dire la vie spirituelle ou évangélique]. Elle, qui avait renoncé à toutes ses habitudes, amena sa mère à son propre degré d’humilité, l’ayant disposée à se mettre au même niveau que le groupe des vierges pour partager avec elles, comme une égale, même table, même couche et mêmes moyens d’existence, toute différence de rang étant supprimée de leur vie. Et telle était l’ordonnance de leur vie, telle l’élévation de leur philosophie et la noblesse de leur mode de vie, dans leur conduite de jour comme de nuit, qu’elles dépassent toute description. De même que les âmes délivrées de leur corps par la mort sont du même coup affranchies des préoccupations de cette vie, de même leur existence se tenait-elle à l’écart de celles-ci, loin de toute vanité mondaine, cependant qu’elle était réglée de manière à imiter le mode de vie angélique.

On ne voyait chez ces personnes ni colère, ni envie, ni haine, ni arrogance, ni rien de semblable ; tout désir de vanités – d’honneur ou de gloire, d’ambition ou d’orgueil et de tout ce qui leur ressemble – était banni. Leur plaisir, c’était la continence ; leur gloire, de n’être connues de personne ; leur fortune, de ne rien posséder, d’avoir secoué de leur corps, comme poussière, toute richesse matérielle. Leur travail, ce n’était aucune de ces tâches dont on se préoccupe dans cette vie, sinon accessoirement, mais seulement la méditation des réalités divines, la prière incessante, le chant ininterrompu des hymnes réparti également pendant tout le temps, de jour comme de nuit, si bien que ces occupations étaient à la fois leur travail et leur repos après le travail. Quelles paroles humaines pourraient mettre sous les yeux le tableau de ce mode de vie, chez ceux pour qui l’existence se trouvait aux confins de la nature humaine et de la nature incorporelle ? […]

Après de longues années de séparation, Grégoire rend visite à sa sœur malade

17. Lorsqu’elle [Macrine] me vit près de la porte, elle se souleva sur un coude, incapable d’accourir vers moi, car la fièvre avait déjà consumé ses forces. Cependant, prenant appui de ses mains sur le sol et se soulevant de son grabat autant qu’elle le pouvait, elle s’efforçait de me faire l’honneur de venir à ma rencontre. Pour moi, j’accourus auprès d’elle et, prenant dans mes mains son visage incliné à terre, je la redressai et lui fis reprendre la position allongée qu’elle avait auparavant. Et celle-ci de tendre la main vers Dieu et de dire : " Tu m’as encore enrichie de cette grâce, ô Dieu, et tu ne m’as pas privée de ce que je désirais, puisque tu as poussé ton serviteur à faire une visite à ta servante. " Et pour ne pas m’affliger davantage, elle essayait d’adoucir ses gémissements, elle s’efforçait comme elle le pouvait de cacher l’oppression de sa respiration, elle cherchait par tous les moyens à créer un climat plus joyeux, commençant à tenir elle-même de plaisants propos et nous en fournissant l’occasion par les questions qu’elle nous posait. Mais dans la suite de notre entretien fut évoqué le souvenir du grand Basile ; mon âme alors perdit courage et, dans ma tristesse, j’inclinai à terre mon visage, cependant que les larmes jaillissaient de mes yeux. Mais elle, loin de se laisser aller à partager notre douleur, fit de cette mention du saint le point de départ d’une plus haute philosophie, et elle se mit à développer de si grands sujets – dissertant sur la nature humaine, découvrant la divine providence cachée dans les épreuves et exposant ce qui a trait à la vie future comme si elle était inspirée par le Saint-Esprit – que mon âme se croyait dégagée, ou presque, de la nature humaine, soulevée qu’elle était par ses paroles et prenant place, sous la conduite de son discours, à l’intérieur des sanctuaires célestes.

18. Nous entendons raconter, dans l’histoire de Job que cet homme consumé en tout son corps par les abcès purulents des plaies qui le couvraient de toutes parts, ne permettait pas à sa sensibilité, grâce à ses réflexions, de tomber dans la douleur, mais, tout en souffrant dans son corps, il ne laissait pas faiblir son activité propre, ni n’interrompait son discours, qui touchait aux sujets les plus élevés. Je voyais un même comportement chez cette grande Macrine. La fièvre consumait toute sa force et l’entraînait vers la mort, mais elle, rafraîchissant son corps comme par une rosée, gardait, à l’exemple de Job, son esprit libre dans la contemplation des réalités d’en-haut, sans le laisser affecté par une telle faiblesse. Et si je ne craignais d’étendre mon récit à l’infini, je rapporterais en bon ordre toutes ses paroles, et comment elle s’était élevée par ses discours jusqu’à philosopher pour nous sur l’âme, jusqu’à nous exposer la cause de notre vie dans la chair, pourquoi l’homme existe, comment il se fait qu’il soit mortel et d’où vient la mort, quelle est enfin la libération qui nous fait passer de celle-ci à une vie nouvelle. Sur tous ces sujets, elle parlait comme si l’inspirait la puissance du Saint-Esprit, en exposant tous les points avec clarté et logique, mais aussi en toute facilité de parole, son discours s’écoulant comme l’eau d’une source lorsqu’elle ruisselle sans obstacle sur un terrain en pente [voir saint Grégoire de Nysse, Sur l’âme et la résurrection (Cerf, 1995), qui prend la forme d’un dialogue entre Grégoire et Macrine.]

Le repos de Grégoire

19. Lorsqu’elle eut achevé de parler : " Il est temps pour toi, frère, dit-elle, de prendre un peu de repos, car le voyage doit t’avoir beaucoup fatigué. " Pour moi, c’était une grande et véritable détente que de la voir et d’écouter ses nobles paroles, mais puisque ce lui était agréable, et pour montrer en toutes choses mon obéissance à celle dont je recevais l’enseignement, trouvant dans un des jardinets proches un lieu de repos agréable que l’on m’avait préparé, je pris un peu de repos à l’ombre des treilles. Mais il ne m’était pas possible d’en goûter l’agrément, car mon âme était bouleversée par la perspective de tristes événements. Ce que j’avais vu semblait en effet me révéler le sens de la vision de mon rêve : le spectacle que j’avais eu sous les yeux offrait bien en vérité les restes d’un saint martyr, restes " morts au péché " et resplendissants " de la grâce de l’Esprit-Saint présente en eux ". J’expliquai cela à l’un de ceux qui m’avaient entendu auparavant raconter mon rêve. Mais alors que nous nous tenions, plus affligés encore – c’était bien naturel –, dans l’attente de tristes événements, elle devina, je ne sais comment, notre état d’esprit, et nous fit annoncer des nouvelles plus réconfortantes, nous encourageant à reprendre confiance et à concevoir à son endroit de meilleures espérances : elle avait en effet le sentiment d’une amélioration. Ce n’est pas pour nous abuser qu’elle nous faisait dire cela, et son affirmation était véridique, même si sur le moment nous n’en comprîmes pas le sens. De même en effet qu’un coureur, lorsqu’il a dépassé son adversaire et qu’il arrive près de la borne du stade, lorsqu’il est tout proche du prix de la course et voit la couronne du vainqueur, se réjouit en lui-même, comme s’il avait déjà obtenu le prix, et annonce sa victoire à ceux des spectateurs qui lui sont favorables, de même celle-ci, animée de pareils sentiments, nous donnait-elle à espérer à son sujet un sort plus favorable, elle qui déjà dirigeait son regard vers " le prix de l’élection d’en haut " et s’appliquait en quelque sorte la parole de l’Apôtre : " Voici qu’est préparée pour moi la couronne de justice, que me donnera en retour le juste juge ", puisque " j’ai combattu le bon combat, j’ai achevé la course, j’ai gardé la foi ". Pour nous donc, rassurés par ces bonnes nouvelles, nous commençâmes à goûter ce que l’on nous avait préparé : le menu en était varié et plein d’agrément, la grande Macrine ayant étendu jusque-là sa sollicitude.

Nouvelle rencontre

20. Lorsque nous fûmes à nouveau en sa présence – car elle ne nous laissa pas passer notre temps livré à nous-même –, elle entreprit de raconter ce qu’avait été sa vie depuis sa jeunesse, en exposant dans l’ordre tous les faits, comme dans un récit historique. Elle racontait aussi les événements de la vie de nos parents dont elle avait souvenance, tant ceux d’avant ma naissance que ceux des années qui suivirent. Le but de son récit, c’était l’action de grâces envers Dieu : c’est ainsi que, touchant la vie de nos parents, elle mettait en relief, non pas tant qu’elle ait été illustre et célèbre aux yeux de leurs contemporains de par leur richesse, mais plutôt qu’elle ait été mise à l’honneur grâce à la philanthropie divine. Les parents de notre père avaient été dépouillés de leurs biens pour avoir confessé le Christ ; l’aïeul du côté maternel avait été mis à mort pour avoir provoqué la colère de l’empereur, et toutes ses propriétés avaient été distribuées à d’autres maîtres. Malgré cela, les ressources de la famille avaient, grâce à leur foi, augmenté de telle manière que l’on ne pouvait citer personne, à cette époque, qui les dépassât. Par la suite, lorsque leur fortune fut partagée en neuf, selon le nombre des enfants, la part de chacun s’était, de par la bénédiction divine, à ce point accrue que la richesse de chacun des enfants surpassa la prospérité des parents. Macrine cependant ne garda à sa disposition aucun des biens qui lui avaient été attribués lors du partage entre frères et sœurs, mais, conformément au commandement divin, tout fut administré par les mains du prêtre. Par la grâce de Dieu, sa vie fut telle que jamais elle ne cessa d’exercer ses mains à la pratique des commandements, jamais elle ne compta sur un homme, jamais les ressources pour une vie honorable ne lui vinrent de quelque service ou don des hommes. Mais, tout en ne renvoyant pas les quémandeurs, elle ne se mit pas en quête de bienfaiteurs, car Dieu, par ses bénédictions, faisait croître secrètement, comme des semences, les maigres ressources qui lui venaient de ses travaux et les transformait en fruits abondants.

Macrine reprend son frère

21, Pour ma part, je lui racontai les difficultés dans lesquelles je m’étais trouvé, d’abord lorsque l’empereur Valens me fit exiler à cause de la foi, ensuite lorsque la confusion qui régnait dans les Églises m’entraîna dans des controverses et des luttes. " Ne cesseras-tu pas, me dit-elle alors, de méconnaître les dons de Dieu ? Ne porteras-tu pas remède à l’ingratitude de ton âme ? Ne compareras-tu pas ton sort à celui de tes parents, bien qu’en vérité, aux yeux de ce monde, nous puissions tirer fierté d’apparaître comme bien nés et issus de bonne famille. Notre père, dit-elle, jouissait en son temps d’une grande considération pour sa culture, mais sa réputation ne s’étendait qu’aux tribunaux de la région ; par la suite, bien qu’il l’emportât sur les autres par sa maîtrise de la sophistique, sa renommée ne franchit pas les limites du Pont, mais il lui suffisait d’être connu dans sa patrie. Et toi, dit-elle, qui es célèbre par les villes, les peuples, les provinces, toi que des Églises délèguent et que d’autres appellent pour apporter de l’aide ou remettre de l’ordre, ne vois-tu pas la grâce qui t’est faite ? Ne comprends-tu pas d’où te viennent de si grands biens, et que ce sont les prières de tes parents qui te font accéder à cette élévation, alors que de toi-même tu n’as pas de dispositions pour cela, ou si peu ? "

Dispositions de Macrine à son dernier jour

22. Pour moi, pendant qu’elle exposait cela, j’aurais voulu que s’allonge le jour, pour qu’elle ne cesse de nous faire entendre ces douces paroles. Mais le chant du chœur appelait à l’office du soir, et la grande Macrine, après m’avoir envoyé à l’église, se réfugiait à nouveau auprès de Dieu par la prière. La nuit survint sur ces entrefaites. Lorsque vint le jour, il m’apparut clairement, à la voir, que cette journée qui commençait serait la dernière de sa vie dans la chair, car la fièvre avait totalement consumé ses forces naturelles. Celle-ci, voyant la faiblesse de nos pensées, s’efforçait de nous distraire de cette désolante perspective, en dissipant à nouveau par ces belles paroles le chagrin de notre âme, mais maintenant avec un souffle court et oppressé. C’est alors surtout que ce que je voyais affectait mon âme de sentiments très partagés : d’une part la nature en moi était accablée de tristesse, comme on peut le comprendre, car je prévoyais que je n’entendrais plus désormais une telle voix, et je m’attendais à ce que la gloire commune de notre famille quitte bientôt la vie humaine ; mais d’autre part mon âme, comme transportée d’enthousiasme à ce spectacle, estimait qu’elle avait transcendé la nature commune. Ne ressentir, en ses derniers instants, aucun sentiment d’étrangeté à la perspective de la mort et ne pas craindre de quitter cette vie, mais méditer jusqu’à son dernier souffle, avec une sublime intelligence, sur ce qui dès le début avait fait l’objet de son choix touchant la vie d’ici-bas, cela me paraissait ne plus faire partie des réalités humaines. C’était plutôt comme si un ange avait pris providentiellement une forme humaine, un ange sans aucune attache avec la vie dans la chair, aucune affinité avec elle, dont il n’était pas surprenant que la pensée demeurât dans l’impassibilité, puisque la chair ne l’entraînait pas vers ses passions propres. Aussi elle me semblait manifester avec évidence, aux yeux de tous ceux qui étaient alors présents, ce divin et pur amour de l’époux invisible qu’elle nourrissait secrètement au plus intime de son âme et publier le désir qui animait son cœur de se hâter vers son bien-aimé, pour être au plus tôt avec lui, une fois libérée des liens de son corps. En vérité, c’est vers son amant que se dirigeait sa course, sans qu’aucun des plaisirs de la vie ne détourne à son profit son attention.

La dernière prière de Macrine

23. Du jour déjà s’était écoulée la plus grande part, et le soleil s’inclinait vers le couchant. Sa ferveur pourtant ne fléchissait pas, mais plus elle approchait du départ, plus violente était sa hâte d’aller vers son bien-aimé, comme si elle contemplait davantage la beauté de l’époux. Elle ne s’adressait plus à nous qui étions présents, mais à celui-là seul vers lequel elle tenait les yeux incessamment fixés. On avait en effet tourné sa couche vers l’Orient, et elle avait cessé de nous parler pour ne plus converser qu’avec Dieu dans la prière ; elle tendait vers lui ses mains suppliantes et murmurait d’une voix faible, en sorte que nous pouvions à peine entendre ses paroles. Je cite ici sa prière, pour que l’on ne puisse pas même douter qu’elle se trouvait auprès de Dieu et était entendue de lui. Elle disait :

24. " C’est toi, Seigneur, qui as abrogé pour nous la crainte de la mort. C’est toi qui as fait pour nous, du terme de la vie d’ici-bas, le commencement de la vie véritable.

C’est toi qui pour un temps laisses se reposer nos corps par une dormition, et qui les réveilles à nouveau ‘au son de la dernière trompette’.

C’est toi qui à la terre donnes en dépôt notre terre, celle que tu as façonnée de tes mains, et qui fais revivre à nouveau ce que tu lui as donné, en transformant par l’immortalité et la beauté ce qui en nous est mortel et difforme.

C’est toi qui nous as arrachés à la malédiction et au péché, en devenant pour nous l’un et l’autre.

C’est toi qui as brisé les têtes du dragon, lui qui avait saisi l’homme dans sa gueule en l’entraînant au travers du gouffre de la désobéissance.

C’est toi qui nous as ouvert la route de la résurrection, après avoir brisé les portes de l’enfer, et, ‘réduit à l’impuissance celui qui régnait sur la mort’.

‘C’est toi qui à ceux qui te craignent as donné pour emblème’ le signe de la sainte Croix, pour anéantir l’Adversaire et donner la sécurité à nos vies.

Dieu éternel, ‘vers qui je me suis élancée dès le sein de ma mère’, ‘toi que mon âme a aimé’ de toute sa force, à qui j’ai consacré ma chair et mon âme depuis ma jeunesse et jusqu’en cet instant, mets auprès de moi un ange lumineux qui me conduise par la main au lieu du rafraîchissement, là où se trouve ‘l’eau du repos’, dans le sein des saints patriarches.

Toi qui as brisé la flamme de l’épée de feu et rendu au paradis l’homme crucifié avec toi et qui s’était confié à ta miséricorde, de moi aussi ‘souviens-toi dans ton royaume’ car moi aussi j’ai été crucifiée avec toi, moi ‘qui ai cloué ma chair par ta crainte et qui ai craint tes jugements’.

Que l’abîme effrayant ne me sépare pas de tes élus.

Que le Jaloux ne se dresse pas contre moi sur mon chemin, et que mon péché ne soit pas découvert devant tes yeux si, pour avoir été trompée par la faiblesse de notre nature, ai péché en parole, en acte ou en pensée.

Toi qui as sur la terre le pouvoir de remettre les péchés, ‘fais m’en remise, afin que je reprenne haleine’, et ‘qu’une fois dépouillée de mon corps’, je sois trouvée devant ta face ‘sans tache et sans ride’ dans la figure de mon âme, mais que mon âme entre tes mains soit accueillie, irréprochable et immaculée, ‘comme un encens devant ta face’. "

Sainte Grégoire de Nysse, Vie de sainte Macrine, Cerf, 1995. 

Le texte complet est disponible au site

Tropaire de sainte Macrine (ton 8)

L’amour de la sagesse ayant donné des ailes à ton esprit, sagement tu t’élevas au-dessus des mondaines voluptés et tu fus la charmante demeure du savoir divin ; toi qui, par l’ascèse et la perfection des vertus, devins une illustre épouse du Sauveur, prie-le pour qui te chante : Réjouis-toi, Macrine, sainte porteuse du Seigneur notre Dieu.

Kondakion de sainte Macrine (ton 4)

Tu as aimé de tout ton cœur, vénérable Macrine, le Dieu de bonté et, prenant sur tes épaules sa croix, avec amour tu l’as suivi pour trouver la rémission des péchés.


Saint Macrina the Younger


19 July


Daughter of Saint Emmelia and Saint Basil the Elder; sister of Saint Basil the GreatSaint Gregory of Nyssa, and Saint Peter of Sebastea; granddaughter of Saint Macrina the Elder, and called the Younger to distinguish between the two. Educated by her mother, she could read from an early age. Betrothed at age twelve to a young lawyer who died before the wedding. She refused other offers of marriage, and devoted herself to her family, then to a religious life. Nun. Succeeded her mother as head of a small community of women in Pontus (part of modern Turkey). Her biography and reminicenses of her were written by her brother Saint Gregory.


c.327 at CaesareaCappadocia (in modern Turkey)


379 at Pontus (in modern Turkey) of natural causes



Additional Information

Book of Saints, by the Monks of Ramsgate

Catholic Encyclopedia

Life of Saint Macrina, by Saint Gregory of Nyssa

Lives of the Saints, by Father Alban Butler

Saints of the Day, by Katherine Rabenstein

Virgin Saints and Martyrs, by Sabine Baring-Gould


Our Sunday Visitor’s Encyclopedia of Saints

other sites in english

All Saints and Martyrs

Catholic Fire

Catholic Ireland

Regina Magazine

Saint Peter’s Basilica Info

Saints Stories for All Ages


The Life of Saint Macrina, by Saint Gregory of Nyssa – audiobook


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Life of Saint Macrina, by Saint Gregory of Nyssa (audiobook, read by Maria Lectrix)

sitios en español

Martirologio Romano2001 edición

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Santi e Beati

MLA Citation

“Saint Macrina the Younger“. CatholicSaints.Info. 3 July 2021. Web. 14 January 2022. <>


St. Macrina the Younger

Born about 330; died 379. She was the eldest child of Basil and Elder Emmelia, the granddaughter of St. Macrina the Elder, and the sister of the Cappadocian Fathers, Sts. Basil and Gregory of Nyssa. The last-mentioned has left us a biography of his sister in the form of a panegyric ("Vita Macrinae Junioris" in PG XLVI, 960 sq.). She received an excellent intellectual training, though one based more on the study of the Holy Bible than on that of profane literature. When she was but twelve years old, her father had already arranged a marriage for her with a young advocate of excellent family. Soon afterwards, however, her affianced husband died suddenly, and Macrina resolved to devote herself to a life of perpetual virginity and the pursuit of Christian perfection. She exercised great influence over the religious training of her younger brothers, especially St. Peter, afterwards Bishop of Sebaste, and through her St. Gregory received the greatest intellectual stimulation. On the death of their father, Basil took her, with their mother, to a family estate on the River Iris, in Pontus. Here, with their servants and other companions, they led a life of retirement, consecrating themselves to God. Strict asceticismzealous meditation on the truths of Christanity, and prayer were the chief concerns of this community. Not only the brothers of St. Macrina but also St. Gregory of Nazianzus and Eustathius of Sebaste were associated with this pious circle and were there stimulated to make still further advances towards Christian perfection. After the death her mother Emmelia, Macrina became the head of this community, in which the fruit of the earnest christian life matured so gloriously. On his return from a synod of Antioch, towards the end of 379, Gregory of Nyssa visited his deeply venerated sister, and found her grievously ill. In pious discourse the brother and sister spoke of the life beyond and of the meeting in heaven. Soon afterwards Macrina passed blissfully to her reward. Gregory composed a "Dialogue on the Soul and Resurrection" (peri psyches kai anastaseos), treating of his pious discourse with his dying sister. In this, Macrina appears as teacher, and treats of the soul, death, the resurrection, and the restoration of all things. Hence the title of the work, ta Makrinia (P.G. XLVI, 12 sq.). Her feast is celebrated on 19 July.

Kirsch, Johann Peter. "St. Macrina the Younger." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 28 Jul. 2020 <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Joseph P. Thomas. Dedicated to Sylvia Genereux.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

Copyright © 2020 by Kevin Knight. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.


July 19

St. Macrina, Virgin

SHE was the eldest of all the ten children of St. Basil the elder, and St. Emmelia; and being trained up in excellent sentiments of piety, after the death of her father, consecrated her virginity by vow to God, and was a great assistant to her mother in educating her younger brothers and sisters. St. Basil the Great, St. Peter of Sebaste, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and the rest, learned from her their early contempt of the world, dread of its dangers, and application to prayer and the word of God. When they were sent abroad for their improvement, Macrina induced her mother to concur with her in founding two monasteries, one for men, the other for women, at a little distance from each other, on their own estate, near Ibora in Pontus. That of men was first governed by St. Basil, afterwards by St. Peter. Macrina drew up the rules for the nunnery with admirable prudence and piety, and established in it the love and spirit of the most universal poverty, and disengagement from the world, mortification, humility, assiduous prayer, and singing of psalms. God was pleased to afflict her with a most painful cancer: which at length her mother cured by making, at her request, the sign of the cross upon the sore; only a black spot remained ever after upon the part that had been affected.

After the death of St. Emmelia, Macrina disposed of all that was left of their estate in favour of the poor, and lived herself, like the rest of the nuns, on what she earned by the labour of her hands. Her brother Basil died in the beginning of the year 379, and she herself fell ill eleven months after. St. Gregory of Nyssa making her a visit, after eight years’ absence, found her sick of a raging fever, lying on two boards, one of which served for her bed, and the other for her pillow. He was exceedingly comforted by her pious discourses, and animated by the fervour and ardent sighs of divine love and penance, by which she prepared herself for her last hour. She calmly expired, after having armed herself with the sign of the cross. Such was the poverty of the house that nothing was found to cover her corpse when it was carried to the grave, but her old hood and coarse veil; but St. Gregory threw over it his episcopal cloak. She had worn about her neck a fillet, on which hung an iron cross and a ring. St. Gregory gave the cross to a nun named Vestiana, but kept himself the ring, in which the metal was hollow, and contained in it a particle of the true cross. Araxus, bishop of the place, and St. Gregory led up the funeral procession, which consisted of the clergy, the monks, and nuns, in two separate choirs. The whole company walked singing psalms, with torches in their hands. The holy remains were conveyed to the church of the Forty Martyrs, a mile distant from the monastery, and were deposited in the same vault with the saint’s mother. Prayers were offered up for them both. St. Macrina died in December, 379; but is commemorated by the Latins and Greeks on the 19th of July. This account is given us by St. Gregory of Nyssa, in the funeral discourse he made upon her, t. 2, p. 149; add the remarks of F. Bosch, the Bollandist, t. 4, Julij, p. 589.

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume VII: July.The Lives of the Saints.  1866.


The Life and Influence of our Holy Mother Macrina 

 Mother Valentina Hadarau, OSBM

The Historical Context

Speaking today about St. Macrina is like searching through the expanses of history in order to discover the beauty of a vocation, the holiness of a woman and the wisdom of a virgin.

In general, women carry within themselves a measure of eternity, the capacity to be with God and to be like God through their being and actions. They always carry within themselves—in their souls and bodies—the principle of love, i.e., an openness to others.

During St. Macrina’s era women constituted for Christianity a great problem in need of resolution, since many women—especially many of the great female figures within paganism—were examples of corrupt behavior in the eyes of the faithful.[1] In the worldviews of the Jews, Romans and Greeks, women were considered to be less than men. Thus, at this particular point in history, it was necessary to redefine a woman’s dignity and determine her role in society and the Church. It is at this moment, the great personage of St. Macrina appears, a woman of excellence, who stood above the rest.[2]

The historical period in which St. Macrina lived was simultaneously marked by various controversies and by the spread of monasticism, which was a visible sign of the Christian religion and a witness to God.

Therefore, it is interesting to penetrate her world, its culture and daily life, searching for its deeper meaning and nuances in order to draw closer to the great spirituality of her time.


The Life of St. Macrina was the first ever biography written about a woman. Her brother, St. Gregory of Nyssa, narrated his sister’s life and gave important testimony to the existence of female monasticism.[3]

Macrina (the Younger) was the eldest child of Emmelia and Basil (the Elder). She was born c. 329 and died in 380.

Her mother chose the name Macrina, despite the fact that “when the due time came for her pangs to be ended by delivery, she fell asleep and seemed to be carrying in her hands that which was still in her womb. And someone in form and raiment more splendid than a human being appeared and addressed the child she was carrying by the name of Thecla, that Thecla, I mean, who is so famous among the virgins.”[4] St. Thecla was a model of virginity and was held in high repute among female monastics.

Little Macrina grew up in her mother’s protective embrace. As she grew, her natural talents became ever more evident. She developed them according to the will of her parents, clearly demonstrating a close relationship between mother and daughter, which carried into their shared view of religious life.

Her mother’s effort to educate her was not according to the secular curriculum of the then pagan culture, but rather based upon Scripture passages easily comprehensible to a young girl. Many times a day she prayed the psalms.

As the eldest daughter, Macrina helped her mother raise her younger brothers and sisters, spin wool and bake bread. By the time Macrina reached the age of twelve—the age of maturity in the East—she was so beautiful that even a painter’s hands could not do justice to her comeliness. [5]

The fame of her beauty spread throughout the land and a great number of suitors seeking her hand in marriage crowded round her parents. Macrina’s father chose for her a young man of good birth and remarkable steadiness, and decided to betroth his daughter to him.[6]

The man, however, suddenly died. This reinforced Macrina’s decision to remain a virgin for the rest of her life. Her parents sought to convince her to marry, but she remained steadfast in her conviction. She continued to care for her soul. Her main occupations were religious duties and prayer.

When St. Basil and his brother St. Gregory began their ascetic experience near the river Iris, they often spoke on the theological themes. St. Macrina also took part in these discussions.

Macrina converted her house into a place of prayer and asceticism. She gathered round herself other devout woman and even servants, treating them as sisters, who belonged to the same rank. Later, her mother joined them. It was the first community. In their communal life, they held all things in common: the conditions of life, food, clothing and dignity.

During the famine, which effected Cappadocia during this period, Macrina fed the poor with extraordinary generosity and love.

An incurable disease affected Macrina’s fragile body. Not wanting to see a doctor, Macrina came to the church and spent the night in prayer and tears, imploring the Lord for healing. After praying with great faith, she took clay, formed by a mixture of dust and tears, and smearing the sore spot on her chest—she was healed.

The community formed by St. Macrina in Anessi consisted mainly of virgins and widows. They had no specific rule to guide them in their chosen life. So Macrina, who was a wise woman, followed the inspiration of the Rules of St. Pachomius and St. Basil. The sisters of the community loved Macrina very much and held her to be an example of perfection.

The basic rule of life was prayer and communal labour. The nuns meditated on Scripture, from which they drew immense joy.

The life of these pious virgins was incessant prayer. Prayer accompanied every labour. It was a community that understood its identity and lived coherently the life to which they were consecrated. These women took pride in their temperance;  their glory was a hidden life; and their wealth, poverty.

The life of St. Macrina was conducted in silence and prayer, in work and charity, constantly growing in the way of perfection.

Her illness and death was made known to her brother Gregory in a dream. He decided to visit his sister and during the long journey, she appeared to him in a vision, which repeated itself three times that the night. Gregory dreamed that he was carrying relics of the martyrs. Arriving at the monastery, Gregory found his sister very ill. She was lying on the floor, a sack had been spread on a board, and another board propped up her head, acting as a pillow

Macrina asked her brother to rest after the toil of his journey, but he said that for him great and genuine rest was to see her and hear her noble words.[7]

Thus Gregory received the interpretation of his vision: “For the image I had seen was indeed true –the relics of a holy martyr which had been dead in sin, but now were resplendent with the indwelling power of the Spirit.”[8]

When they, in a dejected state, were expecting sad tidings, Macrina encouraged them to be of good cheer and to cherish better hopes, for she was already looking “to the prize of her heavenly calling.”

The Influence of St. Macrina on Her Brother Basil and Mother Emmelia

After Basil the Great returned from his long period of university studies, Macrina saw that he had become puffed up beyond measure in his capacity as a rhetorician.

Macrina —with much wisdom— soon drew Basil to the ideal of a Christian life. He renounced the glories of this world and despised all fame gained through rhetoric. He chose a life of labouring with one’s own hands, in a spirit of poverty.[9]

Macrina acted as a spiritual guide to Basil, aiding in his conversion.

Macrina persuaded her mother also to leave her familiar life and the services of domestics, to which she had been accustomed, and embrace a life in conformity with that of the virgins.[10]

After Emmelia renounced her old ways, Macrina lead her mother to share in a life of humility, treating all her slave girls and menials as sisters, belonging to the same order of virgins.

In her hour of death, Emmelia blessed her children, touching them with her hands and uttering prayers.[11] She ended her life in prayer together with them.

The Virtues of St.Macrina

Saint Macrina was a companion in life, work, communion, charity and responsibility.

In her likeness to God, Macrina became a sign of God’s love for man, a sign of the wholeness found in the mystery of communion. Her natural disposition to be open and give herself to others helped in her walk towards the perfection of Christian charity and the total donation of herself to God.

Her moral and spiritual powers were united to a keen awareness that God gives Himself to man in a special way. She became strong in the knowledge of her mission —to become an indispensable support and a source of spiritual strength for others, who drew from her great energies of spirit.

In God’s eternal dispensation, St. Macrina is the one in whom the order of love of neighbour, in the created world, found ground from which to send forth its rays so that the love of God could reach the hearts of others.

On account of Macrina’s strength of character, wisdom and love, she was able to re-evaluate and stabilize the identity, capacities and virtues of the feminine world.

Macrina acquired virtues deemed masculine [by Greek culture], such as  patience and courage under the guidance of reason, which prevailed in her. She was compared to the angels, because she exceeded “common human nature.”

Macrina was called an athlete of Christ. At the death of her brother Basil, she was invincible. This was the test of her mettle. Through various accessions of suffering, her magnanimous soul was put to the test, proving her sincerity and endurance.[12]

“And just as we learn in the story of Job that the saint did not allow the pain of learning about the death of his children to affect his reasoning power; likewise, the dying Macrina was a model of patience, suffering great physical pain.”[13]

Another example given by her brother Gregory is truly worthy of attention. At the death of her brother Naucratius, Macrina remained strong and was her mother’s greatest support, encouraging Emmelia towards heroic virtue. It is here the virtue of the great Macrina was displayed, for she too felt deeply the pain of her brother’s death.

In all three trials —the death of her mother and her two brothers, Naucratius and Basil—Macrina did not break and she overcame her human weaknesses.

When it came to the inheritance, Macrina kept nothing for herself. After the equal division between brothers and sisters, her share was given over to a priest to be administered.

When Gregory spoke of his own troubles to Macrina — his exile at the hands of the Emperor Valens on account of the faith, she exhorted him to stop behaving in a way incongruent to the divine mysteries.

Approaching her end, with a fever consuming her forces and pushing her ever closer to death, Macrina maintained her freedom of spirit, contemplating higher truths.

On her deathbed, she spoke to those present —among whom was her brother Gregory— on the Christian perspective of why man is born mortal, and from whence comes death and liberation from death.

Gregory marvelled that even in the final moments of her life, Macrina did not show any emotion in anticipation of her death, nor was she afraid of the imminent separation from this life, but philosophized to her last breath about every decision taken from the beginning of her earthly life.

Gregory described her behaviour as that of an angel, a human form penetrated by divine dispositions.


With such great wealth of testimony on the life of St. Macrina, I would like to focus on today’s reality. We live in a paradoxical situation. Millions of people are looking for the deeper meaning of life and human existence, while —at the same time— the dominant culture rejects faith as a source. The tendencies that place our communities at risk are:

–       secularization

–       professionalism

–       living the consecrated life in a superficial manner

In order to resist these temptations, we must deepen our vocation by going back to our sources – the virtuous and holy lives of our father Basil and our mother St. Macrina, who in their wisdom and open heartedness, and consciousness of their identity, knew how to face the problems of the Church and contemporary society.

Following the example of our mother Macrina, we are called to live in a community grounded in the Fatherhood of God (Jn 20, 17). We are brothers and sisters, in as much as we are children of the same Father, in the Son, through the Holy Spirit. We are a community, where all members share an equal dignity (Matthew 23, 8) and where authority is a ministry of service. We are a community of those who do the will of the Father (Mk 3, 33-35) and where the words spoken by Mary are constantly repeated, “Whatever he tells you – do!” (John 2, 5). We are an universal community, open to God’s poor and small people, the anawim, following the example of St. Macrina, since they are icons of Christ (Matt. 25. 40).

The life of the Church, in general, and consecrated life, in particular, always faced major challenges, which had no analogues in history. The post-Christian, post-modern world does not understand the language we are speaking. A new generation is looking for spiritual comfort. There is a need for a radical rethinking of our lives. We must return to the profound traditions of our spiritual and moral lives. We must return to the vertical dimension of the consecrated life, both contemplative and eschatological, which is founded upon the Gospel. We must recover a true monasticism within our communities and in the heart of our local churches. Monasticism is an example of the true Church and Eucharistic life. A return to monasticism will be possible only when we return to the authentic sources of our theology and spirituality — as found in in God’s Word and the Eucharist.

[1] Cf. St. Gregory of Nyssa, Vita di s. Macrina (Life of St. Macrina), ed. Paolina Milano, 1988, 14.

[2] Ibid., 31.

[3] Ibid., 26.

[4] Ibid., 84-85.

[5] Ibid., 88.

[6] Ibid., 89.

[7] Ibid., 117.

[8] Ibid., 117.

[9] Ibid., 94.

[10] Ibid., 95.

[11] Ibid., 126.

[12] Ibid., 109.

[13] Ibid., 46.


Gregory of Nyssa, Life of St. Macrina 



THE form of this volume, if one may judge from its heading, is apparently epistolary, but its bulk exceeds that of a letter, extending as it does to the length of a book. My apology must be that the subject on which you bade me write is greater than can be compressed within the limits of a letter.

I am sure you do not forget our meeting, when, on my way to Jerusalem in pursuance of a vow, in order to sec the relics of the Lord's sojourning in the flesh on the actual spots,1 I ran across you in the city of Antioch; and you must remember all the different talks we enjoyed, for it was not likely that our meeting would be a silent one, when your wit provided so many subjects for conversation. As often happens at such times, the |18 [960B] talk flowed on until we came to discuss the life of some famous person. In this case it was a woman who provided us with our subject; if indeed she should be styled woman, for I do not know whether it is fitting to designate her by her sex, who so surpassed her sex. Our account of her was not based on the narrative of others, but our talk was an accurate description of what we had learned by personal experience, nor did it need to be authenticated by strangers. Nor even was the virgin referred to unknown to our family circle, to make it necessary to learn the wonders of her life through others, but she came from the same parents as ourselves, being, so to speak, an offering of first-fruits, since she was the earliest born of my mother's womb. As then you have decided that the story of her noble career is worth telling, to prevent such a life being unknown to our time, and the record of a woman who raised [960C] herself by "philosophy" 2 to the greatest |19 height of human virtue passing into the shades of useless oblivion, I thought it well to obey you, and in a few words, as best I can, to tell her story in unstudied and simple style.


The virgin's name was Macrina; she was so called by her parents after a famous Macrina some time before in the family, our father's mother, who had confessed Christ [962A] like a good athlete in the time of the persecutions. This indeed was her name to the outside world, the one used by her friends. But another name had been given her privately, as the result of a vision before she was born into the world. For indeed her mother was so virtuous that she was guided |20 on all occasions by the divine will. In particular she loved the pure and unstained mode of life so much that she was unwilling to be married. But since she had lost both her parents, and was in the very flower of her youthful beauty, and the fame of her good looks was attracting many suitors, and there was a danger that, if she were not mated to some one willingly, she might suffer some [962B] unwished-for violent fate, seeing that some men, inflamed by her beauty, were ready to abduct her----on this account she chose for her husband a man who was known and approved for the gravity of his conduct, and so gained a protector of her life.


At her first confinement she became the mother of Macrina. When the due time came for her pangs to be ended by delivery, she fell asleep and seemed to be carrying in her hands that which was still in her womb. And some one in form and raiment more splendid than a human being appeared and |21 addressed the child she was carrying by the name of Thecla, that Thecla, I mean, who is so famous among the virgins.3 After doing this and testifying to it three times, he departed from her sight and gave her easy delivery, so that at that moment she awoke from sleep and saw her dream realised. Now this name was used only in secret. But it [962C] seems to me that the apparition spoke not so much to guide the mother to a right choice of name, as to forecast the life of the young child, and to indicate by the name that she would follow her namesake's mode of life.


Well, the child was reared. Although she had her own nurse, yet as a rule her mother did the nursing with her own hands. After passing the stage of infancy, she showed herself apt in acquiring childish |22 accomplishments, and her natural powers were shown in every study to which her parents' judgment directed her. The education of the child was her mother's task; she did not, however, employ the usual worldly method of education, which makes a practice of using poetry as a [962D] means of training the early years of the child. For she considered it disgraceful and quite unsuitable, that a tender and plastic nature should be taught either those tragic passions of womanhood which afforded poets their suggestions and plots, or the indecencies of comedy, to be, so to speak, denied with unseemly tales of "the harem." But such parts of inspired Scripture as you would think were incomprehensible to young children were the subject of the girl's studies; in particular the Wisdom of Solomon, and those parts of it especially which have an ethical bearing. Nor was she ignorant of any part of the Psalter, but at stated times she recited every part of it. When she rose from bed, or engaged in household duties, or rested, [964A] or partook of food, or retired from table, when |23 she went to bed or rose in the night for prayer, the Psalter was her constant companion, like a good fellow-traveller that never deserted her.


Filling her time with these and the like occupations, and attaining besides a considerable proficiency in wool-work, the growing girl reached her twelfth year, the age when the bloom of adolescence begins to appear. In which connection it is noteworthy that the girl's beauty could not be concealed in spite of efforts to hide it. Nor in all the countryside, so it seems, was there anything so marvellous as her beauty in comparison with that of others. So fair was she that even painters' hands could not do justice to her [964B] comeliness; the art that contrives all things and essays the greatest tasks, so as even to model in imitation the figures of the heavenly bodies, could not accurately reproduce the loveliness of her form. In consequence a great swarm of suitors seeking her in marriage crowded round her parents. But her father----|24 a shrewd man with a reputation for forming right decisions----picked out from the rest a young man related to the family, who was just leaving school, of good birth and remarkable steadiness, and decided to betroth his daughter to him, as soon as she was old enough. Meantime he aroused great hopes, and he offered to his future father-in-law his fame in public speaking, as it were one of the bridegroom's gifts; for he displayed the [964C] power of his eloquence in forensic contests on behalf of the wronged.


But Envy cut off these bright hopes by snatching away the poor lad from life. Now Macrina was not ignorant of her "father's schemes. But when the plan formed for her was shattered by the young man's death, she said her father's intention was equivalent to a marriage, and resolved to remain single henceforward, just as if the intention had become accomplished fact. And indeed her determination was more steadfast than could |25 have been expected from her age. For when her parents brought proposals of marriage to her, as often happened owing to the number of suitors that came attracted by the fame of her beauty, she would say that it was absurd and unlawful not to be faithful to the marriage that had been arranged for her by her father, but to be compelled to consider another; since in the nature of things there was but one marriage, as there is one birth and one death. She persisted that the man who had been linked to her by her [964D] parents' arrangement was not dead, but that she considered him who lived to God, thanks to the hope of the resurrection, to be absent only, not dead; it was wrong not to keep faith with the bridegroom who was away.


With such words repelling those who tried to talk her over, she settled on one safeguard of her good resolution, in a resolve not to be separated from her mother even for a moment |26 of time. So that her mother would often say that she had carried the rest of her children in her womb for a definite time, but that Macrina she bore always, since in a sense she ever carried her about. But the daughter's companionship was not a burden to her mother, nor profitless. For the attentions received from her daughter were worth those [966A] of many maidservants, and the benefits were mutual. For the mother looked after the girl's soul, and the girl looked after her mother's body, and in all respects fulfilled the required services, even going so far as to prepare meals for her mother with her own hands. Not that she made this her chief business. But after she had anointed her hands by the performance of religious duties---- for she deemed that zeal for this was consistent with the principles of her life----in the time that was left she prepared food for her mother by her own toil. And not only this, but she helped her mother to bear her burden of responsibilities. For she had four sons and five daughters, and paid taxes to three different governors, since her property was |27 scattered in as many districts. [966 B] In consequence her mother was distracted with various anxieties, for her father had by this time departed this life. In all these matters she shared her mother's toils, dividing her cares with her, and lightening her heavy load of sorrows. At one and the same time, thanks to her mother's guardianship, she was keeping her own life blameless, so that her mother's eye both directed and witnessed all she did; and also by her own life she instructed her mother greatly, leading her to the same mark, that of philosophy I mean, and gradually drawing her on to the immaterial and more perfect life.


When the mother had arranged excellent marriages for the other sisters, such as was best in each case, Macrina's brother, the great Basil, returned after his long period of [966C] education, already a practised rhetorician. He was puffed up beyond measure with the pride of oratory and looked down on the |28 local dignitaries, excelling in his own estimation all the men of leading and position. Nevertheless Macrina took him in hand, and with such speed did she draw him also toward the mark of philosophy that he forsook the glories of this world and despised fame gained by speaking, and deserted it for this busy life where one toils with one's hands. His renunciation of property was complete, lest anything should impede the life of virtue. But, indeed, his life and the subsequent acts, by which he became renowned throughout the world and put into the shade all those who have won renown for their virtue, would [966D] need a long description and much time. But I must divert my tale to its appointed task.

Now that all the distractions of the material life had been removed, Macrina persuaded her mother to give up her ordinary life and all showy style of living and the services of domestics to which she had been accustomed before, and bring her point of view down to that of the masses, and to share the life of the maids, treating all her slave girls and menials |29 as if they were sisters and belonged to the same rank as herself.

But at this point I should like to insert a short parenthesis in my narrative and not to pass over unrelated such a matter as the following, in which the lofty character of the maiden is displayed.


The second of the four brothers, Naucratius by name, who came next after the great Basil, excelled the rest in natural endowments and physical beauty, in strength, speed and ability to turn his hand to anything. When [968A] he had reached his twenty-first year, and had given such demonstration of his studies by speaking in public, that the whole audience in the theatre was thrilled, he was led by a divine providence to despise all that was already in his grasp, and drawn by an irresistible impulse went off to a life of solitude and poverty. He took nothing with him but himself, save that one of the servants named Chrysapius followed him, because of the |30 affection he had towards his master and the intention he had formed to lead the same life. So he lived by himself, having found a solitary spot on the banks of the Iris----a river flowing through the midst of Pontus. It rises actually in Armenia, passes through our parts, and discharges its stream into the [968 B] Black Sea. By it the young man found a place with a luxuriant growth of trees and a hill nestling under the mass of the overhanging mountain. There he lived far removed from the noises of the city and the distractions that surround the lives both of the soldier and the pleader in the law courts. Having thus freed himself from the din of cares that impedes man's higher life, with his own hands he looked after some old people who were living in poverty and feebleness, considering it appropriate to his mode of life to make such a work his care. So the generous youth would go on fishing expeditions, and since he was expert in every form of sport, he provided food to his grateful clients by this means. And at the same time by such exercises he was taming his own manhood. |31 Besides this, he also gladly obeyed his mother's wishes whenever she issued a command. And so in these two ways he guided his life, [968 C] subduing his youthful nature by toils and caring assiduously for his mother, and thus keeping the divine commands he was travelling home to God.

In this manner he completed the fifth year of his life as a philosopher, by which he made his mother happy, both by the way in which he adorned his own life by continence, and by the devotion of all his powers to do the will of her that bore him.


Then there fell on the mother a grievous and tragic affliction, contrived, I think, by the Adversary, which brought trouble and mourning upon all the family. For he was snatched suddenly away from life. No previous sickness had prepared them for the blow, nor did any of the usual and well-known mischances bring death upon the young man. [968D] Having started out on one of the expeditions, |32 by which he provided necessaries for the old men under his care, he was brought back home dead, together with Chrysapius who shared his life. His mother was far away, three days distant from the scene of the tragedy. Some one came to her telling the bad news. Perfect though she was in every department of virtue, yet nature dominated her as it does others. For she collapsed, and in a moment lost both breath and speech, since her reason failed her under the disaster, and she was thrown to the ground by the assault of the evil tidings, like some noble athlete hit by an unexpected blow.


And now the virtue of the great Macrina was displayed. Facing the disaster in a [970A] rational spirit, she both preserved herself from collapse, and becoming the prop of her mother's weakness, raised her up from the abyss of grief, and by her own steadfastness and imperturbability taught her mother's soul to be brave. In consequence, her mother |33 was not overwhelmed by the affliction, nor did she behave in any ignoble and womanish way, so as to cry out at the calamity, or tear her dress, or lament over the trouble, or strike up funeral chants with mournful melodies. On the contrary she resisted the impulses of nature, and quieted herself both by such reflections as occurred to her spontaneously, and those that were applied by her daughter to cure the ill. For then was the nobility of Macrina's soul most of all conspicuous; since [970B] natural affection was making her suffer as well. For it was a brother, and a favourite brother, who had been snatched away by such a manner of death. Nevertheless, conquering nature, she so sustained her mother by her arguments that she, too, rose superior to her sorrow. Besides which, the moral elevation always maintained by Macrina's life gave her mother the opportunity of rejoicing over the blessings she enjoyed rather than grieving over those that were missing. |34 


When the cares of bringing up a family and the anxieties of their education and settling in life had come to an end, and the property----a frequent cause of worldliness---- had been for the most part divided among the children, then, as I said above, the life of the virgin became her mother's guide and led her on to this philosophic and spiritual [970C] manner of life. And weaning her from all accustomed luxuries, Macrina drew her on to adopt her own standard of humility. She induced her to live on a footing of equality with the staff of maids, so as to share with them in the same food, the same kind of bed, and in all the necessaries of life, without any regard to differences of rank. Such was the manner of their life, so great the height of their philosophy, and so holy their conduct day and night, as to make verbal description inadequate. For just as souls freed from the body by death are saved from the cares of this life, so was their life far removed from |35 all earthly follies and ordered with a view of imitating the angelic life. For no anger or [970D] jealousy, no hatred or pride, was observed in their midst, nor anything else of this nature, since they had cast away all vain desires for honour and glory, all vanity, arrogance and the like. Continence was their luxury, and obscurity their glory. Poverty, and the casting away of all material superfluities like dust from their bodies, was their wealth. In fact, of all the things after which men eagerly pursue in this life, there were none with which they could not easily dispense.5 Nothing was left but the care of divine things and the unceasing round of prayer and endless hymnody, co-extensive with time itself, practised by night and day. So that to them this meant work, and work so called was rest. What human words could make you [972A] realise such a life as this, a life on the borderline between human and spiritual nature? For that nature should be free from human weaknesses is more than can be expected |36 from mankind. But these women fell short of the angelic and immaterial nature only in so far as they appeared in bodily form, and were contained within a human frame, and were dependent upon the organs of sense. Perhaps some might even dare to say that the difference was not to their disadvantage. Since living in the body and yet after the likeness of the immaterial beings, they were not bowed down by the weight of the body, but their life was exalted to the skies and [972B] they walked on high in company with the powers of heaven.

The period covered by this mode of life was no short one, and with the lapse of time their successes increased, as their philosophy continually grew purer with the discovery of new blessings.


Macrina was helped most of all in achieving this great aim of her life by her own brother Peter. With him the mother's pangs ceased, for he was the latest born of the family. At |37 one and the same time he received the names of son and orphan, for as he entered this life his father passed away from it. But the eldest of the family, the subject of our story, took him soon after birth from the nurse's breast and reared him herself and educated [972C] him on a lofty system of training, practising him from infancy in holy studies, so as not to give his soul leisure to turn to vain things. Thus having become all things to the lad---- father, teacher, tutor, mother, giver of all good advice----she produced such results that before the age of boyhood had passed, when he was yet a stripling in the first bloom of tender youth, he aspired to the high mark of philosophy. And, thanks to his natural endowments, he was clever in every art that involves hand-work, so that without any guidance he achieved a completely accurate knowledge of everything that ordinary people learn by time and trouble. Scorning to occupy [972D] his time with worldly studies, and having in nature a sufficient instructor in all good knowledge, and always looking to his sister as the model of all good, he advanced to such |38  a height of virtue that in his subsequent life he seemed in no whit inferior to the great Basil. But at this time he was all in all to his sister and mother, co-operating with them in the pursuit of the angelic life. Once when a severe famine had occurred and crowds from all quarters were frequenting the retreat where they lived, drawn by the fame of their benevolence, Peter's kindness supplied such an abundance of food that the desert seemed a city by reason of the number of visitors.


[974A] It was about this time that the mother died, honoured by all, and went to God, yielding up her life in the arms of her two children. It is worth while to give the words of blessing which she used over her children, mentioning each of the absent ones in loving remembrance, so that no single one was deprived of the blessing, and commending especially to God in her prayers those who were present with her.

For as these two sat by her on each side of |39 the bed, she touched them with her hands, and uttered these prayers to God with her dying words----

"To Thee, O Lord, I give the fruit of my womb as both first-fruits and tenths. For this my eldest is the first-fruits and this my last-born is the tenth. Each is sanctified to Thee by the Law, and they are votive offerings to Thee. Therefore let Thy sanctification [974B] descend on this my first and this my tenth."

As she spoke she indicated by gestures her daughter and son. Then, having ceased to bless, she ceased to live, having first bidden her children lay her body in their father's grave. But they, having fulfilled the command, clave to philosophy with still loftier resolve, even striving against their own life and eclipsing their previous record by their subsequent successes.


Meanwhile Basil, the famous saint, had been elected bishop 1 of the great church of Caesarea. |40 He advanced Peter to the sacred order of the priesthood, consecrating him in person with mystic ceremonial. And in this way a further advance in the direction of dignity [974C] and sanctity was made in their life, now that philosophy was enriched by the priesthood.

Eight years after this, the world-renowned Basil departed from men to live with God, to the common grief of his native land and the whole world. Now when Macrina heard the news of the calamity in her distant retreat, she was distressed indeed in soul at so great a loss----for how could she not be distressed at a calamity, which was felt even by the enemies of the truth?----but just as they say that the testing of gold takes place in several furnaces, so that if any impurity escapes the first furnace, it may be separated in the second, and again in the last one all admixture of dross may be purged away----consequently it is the most accurate testing of pure gold if having gone through every furnace it shows no refuse. So it happened also in her case. When her noble character had been tested by these different accessions of trouble, in every |41 respect the metal of her soul was proved to be unadulterated and undefiled. The first test was the loss of the one brother, the second the parting from her mother, the third was when the common glory of the family, great Basil, was removed from human life. So she remained, like an invincible athlete in no wise broken by the assault of troubles.


It was the ninth month or a little longer after this disaster, and a synod of bishops was gathered at Antioch, in which we also took part. And when we broke up, each to go home before the year was over, then I, [976A] Gregory, felt a desire to visit Macrina. For a long time had elapsed during which visits were prevented by the distraction of the troubles which I underwent, being constantly driven out from my own country by the leaders of heresy. And when I came to reckon the intervening time during which the troubles had prevented us meeting face |42 to face, no less than eight years, or very nearly that period, seemed to have elapsed.

Now when I had accomplished most of the journey and was one day's journey distant, a vision appeared to me in a dream and filled me with anxious anticipations of the future. I seemed to be carrying martyrs' relics in my hands; a light came from them, such as [976B] comes from a clear mirror when it is put facing the sun, so that my eyes were blinded by the brilliance of the rays. The same vision recurred three times that night. I could not clearly understand the riddle of the dream, but I saw trouble for my soul, and I watched carefully so as to judge the vision by events.

When I approached the retreat in which Macrina led her angelic and heavenly life, first of all I asked one of the servants about my brother, whether he were at home. He told us that he had gone out four days ago now, and I understood, which indeed was the case, that he had gone to meet us by another way. Then I asked after the great lady. He said she was very ill, and I was the more eager to hurry on and complete the remainder |43 of the journey, for a certain anxiety and premonitory fear of what was coining stole [976C] in and disquieted me.


But when I came to the actual place, rumour had already announced my arrival to the brotherhood. Then the whole company of the men came streaming out to meet us from their apartments. For it was their custom to honour friends by meeting them. But the band of virgins on the women's side modestly waited in the church for us to arrive. But when the prayers and the blessing were over, and the women, after reverently inclining their head for the blessing, retired to their own apartments, none of them were left with us. I guessed the explanation, that the abbess was not with them. A man led me to the house in which was my great sister, and [976D] opened the door. Then I entered that holy dwelling. I found her already terribly afflicted with weakness. She was lying not on a bed |44 or couch, but on the floor; a sack had been spread on a board, and another board propped up her head, so contrived as to act as a pillow, supporting the sinews of the neck in slanting fashion, and holding up the neck comfortably. Now when she saw me near the door she raised herself on her elbow but could not come to meet me, her strength being already drained by fever. But by putting her hands on the floor and leaning over from the pallet as far as she could, she showed the respect [978A] due to my rank. I ran to her and embraced her prostrate form, and raising her, again restored her to her usual position. Then she lifted her hand to God and said----

"This favour also Thou hast granted me, O God, and hast not deprived me of my desire, because Thou hast stirred up Thy servant to visit Thy handmaid."

Lest she should vex my soul she stilled her groans and made great efforts to hide, if possible, the difficulty of her breathing. And in every way she tried to be cheerful, both taking the lead herself in friendly talk, and giving us an opportunity by asking |45 questions. When in the course of conversation mention was made of the great Basil, my soul was saddened and my face fell dejectedly. But so far was she from sharing in my affliction [978B] that, treating the mention of the saint as an occasion for yet loftier philosophy, she discussed various subjects, inquiring into human affairs and revealing in her conversation the divine purpose concealed in disasters. Besides this, she discussed the future life,6 as if inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that it almost seemed as if my soul were lifted by the help of her words away from mortal nature and placed within the heavenly sanctuary. And just as we learn in the story of Job that the saint was tormented in every part of his body with discharges owing to the corruption of his wounds, yet did not allow the pain [978C] to affect his reasoning power, but in spite of the pains in the body did not relax his activities nor interrupt the lofty sentiments of his discourse----similarly did I see in the case of this |46 great woman. Fever was drying up her strength and driving her on to death, yet she refreshed her body as it were with dew, and thus kept her mind unimpeded in the contemplation of heavenly things, in no way injured by her terrible weakness. And if my narrative were not extending to an unconscionable length I would tell everything in order, how she was uplifted as she discoursed to us on the nature of the soul and explained the reason of life in the flesh, and why man was made, and how he was mortal, and the origin of death and the nature of the journey from death to life again. In all of [978D] which she told her tale clearly and consecutively as if inspired by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the even flow of her language was like a fountain whose water streams down uninterruptedly.


When our conversation was finished, she said----

"It is time, brother, for you to rest your |47 body awhile, since it is wearied with the great toil of your journey."

And though I found it a great and genuine rest to see her and hear her noble words, yet since she wanted it so much, that I might in every particular seem to obey my mistress, I found a pretty arbour prepared for me in one of the neighbouring gardens, and rested under the shade of the trailing vines. But it was impossible to have any feelings of [980A] enjoyment when my soul within me was constrained by gloomy anticipations, for the secret of the vision of my dream seemed to be now revealed to me by what I had seen. For the image I had seen was indeed true---- the relics of a holy martyr which had been dead in sin, but now were resplendent with the indwelling power of the Spirit. I explained this to one of those who had heard me tell the dream before.

We were, as one might guess, in a dejected state, expecting sad tidings, when Macrina, somehow or other divining our condition of mind, sent to us a messenger with more cheerful news, and bade us be of good cheer |48 and have better hope for her, for she was feeling a change for the better. Now this was not said to deceive, but the message was [980B] actually true, though we did not know it at the time. For in very truth, just as a runner who has passed his adversary and already drawn near to the end of the stadium, as he approaches the judge's seat and sees the crown of victory, rejoices inwardly as if he had already attained his object and announces his victory to his sympathisers among the spectators----in such a frame of mind did she, too, tell us to cherish better hopes for her, for she was already looking to the prize of her heavenly calling, and all but uttering the apostle's words: "Henceforward is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the righteous Judge shall give me," for "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith."

Accordingly, feeling happy at the good [980C] news, we began to enjoy the sights that lay before us. For they were very varied and the arrangements gave much pleasure, since |49 the great lady was careful even of these trifles.


But when we saw her again, for she did not allow us to spend time by ourselves in idleness, she began to recall her past life, beginning with childhood, and describing it all in order as in a history. She recounted as much as she could remember of the life of our parents, and the events that took place both before and after my birth. But her aim throughout was gratitude towards God, for she described our parents' life not so much from the point of view of the reputation they enjoyed in the eyes of contemporaries on account of their riches, as an example of the divine blessing. My father's parents had their goods confiscated for confessing Christ. Our maternal [980D] grandfather was slain by the imperial wrath, and all his possessions were transferred to other masters. Nevertheless their life abounded so in faith that no one was named |50 above them in those times. And moreover, after their substance had been divided into nine parts according to the number of the children, the share of each was so increased by God's blessing, that the income of each of the children exceeded the prosperity of the parents. But when it came to Macrina herself she kept nothing of the things assigned to her in the equal division between brothers and sisters, but all her share was given into the priest's hands according to the divine command. [982A] Moreover her life became such by God's help that her hands never ceased to work according to the commandment. Never did she even look for help to any human being, nor did human charity give her the opportunity of a comfortable existence. Never were petitioners turned away, yet never did she appeal for help, but God secretly blessed the little seeds of her good works till they grew into a mighty fruit.

As I told my own trouble and all that I had been through, first my exile at the hands of the Emperor Valens on account of the faith, and then the confusion in the Church |51 that summoned me to conflicts and trials, my great sister said----

"Will you not cease to be insensible to the divine blessings? Will you not remedy the ingratitude of your soul? Will you not compare your position with that of your [982B] parents'? And yet, as regards worldly things, we make our boast of being well born and thinking we come of a noble family. Our father was greatly esteemed as a young man for his learning; in fact his fame was established throughout the law courts of the province. Subsequently, though he excelled all others in rhetoric, his reputation did not extend beyond Pontus. But he was satisfied with fame in his own hand.

"But you," she said, "are renowned in cities and peoples and nations. Churches summon you as an ally and director, and do you not see the grace of God in it all? Do you fail to recognise the cause of such great blessings, that it is your parents' prayers that are lifting you up on high, you that have little or no equipment within yourself for such success?" |52 

[982C] Thus she spoke, and I longed for the length of the day to be further extended, that she might never cease delighting our cars with sweetness. But the voice of the choir was summoning us to the evening service, and sending me to church, the great one retired once more to God in prayer. And thus she spent the night.


But when day came it was clear to me from what I saw that the coming day was the utmost limit of her life in the flesh, since the fever had consumed all her innate strength. But she, considering the weakness of our minds, was contriving how to divert us from our sorrowful anticipations, and once more with those beautiful words of hers poured out what was left of her suffering soul with [982D] short and difficult breathing. Many, indeed, and varied, were the emotions of my heart at what I saw. For nature herself was afflicting me and making me sad; as was only |53 to be expected, since I could no longer hope ever to hear such a voice again. Nor as yet was I reconciled to the thought of losing the common glory of our family, but my mind, as it were inspired by the spectacle, supposed that she would actually rise superior to the common lot. For that she did not even in her last breath find anything strange in the hope of the Resurrection, nor even shrink at the departure from this life, but with lofty mind continued to discuss up to her last breath the convictions she had formed from the beginning about this life----all this seemed to me more than human. Rather did it seem as if some angel had taken human form with a sort of incarnation, to whom it was nothing [984A] strange that the mind should remain undisturbed, since he had no kinship or likeness with this life of flesh, and so the flesh did not draw the mind to think on its afflictions. Therefore 7 I think she revealed to the bystanders that divine and pure love of the invisible bridegroom, which she kept hidden |54 and nourished in the secret places of the soul, and she published abroad the secret disposition of her heart----her hurrying towards Him Whom she desired, that she might speedily be with Him, loosed from the chains of the body. For in very truth her course was directed towards virtue, and nothing else could divert her attention.


[984B] Most of the day had now passed, and the sun was declining towards the West. Her eagerness did not diminish, but as she approached her end, as if she discerned the beauty of the Bridegroom more clearly, she hastened towards the Beloved with the greater eagerness. Such thoughts as these did she utter, no longer to us who were present, but to Him in person on Whom she gazed fixedly. Her couch had been turned towards the East; and, ceasing to converse with us, she spoke henceforward to God in prayer, making supplication with her hands and whispering with a low voice, so that we could |55 just hear what was said. Such was the prayer; we need not doubt that it reached [984C] God and that she, too, was hearing His voice.

"Thou, O Lord, hast freed us from the fear of death. Thou hast made the end of this life the beginning to us of true life. Thou for a season restest our bodies in sleep and awakest them again at the last trump. Thou givest our earth, which Thou hast fashioned with Thy hands, to the earth to keep in safety. One day Thou wilt take again what Thou hast given, transfiguring with immortality and grace our mortal and unsightly remains. Thou hast saved us from the curse and from sin, having become both for our sakes. Thou hast broken the heads of the dragon who had seized us with his jaws, in the yawning gulf of disobedience. Thou hast shown us the way of resurrection, having broken the gates of .hell, and brought to nought him who had the power of death----the devil. Thou hast given a sign to those that fear Thee in the symbol of the Holy Cross, [984D] to destroy the adversary and save our life. |56 O God eternal, to Whom I have been attached from my mother's womb, Whom my soul has loved with all its strength, to Whom I have dedicated both my flesh and my soul from my youth up until now----do Thou give me an angel of light to conduct me to the place of refreshment, where is the water of rest, in the bosom of the holy Fathers. Thou that didst break the flaming sword and didst restore to Paradise the man that was crucified with Thee and implored Thy mercies, remember me, too, in Thy kingdom; because I, too, was crucified with Thee, having nailed my flesh to the cross for fear of Thee, and of Thy judgments have I been afraid. Let not the terrible chasm separate me from Thy elect. Nor let [986A] the Slanderer stand against me in the way; nor let my sin be found before Thy eyes, if in anything I have sinned in word or deed or thought, led astray by the weakness of our nature. O Thou Who hast power on earth to forgive sins, forgive me, that I may be refreshed and may be found before Thee when I put off my body, without defilement on my soul. But may my soul be received |57 into Thy hands spotless and undefiled, as an offering before Thee."

As she said these words she sealed her eyes and mouth and heart with the cross. And gradually her tongue dried up with the fever, she could articulate her words no longer, and her voice died away, and only by the trembling of her lips and the motion of her hands did we recognise that she was praying.

Meanwhile evening had come and a lamp [986B] was brought in. All at once she opened the orb of her eyes and looked towards the light, clearly wanting to repeat the thanksgiving sung at the Lighting of the Lamps. But her voice failed and she fulfilled her intention in the heart and by moving her hands, while her lips stirred in sympathy with her inward desire. But when she had finished the thanksgiving, and her hand brought to her face to make the Sign had signified the end of the prayer, she drew a great deep breath and closed her life and her prayer together. |58 


And now that she was breathless and still, remembering the command that she had given at our first meeting, telling me she wished her hands laid on her eyes, and the accustomed [986C] offices done for the body by me, I brought her hands, all numb with the disease, on to her holy face, only that I might not seem to neglect her bidding. For her eyes needed none to compose them, being covered gracefully by the lids, just as happens in natural sleep; the lips were suitably closed and the hands laid reverently on the breast, and the whole body had automatically fallen into the right position, and in no way needed the help of the layers-out.


Now my mind was becoming unnerved in two ways, from the sight that met my gaze, and the sad wailing of the virgins that sounded in my ears. So far they had remained [986D] quiet and suppressed their grief, restraining |59 their impulse to mourn for fear of her, as if they dreaded her rebuke even when her voice was silent, lest in any way a sound should break forth from them contrary to her command and their mistress be grieved in consequence. But when they could no longer subdue their anguish in silence, and grief like some inward fire was smouldering in their hearts, all at once a bitter and irrepressible cry broke out; so that my reason no longer remained calm, but a flood of emotion, like a watercourse in spate, swept it away, and so, neglecting my duties, I gave myself up to lamentation. Indeed, the cause for the maidens' weeping seemed to me just and [988A] reasonable. For they were not bewailing the loss of human companionship and guidance, nor any other such thing as men grieve over when disaster comes. But it seemed as if they had been torn away from their hope in God and the salvation of their souls, and so they cried and bewailed in this manner----

"The light of our eyes has gone out,
The light that guided our souls has been taken away. |60
The safety of our life is destroyed,
The seal of immortality is removed,
The bond of restraint has been taken away,
The support of the weak has been broken,
The healing of the sick removed.
In thy presence the night became to us as day,
Illumined with pure life,
But now even our day will be turned to gloom."

Saddest of all in their grief were those who [988B] called on her as mother and nurse. These were they whom she picked up, exposed by the roadside in the time of famine. She had nursed and reared them, and led them to the pure and stainless life.

But when, as it were from the sleep, I recovered my thoughts, I looked towards that holy face and it seemed as if it rebuked me for the confusion of the noisy mourners. So I called to the sisters with a loud voice----

"Look at her, and remember her commands, by which she trained you to be orderly and decent in everything. One occasion for |61 tears did this divine soul ordain for us, recommending us to weep at the time of prayer. Which now we may do, by turning the lamentations into psalmody in the same strain."


I had to shout in order to be heard above the noise of the mourners. Then I besought them to go away for awhile to the neighbouring house, but asked that some of those whose services she used to welcome when she was alive should stay behind.

Among these was a lady of gentle birth, who had been famous in youth for wealth, good family, physical beauty and every other distinction. She had married a man of high rank and lived with him a short time. Then, with her body still young, she was released from marriage, and chose the great Macrina as protector and guardian of her widowhood, and spent her time mostly with the virgins, learning from them the life of virtue. |62 

The lady's name was Vestiana, and her [988D] father was one of those who composed the council of senators. To her I said that there could be no objection now, at any rate, to putting finer clothing on the body and adorning that pure and stainless form with fair linen clothes. But she said one ought to learn what the saint had thought proper in these matters. For it was not right that anything at all should be done by us contrary to what she would have wished. But just what was dear and pleasing to God, would be her desire also.

Now there was a lady called Lampadia, leader of the band of sisters, a deaconess in rank. She declared that she knew Macrina's [990A] wishes in the matter of burial exactly. When I asked her about them (for she happened to be present at our deliberations), she said with tears----

"The saint resolved that a pure life should be her adornment, that this should deck her body in life and her grave in death. But so far as clothes to adorn the body go, she procured none when she was alive, nor did she |63 store them for the present purpose. So that not even if we want it will there be anything more than what we have here, since no preparation is made for this need."

"Is it not possible," said I, "to find in the store-cupboard anything to make a fitting funeral?"

"Store-cupboard indeed!" said she; "you have in front of you all her treasure. There is the cloak, there is the head-covering, there the well-worn shoes on the feet. This is all her wealth, these are her riches. There is nothing stored away in secret places beyond what you see, or put away safely in boxes or bedroom. She knew of one store-house [990B] alone for her wealth, the treasure in heaven. There she had stored her all, nothing was left on earth."

"Suppose," said I, "I were to bring some of the things I have got ready for the funeral, should I be doing anything of which she would not have approved?"

"I do not think," said she, "that this would be against her wish. For had she been living, she would have accepted such honour from |64 you on two grounds----your priesthood which she always prized so dear, and your relationship, for she would not have repudiated what came to her from her brother. This was why she gave commands that your hands were to prepare her body for burial.


When we had decided on this, and it was necessary for that sacred body to be robed in linen, we divided the work and applied ourselves to our different tasks. I ordered one of my men to bring the robe. But Vestiana [990C] above-mentioned was decking that holy head with her own hands, when she put her hand on the neck.

"See," she said, looking at me, "what sort of an ornament has hung on the saint's neck!"

As she spoke, she loosened the fastener behind, then stretched out her hand and showed us the representation of a cross of iron and a ring of the same material, both of |65 which were fastened by a slender thread and rested continually on the heart.

" Let us share the treasure," I said. " You have the phylactery of the cross, I will be content with inheriting the ring" ----for the cross had been traced on the seal of this too. [990D] Looking at it, the lady said to me again---- "You have made no mistake in choosing this treasure; for the ring is hollow in the hoop, and in it has been hidden a particle of the Cross of Life,8 and so the mark on the seal above shows what is hidden below."

But when it was time that the pure body should be wrapped in its robes, the command of the great departed one made it necessary for me to undertake the ministry; but the sister who shared with me that great inheritance was present and joined in the work. |66 

"Do not let the great wonders accomplished by the saint pass by unnoticed,"she remarked, laying bare part of the breast.

"What do you mean? "I said.

[992A] "Do you see,"she said, "this small faint mark below the neck? "It was like a scar made by a small needle. As she spoke she brought the lamp near to the place she was showing me.

"What is there surprising," I said, "if the body has been branded with some faint mark in this place?"

"This," she replied, "has been left on the body as a token of God's powerful help. For there grew once in this place a cruel disease, and there was a danger either that the tumour should require an operation, or that the complaint should become quite incurable, if it should spread to the neighbourhood of the heart. Her mother implored her often and begged her to receive the attention of a doctor, since the medical art, she [992B] said, was sent from God for the saving of men. But she judged it worse than the pain, to uncover any part of the body to a stranger's |67 eyes. So when evening came, after waiting on her mother as usual with her own hands, she went inside the sanctuary and besought the God of healing all night long. A stream of tears fell from her eyes on to the ground, and she used the mud made by the tears as a remedy for her ailment. Then when her mother felt despondent and again urged her to allow the doctor to come, she said it would suffice for the cure of her disease if her mother would make the holy seal on the place with her own hand. But when the mother put her hand within her bosom, to make the sign of the cross on the part, the sign worked and the tumour disappeared.

"But this," said she, "is the tiny trace of it; it appeared then in place of the frightful [992C] sore and remained until the end, that it might be, as I imagine, a memorial of the divine visitation, an occasion and reminder of perpetual thanksgiving to God."

When our work came to an end and the body had been decked with the best we had on the spot, the deaconess spoke again, maintaining that it was not fitting that she should be seen |68 by the eyes of the virgins robed like a bride. "But I have,"she said, "laid by one of your mother's dark-coloured robes which I think would do well laid over her, that this holy beauty be not decked out with the unnecessary splendour of clothing."

Her counsel prevailed, and the robe was laid upon the body. But she was resplendent [992D] even in the dark robe, divine power having added, as I think, this final grace to the body, so that, as in the vision of my dream, rays actually seemed to shine forth from her beauty.


But while we were thus employed and the virgins' voices singing psalms mingled with the lamentations were filling the place, somehow the news had quickly spread throughout the whole neighbourhood, and all the people that lived near were streaming towards the place, so that the entrance hall could no longer hold the concourse.

When the all-night vigil for her, accompanied |69 by hymn-singing, as in the case of martyrs' festivals, was finished, and the dawn came, the multitude of men and women that had flocked in from all the neighbouring country were interrupting the psalms with wailings. But I, sick at heart though I was owing to the calamity, was yet contriving, so far as was possible with what we had, that no suitable [994A] accompaniment of such a funeral should be omitted.


I divided the visitors according to sex, and put the crowds of women with the band of virgins, while the men folk I put in the ranks of the monks. I arranged that the psalms should be sung by both sexes in rhythmical and harmonious fashion, as in chorus singing, so that all the voices should blend suitably. But since the day was progressing, and the entire space of the retreat was getting crowded with the multitude of arrivals, the bishop of that district (Araxius by name, who had |70 come with the entire complement of his priests) ordered the funeral procession to start slowly; [994B] for there was a long way to go, and the crowd seemed likely to impede brisk movement. At the same time as he gave this order he summoned to him all present who shared with him in the priesthood, that the body might be borne by them.

When this had been settled and his directions were being carried out, I got under the bed and called Araxius to the other side; two other distinguished priests took the hinder part of the bed. Then I went forward, slowly as was to be expected, our progress being but gradual. For the people thronged round the bed and all were insatiable to see that holy sight, so that it was not easy for us to complete our journey. On either side we were flanked by a considerable number of [994C] deacons and servants, escorting the bier in order, all holding wax tapers.

The whole thing resembled a mystic procession, and from beginning to end the voices blended in singing psalms, that, for example, that comes in the Hymn of the Three Children. |71 

Seven or eight stades intervened between the Retreat and the abode of the Holy Martyrs, in which also the bodies of our parents were laid. With difficulty did we accomplish the journey in the best part of a day, for the crowds that came with us and those that were constantly joining us did not allow our progress to be what we wished.


But when we got inside the church we laid down the bed and turned first to prayer. But our prayer was the signal for the people's lamentations to start again. For when the voice of psalmody was still, and the virgins gazed on that holy face, and the grave of our parents was already being opened, in which it had been decided that Macrina should be [994D] laid, a woman cried out impulsively that after this hour we should see that divine face no more. Then the rest of the virgins cried out the same, and a disorderly confusion disturbed the orderly and solemn chanting |72 of psalms, all being upset at the wailing of the virgins. With difficulty did we succeed in procuring silence by our gesture, and the precentor taking the lead and intoning the accustomed prayers of the Church, the people composed themselves at last to prayer.


When the prayer had come to its due close, fear entered my mind of transgressing the divine command, which forbids us to uncover the shame of father or mother. "And how," said I, "shall I escape such condemnation if I gaze at the common shame of human nature made manifest in the bodies of my parents? Since they are all decayed and dissolved, as must be expected, and turned into foul and repulsive shapelessness."

As I thought of these things and the anger of Noah against his son was striking fear into me, the story of Noah advised me what was to be done. Before the lid of the grave was lifted sufficiently to reveal the bodies to our gaze, they were covered by a pure linen cloth |73 stretched across from each end. And now that [996B] the bodies were hidden under the cloth, we---- myself, that is, and the afore-mentioned bishop of the district----took up that holy body from the bed and laid it down by the side of the mother, thus fulfilling the common prayer of both. For both were with one voice asking God for this boon all their lives long, that their bodies should be mingled with one another after death, and that their comradeship in life should not even in death be broken.


But when we had completed all the accustomed funeral rites, and it became necessary to return home, I first threw myself on the grave and embraced the dust, and then I started on my way back, downcast and tearful, pondering over the greatness of my loss.

On my way I met a distinguished soldier who had a military command in a little city of Pontus named Sebastopolis, and dwelt [996C] there with his subordinates. He met me in friendly fashion when I reached the town, |74 and was greatly disturbed to hear of the calamity, for he was linked to us by ties both of relationship and friendship. He told me a story of a marvellous episode in her life, which I shall incorporate into my history and then close my tale. When we had ceased our tears and had entered into conversation, he said to me----

"Learn what manner of goodness has been taken away from human life."

With this prelude he began his narrative.


"My wife and I once had an earnest desire to pay a visit to the school of virtue. For so I think the place ought to be called, in which that blessed soul had her abode. Now there [996D] lived with us also our little daughter, who had been left with an affliction of the eye after an infectious illness. And her appearance was hideous and pitiable, the membrane round the eye being enlarged and whitish from the complaint. But when we came inside that divine abode, my wife and I separated in our |75 visit to those seekers after philosophy according to our sex. I went to the men's department, presided over by Peter, your brother; while my wife went to the women's side and conversed with the saint. And when a suitable interval had elapsed, we considered it time to depart from the Retreat, and already our preparations were being made for this, but kind protests were raised from both sides equally. Your brother was urging me to stay [998A] and partake of the philosophers' table; and the blessed lady would not let my wife go, but holding our little girl in her bosom, said she would not give her up before she had prepared a meal for them and had entertained them with the riches of philosophy. And kissing the child, as was natural, and putting her lips to her eyes, she saw the complaint of the pupil and said----

"'If you grant me this favour and share our meal, I will give you in return a reward not unworthy of such an honour.'

"'What is that? ' said the child's mother.

"'I have a drug,' said the great lady, 'which is powerful to cure eye complaints.' |76 

"And then news was brought me from the women's apartments, telling me of this promise, and we gladly remained, thinking little of the pressing necessity of starting on our journey.

[998B] "But when the feast came to an end and we had said the prayer, great Peter waiting on us with his own hands and cheering us, and when holy Macrina had dismissed my wife with all courtesy, then at last we went home together with glad and cheerful hearts, telling one another as we journeyed what had befallen us. I described to her what had happened in the men's room, both what I had heard and seen. She told every detail as in a history, and thought nothing ought to be left out, even the smallest points. She told everything in order, keeping the sequence of the narrative. [998C] When she came to the point at which the promise was made to cure the child's eyes, she broke off her tale.

"'Oh, what have we done?' she cried.

'How could we have neglected the promise, that salve-cure that the lady said she would give?' |77 

"I was vexed at the carelessness, and bade some one run back quickly to fetch it. Just as this was being done, the child, who was in her nurse's arms, looked at her mother, and the mother looked at the child eyes.

"'Stop,' she said, 'being vexed at the carelessness,'----she cried aloud with joy and fright. 'For, see! Nothing of what was promised us is lacking! She has indeed given her the true drug which cures disease; it is the healing that comes from prayer. She has both given it and it has already proved efficacious, and nothing is left of the affliction [998D] of the eye. It is all purged away by that divine drug.'

"And as she said this, she took up the child and laid her in my arms. And I understood the marvels of the Gospel that hitherto had been incredible to me and said----

"'What is there surprising in the blind recovering their sight by the hand of God, when now His handmaiden, accomplishing those cures by faith in Him, has worked a thing not much inferior to those miracles?'"

Such was his story; it was interrupted by |78 sobs, and tears choked his utterance, So much for the soldier and his tale.


I do not think it advisable to add to my narrative all the similar things that we heard from those who lived with her and knew her life accurately. For most men judge what is [1000A] credible in the way of a tale by the measure of their own experience. But what exceeds the capacity of the hearer, men receive with insult and suspicion of falsehood, as remote from truth. Consequently I omit that extraordinary agricultural operation in the famine time, how that the corn for the relief of need, though constantly distributed, suffered no perceptible diminution, remaining always in bulk the same as before it was distributed to the needs of the suppliants. And after this there are happenings still more surprising, of which I might tell. Healings of diseases, and castings out of demons, and true predictions of the future. All are believed to be true, even |79 though apparently incredible, by those who have investigated them accurately.

But by the carnally minded they are judged outside the possible. Those, I mean, who do not know that according to the proportion of faith so is given the distribution of spiritual gifts, little to those of little faith, much to those [1000B] who have plenty of "sea-room" 9 in their religion.

And so, lest the unbeliever should be injured by being led to disbelieve the gifts of God, I have abstained from a consecutive narrative of these sublime wonders, thinking it sufficient to conclude my life of Macrina with what has been already said.


1. 1 Reading Migne." The intention was not fulfilled until a year or two later, after his visit to the Church of Babylon.

2. The use of the word "philosophy" to designate Christianity is common in the writings of the fourth century, and may perhaps be traced back to Origen's synthesis of the Gospel and philosophy. It is employed in a twofold sense, of the Christian religion generally and of asceticism in particular. Cf. Greg. Naz., Or., VII, 9 (describing the asceticism of his brother Cresarius): "As philosophy is the greatest, so is it the most difficult, of professions, which can be taken in hand by but few, and only by those who have been called forth by the divine magnanimity." See a careful note in Boulenger, Gregoire de Nazianze, Discours funèbres (Paris, 1908), p. lvi.

3. Thecla was a contemporary of St. Paul, according to the Acts of Paul and Thecla, which may well have been founded on fact. See article "Thecla" in Dictionary of Christian Biography, and the chapter on Thecla in Sir W. M. Ramsay's Church in the Roman Empire.

5. 1 In the long dialogue, De Anima et Resurrectione (Migne, XLVI, 11-160), Gregory purports to reproduce this conversation.

6. 1 In order to assure them that she was really dying, she uttered aloud the prayer in the next paragraph.

7. 1 According to the well-known story, the Cross was discovered by Helena, mother of Constantine the Great (c. 327). The earliest mention of the wood of the Cross as a relic seems to be in Cyril of Jerusalem's Catechetical Lectures, See iv. 10, "The whole world has since been filled with pieces of the wood of the Cross." Cf. x. 19, xiii. 4.


Santa Macrina la Giovane Monaca

19 luglio

Prima di 10 fratelli, tra i quali ben 4 sono santi (lei, Basilio di Cesarea, Gregorio di Nissa e Pietro sacerdote e monaco), nacque in Ponto nel 327. Giovane e bella, era un partito agognato, ma scelse presto di dedicarsi esclusivamente a Dio. Per diversi anni rimase al fianco della madre per aiutarla nel governo della casa e nell’educazione dei fratelli. Esercitò un’influenza decisiva sulle scelte dei due fratelli più famosi, Basilio di Cesarea e Gregorio di Nissa. Quando gli uomini ebbero trovata la loro strada, madre e figlia decisero di ritirarsi ad Annesi sulle rive del fiume Iris. Qui Macrina divenne la superiora del monastero doppio dove uomini e donne si sforzavano di vivere in pienezza il Vangelo. Al ritorno dal concilio di Antiochia, Gregorio di Nissa si fermò ad Annesi per salutare la sorella. Fu l’ultimo incontro tra i due dato che Macrina morì nel 380 a soli 53 anni. Gregorio, tuttavia, fece a tempo a sentire dalle sue labbra la grandiosa preghiera pronunciata prima di morire. La sua spiritualità e la sua vita sono narrate dallo stesso Gregorio.

Martirologio Romano: Nel monastero di Annesi lungo il fiume Iris nel Ponto ancora in Turchia, santa Macrina, vergine, sorella dei santi Basilio Magno, Gregorio di Nissa e Pietro di Sivas, che, versata nelle Sacre Scritture, si ritirò a vita solitaria, mirabile esempio di desiderio di Dio e di distacco dalla vanità del mondo.

Macrina era la primogenita dei dieci figli di Basilio ed Emmelia, famiglia del Ponto in Grecia e famiglia benedetta da Dio in quanto fra i suoi figli abbiamo oltre s. Macrina anche s. Basilio Magno, vescovo di Cesarea, s. Gregorio vescovo di Nissa, e Pietro sacerdote e monaco.

Macrina chiamata la Giovane, perché portava il nome della nonna paterna anch’essa santa, Macrina l’Anziana, fu educata fin dalla più tenera età nelle Sacre Scritture e sin dall’adolescenza era dotata di una particolare bellezza, cosicché molti erano i pretendenti alla sua mano; il padre come era costume, scelse per lei il più adatto; ma questo fidanzato fu rapito all’affetto della ragazza da una morte immatura.

Macrina allora finse di considerare come un vero matrimonio il suo fidanzamento e giurò fedeltà al defunto giovane, come sposa che attende il marito lontano per una lunga assenza.

Rimasta in casa, aiutò molto la madre nell’accudire ed educare tutti i fratelli, tanto più che era rimasta vedova dopo la nascita del decimo figlio.

Quando sistemati adeguatamente tutti i figli rimasero sole, Macrina convinse la madre a ritirarsi con lei nella solitudine di Annesi presso Hore nel Ponto, sulle rive del fiume Iris, per fondare un monastero in cui le avrebbero seguite le loro domestiche.

Macrina fu molto influente sul fratello Basilio, il quale lasciò la vita mondana di erudito per abbracciare, verso il 356 la vita monastica, poi divenne vescovo di Cesarea nel 370, tornando a rivedere la sorella nel monastero nel 376; ordinò sacerdote il fratello minore Pietro, che viveva in un monastero vicino a quello della sorella; Basilio morì il 1° gennaio 379.

Alla morte della madre avvenuta nel 373, Macrina divenne superiora del monastero; di ritorno dal Concilio di Antiochia del 379, Gregorio divenuto vescovo di Nissa, volle passare per Annesi per visitare la sorella, ma la trovò nei suoi ultimi momenti di vita; poterono avere solo un ultimo colloquio di alto tenore spirituale e dopo una magnifica preghiera elevata a Dio, Macrina morì (380).

La sua ‘Vita’ e la sua spiritualità ci è stata narrata in importanti opere scritte dallo stesso s. Gregorio di Nissa.

Il suo corpo fu sepolto nella chiesa dei ‘40 martiri di Sebaste’, a poca distanza dal monastero, dove già erano i corpi dei suoi genitori; ai funerali, presente il vescovo del luogo, partecipò una gran folla di fedeli.

La sua memoria liturgica compare in tutti i calendari e Martirologi Orientali al 19 luglio, mentre in Occidente è menzionata in alcuni si e altri no, finché non fu inserita definitivamente nel ‘Martirologio Romano’, sempre al 19 luglio con l’annuncio: “In Cappadocia, s. Macrina vergine, sorella dei santi Basilio Magno e Gregorio di Nissa”.

Autore: Antonio Borrelli


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