Catholic Encyclopedia – Saint Macrina the Younger

Article

Born about 330; died 379. She was the eldest child of Basil and Elder Emmelia, the granddaughter of Saint Macrina the Elder, and the sister of the Cappadocian Fathers, Saints Basil and Gregory of Nyssa. The last-mentioned has left us a biography of his sister in the form of a panegyric. 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 Saint Peter, afterwards Bishop of Sebaste, and through her Saint 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 asceticism, zealous meditation on the truths of Christanity, and prayer were the chief concerns of this community. Not only the brothers of Saint Macrina but also Saint 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. Her feast is celebrated on 19 July.

MLA Citation

  • Johann Peter Kirsch. “Saint Macrina the Younger”. Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913. Saints.SQPN.com. 25 March 2013. Web. 21 September 2014. <>