Universalist and Teacher

Today the church remembers a 4th Century saint who was often overshadowed by her more famous brothers Greg and Bas (you know them Gregory of Nyssa and Basil the Great, two of the three “Cappadocian Fathers” of the faith): Saint Macrina the Younger, Scholar and Universalist.

Saint Macrina was born in a family already well-steeped in. The early Christian movement. She was named after her grandmother, Macrina the Elder, and though her brothers would gain notoriety for their scholarly treatises, they themselves mentioned Macrina as a teacher of faith in their home.

Having been betrothed in an arranged marriage by her father, Macrina never tasted wedded life as her fiancé died before the wedding. She came to see her vows as belonging to Christ alone, and lived an aesthetic and austere life with her mother and a group of women who pledged themselves to communal living. In this community, everyone was equal, whether you were formally a servant or wealthy enough not to owe anyone anything.

It’s one of the early egalitarian communities of the faith, and St. Macrina grew in responsibility as the community grew, taking on what we would call an Abbess role in time.

St. Macrina was also the tutor of her younger brother, Peter of Sebaste who would become a Bishop in the early church. She taught him not only the great philosophical ideas of the time, but also about The Way which was spreading like wildfire in the West and the Near East. In this way, and because she had such a strong influence on Greg and Bas (as I call them), means she was a shaper of the early church, an unseen hand on the needle of the faith.

Known for being a deep thinker, St. Macrina was supposedly a Universalist, and is lifted up by the Universalist Unitarian Church as a great scholar. Her brother, Gregory of Nyssa, composed Dialogue on the Soul and Resurrection in which he records a conversation with Macrina on her death bed (actually, her aestheticism was so great she refused to die in a bed, and chose to die lying on the ground). In that conversation she notes her deep conviction that everyone would be reconciled to God in the end, faithful and pagan alike.

St. Macrina died on this day in 379 AD in Pontus, modern day Turkey.

Saint Macrina is a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that the early Christian movement comprised a multiplicity of thought and theology…and still does, despite what the zealots in all corners might want you to think.

-historical bits from open source publications

-icon a classic Byzantine style by unidentified writer where St. Macrina holds an icon of her brothers

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