LISTEN: The Great Cappadocians: Macrina, Part 2 (The History of Christianity Podcast #134)

This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #134, titled, “The Great Cappadocians [KAP-PUH-DO-SHNZ]: Macrina [MA-KRI-NUH] (Part 2).”

Our Scripture for today is Zechariah 14:9 which reads: “The Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from Greg Peters. He said: “Church history is not on par with the Scriptures nor is church history as authoritative as the Scriptures. However, it is essential that the history of the Christian church be used in the formulation of theology since it is a record of God’s works and actions in the world. Because God is sovereign and providential over all of his creation, there is no area of human or creaturely activity that is beyond his control or supervision.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Great Cappadocians [KAP-PUH-DO-SHNZ]: Macrina [MA-KRI-NUH] (Part 2)” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

In our last episode, we discussed how Macrina [MA-KRI-NUH] rebuked her brother Basil for how he had become puffed up with knowledge during his time abroad. Basil dismissed his sister’s concerns at the time. However, tragic news arrived.

Their brother Naucratius [NAH-KRAY-SHUSH], who was living in retirement in the country, had died unexpectedly. Basil was shaken. He and Naucratius [NAH-KRAY-SHUSH] had been very close. In recent times their paths had diverged, for Naucratius [NAH-KRAY-SHUSH] had forsaken worldly pomp, while Basil had devoted himself wholeheartedly to it. The blow was such that Basil changed his life entirely. He resigned his teaching position and all other honors, and he asked Macrina [MA-KRI-NUH] to teach him the secrets of religious life. A short time earlier their father had died, and it was now Macrina [MA-KRI-NUH] who offered her bereaved family strength and consolation.

Macrina [MA-KRI-NUH] sought to console her family by leading their thoughts to the joys of religious life. Why not withdraw to their holdings in nearby Annesi [AN-NES-SEE], and live there in renunciation and contemplation? True happiness is not found in the glories of the world, but in the service of God. That service is best rendered when one breaks all ties with the world. Dress and food must be as simple as possible, and one should devote oneself entirely to prayer. Thus, what Macrina [MA-KRI-NUH] proposed was a life similar to that of the ascetics of the desert.

Macrina [MA-KRI-NUH], her mother, and several other women withdrew to Annesi [AN-NES-SEE] while Basil, following the desires of his sister, left for Egypt in order to learn more about the monastic life. Since Basil eventually became the great teacher of monasticism in the Greek-speaking church, and since it was Macrina [MA-KRI-NUH] who awakened his interest in it, it could be said that she was the founder of Greek monasticism.

Macrina [MA-KRI-NUH] spent the rest of her life in monastic retreat in Annesi [AN-NES-SEE]. Years later, shortly after Basil’s death, their brother Gregory of Nyssa [NIS-UH] visited her. Her fame was such that she was known simply as “the Teacher.” Gregory left a record of that visit in his dialogue with her, “On the Soul and the Resurrection,” the main arguments and assertions of which may well have been Macrina’s [MA-KRI-NUHS]. He opens that work by informing us that “Basil, great among the saints, had departed from this life and gone to God, and all the churches mourned his death. But his sister the Teacher still lived and therefore I visited her.” Gregory, however, was not easily consoled on finding his sister suffering from a severe asthma attack on her deathbed. “The sight of the Teacher,” he wrote, “reawakened my pain, for she too was about to die.”

She let him shed his tears and express his pain, and then consoled him, reminding him of the hope of resurrection. Finally, she died in great peace. Gregory closed her eyes, led the funeral service, and went out to continue the work that his sister and brother had entrusted to him.

Next time, we will continue looking at “The Great Cappadocians [KAP-PUH-DO-SHNZ] (Part 3): Basil the Great.”

Let’s pray.


Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Whom this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.