of  EGYPT (c.300-c.390)

 Pachomius receives the habit from Macarius

According to legend Macarius was visited twice by an angel, a cherub with six wings: during the second visitation, after he had become a hermit, the cherub directed him to found the monastery at Scetis.  He is also sometimes called Macarius the Spirit-Bearer, and thus depicted with angelic wings.

The Following is adapted from: The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. Cross, Livingstone; (OUP, 1983).

MACARIUS of EGYPT (c.300–c.390), also known as Macarius the Great. A native of Upper Egypt, [formerly a rough trader in nitre, he became a hermit after both he and his wife elected to live as ascetics]. At about the age of 30 he founded a colony of monks in the desert of Scetis (Wadi-el-Natrun), which became one of the chief centers of Egyptian monasticism.  Renowned for his sanctity and miracles, he was ordained priest c.340. He certainly knew, and seems to have been much influenced by, the great St Antony; and, as a staunch supporter of St Athanasius, he suffered a brief period of exile under Athanasius’ Arian successor, Lucius. For the homilies ascribed to him in some MSS, see Macarius/Simeon below. Feast day, 15 Jan. in the W.; 19 Jan. or 9 Mar. in the East.

Our knowledge of him derives chiefly from the Apophthegmata Patrum, s.v. ‘Μακάριος’; Rufinus’ tr. of the Historia Monachorum, 28; and Palladius, Historia Lausiaca, 17. Coptic Life ed., with, by M. Chaîne in Revue de l’Orient Chrétienne, 25 (1925–6), pp. 232–75. A. Guillaumont in Dict. Sp. 10 (1980), cols. 11–13, s.v. ‘Macaire I’Égyptien’, with further refs.

MACARIUS/SIMEON (4th–5th cent.), author of the so-called homilies ascribed in most MSS to St Macarius of Egypt, though in some MSS (incl. all the Arabic versions) to a certain Simeon. The homilies survive in Greek in four collections: Collection I, the most extensive, which begins with the ‘Great Letter’ and contains 63 other homilies; Collection II, the most popular, the Fifty Spiritual Homilies, of which two MSS contain seven additional homilies; Collection III, of 43 homilies, which largely overlap with I and II; and Collection IV, of 26 homilies, all of which are to be found in I, for which it seems to have been a source. There are versions in many languages, the Arabic being particularly important, since it preserves homilies lost in Greek. In form some ‘homilies’ are homilies proper, others ἐρωταποκρίσεις (Questions and answers), recalling the Short Rules of St Basil, and others are letters. The ascription to Macarius of Egypt is impossible, for the geography and climate envisaged, as well as various historical allusions, point to Syria. Syrian provenance is further supported by the parallels between the homilies and the tenets of Messalianism. The relation of the homilies to Messalianism is disputed, but it seems clear that many of the passages from the Messalians’ Asceticon (condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431) were taken from the homilies, and the conclusion is often drawn that the ‘Simeon’ whom some MSS claim as the author is Simeon of Mesopotamia, a leader of the Messalians mentioned by Theodoret. There are, however, also differences. There are parallels between the homilies and at least two of the Cappadocian Fathers, St Basil and St Gregory of Nyssa. The links with Messalianism suggest a date for the homilies between 380/90 and 430.

The teaching of the homilies is that, as a result of the Fall of Adam, the devil has gained control over man’s heart so that sin has become natural to him. The only remedy is prayer, prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit who alone can overcome the power of the devil. Grace, or the presence of the Holy Spirit, is something that can be felt; it is an experience that brings assurance, an experience which often takes the form of a vision of the light of the Godhead. In this teaching the homilies foreshadowed a characteristic doctrine of the Hesychasts. The homilies have proved very influential, treasured esp. by the monastic spirituality of E. Orthodoxy. In modern times they have found favour, notably among the German Pietists and the English Methodists; the first volume of J. Wesley’s ‘Christian Library’ included a translation of 22 Macarian homilies.

There are modern edns. of Collections I–III: Collection I (apart from the ‘Great Letter’), ed. H. Berthold (2 vols., GCS, 1973); the ‘Great Letter’, ed. R. Staats (Abh.(Gött.), Folge 3, 134; 1984). Collection II: The ‘Fifty Spiritual Homilies’, first pr. by J. Picus (Paris, 1559), repr. in J. P. Migne, PG 34. 449–822; crit. edn. H. Dörries, E. Klostermann, and M. Kroeger (Patristische Texte und Studien, 4; 1964). Eng. tr. by A. J. Mason (London, 1921). The seven additional homilies, ed. G. L. Marriott (Harvard Theological Studies, 5; 1918). Collection III (except for homilies also in Collection II), ed. E. Klostermann and H. Berthold (TU 72; 1961); repr. (but omitting homilies also in Collections I and II), with Fr. tr. and introd. by V. Desprez, OSB (SC 275; 1980). Eng. tr. of the ‘Fifty Spiritual Homilies’ and the ‘Great Letter’ by G. A. Maloney, SJ (Classics of Western Spirituality [1992]). The homilies found only in Arabic are tr. into Ger. by W. Strothmann (Göttinger Orientforschungen, I Reihe: Syriaca, 11; 1975).

J. Stiglmayr, SJ, Sachliches und Sprachliches bei Makarius (Innsbruck, 1912). L. Villecourt, OSB, ‘La Date et l’origine des “Homélies spirituelles” attribuées ŕ Macaire’, in Comptes Rendus des séances de l’Académie des Inscriptions et des Belles-Lettres (Paris, 1920), pp. 250–8; G. L. Marriott, ‘The Messalians; and the Discovery of their Ascetic Book’, HTR 19 (1926), pp. 191–8; H. Dörries, Symeon von Mesopotamien: Die Überlieferung der messalianischen ‘Makarius’-Schriften (TU 55, Heft 1; 1941); W. Jaeger, Two Rediscovered Works of Ancient Christian Literature: Gregory of Nyssa and Macarius (Leiden, 1954), incl. text of the ‘Great Letter’, pp. 233–301; G. Quispel, Makarius, das Thomasevangelium und das Lied von der Perle (Supplements to Novum Testamentum, 15; 1967); R. Staats, Gregor von Nyssa und die Messalianer (Patristische Texte und Studien, 8; 1968); E. A. Davids, Das Bild vom neuen Menschen: Ein Beitrag zum Verständnis des Corpus Macarianum (Salzburg, 1968); J. Gribomont, OSB, ‘Le Dossier des origines du messalianisme’, in Epektasis: Mélanges patristiques offerts au Cardinal Jean Daniélou, ed. J. Fontaine and C. Kannengiesser (1972), pp. 611–25. H. Dörries, Die Theologie des Makarios/Symeon (Abh. (Gött.), Folge 3, 103; 1978). H. Berthold, ‘Die Ursprünglichkeit literarischer Einheiten im Corpus Macarianum’, in F. Paschke (ed.), Überlieferungsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen (TU 125; 1981), pp. 61–76. C. Stewart, OSB, ‘Working the Earth of the Heart’: The Messalian Controversy in History, Texts, and Language to a.d. 431 (Oxford Theological Monographs, 1991); M. Plested, The Macarian Legacy: The Place of Macarius-Symeon in the Eastern Christian Tradition (ibid., 2004). CPG 2 (1974), pp. 73–7 (nos. 2410–27) and Suppl. (1998), pp. 74–6. V. Desprez, OSB, and M. Canévet in Dict. Sp. 10 (1980), cols. 20–43, s.v. ‘Macaire (Pseudo-Macaire)’.



GCS Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte (Leipzig, 1897–1941; Berlin and Leipzig, 1953; Berlin, 1954 ff.)

Abh. Abhandlungen der (königlichen) Gesellsehaft (Academic) der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Philolog.-hist. Kl., NF (Berlin, 1897–1939)

SC Sources Chrétiennes (Paris, 1942 ff.).

Ger. German.

HTR Harvard Theological Review (New York, 1908 f.; Cambridge, Mass., 1910 ff.).

CPG Clavis Patrum Graecorum, ed. M. Geerard and F. Glorie (5 vols., Turnhout, 1974–87).



This Webpage was created for a workshop held at Saint Andrew's Abbey, Valyermo, California in 1998....x....  .