Macarius of Egypt

From Academic Kids

Macarius of Egypt (300-390) was an Egyptian Christian monk and hermit. He is also known as Macarius the Elder or St. Macarius the Great.



He was born in Upper Egypt about 300, and died in the Scetic desert, 391.

He was won to the religious life at an early age by St. Anthony and when thirty years old became a monk. Ten years later around 340 he was ordained priest, and for the remainder of his life presided over the monastic community in the Scetic desert.

For a brief period he was banished to an island in the Nile by the Emperor Valens, during a dispute over the doctrine of the Nicene Creed.


The day appointed for his feast in Eastern Orthodoxy is January 19, while Roman Catholicism celebrates it four days earlier.

Certain monasteries of the Libyan desert still bear the name of Macarius, and the neighborhood is called the Desert of Macarius and seems to be identical with the ancient Scetic district. The ruins of numerous monasteries in this region almost confirm the local tradition that the cloisters of Macarius were equal in number to the days of the year.


Although Gennadius recognizes as the only work of Macarius a letter addressed to the younger monks, there seems to be no reason to deny the genuineness of the fifty homilies ascribed to him.

The Apophthegmata edited with the homilies may also be genuine, but the seven so-called Opuscula ascetica edited under his name by P. Possinus (Paris, 1683) are merely later compilations from the homilies, made by Simeon the Logothete, who is probably identical with Simeon Metaphrastes (d. 950).

Macarius likewise seems to have been the author of several minor writings, including an Epistola ad filios Dei, and a number of other letters and prayers.

The teachings of Macarius are characterized by a mystical and spiritual mode of thought which has endeared him to Christian mystics of all ages, although, on the other hand, in his anthropology and soteriology he frequently approximates the standpoint of St. Augustine. Certain passages of his homilies assert the entire depravity of man, while others postulate free will, even after the fall of Adam, and presuppose a tendency toward virtue, or, in semi-Pelagian fashion, ascribe to man the power to attain a degree of readiness to receive salvation.

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This article includes content derived from the public domain Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 1914.


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