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January 15

St Macarius of Egypt - January 15

Saint Macarius of Egypt

Monk, Hermit

“The Glowing Lantern”

(Around 300 – 391)

“In prayer, you need not use many or lofty words. You can often repeat with a sincere heart, Lord, show me mercy as thou knowest best. Or, assist me, O God.

Saint Macarius of Egypt

Saint’s Life Story

His Early Life 

Macarius was born in Upper Egypt around 300. A late tradition places his birthplace in the village of Shabsheer (Shanshour), in Al Minufiyah Governorate, Egypt. At some point before his pursuit of asceticism, Macarius made his living smuggling niter in the vicinity of Nitria, a vocation which taught him how to survive in and travel across the wastes in that area.

“Old Young Man”

One of St. Macarius’ great features was “wisdom”. His friends and close kin used to call him “Pidar Yougiron” which meant the “old young man” or “the young man with the elders’ wisdom.”

Married, Widowed, Ordained

At the wish of his parents he entered into marriage, but was soon widowed. Shortly after, his parents departed as well. Macarius subsequently distributed all his money among the poor and needy. He found a teacher in an experienced Elder, who lived in the desert not far from the village. The Elder accepted the youth, guided him in the spiritual science of watchfulness, fasting and prayer, and taught him the handicraft of weaving baskets. Seeing his virtues, the people of his village brought him to the Bishop of Ashmoun who ordained him priest.


A while later, a pregnant woman accused him of having defiled her. Macarius did not attempt to defend himself, and accepted the accusation in silence. However, when the woman’s delivery drew near, her labor became exceedingly difficult. She did not manage to give birth until she confessed Macarius’s innocence. A multitude of people then came asking for his forgiveness, but he fled to the Nitrian Desert to escape all mundane glory.

While at the desert, Macariuis visited Saint Anthony the Great and learned from him the laws and rules of monasticism. When he returned to the Scetic Desert at the age of forty, he presided over its monastic community for the rest of his life. Ten years after going into the desert, he became a priest.


For a brief period of time, Macarius was banished to an island in the Nile by the Emperor Valens, along with Saint Macarius of Alexandria, during a dispute over the doctrine of the Nicene Creed. At their return on 13 Paremhat (the seventh month of the ancient Egyptian and Coptic calendars – it lies between March 10 and April 8 of the Gregorian calendar), they were met by a multitude of monks of the Nitrian Desert, numbered fifty thousand, among whom were Saint Pishoy and Saint John the Dwarf.

During their time on the island, the daughter of a pagan priest had become ill. The people of the island believed that she was possessed by an evil spirit. Both Saints prayed over the daughter and by their intercession she was cured. saved her. The pagan people of the island were so impressed and grateful that they were converted and built a Church. When word of this got back to the Emperor Valens and Bishop Lucius of Alexandria, they quickly allowed both men to return home. At their return they were met by a multitude of Monks in joyous celebration.


Legacy and Monastery

Macarius of Egypt founded a monastery that bears his name, the Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great, which has been continuously inhabited by monks since its foundation in the fourth century. St. Macarius’ face used to be enlightened with grace in an amazing way to the extent that many fathers testified that his face used to glow in the dark; and thus appeared his name as “the glowing lantern.” This description was transferred to his monastery, and thus it was called “the glowing lantern of the wilderness” or “the glowing monastery,” which meant the place of high wisdom and constant prayer. Today, it belongs to the Coptic Orthodox Church.

The entirety of the Nitrian Desert is sometimes called the Desert of Macarius, for he was the pioneer monk in the region. 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.

His Writings

Fifty Spiritual Homilies of St Macarius the Egyptian were documented by A. J. Mason. It must be remembered that the aim of Macarius is strictly practical, that he is not setting forth a scheme of Christian doctrine, but appealing to companies of men whose temptation is to think that they have done all that is required of them in renouncing the world, and to become indolent and secure.

His Death

In the year 391, Macarius died in Scetes, Egypt. After his death, the natives of his village of Shabsheer stole the body and built a great church for him in their village. During the papacy of Pope Michael V of Alexandria, who brought the relics of Saint Macarius back to the Nitrian Desert on 19 Mesori (the twelfth month of the ancient Egyptian and Coptic calendar – falls between August 7 and September 5). Today, the body of Saint Macarius is found in his monastery, the Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great in Scetes, Egypt.

Born:                  Around 300 in Shabsheer (Shanshour), in Al Minufiyah Governorate, Egypt

Died:                   391 in Scetes, Egypt

Beatified:           Pre-Congregation

Canonized:        Pre-Congregation

Feast Day:          January 15

Patron Saint:     None



Saint Macarius of Egypt had a a pregnant woman accused him of having getting her pregnant. Macarius did not attempt to defend himself, and accepted the accusation in silence. However, when the woman’s delivery drew near, her labor became exceedingly difficult. She did not manage to give birth until she confessed Macarius’s innocence. Then, Macarius fled to the desert and walked away from any reclaiming his name and honor. Macarius knew the truth and that is all that mattered to him.

Have you ever been falsely accused of a crime you did not commit? Remember that God sees the truth. You can walk away knowing that God knows this truth and pray for those who wanted to tarnish your name.


Towards The End Of One’s Life

“Lord, be merciful now that my life is approaching its end, and the evening awaits me.
There is not enough time for me to cleanse myself of my sins, for they are so many.
Heal me while I am still on earth, and I shall be truly healthy.
In your mercy, move me to repent so that I shall not be ashamed when I meet You in heaven.”

Saint Macarius of Egypt, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Links 

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – 15 January – St Macarius of Egypt (c 300-390) Priest, Abbot, Hermit, Desert Father of the Church – Rev. Alban Butler Volume I: January. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. January 16 St. Macarius the Elder, of Egypt

Catholic Online – St. Macarius the Great

CatholicSaints.Info – Saint Macarius of Egypt

CatholicSaints.Info – Saints of the Day – Macarius the Elder of Alexandria, Hermit by Katherine I Rabenstein

C News Live – Saint Macarius of Egypt

Fifty Spiritual Homilies of St Macarius the Egyptian by A. J. Mason

Pilgrim Center of Hope – St. Macarius the Great

Sensus Fidelium – St Maracius, The Elder, of Egypt

Wikipedia – Macarius of Egypt

Video Link