Venerable Macarius of Alexandria

Saint Macarius of Alexandria was a contemporary and friend of St Macarius of Egypt (January 19). He was born in the year 295, and until the age of forty he was occupied in trade. Later, he was baptized and withdrew into the desert, where he spent more than sixty years.

After several years of ascetic life he was ordained to the holy priesthood and made head of the monastery the Cells in the desert between Nitria and Skete, where hermits silently lived in asceticism, each separately in his own cell. There were three deserts in northern Egypt: the first was the Cells (the inner desert), so designated because of the many cells carved into the rocks. The second was called Skete (utter desert). The third was the Nitrian desert which reached the western bank of the Nile.

St Macarius of Alexandria, like Macarius of Egypt, was a great ascetic and monastic head, and he worked many miracles. Learning about some monk’s ascetic feat, he attempted to imitate it. Thus, when he heard that someone ate only one pound of bread a day, he would eat only that much or even less. Wishing to shorten his sleep, he stayed for twenty whole days under the open sky, enduring heat by day and cold by night.

St Macarius once received a bunch of newly-picked grapes. He very much wanted to eat them, but he conquered this desire in himself and gave the grapes to another monk who was sick. That monk, wanting to preserve his abstinence, gave the grapes to another, and he gave them to a third and so forth. In the end the bunch of grapes returned to St Macarius. The ascetic was astonished at the abstinence of his disciples and gave thanks to God.

Once, a proud thought came to the saint to go to Rome and heal the sick. Struggling with the temptation, the saint filled up a sack of sand, loaded it on himself and walked into the desert until he exhausted his body. Then the proud thought did not leave him.

By his ascetic life, fasting, and renunciation of earthly things, St Macarius acquired the gifts of wonderworking and of discerning the inner thoughts of people, and he also saw many visions. He once saw how one of the ascetics of the holy monastery, St Mark, received the Holy Mysteries from the hands of angels, and how during Communion the careless brethren received burning coals from the demons instead of the Body of Christ.

St Macarius was glorified by many miracles of healing the sick and casting out devils. St Macarius of Alexandria died in about 394-395 at age of one hundred. He wrote a Discourse on the Origin of the Soul included in the text of the Annotated Psalter.