The Hieromartyr Macarius of Kanev lived in the seventeenth century. This was a most terrible time for Orthodox Christians in western Rus. The constant struggles of the Hieromartyr, were an attempt to defend the Orthodox Faith under difficult conditions, when it was possible only to defend the future of the Russian Orthodox Church, which was preserved from the brusque passing of the hurricane of the Unia, endured together with Tatar incursions.
The holy Hieromartyr Macarius was born in 1605 in the city of Ovruch in Volhynia into the illustrious Tokarevsky family, renowned adherents of Orthodoxy. In the years between 1614-1620 the saint studied at the Ovruch Dormition monastery, and upon the death of his parents he became a monk at this monastery, having begun his service as a novice.
In 1625 St Macarius, with the blessing of the archimandrite, left the Dormition monastery and was sent to the Pinsk bishop, Avramii, who assigned him to the Pinsk Kupyatichsk monastery. In 1630 he was ordained as hierodeacon, and in 1632 as hieromonk.
Fame about the excellence of the monastic life of the hieromonk Macarius spread beyond the bounds of the Kupyatichsk monastery, and in 1637 the brethren of the Bretsk Symonov monastery turned with a request to the igumen of the Kupyatichsk monastery, Hilarion (Denisevich), to send them St Macarius to be their head. But the Kupyatichsk igumen also had need of the hieromonk Macarius.
In 1637 the head of the Kupyatichsk monastery sent him to Metropolitan Peter Moghila of Kiev to hand over money collected by the brethren for the rebuilding of Kiev’s church of the Holy Wisdom, and for the solicitation of help for the construction and repair of damaged monastery churches. Seeing in the hieromonk Macarius a talented son of God’s Church, the Metropolitan issued him a certificate to collect offerings, and in 1638 appointed him head of the Kamenetsk Resurrection monastery (in Grodnensk district).
Until the pillaging and seizing of the monastery by the Uniates in 1642, St Macarius guided the brethren of the Resurrection monastery. In these harsh times the brethren of the Kupyatichsk monastery elected St Macarius as igumen, who led the monastery until 1656. From 1656 through 1659, St Macarius headed the Pinsk monastery, and from 1660 as archimandrite St Macarius guided the brethren of his original Ovruch Dormition monastery.
More than ten years passed in constant struggle with the Latin Poles in Ovruch. Nothing could compel the brethren to quit the monastery, neither the seizure of the farm lands belonging to the monastery by the Dominicans, nor the rapacious pillaging of moveable property, nor beatings. Only in the year 1671, after the devastation of Ovruch by the Tatars, did the holy archimandrite Macarius leave the monastery, in which there remained not a single monk, and he went to the Kiev Caves Lavra.
But the defenders of Orthodoxy, like St Macarius, were needed not only at Kiev, but even more outside of Kiev. Metropolitan Joseph (Neliubovich-Tukal’sky) assigned Archimandrite Macarius as head of the Kanev monastery. Thus, after thirty years of struggle with the Uniates, St Macarius was again on the front lines of battle for the Orthodox Faith.
In 1672 Yuri, the son of Bogdan Khmel’nitsky, sought shelter at the Kanev monastery. The hetman Doroshenko, petitioned Metropolitan Joseph for the assignment of St Macarius, and repeatedly visited Kanev monastery. In 1675, he switched his allegiance to Russia, after he renounced allegiance to the Turks, evidently, not without counsel from St Macarius.
In response the Turkish powers dispatched an army to Little Russia. On September 4, 1678, the aggressors rushed on the monastery. St Macarius met the enemy with cross in hand at the entrance to the church. The Turks demanded that the monk hand over to them the monastery treasury. Hearing the answer of the monk, that his treasure was in Heaven, the furious robbers hung the saint hand and foot between two posts.
After two days they beheaded the Hieromartyr on September 7, 1678. Witnesses to the martyric death of Archimandrite Macarius carried his body to the monastery church, in which they were hidden for safety. But the returning Turks placed firewood around the church and burned everything in the temple. When the surviving citizens of Kanev began removing the bodies of those who perished, then only one body was found whole and as though alive. This was the body of the Hieromartyr Macarius, attired in hairshirt, with a cross on his breast and another cross in his hand. The holy body was buried in this temple beneath the altar on September 8, 1678.
The holy Hieromartyr Macarius was a man of highly righteous and spiritual life, glorified while still alive by miracles and the gift of clairvoyance. At Kanev, he healed the blind and the dying.
In 1688, during renovation of the temple, the grave of the Hieromartyr was opened, and the incorrupt body of the saint was found. In connection with the danger of invasion for the Kanev monastery, on May 13, 1688 the holy relics were solemnly transferred to the Pereyaslavl regimental Resurrection church. There also they transferred the beloved book of the Hieromartyr, “Discourse of John Chrysostom on the 14 Epistles of the holy Apostle Paul” (Kiev edition 1621-23) with his signature on one of the pageleafs. Under Bishop Zachariah (Cornelovich) the relics were transferred in 1713 to a new-built temple of the Pereyaslavl Mikhailovsk monastery, and after its closing the relics rested at the Pereyaslavl Resurrection monastery from August 4, 1786.
In 1942, the relics were transferred to the Trinity church in the city of Cherkassa, and from 1965 they have been in the church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos in that same city.
The commemoration of the Hieromartyr Macarius is made twice: September 7, the day of his repose, and on May 13, the transfer of his holy relics.