One day, the cave where holy ascetic Makarios lived was found by three monks from the Monastery of St Asclepius in Mesopotamia. Sergius, Hyginos and Theophilos had left the monastery in order to wander through the world, seeking a sign from God which would be beneficial for their salvation. Suddenly, as they approached the cave, they noticed a marvelous fragrance issuing forth from it. Then they saw an old man walking toward them, covered only by his hair and a beard which reached his knees. He threw himself to the ground and remained there for several minutes, until he was sure the three strangers were not really demons. When he was satisfied that he was not experiencing some sort of delusion, he invited them into his cave. The oldest monk asked him to relate his story, which he did.
St Makarios told them that he was born in Rome and was the son of a wealthy Senator named John. When he was old enough to be married, his parents betrothed him against his will. There was a celebration following the wedding, but instead of entering the bridal chamber, he fled to the home of a pious widow, where he spent seven days secretly weeping and entreating God to help him. When he left her house, Makarios met a well-dressed old man of noble demeanor. This man ordered Makarios to accompany him. Makarios did follow him for three years, until one day they came to a cave, and then the old man vanished. He appeared to Makarios in a dream soon afterward and revealed that he was the Archangel Raphael, who had guided Tobias in his travels. Before he vanished, the Archangel entrusted him to God’s mercy.
Soon after he first moved into the cave, Makarios saw a most beautiful young woman standing before him, who said that she also had fled from an unwanted marriage in Rome. In spite of his caution, St Makarios did not have sufficient discernment to escape the devil’s snare, and so he allowed the girl to spend the night in his cave. For the first time in his life, he was assaulted by the fiery darts of carnal desire, and he sinned with the girl. Suddenly she disappeared, and the devil rejoiced because he had tempted the ascetic to sin.
At that moment St Makarios realized the seriousness of his fall. Weeping bitterly, he decided to leave the cave and find another place where he might do penance. Along the way, the Archangel Raphael appeared to him once again and urged him to return. He told him that God would hear his prayers if he remained in the cave. So he went back and subjected his flesh to severe fasting, vigils and absolute self-denial for many years, so that he might recover the purity of his soul in order to contemplate God.
After he had edified the three brethren with the story of his struggles, St Makarios sent them on their way in peace. His sin was very great, but so was his repentance; therefore, he fell asleep in the Lord in the presence of the angels and the saints.
The precise date of the saint’s repose is not known, but it was probably at the end of the fourth century, or the beginning of the fifth.