Saint Macarius of Zheltovod and Unzha was born in the year 1349 at Nizhni-Novgorod into a pious family. At twelve years of age he secretly left his parents and accepted monastic tonsure at the Nizhni-Novgorod Caves monastery under Saint Dionysius (June 26). With all the intensity of his youthful soul he gave himself over to the work of salvation. He stood out among the brethren for his extremely strict fasting and precise fulfillment of the monastic rule.
The parents of Saint Macarius only learned three years later where he had gone. His father went to him and tearfully besought his son merely that he would come forth and show himself. Saint Macarius spoke with his father through a wall, saying that he would see him in the future life. “Extend your hand, at least,” implored the father. The son fulfilled this small request and the father, having kissed his son’s hand, returned home.
Burdened by fame, the humble Macarius set off for the shores of the River Volga, and here he pursued asceticism near the waters of Yellow Lake. Here by firm determination and patience he overcame the abuse of the Enemy of salvation. Lovers of solitude gathered to Saint Macarius, and in 1435 he organized a monastery for them in the Name of the Most Holy Trinity.
Here also he began to preach Christianity to the surrounding Cheremis and Chuvash peoples, and he baptized both Mohammedans and pagans in the lake, which received its name from the saint. When the Kazan Tatars destroyed the monastery in 1439, they took Saint Macarius captive. Out of respect for his piety and charitable love, the Khan released the saint from captivity and freed nearly 400 Christians with him. But in return, Saint Macarius promised not to settle by Yellow Lake.
Saint Macarius reverently buried those killed at his monastery, and he went 200 versts to the Galich border. During the time of this resettlement all those on the way were fed in miraculous manner through the prayers of the saint. Having arrived at the city of Unzha, Saint Macarius set up a cross 15 versts from the city, and built a cell on the shores of Lake Unzha. Here he founded a new monastery. During the fifth year of his life at Lake Unzha, Saint Macarius took sick and reposed at age 95.
While yet alive, Saint Macarius was granted a gift: he healed a blind and demon-afflicted girl. After the death of the monk, many received healing from his relics. The monks built a temple over his grave, and established a cenobitic rule at the monastery.
In 1522, Tatars fell upon Unzha and wanted to destroy the silver reliquary in the Makariev monastery, but they fell blind. In a panic, they took to flight. Many of them drowned in the Unzha. In 1532, through the prayers of Saint Macarius, the city of Soligalich was saved from the Tatars. In gratitude, the inhabitants built a chapel in the cathedral church in honor of the saint. More than 50 people received healing from grievous infirmities through the prayers of Saint Macarius. This was certified by a commission sent by Patriarch Philaret in 1619.