MACARIUS THE GREAT OR THE EGYPTIAN (ca. 300-ca. 390)
A Saint, ascetic. He is one of the great figures of Egyptian monasticism. Macarius was a villager from the southwestern part of the Delta. Around 330 he withdrew into Wadi al-Nartun (Scetis), about 80 kilometers south of Alexandria. He lived for a time in a cave in the area of Wadi al-Natrun near where the Monastery of al-Baramous stands today. Finally he prepared for himself a cave in the very region where there is an extant monastery bearing his name. Disciples joined Macarius soon, and monasticism began to flourish there.
Macarius’ monasticism was a form of semianchoritism, between the anchoritic life of Antony and the cenobitic or communal monasticism of Pachomius. Monks lived alone in independent cells but gathered on Saturdays and Sundays to celebrate mass and to take part in a common meal. Many of Macarius’ sayings and anecdotes about him are found in the Sayings of the Fathers. Macarius was highly appreciated by Evagrius of Ponticus.
When Macarius died in 390 there were four monasteries in Scetis: Macarius, Pshoi, John the Little, and the Monastery of al-Baramous. Today, the Monastery of St. Macarius is one of the most prosperous monasteries in Egypt. Beginning in 1969 it flourished greatly under Matta al-Miskin. Its modern printing press produces many important publications in Arabic, in addition to the monthly magazine Saint Mark.