According to the Apophthegmata Patrum, Macarius was fleeing ordination by a bishop and hid in an unnamed village taking up work as a laborer.(1) After some time a woman accused Macarius of defiling and impregnating her. He was promptly seized and humiliated. His captors hung pots filthy with black soot around his neck and paraded him through the village beating him as they went. Macarius was forced by the woman’s parents to ‘keep’ her as his ‘wife.’ He ensured for her care during the pregnancy through the proceeds earned from selling his weaved baskets. However, when it was time for the woman to give birth she ran into complications. She ultimately confessed that Macarius was not the father and only then did she have a successful delivery. After this ordeal in 324 Macarius withdrew deep into the desert, to Scetis.(2) In roughly sixteen years, Scetis had become rather populous and was starting to resemble what would in due course become Macarius’ monastery in 360. The region grew so much in fact that one monk felt he should flee deeper into the desert to escape the growing populous.(3) In 374 during the Arian persecutions, Macarius was exiled to an island on the Nile Delta. There he would remain for another sixteen years before returning to Scetis, ultimately coming to rest in c.390.(4)

Notes

(1) Eng. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers. Grk. ἀποφθέγματα τῶν ἁγίων γερόντων.

(2) Vivian, 1998 (p. 349) || Macarius withdrew to Scetis, in Lower Egypt which at the time was quite remote. Today وادي النطرون the region is called Wadi El Natrun

(3) ibid. (p.339) || Abba Sisoës complained that Scetis was too crowded and so left to find greater solitude. Sisoës appears in the Apothegmatic Patrum under the sayings of St. Macarius in verse 7 which details the bizarre incident where Macarius summons a dead man at the request of a widow to locate some lost coin. || For more on Abba Sisoës see: “Venerable Sisoës the Great.” – Orthodox Church in America. Accessed October 09, 2016. https:// oca.org/saints/lives/2016/07/06/101918-venerable-sisoes-the-great.


(4) Vivian, 2000 (p.500) || Macarius’ resting place is known today as Deir Anba Maqar. His body can still be found there and is venerated to this day.

Reference 

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (Apothegmata Patrum) London-Oxford: Mowbrays, 1975.

Vivian, Tim, trans. “The Good God, the Holy Power, and the Paraclete: “To the Sons of God

Vivian, Tim, trans. “The Coptic Sayings of Saint Macarius of Egypt.” Cistercian Studies Quarterly 35.4 (2000): 499-524.

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