January 8, 2016

Saint Makarios the Makris, Abbot of Pantocrator Monastery in Constantinople (+ 1431)

St. Makarios Makris (Feast Day - January 8)

Makarios the Makris (or Macarius Macres) was born in 1383 in Thessaloniki of a devout and distinguished family of the city, according to the Chronikon of Phrantzes, and was of Jewish origin. Having completed his general education in Thessaloniki, in which he made a special study of philosophy and rhetoric, he manifested, at the age of 18, a desire to become a monk of the Holy Mountain, but he was not able to put this inner impulse of his soul into practice because of the opposition of his mother. After her death, leaving behind friends and family, he settled at the Monastery of Vatopaidi, where after strict testing, he was tonsured as a monk by the learned and devout elder Armenopoulos in 1409.

After he had spent ten years in spiritual exercise and obedience, he was ordained, on the orders of his elder, first deacon and afterwards priest, becoming an adornment to the office of the priesthood by his virtuous life. After the death of his elder, he subjected himself to another spiritual father, by the name of David. Together with this elder, he went, on the invitation of the Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos, to Constantinople, where he remained for two years. There Makarios distinguished himself as an orator and interpreter of Holy Scripture and his fame spread throughout the city. He became particularly well known for his efforts to restore old, neglected monasteries. However, his desire was to live the life of a hesychast, for which he returned to his Monastery.

After his return to the Monastery, and the death of his elder (1422), he remained there until 1424, when, because he was known in ecclesiastical circles in the capital for his many gifts, he was elected Abbot of Studios Monastery, but rejected it, and in turn he was elected Abbot of the Pantocrator Monastery in Constantinople which was in decline, also receiving the title of ‘Great Protosyncellus of the Great Church of Christ’. As Abbot, he worked tirelessly for the renovation and remaining of his monastery, traveling to Serbia and Russia where he received support from King Stephen of Serbia and Metropolitan Photius of Moscow. His efforts were crowned with success, and he was held in high regard both in church circles and by the Emperor, who had Makarios as his confessor.

It was precisely for that reason that he was chosen to take part in various missions to Rome as representative of the Church of Constantinople. In 1429 he led a delegation to Pope Martin V in Rome to prepare for a synod for the union of the Churches. There he upheld the Orthodox doctrines with vigor and theological skill in his debates with the Latins. On the eve of his second mission to Rome, he fell ill from the plague and reposed in the Lord on 7 January 1431 on the island of Halki at the age of 45. His feast day is observed on 8 January.

Besides numerous Lives of Saints and homilies for feasts, he wrote dogmatic and apologetic treatises on the difference between Orthodox and Latins and Orthodox and Muslims. According to his anonymous biographer, Saint Makarios was made worthy of the vision of the uncreated Light, a fruit of his hesychastic labors. He was a direct predecessor to Saints Mark of Ephesus and Gennadios Scholarios.