Saint of the Day – 10 March – Saint Macarius (Died c 335) Bishop of Jerusalem from 312 until his death, Defender of the Faith against Arianism, founder of the True Cross with St Helena, organiser and manager of the building of the Sacred Basilicas, including the Church of the Holy Sepuchre in Jerusalem, paid for by St Constantine the Great, St Helena’s son. Also of great import is the fact that Bishop Macarius was one of the two main authors of the Nicene Creed, that is, of the Creed that we still pronounce in Mass today, professing faith “In one God, the Father Almighty” and “In one Lord, Jesus Christ. .. True God from true God.” Died c 335 of natural causes. Also known as – Macario.
The Roman Martyrology states of him today: “The commemoration of St Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem, on whose exhortation the holy places were brought to light by Constantine the Great and his mother, St Helena and ennobled with, the construction of the Sacred Basilicas.”
St Athanasius, in one of his orations against Arianism, refers to Macarius as an example of “the honest and simple style of apostolic men.” The date 312 for Macarius’s accession to the Episcopate is found in St Jerome’s version of Eusebius of Caesarea’s Chronicle. And Macarius is listed as one of the Bishops to whom St Alexander of Alexandria wrote warning against Arias.
Macarius accompanied St Helena Augusta, the mother of St Constantine I, in her search in Jerusalem for relics of the Passion of Jesus, including the Sacred Cross on which Jesus was Crucified.
According to Eusebius, he received a long letter from Constantine with reference to the building of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem:
“Such is our Saviour’s grace, that no power of language seems adequate to describe the wondrous circumstance to which I am about to refer. For, that the monument of His most holy Passion, so long ago buried beneath the ground, should have remained unknown for so long a series of years, until its reappearance to His servants now set free through the removal of him who was the common enemy of all, is a fact, which truly surpasses all admiration … And as to the columns and marbles, whatever you shall judge, after actual inspection of the plan, to be especially precious and serviceable, be diligent to send information to us in writing, in order that whatever quantity or sort of materials we shall esteem from your letter to be needful, may be procured from every quarter, as required, for it is fitting that the most marvellous place in the world should be worthily decorated.”
Macarius took part in the Council of Nicaea (325), and two concl;usions as to the part he played there are worth mentioning. The first is that there was a passage of arms between him and his Archbishop, St Eusebius of Caesarea, concerning the rights of their respective Sees. The seventh Canon of the Council — “As custom and ancient tradition show that the Bishop of Ælia [Jerusalem] ought to be honoured, he shall have precedence; without prejudice, however, to the dignity which belongs to the Metropolis” — by its vagueness suggests that it was the result of a drawn battle. The second conclusion, is that Macarius, together with St Eustathius of Antioch, had a good deal to do with the drafting of the Nicene Creed finally adopted by the First Council of Nicæa in 325 and which was introduced into the Mass by St Leander (534-600).
The vigour of his opposition to the Arianists is suggested by the abusive manner in which Arias writes of him in his letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia. Macarius’s name appears first among those of the Bishops of Palestine who subscribed to the Council of Nicæa. Athanasius, in his encyclical letter to the Bishops of Egypt and Libya, places the name of Macarius (who had been long dead at that time) among those Bishops renowned for their orthodoxy. Macarius here at the Council, also appointed Maximus, who afterwards succeeded him, Bishop of Lydia and that the appointment did not take effect because the people of Jerusalem refused to part with Maximus. He also gives another version of the story, to the effect that Macarius himself changed his mind, fearing that, if Maximus was out of the way, an unorthodox Bishop would be appointed to succeed him. The fact that Macarius was then nearing his end would explain the reluctance, whether on his part or that of his flock, to be deprived of Maximus.
After the Council Constantine requested Macarius to search for the sites of the Resurrection and the Passion and the True Cross. It is likely that this is what happened, for excavations were begun very soon after the Council and, completely under the management of Macarius.
The huge mound and stonework with the temple of Venus on the top, which in the time of Hadrian had been piled up over the Holy Sepulchre, were demolished,and “when the original surface of the ground appeared, forthwith, contrary to all expectation, the hallowed monument of our Saviour’s Resurrection was discovered”. On hearing the news Constantine wrote to Macarius giving lavish orders for the erection of a Church on the site. Later on, he wrote another letter “To Macarius and the rest of the Bishops of Palestine” ordering a Church to be built at Mambre, which also had been defiled by a pagan shrine. St Macarius also oversaw and arranged the building of the Churches n the sites of the Nativity and Ascension.