Feast Day of St. Macrina the Younger
When I spend a good chunk of time in contemplative prayer, I wind up being more grounded in what is truly important. This is not because my prayer time is filled with blissful awareness of God. For me, even after a good twenty years, contemplative prayer is still a struggle in which I must constantly shift away from internal clamor again and again to refocus on God’s presence. Little oases of internal resting in the Holy are interspersed between bouts of planning, theorizing, feeling good or bad about events of the day and so forth. And still prayer nourishes me like nothing else.
For each one of us prayer is the fundamental task in which we were created to engage. God yearns for relationship with us, and prayer is the medium through which this happens. We all have a way of praying that is unique to us. If we allow God to do so, God will guide us to its discovery and development.
St. Macrina, whose Feast Day we celebrate today, was the older sister and spiritual guide of two of the Cappadocian Fathers, Gregory of Nyssa and Basil the Great. Her spiritual presence must have been pretty genuine to stand up to the scrutiny of those irritating younger siblings, and it did so, admirably. All nine of Macrina’s brothers were deeply influenced by her. They became theologians guiding the church, bishops, and creators of monastic communities.
Macrina herself, in collaboration with her mother, founded and led her own religious community, finding her way to a practice steeped in prayer. Out of this life of devotion came works of charity – feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and taking in women who were homeless or destitute. She was like a shofar, sounding the call to come to the one who loves us.
“Come unto me all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest,” says Jesus in the reading for her Feast Day. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
The spiritual disciplines that are mainstays of the monastic life have been made accessible to all of us. We can each find our natural devotional expression. “Come unto me,” Christ says, and we can, through our prayer practice. Day by day, moment by moment, we can turn our attention to the companion who is always right there with us, and listen to his silent presence.
From personal experience I can tell you that it will pretty often seem like nothing is happening. Listening, we hear only the crickets – or the neighbor’s irritating music. Our intercessory prayers seem to fall into nothingness. And yet, through the practice of coming again and again into Christ’s presence (sometimes twice in the same minute if the mental distractions are strong) there is rest. There is nourishment. And, over time, we become models to others who see us “up close and personal.” We ourselves become the shofars of Christ, sounding, “Come to me.”
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconorgapher and writer living in Fort Collins, Colorado.