Macarius from Butler's Lives of the Saints

10 March
St. Marcarius

Preserved in the pages of the historian Eusebius is the letter which Constantine wrote to Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem, entrusting him with the construction of a church on the spot where the Empress Helen had discovered the site of Christ's sepulchre, and giving him practically a free hand in its design and in the choice of workmen and materials. He lived to complete the basilica he had undertaken. We know from the testimony of St Athanasius that Macarius was a sincere and upright man, filled with the true apostolic spirit. He succeeded Bishop Hermon in 314 at the time when the Arian heresy was beginning seriously to menace the Church, and we know from the testimony of St Athanasius that he proved himself a valiant champion of the true faith. At the Council of Nicaca his name appears first of the Palestinian bishops in the list of the signatories.

According to the popular legend, Macarius was not only present at the finding of Christ's cross, but was also actually the means of identifying it. When the necessary excavations had been made three crosses were discovered, and it was at first doubtful which of the three was that on which our Lord had suffered. If we may trust the account which Rufintis gives in his Ecclesiastical History: "It happened that in the city there was a woman lying ill, nigh unto death. Macarius was bishop of that church at the time. When he saw the queen and the rest standing by, he said, "Bring hither all the crosses that have been found, and God will show which it was that bore the Lord". Then having entered with the queen and the others into the house of the woman who was ill, he knelt down and prayed thus "O God, who through thine only-begotten Son hast inspired the heart of thine handmaid to seek the holy wood upon which our salvation depends, show plainly which cross was identified with the glory of the Lord and which served for the punishment of slaves. Grant that as soon as the health-giving wood touches this woman who is lying half-dead, she may be recalled to life from the gates of death." When he had spoken these words, he touched her with one of the crosses -- and thing happened. Then he applied the second -- equally without effect. As soon, however, as he touched her with the third cross, she started up open-eyed and, with her strength fully restored, began to glorify God and to run about the house with greater agility than before her illness. The queen, having obtained her desire sough such a clear indication, erected with royal pomp a marvellous temple on the spot where she had found the cross."

Constantine's great basilica was consecrated on September 13, 335, the year which is generally considered to have been that of the death of its supervisor and builder Macarius.

[note:] It must be confessed that there is some discrepancy between the accounts given by St Ambrose and the church historians concerning the miracle by which the cross was identified, but this is dealt with more fully on May 3. see the Acta Sanctorum, March, vol. ii; DCB., vol. iii, p. 765; and F. J. Bacchus in the Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. ix, pp. 482-483.



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