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St. Macarius of Kanev and Martyrdom to Uphold the Faith

St. Macarius of Kanev, a Beacon of Unwavering Faith

Saint Macarius of Kanev

On this day, May 26, we commemorate the transfer of the holy relics of Saint Macarius of Kanev in 1688. The Church glorified him as a devoted disciple of our Saviour, a well-known ascetic, and a holy martyr who inspired countless Christians. He kept them from apostatising and helped keep our religion alive with his brave defence of Orthodoxy and his example of purity and steadfast trust in the Lord.

He lived during a trying time for the Orthodox Church in modern-day Ukraine and Belarus. The Orthodox faithful faced intense pressure to renounce their religion once the Church Union of Brest was signed in 1599, creating the Uniat Church under the control of Rome. The Union essentially placed the canonical Orthodox church outside the law and made its monasteries and churches open targets for Catholics and Uniates. Saint Macarius of Kanev and Pinsk was one of a number of canonical church hierarchs who died as martyrs.

He boldly asked the Union crusaders who had come to persuade him to join: "What agreements can we have with you? You have rejected the teachings of the Ecumenical Councils, embraced a false tradition, and instead of submitting to the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, you have deferred to the Pope of Rome. The Orthodox should not depart from their Holy Faith, but instead should patiently work through their upcoming challenges while always remembering the Lord Jesus.

He was born in the mediaeval city of Ovruch, which is now in Ukraine, to a devout Orthodox family in 1605. Less than ten years of age, in 1614, he entered the Monastery of the Dormition of the Mother of God in Ovruch, where he studied until 1620 when he began serving as a novice. Several years later, he was assigned to the Kupiatitsky Monastery in Pinsk, Belarus, where he made significant development in ascetic deeds and spiritual life, and was consecrated as Hierodeacon in 1630 and then as Hieromonk two years later. He was the hegumen of this monastery from 1656 to 1659.

He came back to Ovruch in 1660 to lead the brothers in the Dormition Monastery. During his ten years of service there, he oversaw the brethren's valiant resistance to persecution. He exhorted the brothers, "Repeat, repeat continually the words of the Prophet David: 'If a battle shall be raised against me, in Him shall I hope.'" (Psalm 26: 3). The attackers overran the farmlands of the monastery, seized its belongings, and battered the monks, but they were unable to make them flee. Macarius did not leave the monastery for the Kiev Caves Lavra until the city had been destroyed by a Poles and Tartars attack in 1671, and not a single monk remained.

After spending two years at the Lavra, he was appointed Hegumen of the Kanev Monastery. The saint became well-known there for his countless miracles and gift of foresight. He gave spiritual guidance and healing to many, especially the destitute, sick, and grieving who came to see him.

He healed a blind man from Kanev by telling him to have faith and pray to the One who gave sight to the blind man. At his advice, the man went to church on Theophany's Eve and saw light during the service. The man built a church in celebration of the Holy Theophany in gratitude to God for his deliverance.

Saint Macarius persuaded a devout woman's son to renounce his indolent and immoral lifestyle with his deep prayer and spiritual guidance. He advised the young man to read the prayer "Our Father", pay attention to the life lessons it contains, allow God's light to enter his heart, and take inspiration from its words for spiritual fortitude. The saint remarked, "I believe it is not difficult to read this prayer attentively. The young man listened, read the prayer often, and had a complete change of heart.

St. Macarius foresaw Kanev's destruction and his martyrdom two years before his passing. The Turks and Tatars assaulted Kanev on September 4, 1678, and stormed inside the monastery. He was mercilessly beaten by the Tatars, who demanded the wealth and possessions of the monastery. The Holy Elder said, "My gold is not on earth; it is in heaven." The invaders broke his arms and legs and tore off his flesh. But St. Macarius calmly suffered the tortures. According to tradition, his dying words were, "Direct my steps on a quiet journey to You, O God! For this, my spirit yearns, and on it finds its end."

While the monastery church was being repaired in 1688, the Saint's tomb was discovered, containing his fragrant and incorrupt relics. On May 13, 1688, they were moved to the Pereyaslavl Church of the Resurrection. Today, his relics are being kept in the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God in Cherkasy, Ukraine.

Christians in the present day continue to be inspired by his words of reassurance and his extraordinary bravery. On the day of his feast, we magnify him for his angelic life, and his martyrdom for the sake of our Lord. We turn to him in our prayers for the forgiveness of our sins, illumination of our hearts and redemption of our souls.

June 01, 2023
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