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THEO 431 - Women in the Early Church: Matrology

A guide to library resources about the lives and roles of Christian women in the first centuries.

St. Macrina the Younger (c. 327–80)

  

 

St. Macrina the Younger  (c. 327–80), the elder sister of St Basil the Great  and St Gregory  of Nyssa. She is sometimes known as ‘Macrina the Younger’ to distinguish her from ‘Macrina the Elder’, her paternal grandmother. By her strength of character she exercised a deep influence upon her brothers, esp. in winning Basil from a promising secular career for the Christian priesthood. She also established a flourishing community on the family estate in Pontus. The chief source for knowledge of her life is Gregory of Nyssa's Vita Macrinae Junioris, which also preserves a vivid account of their meeting at her deathbed. Her competence as a theologian is attested by the same writer's De Anima et Resurrectione. Feast day, 19 July [of Macrina the Elder, 14 Jan. ]. [from the Oxford Dicitonary of the Christian Church.]

Melania the Younger

Melania the Younger: (385-439).Better known than her saintly grandmother, she talked her husband into celibacy after their second child died. They gave their immense fortune to found monasteries and do other good works, and left Rome ahead of the Visigoth invasions, going on pilgrimage to and settling in Jerusalem.  {Frp, websIte" "Early Christianity and Women's History".]

Desert Mothers

The Desert Mothers were female Christian ascetics living in the desert of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria in the 4th and 5th centuries CE. They typically lived in the monastic communities that began forming during that time, though sometimes they lived as hermits. Other women from that era who influenced the early ascetic or monastic tradition while living outside the desert are also described as Desert Mothers. {from "In the Heart of the Desert: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers" , pp. 29–32)

What about Mothers of the Church

In the field of Patristics, women in the early Church seldom wielded power so it is hard to study "Church Mothers" in the same way. 

However, many early Christian women were known for their heroic faith as martyrs, patrons, spiritual guides, teachers, and leaders.