This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

December 30 -- Feast of Saint Macarius of Moscow

Macarius, Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia
Hours can slip away while I read enough background to understand unfamiliar saints and when I finally emerge from the labyrinth of webpages, I often find I have no coherent theme to which I can stick.  The big thing I learned while reading about Saint Macarius is how little I know about Russia, let alone sixteenth century Russia. 

I did not know that the Moscow Kremlin is just one of many kremlins.  A kremlin is a fortress or citadel, and many ancient cities have them. The kremlins in Novgorod, Kazan, and Solovetsky are all World Heritage Sites, but there are about sixty other kremlins in Russia itself, and another nine kremlins in Belarus and Ukraine. 

I did not know that the Moscow Kremlin had several cathedrals and churches within it walls.  I can't quite get an accurate count, but they seem to include the Cathedral of the Dormition, the Cathedral of Archangel Michael, Annunciation Cathedral, the Church of the Twelve Apostles, Cathedral of the High Saviour, the Church of the Deposition of the Virgin's Robe, and Lazar's church.  Saint Basil's Cathedral, perhaps the most famous of them, is outside the Kremlin walls, but not far away. 

Vasili III -- an eastern Fat Hank
I did not know that Tsar Vasili (Basil) III had a divorce crisis, not unlike that of Henry VIII of England.  In 1526, the Tsar found himself 47 years old and childless in spite of twenty years of marriage to Solomonia Saburova.  Not trusting the State to his brothers, he resolved to get an heir, even if it meant divorcing his wife.  Naturally the Russian clerics disapproved of marriage as much as the English did, but the Tsar did not need to make himself head of the Church.  Sure, he executed a few loudmouth critics and exiled a whole lot more, but in the end, it was a much tidier transition than the English managed.  He married the beautiful young Serbian princess Elena Glinskaya, niece of his friend Michael Glinski.  At first the new Tsarina did not conceive, leading the critics to declare that God was on their side, but eventually she gave birth to Ivan the Terrible, which is an ambiguous sign at best. 

also Tsar Vasili III
I mention all this because it is all the context for Macarius' life as a Russian priest.  He rose quickly through the monastic ranks to deacon.  After defending monastic land ownership, he was appointed archimandrite of a monastery west of Moscow.  After supporting the Tsar's divorce and subsequent marriage, he was appointed to the vacant see of Novgorod.  He proved an able administrator and sent missionaries north to the Finno-Ugric people.  After Vasili's death, during Ivan IV's minority, he became the Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia.  Although he was unpopular with the Duma (parliament, more or less), he was tight with Ivan and stayed in office.  He was even Ivan's stand-in in Moscow when the Tsar was waging the Kazan military campaign in 1552.   He also led the completion of the second and third editions of the Grand Menaion, the encyclopedia of Russian Orthodox saints.  And as he grew older, he became less involved with the affairs of state and more focused on religious projects, as befits a patriarch.  He died in 1563 and was buried in the Cathedral of the Dormition, within the walls of the Kremlin. 

I do not have enough knowledge of it all to cast judgment on Macarius.  If I made him sound opportunistic, it was not my intention.  Being the nation's top cleric is an inherently political job as well as a religious one, and rendering unto Caesar (or Czar, as it were) without denying the Lord his due is a tough task.  I'd say he managed it far better than Cardinal Wolsey or Thomas Cranmer. 

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