Spending time in Cappadocia (Wikipedia entry) and seeing so many representations of saints on frescoes within cave churches has sparked my interest in who they all were. I come from a tradition (American Protestant Christianity, not Catholic or Orthodox Christianity) that puts almost no emphasis on saints and is even skeptical of the concept of saints beyond the rather generic notion of a communion of saints which is the spiritual union of all believers living and dead.
The early Christians, especially in the Roman and Byzantine Empires, made a practice of venerating people of extraordinary spirituality or holiness. See the Wikipedia entry on the definition of saint.
Cappadocians are mentioned in the Bible's Book of Acts as having heard the Gospel account from Galileans who knew Jesus. The Cappadocians were introduced to the resurrection of Jesus not long afterwards on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2/9).
The Apostle Paul probably passed through Cappadocia on his missionary journeys in Anatolia, as it wasn't so far from his home in Tarsus and possibly on the way to Ephesus and Macedonia (present-day Greece) where we know he preached during his 20 years of traveling and spreading the word. If not for Paul, who never actually met Jesus but was filled with the spirit, Christianity probably would have died out. See the PBS documentary, In the Footsteps of Peter and Paul. See also Today's Zaman, Hiking in an Apostle's Footsteps, the St. Paul Trail.
Ancient forces, still manifest in Cappadocia, shaped our lives in ways we are unaware of, writes Michael Farrell in the National Catholic Reporter.
Early Christians in the third century flocked to Cappadocia to escape Roman persecution. The soft stone was carved into chapels and churches, and the natural caves and tunnels could be made into underground cities and safe hiding places. At the open air museum in Goreme, home to at least six cave churches, however, the tour guides caution that what you see cannot be verifiably traced to the first century after Jesus. The cave churches you see go back to the 10th and 11th centuries.
The Cappadocian Fathers or Cappadocian Philosophers are Basil the Great (St Basil of Caesarea or Cappadocia or present-day Kayseri, who lived from 330-379)), Basil's brother Gregory of Nyssa (c.330-395), who was bishop of Nyssa; and a close friend, Gregory Nazianzus (329-389), who became Patriarch of Constantinople. They advanced early Christian theology, including the doctrine of the trinity -- God as three in one, Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- and established the basis for the Nicene Creed, which so many churchgoers recite each Sunday.
"Monastic life arose simultaneously in many areas of the early Christian world and saw a variety of expressions. In some areas, like Cappadocia, monastic life began as a communal endeavor," wrote Antonia Ryan in the National Catholic Reporter:
Monastic founder St. Basil of Caesarea (d. 379) cautioned that “a person living in solitary retirement will not readily discern his own defects” and called living alone an “ineffectual and unprofitable life.”
July 19 is the "feast of St. Macrina the Younger," who was born in 330 in Caesarea, according to Gerelyn Hollingsworth in the National Catholic Reporter:
Macrina is venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Catholic Churches, the Lutheran Church, and the Anglican Communion. Among the many saints in her family are her grandmother, Macrina the Elder, her parents, Basil and Emmelia, her brothers Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Naucratius, and Peter of Sebaste, and a sister (or sister-in-law), Blessed Theosebia the Deaconess.
"Basil the Great is remembered as the founder of Eastern monasticism. All Eastern Orthodox monks are Basilian monks and follow a variation of the monastic rule that he outlined. However, it is often overlooked that the community of monks organized by Basil was preceded and inspired by a community of nuns organized by his sister, Macrina."
--from "Macrina the Younger", by James Kiefer.
Macrina was "the eldest of 10 children." Her brother Gregory wrote a 35-page narrative of his sister’s life around 380-383. More about that here.
"The family of Macrina the Elder is . . . unique in Christian history for its renowned holiness. . . . What is pertinent to us here is the fact that the family recognized the women to be the guides directing them all to their spiritual ends."
". . . Macrina the Younger . . . became the spiritual guide for the family. After Basil 'returned after his long period of education, already a practised rhetorician,' Gregory wrote, 'he was puffed up beyond measure with the pride of oratory . . Nevertheless Macrina took him in hand, and with such speed did she draw him toward the mark of philosophy that he forsook the glories of this world.'"
--from A Woman's Way: The Forgotten History of Women Spiritual Directors, by Patricia Ranft, Palgrave Macmillan, 2001. Ranft provides many details of the spiritual guidance given by Macrina the Younger to her mother, her siblings, her servants, and the members of the monastic community which she directed. Pages 26 - 34.
The most beautiful account of Macrina's life and holy death was written by her brother, St. Gregory of Nyssa.
St. Macrina died in 379. Click here for images.
Jan. 14 is "the feast of St. Nino," who was born in Cappadocia. She was a slave girl who brought Christianity to Georgia in the early fourth century, according to Hollingsworth in the NCR. She is venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Eastern Catholic Churches. Nino, a Christian, was brought as a captive to Georgia, then known as Iberia, from Cappadocia. She escaped her captors and went to live in the Jewish quarter of Urbnisi. One day, when people from the town went to the city of Mtskheta, Nino went with them and observed them worshipping the local gods. After her prayers, the bejeweled idols, Armazi, Gatzi, and Gaim, were destroyed by hailstones that fell during a hurricane.
Venerated in the cave frescoes of Cappadocia along with Jesus and the disciples are a number of saints including: