Saint Makarios was born in Trikala, of Corinth in 1731, to devout parents who were descended from the famous Notaras family of Constantinople. His father’s name was George and his mother’s was Anastasia. In Baptism he received the name Michael. His teacher in Kephalonia was named Eustathios. Young Michael was very zealous for the solitary life, and so he left his parents’ house in secret, and went to the Great Cave (Μέγα Σπήλαιον) Monastery. The Monastery was so named because it is the largest monastery of the Peloponnesos, and it was built in front of a cave. His father discovered where he was, however, and had Michael sent back home, where he spent much of his time studying the Divine Scriptures and other edifying books.
Since Corinth had lacked a teacher for a long time, Michael taught the young people for six years without payment. Even when he was very young, it was apparent that he did not care for the material things of this world, but only for spiritual treasures. When his father appointed him as the supervisor of an area where he could become very wealthy, he gave his money to the poor, and his father scolded him.
He excelled as a teacher, and the Corinthians loved him for his exemplary way of life. After the death of His godfather Archbishop Parthenios of Corinth in 1764, they suggested to Patriarch Samuel of Constantinople that he appoint Michael, who was then a layman, as his successor. Thus, he passed through the various degrees of ordination and was consecrated as Archbishop of Corinth by Patriarch Samuel.
The blessed one did not seek the hierarchal office for power, or as a means of acquiring wealth, but out of his paternal concern for the security and the salvation of his flock, for which he would have to render an account to the Lord and God of all. He rid the Church of corrupt and ineffectual priests and replaced them with priests who were virtuous and qualified. Those who were not qualified were sent to monasteries to be educated and trained how to serve.
When the Russo-Turkish War began in 1768, Archbishop Makarios was forced to flee to Zakynthos with his family, and from there to Hydra, where he lived in a monastery. When things settled down, the Holy Synod of Constantinople chose a new Archbishop of Corinth, perhaps because Archbishop Makarios had abandoned his See.1
He visited Hydra and from there he went to Chios. From Chios he went to Mount Athos, fulfilling his persistent and praiseworthy desire to visit the Holy Mountain and to experience its way of life. When the divine Makarios arrived on Mount Athos in 1777, he settled in the kelli2 of Saint Anthony, which belonged to his compatriot Elder David. There he met Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite once again. At that time, the Athonite community was divided by quarrels and controversies over Memorial Services and kollyva. The reason for the dispute was a disagreement about when the departed ought to be commemorated in church.
The Church’s Tradition is to have services for the departed on Saturdays, and that Memorial Services are not permitted on Sundays or Feast Days. Hence, disputes arose out of the intense quarrels and contradictions which also extended to other areas of Church life. The situation there saddened the hierarch. Because of the riots and disturbances on the Holy Mountain, he feared for his own life, and so he returned to Chios. After remaining there for a brief time, he departed for Patmos.
During his stay in Patmos, the Saint sought a permanent residence, and since he was attracted by the location, he founded the Sacred Kathisma3 of All Saints (Ιερό Κάθισμα των Αγίων Πάντων) in 1782.
After the Saint’s father reposed, his two brothers wanted him to act as executor of his will. Saint Makarios gave everything to his brothers without keeping anything for himself. Then he returned to Chios to obtain some letters of recommendation, and went to Smyrna to meet with Prince John Maurogordatos of Moldovo-Vlakhia.4 The Prince knew Saint Makarios by reputation, and therefore he received him with reverence and respect for him as a man of God. Not only was he happy to show him hospitality in his home, but Maurogordatos also contributed money for the publication of The Philokalia, and for the publication of the Holy Catechism of Metropolitan Platon of Moscow.
From Smyrna the Saint returned to Chios. He chose his place of residence at the church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in the north-northwestern edges of Vrontados at the foot of Aippus. He found spiritual peace with Saint Athanasios Parios (who wrote his Life), Saints Nikephoros and Niphon of Chios, Gregory of Nisyros, and Athanasios of Armenia, all of whom had left the Holy Mountain several years earlier, because of the disturbances and scandals over Memorial Services.
Saint Makarios remained in his hermitage on Chios for the rest of his life (1790-1805), engaging in severe ascetical struggles, practicing interior prayer, writing books, confessing and counseling people, instructing them in the Faith, inspiring them to virtue, and helping those in need.
He also prepared several individuals who had denied Christ to go back to the place where they had done this, and confess that they only worshiped Christ, the true God. Of course, the Turks put these New Martyrs to death when they heard such talk, so he encouraged the martyrs by his words, and strengthened them by prayer and fasting, so that they would not lose their courage and deny Christ again.
Saint Makarios departed to the Lord on April 17, 1805. His honorable body was buried in the courtyard of the church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul on the south side. The recovery of his relics took place in 1808.
1 It has been suggested that Saint Makarios was replaced because the Turks thought that he encouraged the Greeks in their desire to revolt. In any case, the Saint retained his rank and was permitted to serve unhindered anywhere he wished.
2 A Kelli is a monk’s cell, or a monastic establishment consisting of a building with a chapel in it, and some surrounding land. Usually it is occupied by three monks.
3 In an Orthodox context, a Kathisma refers to a division of the Psalter, a chair or seat, or a monastic establishment, perhaps a type of hermitage.
4 This region is now part of modern Romania.