My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
THE LIFE OF OUR FATHER AMONG THE SAINTS, BASIL THE
GREAT, ARCHBISHOP OF CAESAREA IN CAPPADOCIA
Saint Basil, preeminent among hierarchs, wisest of saintly teachers, and the wondrous favorite of God. The wondrous Basil devoted much effort to attaining an understanding of Divine mysteries, to the point of neglecting to eat while he resolved whatever question was troubling him. Having dedicated himself for fifteen years to mastering Greek learning, the Saint concluded his studies with investigations into astronomy, but no secular knowledge suffered to quench his thirst for the waters of true wisdom. One night, while he was meditating on the only wise Creator and True God, a Divine ray penetrated his heart, kindling in him a fiery longing to comprehend the Scripture on the most profound level. In the possession of a certain Archimandrite Prophyrius, he found a large collection of theological writings, which he spent a year pursuing.
In Athens, he disputed with various Greek philosophers, guided numerous Hellenes to God, and showed them the path to salvation. Desiring out of gratitude to convert his former teacher Evoulos. Speaking to Evoulos Saint Basil related an allegory intended to convey to him a sense of the Savior’s mercy and love for mankind. "Imagine thee plaques hung near the door of the mind," he said. "One is fastened over the doorway and depicts personifications of bravery, wisdom, righteousness, and continence. To the left of the door is a second panel with spiritual deception in the middle, surrounded by gluttony, fornication, drunkenness, immodesty, sloth, contentiousness, garrulity, obsequiousness, and many other vices. To the right repentance is portrayed, dignified and smiling benignly, putting to flight her adversaries and consoling her friends. Near her ware abstinence, chastity, propriety, compassion, and the whole assembly of virtues. These guide us to salvation in very truth, O Evoulos. We shall all rise from the dead and appear before Christ’s judgment seat, some to inherit life everlasting, other to be condemned to eternal torment and shame. The Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and David assure us of this, as do the Apostle Peter and the Lord Himself. He searches out the lost sheep and accepts the prodigal son, embracing and kissing him lovingly, arraying him in splendid apparel, putting a ring on his finger, and holding a banquet for him. He gives equal recompense to those who come at the eleventh hour and those who endure "the burden and heat of the day" (Matthew, ch, 20). Upon the penitents born of water and the Spirit, He bestows things which "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, which God hath prepared for them that love Him" (1 Corinthians, ch. 2).
The Great Basil was elevated to the archiepiscopal throne and consecrated by numerous bishops, among whom was Saint Gregory Nazianzus, father of Saint Gregory the Theologian. Several years passed, and the blessed Basil asked God to send down the grace of the Holy Spirit to enlighten his understanding and give him wisdom so that he might offer the unbloody sacrifice using his own words. Until that time the Greek-speaking Christians had celebrated the Divine Liturgy in Hebrew. Saint Basil prayed for seven days; then the Holy Spirit descended and he went into ecstasy. Coming to himself, he celebrated the liturgy daily for some time and prepared for the awesome task of writing the new version of the sacred service. Finally, with prayer on his lips and his heart full of faith, the great hierarch began work. That night he returned to church, and while he was setting out bread and wine on the Table of Preparation, the Lord appeared to him with the apostles. Saint Basil fell prostrate, but Christ raised him up and said, "In accordance with your supplication, your mouth shall be filled with praise, and you will perform the service using your own words." The Lord shone with glory so bright that Saint Basil, who was shaking with fear, could not endure to look upon Him. When the vision ended, the Saint took a scroll and wrote in Greek the following words: "Let my mouth be filled with praise, that I may hymn Thy glory." Then he began the service, the Liturgy that came to be known by his name with such prayers as, "O Lord our God, Who hast fashioned us and brought us into this life," and the prayer at the elevation, "Attend, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, from Thy Holy habitation and from the throne of the glory of Thy Kingdom, and come Thou to sanctify us, Thou Who art here. By Thy Mighty hand vouchsafe to bestow the Holy Things which are for the holy upon us, and through us upon the people." Afterward, Saint Basil recorded these prayers and the others on the scroll. Evoulos and the clergy of higher rank saw a heavenly Light illuminating the Sanctuary and the Bishop as he offered the Eucharist, and radiant men clothed in white garments surrounded the Great Hierarch. Awestruck, they fell to the floor, weeping and glorifying God.
About that time Saint Basil summoned a smith and had him fashion a golden dove to represent the one that appeared when Christ was baptized in the Jordan. The Saint hung it over the holy table as a receptacle for reserving the Divine Mysteries.
One day, while Saint Basil was celebrating the Liturgy, a Jew, wishing to see the offering of the Holy Mysteries, entered the church with teh faithful, disguised as a Christian. He saw Saint Basil holding an infant in his hands and cutting it into pieces. The Jew approached with the faithful and received Holy Communion from the hierarch. Looking into the hand, he saw flesh; likewise, in the chalice, he saw blood. He hid a portion of the Gifts and showed it to his wife when he arrived home, relating everything he had witnessed. Convinced that the Christian Mysteries were truly awesome and glorious, he went the next morning to the blessed Basil and asked to be baptized. The man of God gave thanks to the Lord and straightway cleansed in the font the Jew and his entire household.
When Saint Basil communed the impudent Jew, he put the Most Holy Body of Christ in the hand of the unbeliever. Christians of the present day may wonder how this could be since now the Holy Mysteries are placed in the mouths of communicants with a spoon. Do not marvel at this because it was customary in the ancient Church for the laity to take the Body of Christ in their hands.
Such was the gift of grace possessed by Saint Basil, that when he elevated the Gifts during the Divine Liturgy, the dove holding the reserved Mysteries shook three times, indicating that the Spirit of God was descending. One day, however, the miracle failed to occur. Saint Basil wondered what this might mean. Then he noticed a deacon holding a liturgical fan exchanging glances with a woman standing in the church. The Saint ordered the man to leave the altar and imposed a penance on him. The deacon had to fast for seven days, during which time he was to spend the nights in prayer without any sleep. He was also required to distribute his possessions to the poor. After this Saint Basil ordered THAT A PARTITION HUNG TO PREVENT WOMEN FROM LOOKING INTO THE SANCTUARY. Those who persisted in gazing shamelessly at the celebrants he ordered to be deprived of Holy Communion and drive from the church. (Source: The Great Collection of The Lives of the Saints)
Saint Basil’s last act of love and compassion was to baptize Joseph the physician, a Jew. He rose, went to church, and baptized Joseph and his family in the presence of the congregation. He gave Joseph the name John, served the Divine Liturgy, and imparted the Divine Body and Blood to him. The holy hierarch remained in church until the ninth hour (3:00 in the afternoon) instructing the newly baptized at length in the mysteries of eternal life and addressing a final discourse to his rational sheep. Then, having exchanged a last kiss with everyone, and forgiven all, he thanked God for the ineffable blessings he had enjoyed throughout his lifetime and surrendered his soul into the hands of the Lord. The newly baptized Jew, seeing the Saint breathe his last, fell to the floor and sobbed. It was on the first of January. The holy Basil was 45 years old when he departed this life. He shepherded the Church of God for 8 years, six months, and sixteen days in all.
Saint Gregory of Nazianzus received word of his friend’s death and hastened to Caesarea to take part in the funeral, at which he shed copious tears. Other bishops assembled, joining the Theologian in chanting the funeral service in the Church of the Holy Martyr Efpsychius. At its conclusion, they buried the precious remains of Heaven’s Great favorite Basil, praising God, Who is one in Trinity. To Him be glory unto the ages. Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George