My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On January 1st Our Holy Orthodox Church Commemorates Our Father
Among the Saints BASIL THE GREAT, Archbishop of Caesarea of
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Saint. First Tone
THY sound hath gone forth into all the earth, which hath received thy
word. Thereby thou hast divinely taught the Faith; thou hast made
manifest the nature of all things that be; thou hast adorned the ways
of man. O namesake of the Royal Priesthood, our Righteous Father
Basil, intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.
Kontakion Hymn of the Saint, Fourth Tone
FOR the Church art thou in truth, a firm foundation, granting an
inviolate lordship unto all mortal men and sealing it with what
thou hast taught, O Righteous Basil, revealer of Heavenly things.
SAINT BASIL THE GREAT was born about the end of the year 329 A.D. in Caesarea of Cappadocia, to a family renowned for their learning and holiness. His parents’ names were Basil and Emmelia. A great personal friend of Saint Basil was Saint Gregory the Theologian (+ 329-330 A.D.), Patriarch of Constantinople. In a panegyric on Saint Basil, Saint Gregory mentions that despite the most frightful persecution of Maximinus, the paternal ancestors of Saint Basil exercised every form of piety during that period.
Saint Basil’s father was conspicuous in the Church for probity and godliness. He married the orphaned gentlewoman Emmelia, whose father suffered impoverishment and even death for Christ’s sake. Ten children were born in their happy union, five boys and five girls. The one surviving daughter was Makrina, the angel of the family. Of the five boys, one seems to have died in infancy. Basil was the eldest of the surviving sons, but he was not the only one who was blessed, for he had wondrous brethren and standard-bearers, Peter, the youngest of the brothers, became Archbishop of Sevasteia. Gregory, the third brother, became the Metropolitan of Nyssa. Nefkratios became an ascetic, and he is commemorated by the Holy Orthodox Church on the 19th of July. Verily, the parents fulfilled the word of David who says, "The generation of the upright shall be blessed" (Psalm 111:2). Our Saint Basil, however, surpassed his brethren in virtue and learning.
Saint Basil was close with his mother Emmelia, and later in life, he disclosed in a letter: "Now, for my sins, I have lost my mother, the only comfort I had in life. Do not smile, if, old as I am, I lament my orphanhood. Forgive me If I cannot endure separation from a soul, to compare with whom I was nothing in the future that lies before me." He writes of his grandmother Makrina: "I was brought up by my grandmother, blessed woman… I mean the celebrated Makrina who taught me the words of the blessed Gregory, which, as far as memory had preserved down to her day, she cherished herself, while she fashioned and formed me, with yet a child, upon the doctrines of piety." When assailed b the enemies of the Church, he declared, "The teaching about God, which I had received as a boy from my mother and my grandmother Makrina, I have ever held with increased conviction. On my coming to ripe years of reason, I did not shift my opinion from one to another but CARRIED OUT THE PRINCIPLES DELIVERED TO ME BY MY PARENTS. Just as the seed when it grows is first tiny and then gets bigger, but always preserves its identity, not changed in kind though gradually perfected in growth, so I reckon the same doctrine to have grown, in my case through gradually advancing stages. What I hold now has not replaced what I held at the beginning."
From childhood, the Saint learned the Sacred Letters from his father Basil, who was a priest and teacher of the Christians. When he reached a suitable age, young Basil also desired to receive instruction in the learning of the Greeks at Athens. At Saint Basil’s repose, his good friend Saint Gregory, wrote a funeral oration, saying "He (Basil) was trained in general education, and practiced in the worship of God, to speak concisely, led on by elementary instructions to his future perfection. For those who are successful in life or in letters only, while deficient in the other, seem to me to differ in nothing from one-eyed men… While those who attain eminence in both alike, and are ambidextrous, both possess perfection and pass their life with the blessedness of heaven. This is what befell him, who had a model of virtue in well-doing, the very sight of which made him excellent from the first…
"He was an orator among orators, even before the chair of the rhetoricians, a philosopher among philosophers, even before the doctrines of philosophers and what constitutes the highest tribute in the eyes of Christians, he was a priest even before the Priesthood. So much deference was paid to him in every respect by all… He attained such eminence in each as if it had been his sole study. The two great sources of power in the arts and sciences, ability and application, were in him equally combined… As for astronomy, geometry, and mathematics, he was content with knowledge sufficient to avoid being confused by those who were clever in these sciences. Anything beyond that he scorned as useless for those who wished to lead a pious life."
After Basil departed, an Angel of the Lord appeared to Evsevios, the Metropolitan of Caesarea, saying, "The worthy successor of thy throne is coming this hour. Therefore, send forth thy clergy and the nobles to go and meet him at the gate of the city." Thereupon, after the clergy and the nobles went and saw the holy Basil coming, they marveled and rejoiced. They were awed by the foresight of the Angel and rejoiced because they were counted worthy to obtain such a shepherd and renowned teacher, who possessed both virtue and a good report. The Saint tarried there for some days and was ordained a Presbyter. The ordination, of Basil to the Presbyterate was not wholly voluntary. He was forced against his inclinations to accept duties attending the dignity, FOR WHICH HE DEEMED HIMSELF UNFIT.
After being ordained to the Priesthood in 364 A.D., Basil devoted his life to his ministry. He continued to emulate the lives of the monks he had visited in his earlier pilgrimages. Other monks had joined him, and he cared for them and imparted the word of God to them. Saint Basil easily attracted a large and loyal following. In his practical work in the Diocese and in his writing, Saint Basil also made himself quite useful to Evsevios, formerly a layman of rank and influence, who was elevated to the Episcopate.
It was the will of God to place the lamp upon the lampstand. Archbishop Evsevios reposed in the Lord. The bishops of that Province then gathered together. They canonically voted and consecrated Basil as their Hierarch and shepherd–and much more, a teacher of the world. In this capacity, he had fifty country bishops (chorepiscopoi) under him. Meanwhile, Gregory’s aged father, also named Gregory, who was Bishop of Nazianzos, called his son to help battle the Arian heretics. Both men, beholding her call, emerged from seclusion. When Saint Basil was elected to the Archepiscopal Cathedra, he ordained his brother Peter to the Priesthood and then Bishop of Sevasteia, that he might assist him in his labor against the Arian madness.
The Divine Liturgy
After the Resurrection of Christ, the son of Joseph the Betrothed, Iakovos (James), who is called Adelphotheos or "Brother of God," Bishop of Jerusalem. He wrote in the Hebrew tongue certain prayers and petitions to God, to be used whenever the priests were about to celebrate the Divine Liturgy, which was handed down by Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Apostles during the night when He was about to be delivered up. Shortly thereafter those prayers and the rest of the service of the Divine Liturgy were translated into Greek, as we have found it today, by Saint Lemes (Clement 88-97 A.D.), the Disciple of the holy Apostle Peter, who afterward became Bishop of Rome. He ordained as law, that in this way, the Christians are to perform the Divine Liturgy.
In such a manner then the Christians conducted the Liturgy for about 350 years. However, because the prayers were long and the service lengthy, the priests were negligent and did not liturgize. Saint Basil urged, "It is not good and beneficial to communicate every day and to partake of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ… And who doubts that to share frequently in Life is the same thing as to have life abundantly? I, indeed, communicate four times a week, ON THE LORD’S DAY, ON WEDNESDAY, ON FRIDAY, AND ON SATURDAY, AND ON OTHER DAYS IF THERE IS A COMMEMORATION OF ANY SAINT."
Nonetheless, the Christians were feeling weighed down and began murmuring on account of the length of the service, and wished to go about their work in the world. Thus he pondered and supplicated God for many days, with fasts and tears. "Then one night, the Saint, observing this response of the people, was desirous to find a way to relieve their weariness. Consequent to this, he sought Divine enlightenment, by entreating the Lord to show him a sign that He might know whether his intention was God’s will. Well then, the Lord with His Apostles appeared to come down to the Saint, And according to hierarchical order, Christ celebrated the Divine Liturgy with His Apostles. Yet the Lord was not uttering those prayers which are written in the Liturgy of Saint Iakovos (James) the Brother of the Lord, but an abridgment, which afterward Saint Basil placed in his Liturgy. After seeing this vision, the Saint gave thanks to God Who had hearkened to his entreaty. Hence, HE COMPOSED THE SHORTENED DIVINE LITURGY, WHICH HAS COME DOWN TO US TO THIS DAY, AND WHICH WE KNOW AS THE LITURGY OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT.
After Christ and the Apostles appeared to Saint Basil, he uttered the new prayers in the Divine Liturgy. Evoulos and the clergy of higher rank then beheld A CELESTIAL LIGHT ILLUMINATING THE SANCTUARY AND SAINT BASIL. Certain radiant men clad in white garments surrounded the Saint. All the clergy were astonished and fell prone to the floor, weeping and glorifying God. ( Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)
[To be continued]
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry)
The sinner and unworthy servant of God