Orthodox America

  Holy Fathers - St. Basil the Great

329-379 A.D.  

Commemorated January 1 and 30    

This fearless champion of the Orthodox Faith, St. Basil the Great, was born in Caesarea in 329. His family was adorned by many saints, including his paternal grandmother, his father, his mother St. Emmella, his sister St, Macrina, and his brothers St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Peter of Sebaste.

At the age of 23 he formed a life-long holy friendship in Athens with St. Gregory Nazianzen who, together with St. Maerina, zealously encouraged and guided him to renounce the world and live the angelic life of a monk. The saint had already come to love holy poverty and feel contempt for human praise, following the example of Christ, and so he gave away his estate to the poor and traveled extensively, receiving instruction from holy monks and hermits. Later he founded many monasteries, among them one opposite the convent established by his mother and sister, and composed his ascetic works and rules for monastics, called the "Longer" and "Shorter Rules,"

From time to tine he was summoned to offer courageous defense of the Orthodox Faith against persecutors of the truth, but otherwise he quietly divided his time between prayer, the study of Holy Scripture, and manual labor. According to his friend, St. Gregory, he lived at all times cheerfully and in such great poverty--even after he was made bishop--that when he died in 379 there was not enough even for a small tombstone. Not only had his monument already been long erected in the hearts of Orthodox Christians, but the Church chose to honor him as one of the great "Three Hierarchs," together with St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory the Theologian (their feast is celebrated on January 30).     

The following excerpt from his "Introduction to the Ascetical Life" is an intrepid call to arms, such as the Orthodox Church has sounded in every age.

"Come, then, soldier of Christ...! Set before  yourself a life without house, homeland, or possessions. Be free and at liberty from all worldly cares,  lest desire or anxiety fetter you ....        Follow the Heavenly Bridegroom; withstand the onset of invisible  foes; wage war against principalities and powers, driving them out first from your own soul ....

Earth did not accept you as a citizen, but heaven will welcome you. The world persecuted you, but the angels will bear you aloft to the presence of Christ. You will even be called friend by Him and will hear thelonged for word of commendation: 'Well done, good and faithful servant, brave soldier and imitator of the Lord, follower of the King, I shall reward you with My own gifts and I shall pay heed to your words even as you did to Mine.'