Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS AND IS AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ. ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
A DOXOLOGY TO GOD THE HEAVENLY FATHER AND CREATOR
O Lord Almighty, You are great indeed and Your power is majestic and marvelous, there is no measure or boundary to Your wisdom and omniscience. You are the Creator of the universe, the Savior of mankind, the abundant and benevolent provider of all good things. You are the forbearing provider of mercy Who does not remove the opportunity of salvation from Your creatures. For You are by nature good and compassionate toward those who sin and You do call them to repentance. Your admonition and Your call to repentance comes from Your infinite love and compassion for mankind. How could we possibly continue to exist, if each time we transgressed, You immediately exacted a just retribution, when even now, when You demonstrate such great forbearance and tolerance, we very slowly and with great difficulty rise up from the illness of our sins?
You, Lord God, are the Father of wisdom, the Creator and cause of all creation that has come into existence through Your Son; You are the Provider of good things of Divine Providence; You are the Giver of the laws and the Commandments; You fulfill every deficiency and every need; You love the righteous and are merciful and forgiving to the sinners; You are the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; You are the Lord God of the Christians, who revere and worship the Savior whose promises are never contradicted, whose judicial judgment is incorruptible, and whose will is steadfast and immovable. To Him is due unceasing worship in truth and in spirit and unending gratitude. And in His Name, every rational and holy nature is also obliged to offer to You, the God and Father and Creator of all, the appropriate veneration and worship unto the ages of ages. Amen.
On January 1st (A HAPPY, HEALTHY, PEACEFUL AND BLESSED NEW YEAR TO ALL!) Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates the CIRCUMCISION OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST AND THE FEAST OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT.
THE CIRCUMCISION OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST. Eight days after the Nativity, our Lord Jesus Christ deigned to be circumcised. He submitted to circumcision, first of all, to fulfill the Law. "Think not that I am come to destroy the Law," said He; "I am not come to destroy, but fulfill" (St. Matthew, ch. 5). He subjected Himself to the Law to free transgressors subject to the Law, as the Apostle teaches: "When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the Law, to redeem them that were under the Law" (Galatians, ch. 4). By being circumcised, He demonstrated also that He had truly assumed human flesh, silencing the heretics who taught that His birth was an illusion. Christ's circumcision clearly showed that He had put on our nature, for how can a fleshless being undergo circumcision? Saint Ephraim the Syrian asks, "If Christ was not in the flesh, who was it that Joseph circumcised? Verily, Christ was Incarnate, was circumcised as the Son of man, was reddened by His own infant blood; He suffered and cried from pain, in accordance with human nature". Furthermore, His physical circumcision foreshadowed our spiritual circumcision. Fulfilling the ancient, external Law, He ushered in the new, spiritual law. The Old Testament commanded that fleshly men be circumcised according to the flesh, but the spiritual man of the New Testament is taught to cut off the passions of the soul: anger, jealously, pride, unclean desires, and other sinful inclination. Christ was circumcised on the 8th day to indicate that we are enrolled as inheritors of the future life by being marked with His blood, for the 8th day is the symbol of eternity, according to the teachers of the Church. In the fourth ode of the canon for the feast, the venerable Stephen of Saint Savvas' Lavra writes: "The eighth day, whereon the Master was circumcised, is an everlasting life of the age to come." And Saint Gregory of Nyssa tells us, "The Law dictated that a child be circumcised on the eighth day, the number eight being symbolic of the future age."
Circumcision was the Old Testament foretype of Holy Baptism and of the expurgation of ancestral sin by Christ's blood shed willingly at the Passion. As such, it could not actually wipe out the transgression of our first parents. The ancient rite was an antecedent of true purification, but was not the cleansing itself, which our Lord (Who substituted the New Testament Baptism of grace by water and the Spirit for Old Testament circumcision) performed when He took sin "out of the way, nailing it to His Cross" (Col., ch. 2). Circumcision was a punishment, as it were, for ancestral sin, and a reminder that children are conceived in iniquities, as David says (Psalm 50). Like the scars of sin on their souls, the scars of circumcision remained on the flesh of infants. Christ, however, was born sinless: like us in every other way, he was a stranger to all iniquity..in coming to us, He assumed the transgressions of the whole world, as the Apostle says, "The Father "made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin" (II Cor., ch. 5). By His circumcision the Master showed even greater humility than by His Nativity, for at the Nativity He "made Himself of no reputation, and was made in the likeness of men," (Phil., ch. 2) as Saint Paul confesses; but at the circumcision the Blameless One appears as a sinner, enduring pain, the penalty for sin. The Innocent One suffered innocently and could say with David, "Then did I restore that which I took not away" (Psalm 103 ), that is, "I suffered for sins I did not commit." Circumcision was the beginning of Christ's on our behalf, a foretaste of the cup from which He drank the bitter dregs on the cross, when He cried "it is finished" (St. John, ch. 19). Now blood drips from the extremity of His flesh; later, rivers of blood drips from the extremity of His body. It is helpful to gain proficiency at an early age in skills needed for later life, so He begins to suffer in infancy, becomes accustomed to suffer, and as a grown man can endure the cruelest of sufferings.
THE LIFE OF OUR FATHER AMONG THE SAINTS BASIL THE GREAT, ARHBISHOP OF CAESAREA IN CAPPADOCIA. Saint Basil, preeminent among hierarchs, wisest of saintly teachers, and wondrous favorite of God, was born in Cappadocia toward the end of the great Constantine's reign. His father was also named Basil, and his mother, Emmelia. He learned to read at the age of seven, and progressed so rapidly in his studies that five years later he was already engaged in philosophical inquiry. Eventually, he forsook his homeland and moved to Athens, the fount of Hellenic wisdom, where he took time visiting the schools of Hymerius and Proeresius. Saint Basil soon equaled, then surpassed his teachers, who were amazed at his diligence and intelligence, and still more at his modesty and purity. In Athens Saint Basil became friends with Saint Gregory the Theologian, later Bishop of Nazianzus and for a time Patriarch of Constantinople; with Julian, future Emperor of Greece and Rome, and apostate from God; and with the sophist Libanius. Between Saint Basil and St. Gregory a warm and unbreakable bond of love was formed, for both were meek, chaste, and upright. So close did they become, that they seemed to share a single soul.
In Caesarea St. Basil became a monk and imitated the manner of life he had observed while visiting the ascetics of Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia. He was also ordained presbyter by Hermogenes, who became Archbishop after Leontius died, and he was appointed instructor of all the monks living in the diocese. When Hermogenes departed this world, the people wished to have the holy Basil as their prelate, remembering how he had been forechosen and considering him worthy of the episcopacy, but the Saint, who disliked being held in high esteem, hid from them. Eusebius, a virtuous but poorly educated man, was consecrated instead. Seeing what respect was accorded the wise and holy Basil, and constantly hearing his praises, Eusebius was overcome by envy toward God's favorite. The venerable Basil learned this, and not wishing to be the cause of jealousy, retired into the wilderness of Pontus. The affectionate letters he wrote St. Gregory the Theologian convinced his good friend to join him there. They lived an angelic life together, and soon numerous monks had assembled at their retreat. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Saints compiled a rule for coenobites. The blessed Emmelia, St. Basil's mother, who resided in a village across the river Iris (the village had belonged to St. Basil's father), provided their food. She was already a widow and was devoting her remaining years to pleasing God.
The time came when both Saint Basil and Saint Gregory had to leave the wilderness and serve the Church, which was then troubled by heretics. Saint Gregory's father, who was Bishop of Nazianzus (and also named Gregory), was elderly and unable to fend off the wolves vigorously, so he called his son home to assist him. Meanwhile Eusebius, Archbishop of Caesarea, sent a letter to St. Basil, asking the Saint's help in protecting the Church from the Arians (heretics) and expressing hope for a reconciliation. Seeing the Holy Church in such straits and regarding her well-being as more important than the benefits of life in the wilderness, St. Basil abandoned his seclusion and returned to Caeasarea. He labored greatly there, defending Orthodoxy by his preaching and writings. Before long, Archbishop Eusebius surrendered his spirit into God's hands while resting in Basil's arms. The great Basil was elevated to the Archiepiscopal throne and consecrated by numerous bishops, among whom was Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, father of Saint Gregory the Theologian. Though old and weak, Gregory commanded that he be taken to Caesarea, since he was determined to persuade St. Basil to be consecrated and prevent the Arians from capturing the see. St. Basil governed the Church of Christ well and ordained his brother Peter to the priesthood. Peter assisted the Saint considerably, and eventually St. Basil appointed him Bishop of Sevastea. At that time their mother, the blessed Emmelia, departed to the Lord. She was more than ninety years old. Her children were known for their outstanding virtue, especially Basil and Peter, another son, Gregory, bishop of Nyssa, and her eldest daughter, Macrina.
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 only in Hebrew (Actually, the Liturgy was celebrated in Greek, but according to usages derived from the Church of Jerusalem. According to Saint Proclus, Patriarch of Constantinople, St. Basil wished to abbreviate the lengthy ancient Liturgy of Saint James, out of condescension to human weakness). 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, you mouth shall be filled with praise, and you will perform the service using your own words". The Lord shone with glory so bright that St. 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" (Psalm 70). 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 seated on high with the Father, yet invisibly remained with us here. By Thy Mighty hand vouchsafe to bestow the Holy Things which are for the holy upon us, and through us upon the people." Afterwards, Saint Basil recorded these prayers and the others on the scroll. Evvulus and the clergy of higher rank saw a heavenly light illumining the sanctuary and the Bishop as he offered the Divine Eucharist, and radiant men clothed in white garments surround the great hierarch. Awestruck, they fell to the floor, weeping and glorifying God.
Saint Basil was a true philanthropist and a wonderworker. The holy Basil was forty-five years old when he departed this life. He shepherded the Church of God for eight years, six months, and sixteen days in all. He fell asleep on the 1st of January 379 A.D.
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 Euphsychius. 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 of ages. Amen.
A great champion of Orthodoxy, a great torch of moral purity and zeal for the Faith, a great theological mind, a great builder and pillar of the Church of God. Saint Basil fully deserved his title "the Great". In the Office for his Feast, he is referred to as a bee of the Church of Christ, bringing honey to the faithful but stinging those in heresy. Many of the writings of this Father of the Church have survived--theological, apologetic, on asceticism and on the Canons. There is also the Liturgy that bears his name. This Liturgy is celebrated ten times in the year on January 1st, on the Eves of Christmas and the Theophany, on every Sunday in the Great Fast with the exception of Palm Sunday, and on the Thursday and Saturday in Holy and Great Week.
May Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ bless you and our whole world with peace, love, righteousness, joy and hope. Happy New Year 2013!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God