January 1st: The Feasts of the Circumcision of Christ and Saint Basil the Great

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

ON JANUARY 1st THE HOLY FEASTS OF THE CIRCUMCISION OF CHRIST AND SAINT BASIL THE GREAT

Apolytikion of Saint Basil the Great. Tone 1st

In all the earth that received thy sayings, thy melody did resound, O righteous father, through which thou didst go about and proclaim, as worthy of God, the nature of creatures, cultivating the character of mankind, O thou of kingly Priesthood, Basil. Wherefore, plead thou with Christ God to save our souls.

The Winter Pascha, Chapter 30: The Circumcision of the Lord
[The following is an excerpt from The Winter Pascha, by Fr. Thomas Hopko]

On the eighth day of the feast of the Nativity, which also happens to be the first day of the civil new year, the Church celebrates the Lord's circumcision and His receiving the name Jesus, which means savior.

"And at the end of the eighth days, when He was circumcised, He was called Jesus, the name given by the Angel before He was conceived in the womb." (St. Luke 2:21)

This day is also the anniversary of the death of Saint Basil the Great, whose memory is part of the liturgical fast.

"The Lord of all accepts to be circumcised; Thus in His mercy He circumcises the sins of mortal men. Today He grants the world salvation, While Basil, high priest of God our Creator, Rejoices in Heaven as the radiant star of the Church.

According to the Church's liturgy, the Lord underwent circumcision in order to fulfill the law of Moses, which no one had been able to fulfill before. In performing "everything according to the law" (St. Luke 2:39), the Messiah finds it fitting "to fulfill all righteousness" (St. Matthew 3:15). In this sense He is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets; not only by doing what was written of Him, but also by doing all things that everyone should do if they truly fulfilled the Word of God.

"The God of all goodness Did not disdain to be circumcised, He offered Himself as a saving sign And example for us all. He fulfilled the words of the prophets concerning Himself,  He holds the world in his hands, yet He is bound in swaddling clothes, Let us glorify Him.

In performing everything exactly according to the law, the Lord shows that He has come to be a servant, and to identify Himself completely with His sinful creatures. This is God's divine humility, His exceedingly great lovingkindness and compassion, His ineffable and unspeakable humiliation and condescension to us who are lost. For He not only is found "in the likeness of men," but He empties Himself of His divine glory, and takes on the "form of a slave" (Phil. 2:7-8), He submits to the high priest's knife, enduring the sign of complete submission to God, the act which expresses the total helplessness and weakness of unholy creatures before their Holy Creator. Words cannot convey the condescension of the Lord in His willingness to be circumcised. It is an act of self-emptying humiliation which is wholly ineffable.

"Enthroned on high with the Eternal Father and Your Divine Spirit, You willed to be born on earth, O Jesus, From the unwedded handmaiden, Your mother, Therefore You were circumcised as an eight-day child, Glory to Your most gracious counsel! Glory to Your dispensation! Glory to Your condescension, O only Lover of man!

(Source: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America)

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SAINT BASIL THE GREAT, ARCHBISHOP OF CEASEAREA IN CAPPADOCIA

Saint Basil the Great was born in the year 329 A.D. in Caesaria of Cappadocia, to a family renowned for their learning and holiness. His parents' names were Basil and Emmilia. His mother Emmilia (commemorated July 19th and May 30th) and his grandmother Macrina (January 14th) are Saints of the Church, together with all his brothers and sisters: Macrina, his elder sister (July 19th), Gregory of Nyssa (January 10th), Peter of Sevastia (January 9th), and Nafcratius. Basil studied in Constantinople under the sophist Libanius, then in Athens, where also he formed a friendship with the young Gregory, a fellow Cappadocian, later called "the Theologian." Through the good influence of his sister Macrina, he chose to embrace the ascetical life, abandoning his worldly career. He visited the monks in Egypt, in Palestine, in Syria, and in Mesopotamia, and upon returning to Caesarea, he departed to a hermitage on the Iris River in Pontus, not far from Annesi, where his mother and his sister Macrina were already treading the path of the ascetical life; here he also wrote his ascetical homilies.

About the year 370 A.D., when the bishop of his country reposed, he was elected to succeed to his throne and was entrusted with the Church of Christ, which he tended for eight years, living in voluntary poverty and strict asceticism, having no other care than to defend Holy Orthodoxy as a worthy successor of the Apostles. The Emperor Valens, and Modestos, the Eparch of the East, who were of one mind with the heretic Arians, tried with threats of exile and of torments to bend the Saint to their own heretical confession, because he was the bastion of Orthodoxy in all Cappadocia, and preserved it from heresy when Arianism was at its strongest. But he set all their malice at naught, and in his willingness to give himself up to every suffering for the sake of the Faith, showed himself to be a martyr by volition. Modestos, amazed at St. Basil's fearlessness in his presence, said that no one had ever so spoken to him. "Perhaps," answered the Saint, "you have never met a bishop before." The Emperor Valens himself was almost won over by Saint Basil's dignity and wisdom. When Valens' son fell gravely sick, he asked Saint Basil to pray for him. The Saint promised that his son would be restored if Valens agreed to have him baptized by the Orthodox; Valens agreed, St. Basil prayed and the son was restored. But afterwards the Emperor had him baptized by Arians, and the child died soon after. Later, Valens, persuaded by his counselors, decided to send the Saint into exile because he would not accept the Arians into communion; but his pen broke when he was signing the edict of banishment. He tried a second time and a third, but the same thing happened, so that the Emperor was filled with dread, and tore up the document, and Saint Basil was not banished. The truly Great Basil, spent with extreme ascetical practices and continual labors, at the helm of the Church, departed to the Lord on the 1st January in 379 A.D., at the age of forty-nine.

His writings are replete with wisdom and erudition, and with these gifts he set forth the doctrines concerning the mysteries both of the creation (see his Hexaemeron) and of the Holy Trinity (see On the Holy Spirit). Because of the majesty and keenness of his eloquence, he is honored as "the revealer of heavenly things" and "the Great."

Saint Basil is also celebrated on January 30th with Saint Gregory the Theologian and Saint John Chrysostom. These Great Fathers and Theologians of the Church are commemorated on this day as the "Three Hierarchs." (Source: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America)

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Saint Gregory the Theologian, speaking about the activity of Saint Basil the Great points to "the caring for the destitute and the taking in of strangers, the supervision of virgins, written and unwritten Monastic Rules for monks, and the arrangement of prayers (Liturgy), the felicitous arrangement of altars, and other things." The Saint celebrated the church services almost every day. He was particularly concerned about the strict fulfilling of the holy Canons of the Church, and took care that only worthy individuals should enter into the clergy. He incessantly made the rounds of his own church, lest anywhere there be an infraction of Church discipline, and setting aright any unseemliness. At Caesarea, Saint Basil built two monasteries, a men's and a women's, with a church in honor of the Forty Holy Martyrs (March 9th) whose holy relics were buried there. Following the example of monks, the Saint's clergy, even deacons and priests, lived in remarkable poverty, to toil and lead chaste and virtuous lives. For his clergy Saint Basil obtained an exemption from taxation. He used all his personal wealth and the income from his church for the benefit of the destitute, in every center of his diocese he built a poor-house, and at Caesarea, a home for wanderers and the homeless.

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SAINT EMMILIA, THE MOTEHR OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT

Saint Basil the Great's mother Emmilia was the daughter of a martyr. On the Greek calendar, she is commemorated on May 30th. Saint Basil's father was also named Basil. He was a lawyer and renowned rhetorician, and lived at Caesarea.

QUOTES FROM THE HOLY WRITINGS OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT:

On Giving Thanks to the Creator

"As thou takest thy seat at table, pray. As thou liftest the loaf, offer thanks to the Giver. When thou sustainest thy bodily weakness with wine, remember Him Who supplies thee with this gift, to make thy heart glad and to comfort thy infirmity...Let not the thought of thy Benefactor pass away too. As thou art putting on thy tunic, thank the Giver of it. As thou wrappest thy cloak about thee, feel yet greater love to God, Who alike in summer and in winter has given us coverings convenient for us, at once to preserve life, and to cover what is unseemly. Is the day done? Give thanks to Him Who has given us the sun for our daily work, and has provided for us a fire to light up the night, and to serve the rest of the needs of life. Let night give the other occasion of prayer..."

On the Holy Spirit

"Through the Holy Spirit comes our restoration to paradise, our ascension into the Kingdom of Heaven, our return to the adoption of sons, our liberty to call God our Father, our being made partakers of the grace of Christ, our being called children of Light, our sharing in eternal glory, and, in a word, our being brought into a state of all "fullness of blessing," both in this world and in the world to come, of all the good gifts that are in store for us, by promise hereof, through faith, beholding the reflection of their grace as though they were already present, we await the full enjoyment."

On Troubles

"Troubles are usually the brooms and shovels that smooth the road to a good man's fortune; and many a man curses the rain that falls upon his head, and knows not that it brings abundance to drive away hunger."

Human life is but of brief duration...

"Human life is but of brief duration. 'All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God shall stand forever' (Isaiah 40:6). Let us hold fast to the commandment that abides, and despise the unreality that passes away."

If you see your neighbor in sin...

"If you see your neighbor in sin, don't look at this, but also think about what he has done or does that is good, and infrequently trying this in general, while not partially judging, you will find that he is better than you."

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FOR YOUR INFORMATION AND KNOWLEDGE:

The Divine Liturgy attributed to Saint Basil the Great is normally celebrated ten times during the year. It is celebrated in two forms: either in its entirety, as is that of Saint John Chrysostom, or as a vesperal Liturgy. In its entirely (including the Liturgy of the Word, or of the Catechumens) it is celebrated on:

The 1st of January: Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord and the Commemoration of the Saint himself;

The five Sundays of Great Lent (but not Palm Sunday);

The feast of the Nativity and Epiphany, but only when these occur on a Sunday;

As a vesperal Liturgy, that is, the continuation of the Office of Vespers (Esperinos), it is celebrated on:

The Vigil (Paramoni) of Christmas;

The Vigil of Epiphany;

Great and Holy Thursday;

Great and Holy Saturday.

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MAY WE ALL HAVE A BLESSED, HEALTHY, PEACEFUL AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR 2016

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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Glory Be To GOD For All Things!

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George