Saint Basil the Great (Part II)

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΓΕΝΝΑΤΑΙ, ΔΟΞΑΣΑΤΕ!

THE LIFE AND WORKS OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT ARCHBISHOP OF CAESAREA IN CAPPADOCIA (Part II)

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 (Iakovos), 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 in church, and while he was setting out bread and wine on the Table of Preparation (Prothesis), the Lord appeared to him with the Holy 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" (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 has 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 remainest 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, St. Basil recorded these prayers and the others on the scroll. Evvulus 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 surround the great hierarch. Awestruck, they fell to the floor, weeping and glorifying God. (Source: The Great Collection of The Lives of the Saints)

"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 Holy Father of the Church have survived--theological, apologetic, on asceticism and on the holy Canons. There is also the Divine Liturgy that bears his name. This Divine 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 (Lent) with the exception of Palm Sunday, and on Holy Thursday and Saturday in Great and Holy Week."(Source: The Prologue from Ochrid)

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 [The Six Days of Creation]) and of the Holy Trinity (see On the Holy Spirit). Also, an exposition of the psalter has been preserved. Some, like that against usury and that on the famine in 368 A.D., are valuable for the history of morals; others illustrate the honor paid to Martyrs and relics; the address to young men on the study of classical literature shows that St. Basil was lastingly influenced by his own education, which taught him to appreciate the importance of the classics as preparatory instruction. Because of the majesty and keenness of his eloquence, he is honored as "the revealer of heavenly things" and "the Great".

Saint Basil the Philanthropist

"Philanthropist" is a Greek word meaning friend of people (philos + anthropos). Saint Basil had great wealth but this did not interest him. He sold all his possessions and built orphanages, hospitals, homes for the aged, schools and monasteries. Saint Basil was the first one to organize the Philoptochos Ladies Society of our Orthodox Church (philo = ptochos, Greek for friend of the poor). These ladies gave help and compassion to the poor sick and needy. Saint Basil himself was full of love and compassion for others-e.g. he would plead for mercy and forgiveness from the emperor, for those who had made mistakes. Another time, after an earthquake, he worked for days without sleep to dig through rubble with his own hands to save those trapped' he helped the injured and urged everyone to share their food with those who had none. Saint Basil stood by people and encouraged them throughout the catastrophe; he planted food in new areas and prevented the starvation of the people. It was after this and the death of their bishop that Saint Basil was made Bishop of Caesarea.

Saint Basil the Great the leader of the monks

Saint Basil the Great was responsible for forming Monastic Communities; groups of monks that live, work, worship, pray and dedicate their lives to God together. Up till that time, many monks lived as hermits (on their own). Saint Basil devised strict rules for monks to follow, in order to live with each other and serve God properly.

Saint Basil the Great the teacher and writer

Saint Basil taught his preaching, through his writings and the example of how he lived his life. Much of what he did, said and wrote aimed at explaining the truths of our Church and correcting those who taught untruths. An example is his fight against Arianism, an idea of heretic Arius, who taught that Jesus was only a man and not God. This, as Saint Basil taught, is wrong, Jesus is God. He also taught that there is one God Who has Three Persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; that each of them are different but equal to each other.

Saint Basil was not worried about offending anyone when it came to the Truth. His views often clashed with that of the emperor's. On one occasion, the emperor sent his prefect Modestus, with order to make Basil support the Arian heresy (false belief) about Jesus or resign from the Church. St. Basil refused. Modestus threatened him and told St. Basil that he should fear him because he had the power to do anything he liked to him. He told Saint Basil that he could take his possessions, exile him, torture him and put him to death. Saint Basil said that these things did not trouble him. He said, "Take my possessions, I have none except for the worn clothes I wear. Exile me, for wherever I go I am at home as all of the earth belongs to God. Torture me, I am already ill and weak and will not last long to be tortured. Kill me? I welcome death as it will bring me to God much sooner." Modestus was stunned by Saint Basil's gutsy answers and said that no bishop had ever spoken like this to him. Saint Basil replied that perhaps he had never met a bishop before.

Saint Basil did not criticize people for being wealthy, rather, on how they used their wealth. He was against the passion and strong attachment to possessions. He said, "The bread you keep belongs to the hungry, the cloak you store in your closet belongs to the naked man; those shoes rotting in your house belong to those who are barefooted; the money you keep hidden belongs to the needy. Thus you are committing as many injustices as there are people to whom you can give." He asks if we have no pity for the needy and says that those who do not give will be left out of the Kingdom of God. 

Saint Basil's Day and Vasilopita

A Saint's feast day is on the day he or she dies--Saint Basil died on the 1st January 379 A.D. We commemorate and celebrate his memory on this day. We have Vasilopita for a particular reason. The emperor had tried to tax Saint Basil's Diocese (area) so much, that he would not be able to pay. However, the many faithful followers gave him money and jewels to help pay the taxes. The tax-collector was so amazed that he refused the money. Saint Basil had no way of knowing who to return the money and jewels to. So, he had many cakes baked and in them placed the coins and jewels; he then distributed these cakes to the poor. Traditionally, Vasilopites (Basil's cake or sweet bread) is made in Orthodox Christian households and they are also brought to the church. There, the Vasilopita is blessed and cut by the priest; pieces are cut to honor Jesus Christ, the Mother of God, Saint Basil the Great, the Bishop, the Priest, the poor and others.

Saint Basil is also celebrated on January 30th with Saint Gregory the Theologian and Saint John Chrysostom. These great Holy Fathers and Theologians of the Church are commemorated on this day as the "Three Hierarchs."

Saint Basil the Great departed this life peacefully on January 1st, 379 A.D., and entered into the Kingdom of Christ.

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HYMNS OF THE SAINT

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of St. Basil the Great (First Tone)

Your voice resounded throughout the world that received your word by which, in godly manner, you taught dogma, clarified the nature of beings, and set in order the character of people. Venerable father. Royal Priesthood, intercede to Christ God to grant us great mercy.

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Kontakion Hymn of Saint Basil the Great (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.

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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!"--St. John Chrysostom

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With sincere agape in Our Lord, the Prince of Peace,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George