Circumcision of the Lord and Feast of St. Basil the Great (Part II)


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


On the eighth day, the Divine Babe also received the name Jesus. When the Archangel Gabriel descended from heaven and appeared to the Most Pure Virgin Mary, he made known that her Son would be called thus; whereupon, she consented to the tidings and cried, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word" (St. Luke, Ch. 1). Immediately, the Logos/Word of God assumed flesh and took up His dwelling in her immaculate, Most Sacred womb. At His circumcision, the name disclosed by the herald before the Virgin conceived was formally given to Christ the Lord to announce the coming of our salvation. Jesus means salvation, as the same Angel explained to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins" (St. Matthew, Ch. 1). Similarly, the Apostle Peter declared, "There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts, Ch. 4). The saving name of Jesus was reserved by the Pre-eternal counsel of the Holy Trinity for our salvation, and on this day the righteous Joseph brings it forth like a priceless pearl from heaven's treasury, so that it may be used to redeem the whole human race. It shines on the world like the sun, as the Prophet tells us: "To you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise" (Malachi, Ch. 4). It fills creation with the fragrance of myrrh, as it is written: "Thy name is ointment poured forth" (Song of Sol., Ch. 1). It is poured out and no longer hidden. So long as myrrh is kept enclosed in a jar, its aroma is trapped, but when the seal is broken fragrance fills the air. Similarly, while Jesus' name remained spoken only in Pre-eternal counsels, its power remained unknown, sealed as it were, in a jar. When the Infant's Blood was spilled during circumcision, however, it descended from heaven to earth like the sweet-smelling myrrh of grace. Now "every tongue" confesses "that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil., Ch. 2).

The power of Jesus' wondrous name has been revealed, causing Angels to marvel, mankind to rejoice, and demons to tremble; for "the devils also believe and tremble" (St. James, Ch. 2). Hades is shaken by this name; the foundations of the abyss are undermined; the prince of darkness flees; idols are toppled; the gloom of idolatry is dispelled, and the light of piety is shed abroad, illumining "every man that cometh into the world" (St. John, Ch. 1). "Every knee of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth" (Phil., Ch. 2) bows at the sound of Jesus' Most Glorious Name. It is become our powerful weapon against adversaries; therefore, Saint John of the Ladder (Climacus) counsels, "Flog the adversaries incessantly with the name of Jesus; there is no weapon more powerful in heaven or on earth" (The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Ch. 15). How sweet is this precious name to those that seek and love Jesus Christ! Jesus is their sole desire, their only delight. How beloved is this All-Holy Name of Jesus' servants and prisoners, captives of His love! Jesus is in their thoughts, Jesus is upon their lips. With the heart they believe in Jesus unto righteousness; with the mouth, they confess Jesus unto salvation (Romans, Ch. 10). Whether they are sitting or walking-whatever they may be doing-Jesus is before their eyes, "I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus" (I Cor., Ch. 2), says the Apostle. For the man who cleaves to His name, Jesus is the mind's enlightenment, the soul's adornment, strength of body, happiness of soul, consolation in misfortunes, hope of salvation, and a welcome recompense...

"...We lovingly praise and fervently revere Thy sweetest and Most Holy Name, O Most Sweet, All-Compassionate Jesus! We fall prostrate before the blood that dripped at Thy circumcision, O Thou Who art at once a blameless Child and the Perfect Lord. For the sake of Thine exalted name, of Thy Most Precious Blood, and of Thine immaculate Mother, who bore Thee without corruption, do Thou shed upon us Thy rich mercy. Sweeten our hearts with Thy presence, O Jesus. Keep and preserve Thy servants, and receive us into Thy Kingdom, that with Angels we may hymn and glorify Thy Most Honorable and Majestic Name forever. Amen.

[Compiled from the writings of Amphilochios, Bishop of Amaseia, and other trustworthy sources.]

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 lessons with the renowned teacher Evvulus, at the same time visiting the schools of Hymerius and Proeresius (Socrates, Bk., 4, Ch. 26). 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, Basil became friends with 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 (From Amphilochius). Between Basil and 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.

The wondrous Basil devoted much effort to attain an understanding of divine mysteries, to the point of neglecting to eat while he resolved whatever question was troubling him. Having dedicated himself for fifteen years to mastering Greek learning the Saint concluded his studies with investigations into astronomy, but no secular knowledge sufficed to quench his thirst for the waters of true wisdom. One night, while he was meditating on the Only Wise Creator and True God, a Divine ray penetrated his heart, kindling in him a fiery longing to comprehend the Scripture on the most profound level. Leaving Athens and his friend Gregory (who had become a teacher of rhetoric), Basil went to Egypt. There, in the possession of a certain Archimandrite Porphyrius, he found a large collection of theological writings, which he spent a year perusing. While so doing, he nourished himself solely on vegetables and drank nothing but water. During this time he significantly deepened his understanding of the True faith. Then Basil obtained Porphyrius' blessing to visit Jerusalem and view the Holy Places and other wonderful sites of Palestine. At length, he returned to Athens where he disputed with various Greek philosophers, guided numerous Hellenes (Greeks) to God, and showed them the path to salvation. Desiring out of gratitude to convert his former teacher Evvulus, Basil searched for him in the schools and finally found him outside the city, conversing with other philosophers (for all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing) (Acts, Ch. 17). After listening to the disputation briefly, Basil resolved the issue, but without revealing his identity. "Who is this unknown philosopher?" the Sophists asked one another.

"He is either some god, or Basil!" replied Evvulus. Recognizing Basil, the teacher dismissed his friends and disciples. For three days the two learned men, occupied with philosophical discussions, ate nothing. Among other things, Evvulus asked Basil, "What is the essence of philosophy?" (Source: The Great Collection of The Lives of the Saints)

(To be continued)


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom


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

+Father George