Feast of the Three Hierarchs Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom

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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 30TH OUR HOLY ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH COMMEMORATES THE FEAST OF THE THREE HOLY FATHERS, GREAT HIERARCHS AND ECUMENICAL TEACHERS, BASIL THE GREAT, GREGORY THE THEOLOGIAN AND JOHN CHRYSOSTOM

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HYMNS OF THE FEAST

APOLYTIKION (DISMISSAL) HYMN: FIRST TONE

The three most great luminaries of the Three-Sun Divinity have illumined all of the world with the rays of doctrines divine and true; they are the sweetly-flowing rivers of wisdom, who with godly knowledge have watered all creation in clear and mighty streams: The great and sacred Basil, and the Theologian, wise Gregory, together with the renowned John, the famed Chrysostom of golden speech. Let us all who love their divinely-wise words come together, honoring them with hymns; for ceaselessly they offer entreaty for us to the Trinity.

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KONTAKION HYMN: SECOND TONE

Receive, O Lord, the Sacred Heralds who preached God, the pinnacle of Teachers, unto the enjoyment of Your riches and rest. You have received their labors and their suffering as being above and beyond all fruitful offering. For You alone glorify Your Saints.

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Introduction

During the reign of the Emperor Alexius Comnenus (1081-1118 AD), a controversy arose in Constantinople among men learned in Faith and zealous for virtue about the three holy Hierarchs and Fathers of the Church, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom. Some argued for Saint Basil above the other two because he was able, as none other, to explain the mysteries of the Faith, and rose to angelic rank by his virtues. Organizer of Monastic life, leader of the entire Church in the struggle with heresy, austere and demanding shepherd as to Christian morals, in him there was nothing base or of the earth. Hence, said they, he was superior to Saint John Chrysostom who was by nature more easily inclined to absolve sinners.

The partisans of Saint John Chrysostom retorted that the illustrious Archbishop of Constantinople had been no less zealous than Saint Basil in combating vices, in bringing sinners to repentance and in raising up the whole people to the perfection of the Gospel. The golden-mouthed shepherd of matchless eloquence has watered the Church with a stream of homilies in which he interprets the Divine word and shows its application in daily life with more accomplished mastery than the two other holy Doctors.

According to a third group, Saint Gregory the Theologian was to be preferred to the others by reason of the majesty, purity and profundity of his language. Possessing a sovereign mastery of all the wisdom and eloquence of ancient Greece, he had attained, they said to such a pitch in the contemplation of God that no one had been able to express the dogma of the Holy Trinity as perfectly as he.

With each faction setting up one of the Holy Fathers against the other two in this way, the whole Christian people were soon caught up in the dispute, which far from promoting devotion to the Saints in the City, resulted in nothing but ill-feeling and endless argument. Then one night the three holy Hierarchs appeared in a dream to Saint John Mauropus, the Metropolitan of Euchaita (+5 October), separately at first, then together and, speaking with single voice, they said: "As you see, the three of us are with God and no discord or rivalry divides us. Each of us, according to the circumstances and according to the inspiration that he received from the Holy Spirit, wrote and taught what befits the salvation of mankind. There is not among us a first, a second or a third, and if you invoke one of us the other two are immediately present with him. Therefore, tell those who are quarrelling not to create divisions in the Church because of us, for when we were on earth we spared no effort to re-establish unity and concord in the world. You can conjoin our three commemorations in one feast and compose a service for it, inserting the hymns dedicated to each of us according to the skill and knowledge that God has given you. Then transmit it to the Christians with the command to celebrate it each year. If they honor us thus as being with and in God, we give them our word that we will intercede for their salvation in our common prayer." At these words, the Saints were taken up into heaven in boundless light while conversing with one another by name.

Saint John immediately assembled the people and informed them of this revelation. As he was respected by all for his virtue and admired for his powerful eloquence, the three parties made peace and everyone urged him to lose no time in composing the service of the joint feast. With fine discernment, he selected 30 January as appropriate to the celebration, for it would set the seal to the month in which each of the three Hierarchs already had a separate commemoration (Saint Basil the Great - January 1st; Saint Gregory the Theologian - January 25th; Saint John Chrysostom (translation of his holy relics) - January 27th).

The three Hierarchs--an earthly trinity as they are called in some of the wonderful troparia (hymns) of their service--have taught us in their writings and equally by their lives, to worship and to glorify the Holy Trinity, the One God in Three Persons. These three luminaries of the Church have shed the light of the True Faith all over the world, scorning dangers and persecutions, and they have left us, their descendants, this sacred inheritance by which we too can attain to utmost blessedness and everlasting life in the presence of God and of all the Saints.

With the feast of the three Hierarchs at the end of January--the month in which we keep the memory of so many glorious bishops, confessors and ascetics--the Church in a way recapitulates the memory of all the Saints who have witnessed to the Orthodox Christian faith by their writings and by their lives in this feast we honor the whole ministry of teaching of the Holy Church, namely, the illumination of the hearts and minds of the faithful through the commemoration of all the Holy Fathers of the Church, those models of evangelic perfection which the Holy Spirit has raised up from age to age and from place to place to be new Prophets and new Apostles, guides of souls heavenward, comforters of the people and fiery pillars of prayer, supporting the Church and confirming her in the Truth.

[Source: Adapted from Thy Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church, Vol. 3, compiled by Hieromonk Makarios of Simonos Petra and translated from the French by Christopher Hookway (Chalkidike, Greece: HOly Convent of the Annunciation of Our Lady, 2001) pp. 352-354).  

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SERMON ON THE FEAST OF THE THREE HIERARCHS

(Source: Holy Monastery of Axion Estin)

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Feast of the Three Holy Fathers, Great Hierarchs and Ecumenical Teachers Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom is an annual commemoration of Our Holy Orthodox Church on which we honor the unwavering faith and spiritual brilliance of three Saints who offered the entirety of their lives and abilities in the service of God and mankind. As selfless Archbishops and pastors they led the faithful in worship and ministry. As loving teachers they offered guidance in the path to holiness. As divinely-inspired theologians they used their intellectual skills to confront error and defend the Truth. As holy men they lived in a manner that showed to all the grace and blessings of communion with God.

The life and work of the Three Hierarchs emphasized the essential relationship of each and every person to God through faith in Christ. They affirmed that this relationship was nurtured unto salvation and eternal life within the community of believers, the Church. The Church was first and foremost a spiritual home where the needs and yearnings of the soul could be met. It was also a place of renewal, where the people of God received a new Covenant through the offering and victory of Christ. In addition, the Three Hierarchs each taught that life experienced in the Church was a means of completion, leading the faithful toward the perfection of their faith, and the fulfillment of all things in the Heavenly Kingdom of God.

First, the Three Hierarchs acknowledge the spiritual nature of the Church, often calling her the "Church of God" or the "Church of Christ" and seeing the Church as a spiritual society consisting of spiritual beings. (Saint Gregory Nanzianzen, Saint Basil the Great). The origin of the Church is divine and heavenly, reflecting the wisdom and design of God. Further, the Church is united to God through Christ, Who became Incarnate to renew, sanctify, and perfect the people of God within a fallen world. It is also within the Church that heavenly and earthly are united. The gathering of the faithful in worship and for the work of ministry is joined in a spiritual manner with the "myriads of angels and thousands of martyrs, and the legions of Apostle and the assemblies of the righteous and the various of all those who have pleased God." (Saint John Chrysostom). Together we offer worship, intercessions, and ministry; and together we await the coming of the New Jerusalem when this unity will be complete.

(To be continued)

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

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

+Father George