ST. BASIL THE GREAT Bishop and Doctor of the Church

St. Basil is the Patron of Russia, Cappadocia, Hospital administrators, Reformers,Monks, Education, Exorcism and Liturgists.

St Basil was one of the group of great oriental theologians to whom, under God, we owe our right belief in the Trinity and the Incarnation, and also the chief organizer of ascetic community life in the East. He was born in 329 at Caesarea, the capital of Cappadocia, far up in the interior of Asia Minor. A surprising number of his family are honored as saints: his grandmother St Macrina the Elder, his father and mother, St Basil the Elder and St Emmelia, his brothers St Gregory of Nyssa and St Peter of Sebaste, and his sister St Macrina the Younger. He studied at Constantinople and went on from there to Athens, which was still the great university city of the Greek-speaking world. Here his fellow student and close friend was another young Cappadocian, St Gregory Nazianzen, who with the two brothers Basil and Gregory of Nyssa makes up the trio of Cappadocian doctors of the church.

When Basil returned to Caesarea he taught rhetoric for some years in the city. Then he retired from the world, inspired by the example of his elder sister Macrina, who with her widowed mother had already founded her own community of nuns on one of the family estates at Annesi on the river Iris. He travelled through all the monastic centers of the east, Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Mesopotamia, to study the monastic life wherever it was flourishing. Then he returned and founded his own community not far from that of his sister; and the way of life which he worked out for it, on the basis of what he had seen on his travels, is still that which is followed by all the monks of the eastern Orthodox churches and by some Catholic monks of the Byzantine rite. Furthermore it deeply influenced St Benedict, who knew St Basil's ascetic writings in a Latin translation by Rufinus, and through him the whole of western monasticism. It was a way of life better balanced and more humane than the most important earlier form of ascetic common life, the Egyptian monasticism of St Pachomius. There was more loving obedience and less harsh discipline; a moderate communal asceticism (extreme enough, certainly, by modern standards) instead of individual competition in austerities; and an emphasis on work, intellectual (the prayerful study of the Scriptures) and manual (useful labor for the benefit of the monastic community). St Basil only lived for five years as a monk in his monastery. But what he did and wrote then was the most immediately and lastingly successful part of his life's work.

In 370 he became archbishop of Caesarea. At that time the Arian heresy, which denied that Christ was God, in the sense of his being of the same substance with the Father, was at the height of its influence. The Emperor Valens was an Arian, and was vigorously persecuting the Catholics. St Basil's primary task as archbishop was the defence of the Catholic faith, which he carried out for the rest of his life with unflinching courage, great intellectual power, and a charity and desire for agreement with his opponents (though not at the price of orthodoxy) unusual among theological controversialists. He so overawed the Prefect of the east, Modestus, and the Emperor Valens himself, that he and his diocese were left alone, though there was persecution everywhere else. His answer to the Prefect, recorded (perhaps with some embellishments) by St Gregory Nazianzen, may explain why, and gives an excellent idea of the quality of the man. Modestus had threatened him with confiscation, exile, torture and death. St Basil said, 'Well, in truth, confiscation means nothing to a man who has nothing, unless you covet these wretched rags and a few books; that is all I possess. As to exile, that means nothing to me, for I am attached to no particular place. That wherein I live is not mine, and I shall feel at home in any place to which I am sent. Or rather, I regard the whole earth as belonging to God, and I consider myself as a stranger wherever I may be. As for torture, how will you apply it? I have not a body capable of bearing it, unless you are thinking of the first blow you give me, for that will be the only one in your power. As for death, this will be a benefit to me, for it will take me the sooner to the God for whom I live . . .' The Prefect said that nobody had ever spoken to him like that. St Basil replied, 'Perhaps that is because you have never had to deal with a bishop.'

Besides defending the Catholic faith against heresies, St Basil was a model diocesan bishop. He visited every part of his diocese continually, he organized a great hospital for the sick poor, and like all ancient bishops he preached very frequently, some of his courses of sermons, which are major theological works, have been preserved. Heresy was by no means his only trouble. There was every sort of division among the Catholics of the east and very considerable misunderstandings between east and west. St Basil's life as a bishop, in fact was lived in the midst of the sort of miserable muddles so common in the history of the church, when everybody is more or less in the wrong, no one trusts anybody else, and Christian charity is very little in evidence. His own charity never failed, and he worked unceasingly for peace and unity. But he was misunderstood and misrepresented; all his efforts to unite the Catholics seemed to go wrong. He did just live to see the death of Valens, which meant the end of the Arian persecution: but he died very soon after, worn out, at the age of only forty-nine, on January 1st (the date on which the eastern churches keep his chief feast) 379.

Feast Day: January 2

Source: Catholic Information Network

Prayer of Saint Basil the Great

O God and Lord of the Powers, and Maker of all creation, Who, because of Thy clemency and incomparable mercy, didst send Thine Only-Begotten Son and our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind, and with His venerable Cross didst tear asunder the record of our sins, and thereby didst conquer the rulers and powers of darkness; receive from us sinful people, O merciful Master, these prayers of gratitude and supplication, and deliver us from every destructive and gloomy transgression, and from all visible and invisible enemies who seek to injure us. Nail down our flesh with fear of Thee, and let not our hearts be inclined to words or thoughts of evil, but pierce our souls with Thy love, that ever contemplating Thee, being enlightened by Thee, and discerning Thee, the unapproachable and everlasting Light, we may unceasingly render confession and gratitude to Thee: The eternal Father, with Thine Only-Begotten Son, and with Thine All-Holy, Gracious, and Life-Giving Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Prayer of Saint Basil the Great After Communion

We give Thee thanks, O Lord our God, for the Communion of Thy holy, pure, deathless and heavenly Mysteries, which thou hast given for the good, the hallowing, and the healing of our souls and bodies. Do Thou, O Sovereign of the world, cause this Communion in the Holy Body and blood of Thy Christ to nourish us in unashamed faith, sincere charity, ripe wisdom, health of soul and body, separation from all ills, observance of Thy Law, and justification before His awful Judgment Seat. O Christ our God, the Mystery of Thy Providence has been accomplished according to our ability. We have been reminded of Thy Death and we have seen a figure of Thy Resurrection; we have been filled with Thine Infinite Life, and we have tasted Thine inexhaustible joy; and we pray Thee to make us worthy of these things in the life to come, through the grace of Thine Eternal Father and of Thy holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now and forever, eternally. Amen.

A Morning prayer of St. Basil the Great 

O Christ our God,
the ever-shining
and most-bright sun of righteousness,
You who shone with Your flesh
in the darkness of our ignorance
and called all people
to the deep knowledge of Your ineffable glory,
consume in the fire of Your incomprehensible Divinity
our wickedness
which furiously desires material things.
Extinguish the fiery darts of the evil one.
Shine within our hearts
Your pure light of the knowledge of God,
and open the eyes of our mind
that we may understand Your gospel teachings
and be aware of Your marvelous works.
Instill in us also
the fear of Your blessed commandments
so that by trampling down all the desires of the flesh,
we may live a spiritual life,
thinking and doing
all those things that are pleasing to You;
For You are blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen.

A Prayer to St. Basil

Dear St. Basil, you lived among Saints---your parents and your best friend, Gregory Nazianzen. You were an inspirer of true monastic life and a reformer of priests and laity. Help all those who work for moral reform in our turbulent age. Give them a true knowledge of Jesus so that they will draw all people to him. Amen.



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