Friday, January 2, 2009

Friends, Scholars, Bishops, Saints

In celebrating the feasts of Saint Basil of Caesarea and Saint Gregory Nazianzen on the same day, the Church honors not only their holiness, but their lifelong friendship.

Basil was born at Caesarea in Cappadocia (now in Turkey) in 330. He was one of ten children born to Basil the elder and Emilia. His parents and several of his brothers and sisters are also honored as saints. He attended school in Caesarea, then in Constantinople and in Athens, where he first met Gregory Nazianzen in 352.

Gregory was born at Arianzus, in Cappadocia in the same year, 330. He was a scholarly youth and spent several years in search of learning. He first met Basil in Athens, and joined him in founding a monastery at Pontus in the desert.

After founding several other monasteries, Basil became a priest and, in 370, at the age of 40, he was chosen as Bishop of Caesarea. Gregory was also ordained to the priesthood, although he felt unworthy, and was concerned that his faith was not strong enough. The Lord had other designs, however, and after assisting his father, Gregory the Elder in quelling an Arian schism, he was chosen to become bishop of Sasimes, which put him in conflict with the Arian emperor Valens. The disputes led his friend Basil, then Archbishop, to reassign him to an out of the way post at the edge of the territory.

Gregory was appointed Bishop of Constantinople in 381, after the death of Valens, and served there until 390. He hated the imperial city, because of the violence and slander of the disputes between Arians and Christians, but he strived to bring the Arians back to the faith. For his efforts he was slandered, beaten, and nearly lost his see to an Arian rival.

Both Basil and Gregory were present at the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople. The denunciation of Arianism at the Council of Constantinople (381-382) was in large measure due to the efforts of Basil. He fought simony and helped the victims of drought and family. He strove for a more devout clergy, and insisted on strict disciple among the deacons, priests and bishops. When a ring of prostitution erupted in Cappadocia, he excommunicated all those who were involved in it. He was learned, an accomplished diplomat, a man of great personal holiness, and one of the great orators of Christianity.

After the council of Constantinople, Gregory retired from his episcopal see, and spent the rest of his days as a hermit. He wrote spiritual poetry, theological discourses, and poetry, some religious, and some biographical.

Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory Nazianzen are both Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Their feast day is January 2.
God accepts our desires as though they were of great value. He longs ardently for us to desire and love him. He accepts our petitions for benefits as though we were doing him a favor. His joy in giving is greater than ours in receiving. So let us not be apathetic in our asking, nor set too narrow bounds to our requests; nor ask for frivolous things unworthy of God's greatness. Saint Gregory Nazianzen

Let us raise ourselves from our fall and not give up hope as long as we are free from sin. Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners. ‘Come, let us adore and prostrate ourselves and weep before him’ (Psalm 95:6). The Word calls us to repentance, crying out: ‘Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened and I will refresh you’ (Matthew 11:28). There is, then, a way to salvation if we are willing to follow it” - from a letter by Saint Basil the Great

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