Jan 2 — Sts Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, bishops, doctors
Basil the Great (329-379) was a noble by birth. His parents and four of his nine siblings were canonized, including St. Gregory of Nyssa. He was the grandson of St. Marcina the Elder. As a youth, he was noted for organizing famine relief, and for working in the kitchens himself, quite unusual for a young noble.
He studied in Constantinople and Athens with his friend St. Gregory Nazianzen. He ran a school of oratory and law in Caesarea. He was so successful and sought after as a speaker that he was tempted by pride. Fearful that it would overtake his piety, he sold all that he had, gave away the money, and became a priest and monk.
He founded monasteries and drew up rules for monks living in the desert. He is considered as key to the founding of eastern monasticism as Benedict was to the west. He was the bishop and archbishop of Caesarea. He conducted Mass and preached to the crowds twice daily. He fought Arianism, is a Greek Doctor of the Church, and a Father of the Church.
Gregory of Nazianzen (330-390) was the son of St. Gregory of Nazianzen the Elder and St. Nonna, brother of St. Caesar Nazianzen, and St. Gorgonius. He spent an itinerant youth in search of learning. He was a friend and fellow student with St. Basil the Great, and a monk at Basil’s desert monastery.
He was a reluctant priest, feeling himself unworthy, and fearing that the responsibility would test his faith. He assisted his bishop father to prevent an Arian schism in the diocese. He opposed Arianiam and brought its heretical followers back to the fold. He became Bishop of Caesarea in 370 which put him in conflict with the Arian emperor Valens. the disputes led his friend Basil the Great, then archbishop, to reassign him to a small, out of the way posting at the edge of the archbishopric.
Following the death of Valens, he was appointed Bishop of Constantinople from 381-390. He hated the city, despised the violence and slander involved in these disputes, and feared being drawn into politics and corruption. But he worked to bring the Arians back to the faith. For his trouble, he was slandered, insulted, beaten up, and a rival ‘bishop’ tried to take over his diocese.
He was a noted preacher on the Trinity. When it seemed that the faith had been restored in the city, Gregory retired to live the rest of his days as a hermit. He wrote theological discourses and poetry, some of it religious, some of it autobiographical. He was a Father of the Church, and a Doctor of the Church.
– Patron Saint Index
1 Jn 2:22-28
Live in Christ, then, my children…
There is a saying that a person is a chip off the old block. This signifies that the individual is similar to his parents. The readings of today remind us of the need to stay faithful to our identity as Christians, because we are supposed to follow Jesus totally.
Being Christian requires us to stand up to the truth and to accept that in doing so, it might lead to some unhappiness amongst the people whom we speak to. This is not an easy thing to bear with because to face up to opposition requires us to reject the company which we used to belong to.
Today’s memorial of Sts Basil and St Gregory reminds us of the need to stay faithful to Christ, come what may. Through their lives, they showed to the people living in their time what it means to remain faithful. They have accepted that nothing in this world can be superior than living a life aligned with Christ’s teaching. As we enter the new year, let us take time to think about how we can live our life fully.
(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer: Sts Basil the Great and St Gregory of Nazianzen, pray for us.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who love us.