2 January, Monday — Denying our self or denying Christ?

2 Jan – Memorial for Sts. Basil the Great & Gregory Nazianzen, bishops

St. 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.

St. 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 Arianism 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
Jn 1:19-28

…no one who has the Father can deny the Son, and to acknowledge the Son is to have the Father as well.

Today, we celebrate the feast day of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen. Both devoted themselves to countering against Arianism. Arianism denied the divinity of Christ and held that Jesus was created by God as an act of creation and that the nature of Christ was not fully human and fully divine. These two saints contributed a great role in defending the Catholic faith against Arianism. The Catholic church denounced Arianism eventually.

But do we truly believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and He is fully human and fully divine?

I am from the younger generation among Singaporeans, and I have heard many of my friends wondering not about the divinity of Christ, but a far deeper doubt exists – does Christ exist? And I must admit that sometimes I also wonder whether Christ truly exists or not. Is he a figment of our imagination? In this sense, we are also denying Christ.

God exists, but who is Jesus? Does He exist?

Where there are miracles and happiness, we are happy and believe that Christ exists. But when tribulations come our way, we forget that Jesus is still there among us. We think that because if Jesus Christ is truly living among us, He will be there to rescue us immediately from our suffering and pain.

But without suffering, how can we strengthen our faith in Christ? I have learnt, through my physical pain and spiritual battles, that Jesus is always there among us, and we only need to surrender ourselves to Him. We just need to call out to Him, and He will fill us with His peace and love. His mother is also there for us.

To expect Jesus to rescue us immediately from our pain will cause us more spiritual harm in the long run. Yes, we will be free of certain struggles today. But expecting Jesus to save us immediately is akin to saying that we have authority over Jesus.

The truth is that Jesus has authority over us. He is our King, and he will be our King forever.

So let us not deny Christ in our good and bad times. Let us deny our self, take up our cross, and follow Him where He wants us to go to.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please help us to strengthen our faith in You. Help us to never deny You and Your divinity. Give us the strength and courage to be like our two beloved saints, Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, to defend our Catholic faith.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for bestowing us the great examples of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, who have shown us that we too can be like them, by believing in Your divinity and defending our Catholic faith against Arianism-like influences.

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