Tag Archives: St Basil the Great

St Basil the Great at Pentecost

We are fast approaching the great feast of Pentecost. A saint to attend to is St. Basil the Great.

Basil’s work is understood as a key and definitive statement on the divinity of the Holy Spirit in the early Church. A monumental intellectual work on the Holy Spirit won’t appear for many centuries later with Cardinal Ives Congar’s 3 volume work, I Believe in the Holy Spirit (1982).

As one commentator writes, “Unlike the previous approach to defending Christ’s divinity—which had relied on language outside of Scripture since Arian heretics had an explanation for every verse cited against them—Basil based his case for the divinity of the Holy Spirit on an extraordinarily close reading of the Bible, which makes his work unique both for its theological contributions and its exegetical style.”

We all ought to be familiar with the Holy Spirit and what the Church believes and teaches about the Spirit and so if you are inclined, read Basil’s On the Holy Spirit here and here to read the Office of Readings (from the Divine Office) for his feast day.


“Stars cross the sky, wise men journey from pagan lands, earth receives its savior in a cave. Let there be no one without a gift to offer, no one without gratitude as we celebrate the salvation of the world, the birthday of the human race. Now it is no longer, Dust you are and to dust you shall return, but “You are joined to heaven and into heaven you shall be taken up.”

St. Basil the Great
Feast of the Epiphany

In ALL things be grateful to the Lord

Reflection from St. Basil the Great: “When you sit down to eat, pray. When you eat bread, do so thanking him for being so generous to you. If you drink wine, remember him who has given it to you for your enjoyment and as a relief in illness. When you get dressed, thank him for his kindness in supplying you with clothing. When you look at the sky and the beauty of the stars, throw yourself at God’s feet and adore him who in his wisdom has arranged things in this way. In the same way, when the sun goes down and when it rises, when you are asleep or awake, give thanks to God, who created and arranged all things for your benefit, to have you know, love and praise their Creator.”

Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen

On this second day of the new year, the Church gives us the liturgical memorial of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church. They were both well educated. These fathers of the Cappadocia were instrumental in forming our theological precision, for example, on the monastic life, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity and the Creed. Saint Basil, a convert, comes from a family of saints, was a monk, a priest and worked for church unity, and worked to the reform of prostitutes and thieves. He was ordained a bishop at age 40.

Perhaps the best description of true friendship ever written was by Saint Gregory Nazianzen:

Basil and I were both in Athens. We had come, like streams of a river, from the same source in our native land, had separated from each other in pursuit of learning, and were now united again as if by plan, for God so arranged it.

I was not alone at that time in my regard for my friend, the great Basil. I knew his irreproachable conduct, and the maturity and wisdom of his conversation. I sought to persuade others, to whom he was less well known, to have the same regard for him. Many fell immediately under his spell, for they had already heard of him by reputation and hearsay.

What was the outcome? Almost alone of those who had come to Athens to study he was exempted from the customary ceremonies of initiation for he was held in higher honor that his status as a first-year student seemed to warrant.

Such was the prelude to our friendship, the kindling of that flame that was to bind us together. In this way we began to feel affection for each other. When, in the course of time, we acknowledged our friendship and recognized that our ambition was a life of true wisdom, we became everything to each other: we shared the same lodging, the same table, the same desires, the same goal. Our love for each other grew daily warmer and deeper.

The same hope inspired us: the pursuit of learning. This is an ambition especially subject to envy. Yet between us there was no envy. On the contrary, we made capital out of our rivalry. Our rivalry consisted, not in seeking the first place for oneself but in yielding it to the other, for we each looked on the other’s success as his own.

We seemed to be two bodies with a single spirit. Though we cannot believe those who claim that “everything is contained in everything,” yet you must believe that in our case each of us was in the other and with the other.

Our single object and ambition was virtue, and a life of hope in the blessings that are to come; we wanted to withdraw from this world before we departed from it. With this end in view we ordered our lives and all our actions. We followed the guidance of God’s law and spurred each other on to virtue. If it is not too boastful to say, we found in each other a standard and rule for discerning right from wrong.

Different men have different names, which they owe to their parents or to themselves, that is, to their own pursuits and achievements. But our great pursuit, the great name we wanted, was to be Christians, to be called Christians.

The Lord plants the vineyard

“Throughout the Scriptures the Lord continually likens human souls to vines. He says for instance: ‘My beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hillside’, and again: ‘I planted a vineyard and put a hedge around it’. Clearly it is human souls that he calls his vineyard, and the hedge he has put around them is the security of his commandments and the protection of the angels, for ‘the angels of the Lord will encamp around those who fear him’. Moreover, by establishing in the church apostles in the first place, prophets in the second, and teachers in the third, he has surrounded us as though by a firmly planted palisade. In addition, the Lord has raised our thoughts to heaven by the examples of saints of past ages. He has kept them from sinking to the earth where they would deserve to be trampled on, and he wills that the bonds of love, like the tendrils of a vine, should attach us to our neighbors and make us rest on them, so that always climbing upward like vines growing on trees, we may reach the loftiest heights.”

A reflection from St. Basil for the 27th Sunday through the year
Mt 21:33-43

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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