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Feasts & Saints 14/1, January

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  • loriannzachary2002 <loriannzachary2002@y
    Feasts and Saints of the Orthodox Church Previous Day January 1 (14 January) Next Day Back to Feasts & Saints Main Page ... Circumcision of the Lord Saint
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1, 2003
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      Feasts and Saints of the Orthodox Church
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      January 1
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      Circumcision of the Lord
      Saint Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia (+379)
      Saint Emily, Mother of Saint Basil the Great

      Saint Gregory Nazianzus (+374)
      Martyr Basil of Ancyra (+c.362)
      Martyr Theodotos
      Monk Theodosius, Igumen of Trigleia Monastery (8th C)
      Martyr Peter of Peloponessus (+1776)


      The Circumcision of the Lord: On the eighth day after His Nativity,
      our Lord Jesus Christ -- in accordance with the Old Testament Law,
      accepted circumcision, which was decreed for all infants of the male
      gender as a sign of the Covenant of God with the Forefather Abraham
      and his descendants (Gen 17:10-14, Lev 12:3). Upon the performing of
      this ritual the Divine Infant was given the name Jesus, which had
      been announced by the Archangel Gabriel on the day of the
      Annunciation to the MostHoly Virgin Mary (Lk 1:31-33, 2:21).
      According to the explanation of the fathers of the Church the Lord,
      the Creator of the Law, accepted circumcision, giving example for
      people how faithfully the Divine ordinances ought to be fulfilled.
      The Lord accepted circumcision for this reason -- so that later on
      no one should be in doubt that He was truly Man, rather than merely
      being the bearer of illusion-seeming flesh as certain heretics
      (Docetism) happened to teach. In the New Testament [Covenant] the
      ritual of circumcision gave way to the sacrament of Baptism, which
      it pre-figured (Col 2:11-12). Accounts about the feastday of the
      Circumcision of the Lord in the Eastern Church continue right up
      through the 4thCentury. The Canon of the feast was written by the
      Monk Stephen Savvaites (commemorated 28 October and 13 July).
      Together with the Circumcision, accepted by the Lord as a sign of
      the Covenant of God with mankind, He received also the Name Jesus
      (Saviour) as the seal of His service -- the deed of the Salvation of
      the world (Mt 1:21; Mk 9:38-39, 16:17; Lk 10:17; Acts 3:6, 16; Phil
      2:9-10). These two events, the Circumcision and Naming, remind
      Christians that they have entered into a New Covenant [Testament]
      with God and"are circumcised with a circumcision not done by hand,
      in putting off the sinful body of the flesh, by the Circumcision of
      Christ" (Col 2:11). The very name "Christian" witnesses to an
      entrance of mankind into a New Covenant with God.

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      Saint Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea in
      Cappadocia, "belongs not to the Church of Caesarea alone, nor merely
      to his own time, nor to his own kinsmen was he merely of benefit,
      but rather to all lands and cities worldwide, and to all people he
      brought and yet brings benefit, and for Christians he always was and
      will be a teacher most salvific" -- thus spoke the contemporary of
      Saint Basil -- Saint Amphylokhios, Bishop of Iconium (+ 344,
      commemorated 23 November).

      Saint Basil was born in about the year 330 at Caesarea, the
      administrative centre of Cappadocia. He was of illustrious lineage,
      famed for its eminence and wealth, and giftedly zealous for the
      Christian faith. The grandfather and grandmother of the saint on his
      father's side, during the time of persecution under Diocletian, had
      to hide themselves away in the forests of Pontum for a space of
      seven years. The mother of Saint Basil -- Saint Emily, was the
      daughter of a martyr. The father of Saint Basil was also named
      Basil: he was a lawyer and reknown rhetorician and lived constantly
      at Caesarea.

      Into the family of this elder Basil ten children were born -- five
      sons and five daughters. Of these, five were later enumerated to the
      ranks of the Saints: Basil the Great; Macrina (commemorated 19
      July) -- was an exemplar of ascetic life, and exerted strong
      influence on the life and character of Saint Basil the Great;
      Gregory, afterwards Bishop of Nyssa (commemorated 10 January);
      Peter, Bishop of Sebasteia (commemorated 9 January); and Righteous
      Theozua -- a deaconess (commemorated 10 January). Saint Basil spent
      the first years of his life on an estate belonging to his parents at
      the River Irisa, where he was raised under the supervision of his
      mother Emilia and grandmother Macrina. They were women of great
      refinement, preserving in memory the tradition of an earlier Saint-
      hierarch of Cappadocia -- Saint Gregory the Wonderworker (+c.266-
      270, commemorated 17 November). Basil received his initial education
      under the supervision of his father, and then he studied under the
      finest teachers in Caesarea Cappadocia, and it was here that he made
      the acquaintance of Saint Gregory the Theologian (Bogoslov, i.e.
      title of Saint Gregory Nazianzus; commemorated 25 January and 30
      January). Later on, Basil transferred to school at Constantinople,
      where he listened to eminent orators and philosophers. For the
      finishing touches to his education Saint Basil set off to Athens --
      a centre of classical enlightenment.

      After a four or five year stay at Athens, Basil the Great had
      mastered all the available disciplines: "He so thoroughly studied
      everything, more than others are wont to study a single subject,
      each science he studied to its very totality, as though he would
      study naught else." Philosopher, philologist, orator, jurist,
      naturalist, possessing profound knowledge in astronomy, mathematics
      and medicine -- "this was a ship, loaded down full of learning, to
      the extent allowed of by human nature." At Athens a close friendship
      developed between Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian
      (Nazianzus), which continued throughout all their life. Later on, in
      an eulogy to Basil the Great, Saint Gregory the Theologian speaks
      with delight about this period: "Various hopes guided us and in deed
      inevitably -- in learning... Two paths opened up before us: the one -
      - to our sacred temples and the teachers therein; the other --
      towards preceptors of disciplines beyond."

      In about the year 357 Saint Basil returned to Caesarea, where for a
      certain while he devoted himself to rhetoric. But soon, refusing
      offers from Caesarea citizens wanting to entrust him with the
      education of their offspring, Saint Basil entered upon the path of
      ascetic life.

      After the death of her husband, Basil's mother together with her
      eldest daughter Macrina and several maid-servants withdrew to the
      family estate at Irisa and there began to lead an ascetic life.
      Basil, however, having accepted Baptism from the bishop of Caesarea
      Dianios, was ordained a reader. As an expounder of the Sacred
      Scriptures, he at first read them to the people. Later on, "wanting
      to acquire a guide to the knowledge of truth", the saint undertook a
      journey into Egypt, Syria and Palestine, to the great Christian
      ascetics dwelling there. Upon returning to Cappadocia, he decided to
      do likewise. Having given his wealth to the needy, Saint Basil
      settled on the opposite side of the river not far from his mother
      Emilia and sister Macrina, gathering around him monks living in
      common community. Through his letters, Basil the great attracted to
      the wilderness monastery his good friend Gregory the Theologian.
      Saints Basil and Gregory asceticised amidst strict abstinence in
      their hovel, without roof and without fireplace, and the food was
      very humble. They themselves heaved the stones, planted and watered
      the trees, and carried heavy loads. Their hands were constantly
      calloused from the hard work. For clothing Basil the great had only
      chiton-tunic and monastic mantle; the hairshirt he wore only at
      night, so that it would not be obvious. In their solitude, Saints
      Basil and Gregory occupied themselves in an intense study of Holy
      Scripture with manuscript guidances from the most ancient
      commentators, and in parts Origen also -- from all whose works they
      compiled an anthology -- a Philokalia. And also at this time at the
      request of the monks, Basil the Great wrote down a collection of
      rules for virtuous life. By his preachings and by his example Saint
      Basil the Great assisted in the spiritual perfecting of Christians
      in Cappadocia and Pontus; and many indeed turned to him. Monasteries
      were organised for men and for women, in which places Basil sought
      to unite the coenobitic (koine-bios or life in common) lifestyle
      with that of the solitary hermit.

      During the reign of Constantius (337-361) the heretical false-
      teachings of Arius spread about, and the Church summoned both its
      saints into service. Saint Basil returned to Caesarea. In the year
      362 he was ordained deacon by the bishop of Antioch, Meletios; later
      on, in 364 he was ordained to the dignity of priest by the bishop of
      Caesarea, Eusebios. "But seeing" -- as Gregory the Theologian
      relates -- "that everyone exceedingly praised and honoured Basil for
      his wisdom and reverence, Eusebios, through human weakness,
      succumbed to jealousy of him, and began to show dislike for him."
      The monks rose up in defense of saint Basil. To avoid causing Church
      discord, Basil withdrew to his own monastery and concerned himself
      with the organisation of monasteries. With the coming to power of
      the emperor Valens (364-378), who was a resolute adherent of
      Arianism, there began for Orthodoxy the onset of a time of troubles -
      - "the onset of the great struggle." Saint Basil then hastily
      returned to Caesarea at the call of bishop Eusebios. In the words of
      Gregory the Theologian, he was for bishop Eusebios "a good advisor,
      a righteous representative, an expounder of the Word of God, a staff
      for the aged, a faithful support in matters internal, and an
      activist in matter external." From this time church governance
      passed over to Basil, though he was subordinate to the hierarch. He
      preached daily, and often twice so -- in the morning and in the
      evening. And during this time Saint Basil compiled the order of his
      Liturgy; he wrote a work "Discourse on the Six Days" and another in
      16 Chapters on the Prophet Isaiah, yet another on the Psalms, and
      also a second compilation of monastic rules. Saint Basil wrote also
      Three Books "Against Eunomios", an Arian teacher who with the help
      of Aristotelian concepts had presented the Arian dogmatics in
      learnedly philosophic form, converting the Christian teaching into a
      logical scheme of rationalist concepts.

      Saint Gregory the Theologian, speaking about the activity of Basil
      the Great during this period, points to "the caring for the
      destitute and the taking in of strangers, the supervision of
      virgins, written and unwritten monastic rule for the monasticising,
      the arrangement of prayers [Liturgy], the felicitous arrangement of
      altars and other things." Upon the death of the bishop of Caesarea
      Eusebios, Saint Basil in the year 370 was elevated onto his cathedra-
      chair. As Bishop of Caesarea, Saint Basil the Great was the newest
      in rank of 50 bishops in eleven provinces. Saint Athanasias the
      great (commemorated 2 May), with joy and with thanks to God welcomed
      the bestowing of Cappadocia with such a bishop as Basil, famed for
      his reverence, deep knowledge of Holy Scripture, great learning, and
      his efforts for the welfare of Church peace and unity. In the empire
      of Valens the external government belonged to the Arians, who held
      several various opinions on questions of the Divinity of the Son of
      God and hence were divided into several factions. And to these
      dogmatic disputes were connected questions about the Holy Spirit. In
      his books Against Eunomios, Saint Basil the Great taught about the
      Divinity of the Holy Spirit and Its Oneness together with the Father
      and the Son. Subsequently, for a full explanation of the Orthodox
      teaching on this question -- at the request of the Bishop of Iconium
      Saint Amphylokhios, Saint Basil wrote his book About the Holy

      The generally sorry state of affairs for the Caesarea bishop was
      made even worse by various circumstances: Cappadocia was divided in
      two under the re-arrangement of governance of provincial districts.
      Then too at Antioch a schism occurred, occasioned by the ordination
      of a second bishop. There was the negative and haughty attitude of
      Western bishops to the attempts to draw them into the struggle with
      the Arians. And there was also the departure over to the Arian side
      by Eustathios of Sebasteia, with whom Basil had been connected by
      close friendship. Amidst the constant perils Saint Basil gave
      encouragement to the Orthodox, affirmed them in the faith, summoning
      them to bravery and endurance. The holy bishop wrote numerous
      letters to the Churches, to bishops, to clergy and to individuals.
      Overcoming the heretics "by the weapon of his mouth, and by the
      arrows of his letters," as an untiring champion of Orthodoxy, Saint
      Basil all his life gave challenge to the hostility and the every
      which way possible intrigues of the Arian heretics.

      The emperor Valens, mercilessly dispatching into exile any bishops
      that displeased him, and having implanted Arianism into other Asia
      Minor provinces, suddenly appeared in Cappadocia for precisely this
      purpose. He sent off to Saint Basil the prefect Modestus, who began
      to threaten the saint with ruin, banishment, beatings and even death
      by execution. "All this" -- replied Basil -- "for me means nothing,
      since one cannot be deprived of possessions that one does not have,
      beyond some old worn-out clothing and some books, which comprises
      the entirety of my wealth. For me it would not be exile, since I am
      bound to no particular place, and this place in which I now dwell is
      not mine, and indeed any place whither I be cast shalt be mine.
      Better it is to say: everywhere is the place of God, whither be
      naught stranger nor new-comer (Ps 38[39]:13). And what tortures can
      ye do me? -- I am so weak, that merely but the very first blow will
      be felt. Death for me would be an act of kindness: it wilt bring me
      all the sooner to God, for Whom I live and do labour, and to Whom
      moreover I do strive." The official was bewildered by such an
      answer. "Perhaps" -- continued the saint -- "thou hast never had
      encounter with a bishop; otherwise, without doubt, thou wouldst have
      heard suchlike words. In all else we are meek, the most humble of
      all, and not only afront the mighty, but also afront all, since such
      is prescribed for us by the law. But when it is a matter concerning
      God and they make bold to rise up against Him, then we -- being
      mindful of naught else, think only of Him alone, and then fire,
      sword, wild beasts and chains, the rending of the body, would sooner
      hold satisfaction for us, than to be afraid."

      Reporting to Valens on the not to be intimidated Saint Basil,
      Modestus said: "Emperor, we stand defeated by a leader of the
      Church." Basil the Great again showed firmness and in front of the
      very person of the emperor himself and his retinue produced such a
      strong impression on Valens, that the emperor dared not give in to
      the Arians demanding the exile of Basil. "On the day of Theophany,
      amidst an innumerable multitude of the people, Valens entered the
      church and mixed in amidst the throng, in order to give the
      appearance of being in unity with the Church. When began the singing
      of psalmody in the church, it was like thunder to his hearing. The
      emperor beheld a sea of people, and in the altar and all around was
      splendour; in front of all was Basil, acknowledging neither by
      gesture nor by glance, as though in church was occurred aught else,
      than that everything was intent only on God and the altar-table, and
      the clergy thereat in awe and reverence."

      Saint Basil almost daily celebrated Divine-services. He was
      particularly concerned about the strict fulfilling of the canons of
      the Church, and kept attentive watch, so that only worthy
      individuals should enter into the clergy. He incessantly made the
      rounds of his own church, lest anywhere there be an infraction of
      Church discipline, and setting aright any unseemliness. At Caesarea
      Saint Basil built two monasteries, a men's and a women's, with a
      church in honour of 40 Martyrs whose relics were buried there. On
      the example of monks, the metropolitan clergy of the saint -- even
      deacons and priests lived in remarkable poverty, to toil and lead
      lives chaste and virtuous. For his clergy Saint Basil got an
      exemption from taxes. All his personal wealth and the income-
      proceeds from his church he used for the benefit of the destitute;
      in every centre of his diocese he built a poor-house; at Caesarea --
      an home for wanderers and the homeless.

      Sickly since youth, the toil of teaching, efforts at abstinence, the
      concerns and sorrows of pastoral service early sapped the strength
      of the saint. Saint Basil died on 1 January 379 at age 49. Shortly
      before his death, the saint gave blessing to Saint Gregory the
      Theologian to enter upon the Constantinople cathedra-chair.

      Upon the repose of Saint Basil, the Church immediately began to
      celebrate his memory. Saint Amphylokhios, Bishop of Iconium (+394),
      in his eulogy to Saint Basil the Great, said: "It is neither without
      a reason nor by chance that holy Basil hath taken leave from the
      body and had repose from the world unto God on the day of the
      Circumcision of Jesus, celebrated betwixt the day of the Nativity
      and the day of the Baptism of Christ. Wherefore this most blessed
      one, preaching and praising the Nativity and Baptism of Christ,
      extolling spiritual circumcision, himself forsaking the flesh, doth
      ascend to Christ now especially on the sacred day of remembrance of
      the Circumcision of Christ. Therefore also let be established on
      this present day annually to honour the memory of Basil the Great
      festally and solemnly."

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      © 2002 OCA & Fr Stephen Janos
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