Today we celebrate the memorial of two Fathers and Doctors of the Church: St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen. They are 2 of the 4 Ecumenical Fathers who came from the Eastern, Greek-speaking part of the Roman Empire, the others being St. Athanasius and St. John Chrysostom. They are called “Ecumenical” because of their far-reaching influence.
Why celebrate both on the same day? Because they had a lot in common.
Born in Cappacodia (modern day Turkey) within a year of each other in 329 and 330AD, both of them had parents and two siblings who were elevated to sainthood. Considered great defenders of the faith, they fought the Arian heresy (which denied the full divinity of Christ) and worked to reunite those in error back to the Church. Both were great writers, teachers, and preachers, who were also bishops. Both died of natural causes in the month of January, St. Basil at the age of 50 and St. Gregory at the age of 60. They were also best friends.
St. Basil, the patron saint of Russia, is considered the founder of Eastern monasticism, much like St. Benedict for the Western Church. His rule is still the foundation for pretty much all religious life in the Eastern Church and one of the major Byzantine liturgies is named after him. He died just before the Council of Constantinople where issues about Christ’s human and divine natures were addressed, which lie at the heart of the Arian heresy. His book On the Holy Spirit was an important writing in clarifying the nature of the Spirit which was also debated at the same Council.
St. Gregory became the Patriarch of Constantinople and later presided over the First Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in the year 381AD. It was from this Council that the Church received the Nicene Creed, which we still pray today. His brilliance and eloquence has caused him to be called the “Christian Demosthenes” in the Western Church and “The Theologian” in the Eastern Church. A prolific writer and powerful orator, he left a great mark on the Church.
Today, let us pray that the Church will raise up great defenders of the faith and that we, too, can be counted among them.
Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory of Nazianzen, pray for us! Anne
“O sinner, be not discouraged, but have recourse to Mary in all your necessities. Call her to your assistance, for such is the divine Will that she should help in every kind of necessity.” Saint Basil the Great
“We must not count on ourselves, because even if we know what kind of person we are today, we do not know what we will be tomorrow. Nobody must rejoice in the security of their own good deeds. As long as we are still experiencing the uncertainties of this life, we do not know what end may follow…we must not trust in our own virtues.” Saint Gregory Nanzianen