St. Basil the Great

Friends in Christ, today is the Feast of St. Basil and Gregory Nazianzen. Together, with Gregory of Nyssa, they formed the ‘Cappadochian Fathers.’
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St. Basil, born about 330, was a brilliant young man who became very well educated in philosophy, science, and medicine. Although he was somewhat worldly at the time, he met the bishop of Caesarea, and was baptized. Having been inspired by the faith of his sister, Macrina, he tells us how, like a man roused from deep sleep, he turned his eyes to the marvelous truth of the Gospel and wept many tears over his miserable life. He says, “Then I read the Gospel, and saw there that a great means of reaching perfection was the selling of one’s goods, the sharing of them with the poor, the giving up of all care for this life.’    
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He lived the monastic life, but eventually was chosen to be a bishop. As bishop, Basil was a champion of the Catholic faith against the Arian heresy. In 372 Emperor Valens sent Modestus, the prefect, to Cappadocia to introduce Arianism as the state religion. Modestus approached the holy bishop, upbraided him for his teaching, and threatened him with death. With total serenity, Basil calmly replied that he was a mere creature of God, and could not stop serving him.
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Modestus became enraged and asked: “Do you have no fear of my power?” Fear of what, asked Basil? Modestus: ‘You should fear conficscation of all your property, exile from your homeland, and death.’
Basil replied, Confiscation of my property means little to a man who owns nothing except these clothes and some books. Exile means nothing since I am not attached to any particular place. I am at home everywhere on God’s earth. And death is welcome, for it will bring me more quickly to God.      
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“No one, said Modestus ever spoke to me like this before.”
Perhaps, said Basil, you never met a bishop.
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Even as he returned to the Emperor, Modestus could not get over the calm, courageous words of Basil. To the Emperor he said, “we have been beaten by this leader of the Church. And so the Emperor himself decided to put an end to this bishop. He himself went to the great Basilica in Cappadocia during Mass, intending to do violence to Basil.
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Gregory Nazianzen describes the scene: The Emperor marched into the church with his soldiers; they could hear the chanting of the psalms echoing throughout the holy place (like the gentle rumbling of thunder.) The people, like a waving sea, filled the house of God. So great was the beauty around the sanctuary, that it looked more like heaven than earth. Basil himself stood up as the scriptures were read, his body and soul motionless, as though nothing strange were taking place. He was united to God.
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The Emperor saw it all, and his soldiers. He had never before witnessed such a magnificent scene, and he felt overpowered. The Son of God and the Son of Mary had conquered his heart at Holy Mass.  At the Offertory, the Emperor himself presented the gifts to Basil. The Emperor was so worried that he might not accept them from him, that trembling, his soldiers had to support him.
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Gregory concludes by saying this:
In those days, Basil was a beautiful and burning lamp, for the Church of God.

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