Saint Basil the Great

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Basil, St, ‘the Great’ (c.330–79). One of the three Cappadocian fathers, and the first of the three Holy Hierarchs of the E. Church. Besides his eloquence and personal holiness, Basil was known for his talent for administration. His two monastic rules (see below) determined the structure of E. Christian monasticism ever since. He built hospitals and hostels alongside church buildings in Caesarea, and organized relief for the poor. His writings, in addition to letters, are a treatise On the Holy Spirit, three anti-Arian books Against Eunomius, and homilies. Feast day in W., 2 Jan.; in the E., 1 Jan.

The Rule of Basil has two forms, each set out as a series of questions and answers about the monastic life. Stopping well short of the extreme deprivations of the desert hermits, it prescribed liturgical prayer at fixed hours, manual work, poverty and chastity, community life, care for the poor, and the education of children. The present form of the rule is a revision by Theodore of Studios (d. 826).

The Liturgy of Basil is used in the E. Church in place of that of Chrysostom on a few fixed days (e.g. the Sundays in Lent) each year.

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Saint Basil the Great (bă´zĬl, bā´–), c.330–379, Greek prelate, bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, Doctor of the Church and one of the Four Fathers of the Greek Church. He was a brother of St. Gregory of Nyssa. In his student days at Athens he knew Julian, later Roman emperor, and began his lifelong friendship with St. Gregory Nazianzen. Converted to the religious life by his sister, St. Macrina, he withdrew (c.357) to a retreat in Pontus. There he wrote much of the Longer Rule and of the Shorter Rule; on these the life of the Basilian monks is based. Through his rules Basil was a spiritual ancestor of St. Benedict. As counselor (365) and successor (370) of Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea and head of most of the church in Asia Minor, Basil established Nicene orthodoxy over Arianism in the Byzantine East. His revision of the liturgy is occasionally used in the Byzantine rite. His works On the Holy Ghost and Against Eunomius are elegant, acute defenses of the Catholic system. In the West his feast is June 14.

See his letters tr. by R. J. Deferrari (4 vol., 1926–34); studies by G. L. Prestige (1956), E. Amand de Mendieta (1965), and M. G. Murphy (1971).

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Basil the Great, Saint (329–79) Doctor of the Church and one of the four Fathers of the Greek Church. He founded a monastic community, and in 370 was ordained bishop of Caesarea, Cappadocia. Basil established the dominance of the Nicene Creed, and was a fierce opponent of Arianism. He is thought to have composed the Liturgy of St Basil, which is still used in the Eastern Orthodox Church. His feast day is January 2 in the West; January 1 in the East.