June 19th – St Basil the Great

Unlike St John the Baptist, St Basil never lost his head. He was neither burned alive like Joan of Arc nor crucified upside down in imitation of St Peter. Far from suffering a martyr’s death, he died of nothing more dramatic than ill health, a young man of only forty seven years.

Instead of being a king like St Edward, or a champion like St George, he was a mere theologian and eventually an archbishop – two more unlikely ways of becoming a saint it is hard to imagine.

He became a saint because, in spite of constant pressure from his archbishop, the bishops and the government of his day, out of love for the truth and for his people he refused to compromise the apostolic faith.

He taught the faith day in and day out to “oceans of people” and, when his own church abandoned him he did not become depressed, even when his support had failed and his diocese broken up.

Now known as the Father of Eastern Monasticism, St Basil was born into a wealthy fourth century family of holy people. Both his father and mother, and three of his nine brothers and sisters, as well his greatest friend, Gregory of Nyssa, were formally recognised as Saints by the church.

For defending the faith against all adversity the great Council of Chalcedon described St Basil some seventy years after his death, as “The Great Basil, the minister of grace, who has expounded the truth to the whole earth.”

St Basil, pray for us that we too may stand firm in the faith!