01 January 2008

St. Basil the Great

Today is the feast day of St. Basil the Great, who lived from approximately 330 to 379 and was bishop of Caesarea. In the Orthodox tradition he is grouped with Gregory the Theologian (Nazianzus) and St. John Chrysostom as the Three Holy Hierarchs, and with Gregory the Theologian and St. Gregory of Nyssa as one of the Cappadocian Fathers.

Among other things he is known for his battles against the Arian heresy and his defence of the divinity of the Holy Spirit. The Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, in use during Great Lent in the Orthodox Church, is named for him, in recognition of his activities "in formularizing liturgical prayers and promoting church-song."

Amongst the Greeks, St. Basil brings gifts to children on 1 January, in a tradition mirroring that of St. Nicholas in the west. In fact, a Google image search of Άγιος Βασίλης brings up surprisingly familiar images.

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