St. Basil the great takes a prominent place in church history. He belongs not merely ‘to his own time and kinsmen’ but to all lands and cities worldwide’. Born into a noble and rich family, and one of the best-educated people of his time, he rejected worldly life, sold off his estate and devoted himself to the life of an ascetic. He is also revered as a prominent theologian whose legacy guides the church’s monastic and liturgical life to this day. The order of the liturgy created by St. Basil the Great continues to be used in the prayer services of the Christian Orthodox church to this day.
St. Basil the Great lived in Byzantium during the reigns of two emperors – Constantinius and Calens. In the political setup of those times, secular rulers wielded great power over the appointment and even the lives of the church hierarchs, which required of them great courage to defend the Christian faith against the heresies to which the political powers would succumb at times. The prominent heresy of those times of that of Arianism, which denied the divine nature of Jesus Christ by alleging that the Son of God had been created by the father.
Emperor Valens, who had a reputation for the persecution of any bishops who opposed him, sent one of his officials, Modestus, to try to force St. Basil, then the Bishop of the Province of Campradocia, to take his side. He tried to intimidate him with the threat of banishment, beatings and death. St. Basil replied: " in all else, we are meek, the most humble of all. But when it is a matter concerning god and they make bold to rise against him, then we – being mindful of nought else, think only of him alone, and then fire, sword, wild beasts and chains, the rending of the body, would sooner hold satisfaction for us than to be afraid". Impressed by this reply, Valens did not dare to give in to demands for St. Basil’s exile that came from the Arians.
St. Basil left a rich heritage of works that are still widely read. His most noted ones is Philokalia, a collection of rules for a virtuous life, multiple homilies on the scripture books, and the treatise “about the holy spirit”, defending the church’s teachings on the holy trinity. In the words of Gregory the Theologian, he was "a good advisor, a righteous representative, an expounder of the word of god, a staff for the aged, a faithful support in matters internal, and an activist in matters external".
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