After celebrating the Christmas week feasts of St. Stephen, St. John the Evangelist, and the Holy Innocents, we might feel that today’s memorial is not as consequential. Yet both St. Gregory and St. Basil have a very real connection to the Christmas Season and to our lives even though we are separated by seventeen centuries.
First of all, it must be noted that these two men were greatly instrumental in defining a fundamental aspect of our faith: the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Specifically, they refuted a common and dangerous heresy called Arianism, which denied the divinity of Jesus. They taught and confessed that Jesus was both fully God and fully human.
Secondly, these Doctors of the Church, often referred to as Fathers of the Church, also made a difference in what we now call religious life. Basil wrote a guide for those who lived in monasteries and stressed that it was far more important to learn to live with other Christians in love than to compete with them in self-denial of food, sleep, etc. Practically that would mean living with others in patience and forgiveness, serving and supporting each other in the community where we live, showing concern for the sick, the suffering, the neglected, and the poor. In his short life of fifty years, Basil put flesh and bones on these ideas by initiating what we would call today soup kitchens and hospitals. For Basil, mutual harmony was far more important than mortification and fasting.
The readings for today’s liturgy emphasize the doctrinal themes that these two men taught; namely, that one cannot deny the Son and believe in the Father. However, these men also remind us that Jesus, the Son of God and second person in the Holy Trinity, taught that what we do for the least of our brothers and sisters, we do for him.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator