Tag Archives: St. Basil the Great

Hovering over the meadow.

Our Orthodox commemoration of the Three Holy Hierarchs and Ecumenical Teachers was instituted as a result of 11th-century debates about which of them was the greatest. They themselves had to intervene by means of a vision given to St. John Bishop of Euchaita, who chose January 30 for their feast.

These three gifts to the Church are Basil the Great (330-379), Gregory the Theologian (329-389), and John Chrysostom (347-407). Each has his own feast day, but they are held in such esteem that it isn’t too much for us to remember them again together, they who in the words of a hymn, “have enlightened the world with the rays of their divine doctrines. They are sweetly-flowing rivers of wisdom filling all creation with springs of heavenly knowledge.”

A hymn of Matins on their feast day echoes a theme that runs through hagiography generally; it is the sweetness of true theology and and God’s Word imparted to us.

Like bees hovering over the meadow of scriptures,
You embraced the wonderful pollen of their flowers.
Together you have produced for all the faithful
The honey of your teachings for their complete delight.
Therefore as we each enjoy this,
We cry out with gladness:
Blessed ones, even after death,
Be advocates for us who praise you!

Ironing and baking through the calendar.

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After the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, we change from red to gold altar cloths. Earlier in the week I helped to iron the gold ones that had gotten creases being in storage bins, a task that is done right there in the temple.

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Three of us ironed, and draped the smoothed gold cloths over chairs. The fourth walked around the church making the exchange on icon stands and tables.

The cloths that belong in the altar itself were laid over the choir stands temporarily, where our rector could later switch them out for the red ones in the altar at his convenience, sometime before the next service.

The red ones were put away in bins, where they will stay at least until next September, if I read the rubrics correctly.

 

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Leavetaking of Nativity was yesterday, so this icon of the Christmas feast has been removed; today was another great feast, The Circumcision of Christ. Born a Jew, our Lord was circumcised eight days after birth according to the law.

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icon & basil breadIn addition to being one of the twelve great feasts of the church year, today is the day we remember St. Basil the Great, and after Liturgy this morning we gathered in the fellowship hall to eat some St. Basil bread, of which we had four loaves, including one gluten-free. The Greek word for this is Vasilopita, and many traditions have grown up around it over the centuries. I like this telling of the story linking it to St. Basil: Vasilopita.

We sang and ate the blessed bread after it had been cut in several symbolic ways, first into quarters by the sign of the cross made with the knife. Various chunks were swiftly and ceremonially removed for Christ, for the poor, and I can’t remember who all, because I was too focused on taking pictures!IMG_1452 chunk

A coin was baked into each loaf, as is the custom, so we were warned to bite our cake gently.  Our parishioner who bears the name of Basil was blessed to find the first coin in his slice.

I stood around drinking coffee, eating the sweet bread, and chatting for a good while before I came home and changed into walking clothes so that I could get out in the sunshine with friend Elsie for the better part of an hour. We timed our walk to be in the warmest part of the day, and it was almost 50° by then.

I’ve been burning a lot of wood, and the stack that was “temporarily” in my driveway for five months has been whittled down to almost nothing. Now my new utility yard is ready to receive the firewood again, but I’m not going to bother moving this little bit of old wood back there. I’ll stack the new supply of wood I’ve ordered there next week.

Tomorrow is the first day of winter that we have been forbidden to burn wood, because of the deteriorating air quality. It often happens like this: when you most want a good fire is when the inversion layer keeps the cold and the pollutants close to the earth. I’m glad I have a good furnace but it’s disturbing to hear it coming on all day and night when we don’t have a fire in the stove. Next week we are expecting the El Niño system to bring us rain, so that will clear up and warm up the air.

This week between Christmas and New Year’s has been a struggle for me, trying to accept my new life that is evolving, or that I am creating; I’ll be glad to be slightly less cold next week and to lay in some fresh fuel-wood. Since I can’t have a fire tomorrow I am thinking of baking bread, which would help to warm up the house and make it homey. Theophany is just around the corner, and for about ten days now the days have been getting longer — have you noticed? Here comes the sun!

Happy New Year to all my dear blogging friends and readers!

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It is no mean contest.

Each one of these quotes contains some truth about our humanity and this way we have of creating strong predispositions  in ourselves. If we have any good habits, of course we don’t worry about them being too strong, or try to fight against them. But most of the thoughts I’ve collected seem only to apply to the habits we feel are “bad,” or at least not promoting our goals. From what I’ve seen, the majority of us fallen humans are all too prone to lay aside what appear to be the bonds of good character in what is known as The Moment of Weakness. Don’t trust in these habits! Pray and seek God, and live.

Habits are at first cobwebs, then cables.  – Spanish proverb

Every grown-up man consists wholly of habits, although he is often unaware of it and even denies having any habits at all.  – Georges Gurdjieff

The strength of a man’s virtue should not be measured by his special exertions, but by his habitual acts. – Blaise Pascal

The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.
– Samuel Johnson

It is no mean contest to overcome one’s bad habits, for custom, strengthened by enduring a long time, takes on the force of [second] nature.
– St. Basil the Great

Man is not imprisoned by habit. Great changes in him can be wrought by crisis – once that crisis can be recognized and understood.  – Norman Cousins

Lord, have mercy on us!

St. Basil the Great

Today we celebrate, among other events, the life of St. Basil the Great, Bishop of Cappadocia in the 4th century. These passages from his writings form a fitting exhortation for this season:

Man was made after the image and likeness of God; but sin marred the beauty of the image by dragging the soul down to passionate desires. Now God, who made man, is the true life. Therefore, when man lost his likeness to God, he lost his participation in the true life; separated and estranged from God as he is, it is impossible for him to enjoy the blessedness of the divine life.

Let us return, then, to the grace [which was ours] in the beginning and from which we have alienated ourselves by sin, and let us again adorn ourselves with the beauty of God’s image, being made like our Creator through the quieting of our passions. He who, to the best of his ability, copies within himself the tranquility of the divine nature attains to a likeness with the very soul of God; and, being made like God in this manner, he also achieves in full a semblance to the divine life and abides continually in unending blessedness.

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He Himself has bound the strong man and plundered His goods – that is, us, who had been abased in every manner of evil – and made us into vessels fit for the Master’s use, the use of our free will being made ready for any good work. Thus through Him we have our approach to the Father, Who has transferred us from the dominion of darkness to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

In consideration of all this, I wish you a bright and happy New Year!