St. Basil the Great
How can St. Basil intercede for us?
As St. Basil is known for his immense knowledge of the church and love of learning, many students pray to him, along with the other hierarchs Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom, for help with their studies.
The Life of St. Basil
St. Basil was born in Cappadocia to a family full of other future saints, including St. Macrina and St. Gregory of Nyssa. He went to study in Constantinople and Athens, learning all the best there was in way of Greek knowledge. St. Basil then learned about asceticism and piety through hermit saints he met in Egypt, Syria, and Palestine before devoting himself to Christ through the monastic life. As a monk, he wrote a set of community rules for monastics living in cenobitic monasteries.
Eventually, St. Basil was ordained Bishop of Caesarea. In this position, he combated Arianism even when it meant working against the emperor. He is also known for devoting his life to help those in need. St. Basil famously founded the world’s first hospital and hospice and a hostel for the poor.
St. Basil’s writings include many ethical manuals, moral sermons, and letters. Many of his letters center around the improvement of the Divine Liturgy and monastic rules, two topics with which St.
Basil was very concerned. The Divine Liturgy of St. Basil, celebrated on major feast days and on his feast day, includes prayers composed by the great bishop. A number of other prayers, including the “prayer of the hours” recited daily are attributed to St. Basil.
We celebrate his feast day is on the 1st of January.
St. Basil’s feast day is associated with the wonderful tradition of vasilopita. Vasilopita means “the bread of St. Basil” and comes from a practice that St. Basil used in the fourth century to give alms to the poor. Instead of handing out money, which could embarrass those receiving, St. Basil commissioned women to bake bread with gold coins inside and handed the loaves out to the poor, preserving their dignity. When receivers would cut into the bread, they would find the money St. Basil had hidden in the bread. We usually bake vasilopita on January 1st, to celebrate the feast of St. Basil. The bread is baked with a coin hidden inside. After pieces are cut for (in order) Christ, the Theotokos, and St. Basil, pieces are cut for the family and friends. Whoever receives the coin in their piece is said to have good luck for the whole year!
Learn his Troparion
“Thy sound hath gone forth into all the earth that hath received thy word. Thereby thou hast divinely taught the Faith; thou hast made manifest the nature of things that be; thou hast adorned the ways of man. O namesake of the priesthood, our righteous Father Basil, intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.”
Pray to him
O great and most glorious hierarch of Christ, divinely wise teacher of the Church in all the world, firm confessor and champion of Orthodoxy, all-blessed Father Basil, look down from the heights of
Heaven upon us who humbly fall down before you, and entreat the Lord Almighty, Whose faithful minister on earth you were, to grant us a firm and unchanging custody of the right Faith, obedience to
the Holy Church, a correction of our way of life, and swift help patience and strength in all our needs, sorrows and temptations.
Bestow your holy blessing upon us, so that, protected by it, we might live every day in a manner pleasing unto God, in peace and penitence, and be vouchsafed together with you and all the saints, in the kingdom of Heaven to hymn and glorify the Life-creating Trinity: the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, for ages of ages. Amen.
Adapted from an akathist produced by the Moscow Synod Printing House in 1912.
St. Paul the Apostle