Meet the Three Holy Hierarchs
The Three Holy Hierarchs; St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory the Theologian, are giants in Eastern Christianity. St. Gregory the Theologian is known for purity and profundity of his language, St. Basil for his understanding of the Holy Spirit and St. John Chrysostom for his elegant homilies. They all lived in the east, near Cappadocia (Turkey) at the same time in the 4th century.
Folklore has it that each of the three holy Hierarchs appeared in a vision to Saint John Mauropus, the Metropolitan of Euchaïta. “As you see, the three of us are with God and no discord or rivalry divides us…If they (people) honor us thus as being with and in God, we give them our word that we will intercede for their salvation in our common prayer.”
All three Eastern Church Fathers have their feast day in January. In the Roman Catholic west, they are Doctors of the Church. January 30 is feast of the Three Holy Hierarchs.
St. Basil the Great
St. Basil the Great is a powerhouse in Eastern Christianity. In Basil’s family of ten siblings, five became saints as well as his grandmother, St. Macrina and his mother, St. Emellia.
“Examine the actions of each day, advance in virtue, that you may become a companion of the angels.” – St. Basil the Great (adapted)
Basil went to Egypt and learned from ascetic hermits, who lived in caves, in the monastic way of life. Basil returned to his home in Cappadocia living as a monk in a small community, dividing his time between prayer, meditation on the bible and manual labor. Basil believed that when one is living with others in a monastery, the grace bestowed on each individual becomes the common possession of the group.
One bit of advice by St. Basil on monasticism that can apply to religious and secular:
Prayers are recited early in morning so your first movements are for God. “I remembered God and was delighted.” Psalm 77
The Basilian Family (l-r) Basil; Macrina the Younger; Mother of God; Macrina the Elder; Gregory of Nyssa. From St. Basil’s “Pillar of Fire” Faith, The Sisters of the Order of St. Basil the Great. Jesus, Lover of Humanity Province, Love of Knowledge and Wisdom. Basilian Spirituality Center. @basilcenter
An academia priest from Temple University told our congregation that St. Basil created the Glory Be to The Father prayer, one of the most widely said prayers in history. Many people are unaware that Basil created this prayer. More here.
Pope Francis has always identified with Basil’s teachings. St. Basil the Great was quoted by Pope Francis in the LaudatoSi encyclical,“If the world has a beginning … we must inquire who gave it this beginning, who was its Creator”.
“Silence is the beginning of purifying the soul.” This Saint Basil the Great icon is an original, written by the famous Georgian iconographer Niko Chocheli from the former Soviet Union, in St. Basil the Great Church Chapel, Kimberton PA.
“It is impossible to recognize Christ, image of the invisible God, unless the Spirit enlightens you.” – St. Basil
Well after his death, the Council of Chalcedon described Basil as “the great Basil, minister of grace who has expounded the truth to the whole earth”, thereby giving him the name Basil the Great!
St. Ephraim the Syrian was a clairvoyant who actually met St. Basil. In a vision he saw a pillar of flame to heaven and a voice, “Such is the Great Basil!” Ephraim is also “The greatest poet of the patristic age and perhaps the only theologian/poet to rank beside Dante” – per Murray.
“Do nothing at all unless you begin with prayer.”
Here is what St. Basil had to say:
“To you will I pray, O Lord: In the morning you will hear my voice, I will stand before you and will see”
“Intimacy with the Lord is achieved by cheerful readiness to do the will of God.”
“With the words of Scripture we feed our faith, we lift up our hope, we confirm our confidence.”
St. John Chrysostom
St. John Chrysostom prayers are used extensively in the Eastern Byzantine Catholic and Orthodox churches liturgy, showing the respect he garners. Also, St. Basil’s words are used in the Divine Liturgy ten times throughout the year, but most of the year it is St. John’s.
“I am not worthy Lord, for you to come under my roof, yet you wish to dwell in me” – St. John Chrysostom
St. John took Matthew 8:8 “But the centurion replied to Him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have You come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed” and added his own beautiful prayer, “Lord my God, I know that I am not worthy, nor sufficient, that you should come under the roof of the house of my soul, for it is entirely desolate and in ruins, and you do not have a worthy place in me to lay your head. But as you humbled yourself from on high for our sake, do likewise also for my unworthiness.”
East meets West:
In addition to one of the Three Holy Hierarchs in the east, in the west, St. John Chrysostom is among the 33 “Doctors of the Church,” and remembered especially for his extensive and profound teachings on the subject of the Holy Eucharist. Along with St. Joseph, he was named co-patron of the Second Vatican Council by Pope Saint John XXIII a major event.
“Prayer is a place of refuge for every worry, a foundation for cheerfulness, a source of happiness.” St. John
St. Gregory the Theologian
“Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us. He assumed the worse that He might give us the better; He became poor that we might be rich” – Gregory the Theologian
St. Gregory of Nazianzus, who is called the Theologian, was born in Nazianzus in Cappodocia in 325 A D. He was the Archbishop of Constantinople.
Becoming or imitating Christ is the basis for theosis, an Eastern Christian theology concept. Saint Peter wrote in the bible that we are called “to become partakers of the Divine nature.” St Basil also described man as the creature who has received the order to become a god.
After his baptism at age 30, Gregory the Theologian joined his friend Basil in a newly founded monastery. He and Basil fought Aryanism, which denied the divine nature of Jesus Christ. They also defined the Trinity in their great sermons. #StGregorytheTheologian
The Three Holy Hierarchs are the great intercessors for us in Heaven.
“Let us become as Christ is, since Christ became as we are; let us become gods for his sake, since he became man for our sake.” – St. Gregory the Theologian