Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors

Saints Basil and Gregory were actually life-long friends, first as university students in Athens and later as monks.  They were both important teachers of the Eastern Church, and both came from Cappadocia in what is now Central Turkey, and hence are known as ‘Theologians of the Cappadocian School’.

Basil was born in 330 AD into a family which would later produce a number of canonised saints.  Following his studies, he became a monk and a hermit before he was consecrated Bishop of Caesarea (Kayseri today) in his native Cappadocia.  He was not only a theologian, but a very pastoral bishop and deeply concerned with the plight of the poor.  He produced a monastic rule, known as the ‘Basilian Rule’, which is still followed everywhere by monks and nuns of the Eastern Church.  He died in 379 at the relatively early age of 49.

Gregory was born in the town of Nazianzus, also in Cappadocia and also about 330 AD.  He was the son of a bishop and, like Basil, joined the monastic life.  He was ordained a priest relatively late in life.  He was first made bishop of an out of the way town called Sasima, but later was asked to go to Constantinople to restore harmony to the community there following the divisions of the Arian heresy.  In this, he was very successful.  In later life, Gregory retired to the (for him) more congenial life of study and prayer in a rural setting and subsequently died in 389 AD.

Both Basil and Gregory were deeply involved in dealing with the Arian heresy, named after Arius, a monk from Alexandria in northern Egypt, who denied the divinity of Jesus Christ.  It was Basil’s teaching in particular which influenced the Council of Constantinople (381 AD) in revising the Nicaean Creed of 325 AD into the form we now use on Sundays and feasts.

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