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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Sketch of the Life and Works of Saint Basil the Great

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130 Pages


On the Life of St Basil: Education, Life at Caesarea; Baptism; and Adoption of Monastic Life, Basil and the Councils, to the Accession of Valens, The Presbyterate, Basil as Archbishop, The Breach with Gregory of Nazianzus, St. Basil and Eustathius, Unbroken Friendships, Troubles of the Closing Years

On the Works of St Basil: Dogmatic, Exegetic, Ascetic, Homiletical, Letters, Liturgical, Spurious and Dubious, Writings Mentioned, But Lost, Additional Notes, Editions and Manuscripts

I. Life.

I.--Parentage and Birth.

Under the persecution of the second Maximinus, [1] a Christian gentleman of good position and fair estate in Pontus [2] and Macrina his wife, suffered severe hardships. [3] They escaped with their lives, and appear to have retained, or recovered, some of their property. [4] Of their children the names of two only have survived: Gregory [5] and Basil. [6] The former became bishop of one of the sees of Cappadocia. The latter acquired a high reputation in Pontus and the neighboring districts as an advocate of eminence, [7] and as a teacher of rhetoric. His character in the Church for probity and piety stood very high. [8] He married an orphaned gentlewoman named Emmelia, whose father had suffered impoverishment and death for Christ's sake, and who was herself a conspicuous example of high-minded and gentle Christian womanhood. Of this happy union were born ten children, [9] five boys and five girls. One of the boys appears to have died in infancy, for on the death of the elder Basil four sons and five daughters were left to share the considerable wealth which he left behind him. [10] Of the nine survivors the eldest was a daughter, named, after her grandmother, Macrina. The eldest of the sons was Basil, the second Naucratius, and the third Gregory. Peter, the youngest of the whole family, was born shortly before his father's death. Of this remarkable group the eldest is commemorated as Saint Macrina in the biography written by her brother Gregory. Naucratius died in early manhood, [11] about the time of the ordination of Basil as reader. The three remaining brothers occupied respectively the sees of Caesarea, Nyssa, and Sebasteia.

[1] Of sufferers in this supreme struggle of heathenism to delay the official recognition of the victory of the Gospel over the empire, the Reformed Kalendar of the English Church preserves the memory of St. Blaise (Blasius), bishop of Sebasteia in Armenia, St. George, St. Agnes, St. Lucy, St. Margaret of Antioch, St. Katharine of Alexandria.

[2] Greg. Naz., Or. xliii. (xx.). N.B. The reff. to the orations and letters of Greg. Naz. are to the Ordo novus in Migne.

[3] Id.

[4] Greg. Nyss., Vit. Mac. 178, 191.

[5] Bishop of an unknown see. Of the foolish duplicity of Gregory of Nyssa in fabricating a letter from him, see the mention in Epp. lviii., lix., lx.

[6] Basileios, Basilius=royal or kingly. The name was a common one. Fabricius catalogues "alii Basilii ultra xxx.," all of some fame. The derivation of Basileus is uncertain, and the connexion of the last syllable with leus=leos=laos, people, almost certainly wrong. The root may be ÖBA, with the idea that the leader makes the followers march. With the type of name, cf. Melchi and the compounds of Melech (e.g. Abimelech) in Scripture, and King, LeRoy, Koenig, among modern names.

[7] Greg. Nyss., Vit. Mac. 392.

[8] Greg. Nyss., Vit. Mac. 186.

[9] Greg. Nyss., Vit. Mac. 182.

[10] Greg. Naz., Or. xliii. (xx.).

[11] Ib. 181, 191.

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