02 Jan- Weekday before Epiphany; Sts Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, bishops, doctors
Basil the Great (329-379) was a noble by birth. His parents and four of his nine siblings were canonized, including St. Gregory of Nyssa. He was the grandson of St. Marcina the Elder. As a youth, he was noted for organizing famine relief, and for working in the kitchens himself, quite unusual for a young noble.
He studied in Constantinople and Athens with his friend St. Gregory Nazianzen. He ran a school of oratory and law in Caesarea. He was so successful and sought after as a speaker that he was tempted by pride. Fearful that it would overtake his piety, he sold all that he had, gave away the money, and became a priest and monk.
He founded monasteries and drew up rules for monks living in the desert. He is considered as key to the founding of eastern monasticism as Benedict was to the west. He was the bishop and archbishop of Caesarea. He conducted Mass and preached to the crowds twice daily. He fought Arianism, is a Greek Doctor of the Church, and a Father of the Church.
Gregory of Nazianzen (330-390) was the son of St. Gregory of Nazianzen the Elder and St. Nonna, brother of St. Caesar Nazianzen, and St. Gorgonius. He spent an itinerant youth in search of learning. He was a friend and fellow student with St. Basil the Great, and a monk at Basil’s desert monastery.
He was a reluctant priest, feeling himself unworthy, and fearing that the responsibility would test his faith. He assisted his bishop father to prevent an Arian schism in the diocese. He opposed Arianiam and brought its heretical followers back to the fold. He became Bishop of Caesarea in 370 which put him in conflict with the Arian emperor Valens. the disputes led his friend Basil the Great, then archbishop, to reassign him to a small, out of the way posting at the edge of the archbishopric.
Following the death of Valens, he was appointed Bishop of Constantinople from 381-390. He hated the city, despised the violence and slander involved in these disputes, and feared being drawn into politics and corruption. But he worked to bring the Arians back to the faith. For his trouble, he was slandered, insulted, beaten up, and a rival “bishop” tried to take over his diocese.
He was a noted preacher on the Trinity. When it seemed that the faith had been restored in the city, Gregory retired to live the rest of his days as a hermit. He wrote theological discourses and poetry, some of it religious, some of it autobiographical. He was a Father of the Church, and a Doctor of the Church.
– Patron Saint Index
1 John 2:22-28
The man who denies that Jesus is the Christ –
he is the liar,
he is Antichrist;
and he is denying the Father as well as the Son,
because no one who has the Father can deny the Son,
and to acknowledge the Son is to have the Father as well.
Keep alive in yourselves what you were taught in the beginning:
as long as what you were taught in the beginning is alive in you,
you will live in the Son
and in the Father;
and what is promised to you by his own promise
is eternal life.
This is all that I am writing to you about the people who are trying to lead you astray.
But you have not lost the anointing that he gave you,
and you do not need anyone to teach you;
the anointing he gave teaches you everything;
you are anointed with truth, not with a lie,
and as it has taught you, so you must stay in him.
Live in Christ, then, my children,
so that if he appears, we may have full confidence,
and not turn from him in shame
at his coming.
This is how John appeared as a witness. When the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ he not only declared, but he declared quite openly, ‘I am not the Christ.’ ‘Well then,’ they asked ‘are you Elijah?’ ‘I am not’ he said. ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you? We must take back an answer to those who sent us. What have you to say about yourself?’
So John said, ‘I am, as Isaiah prophesied:
a voice that cries in the wilderness:
Make a straight way for the Lord.’
Now these men had been sent by the Pharisees, and they put this further question to him, ‘Why are you baptising if you are not the Christ, and not Elijah, and not the prophet?’ John replied, ‘I baptise with water; but there stands among you – unknown to you – the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo his sandal-strap.’ This happened at Bethany, on the far side of the Jordan, where John was baptising.
“a voice that cries in the wilderness: Make a straight way for the Lord.’.”
A Blessed Christmas to you and may His peace, hope, joy and love reign in you and the lives of all your loved ones abundantly.
Today, we read about John’s witnessing to who Jesus is and a recognition of His mission towards Jesus Christ. Putting the Gospel into our context today, it will probably look a lot like some of us doing all the background work and preparation, spending the hours and late nights, all the sacrifices, conflicts and misunderstandings that one has to go through, only for the boss or the manager to take all the credit. I am only “a voice that cries out in the wilderness, make a straight way for my boss”.
I feel so used, taken advantage of, unappreciated and neglected. I’m a nobody, why should I bother about giving my best, I’ll just do what it takes and look forward to receiving my pay check at the end of month, try to do the minimal and pray that I get away with everything else.
What did John do? Of course Jesus isn’t like our bosses but I also don’t think John received any ‘pay cheque’ before doing His work. It’s really so difficult to be a witness of Jesus in our lives today, most of the time, we see people only witnessing after they have gotten their lives together and not in the midst of it or before. The reality is how do we find that balance, what does it mean to serve You? What does it mean to be a witness in the world today?
I can’t provide you with a full understanding but I’m just here today to encourage you in your love for Christ that you are making time to read my reflection today. He works in mysterious ways, ways that we are unable to comprehend, as long as we continue to devote time to Him, to listen to Him, to be aware of our actions and words, to always be grateful, to live as He lives and to love as He loves, to glorify Him in all that we do, we know we are not too far off.
He has anointed us during our baptism and confirmation and promises us, Emmanuel, God with us. May we live our lives, not just for ourselves but to make a difference, not to just write a reflection online but to truly be a witness, to share His peace, hope, joy and love with all and make a straight way for the Lord. Amen.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)
Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for wisdom and discernment that as we battle our own personal desires, pleasures and gratification, we ask for an insight into your love and mercy, to know you more, to know you are real. Help us to know that in preparing a way for You, we prepare our own way for salvation and eternal life, that we may share in Your glory.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the gift of your Son to us this Christmas. May we never take for granted all you have done, are doing and all that you are going to do for us. Thank you Lord, for granting us this time to spend with you.