Tuesday, 5 April 2011

St. Basil the Great

St. Basil the Great

Tonight I want to show you my most recent icon -- St. Basil the Great.  He was called "the Great" because of his learning, his eloquence and his charity.  Today, however, it is useful to use the descriptor "great" in order to distinguish him from a couple of other St. Basil's who lived in later centuries.  He definitely should not be confused with Saint Basil the Blessed, Fool-for-Christ, a Russian saint, after whom St. Basil's Cathedral, on Red Square in Moscow, is named.  (Speaking of Basil the Blessed, a Fool for Christ, I am thinking about trying to do an icon of him now that my research on St. Basil the Great "uncovered" him!).  As you study the icon, you will see that I placed a large monastery behind the image of St. Basil.  You will understand why I did this after you read the following paragraphs.

Anyway, the following information was taken from the Franciscan's "Saint of the Day" page.  "St Basil the Great was born at Caesarea of Cappadocia in 330. He was one of ten children of St. Basil the Elder and St. Emelia.  Several of his brothers and sisters are honored among the saints.  He attended school in Caesarea, as well as Constantinople and Athens.  A little later, he opened a school of oratory in Caesarea and practiced law.  Eventually he decided to become a monk and found a monastery in Pontus which he directed for five years.  He wrote a famous monastic rule which has proved the most lasting of those in the East.  After founding several other monasteries, he was ordained and, in 370, made bishop of Caesarea.  In this post until his death in 379, he continued to be a man of vast learning and constant activity, genuine eloquence and immense charity.  This earned for him the title of "Great" during his life and Doctor of the Church after his death. Basil was one of the giants of the early Church. He was responsible for the victory of Nicene orthodoxy over Arianism in the Byzantine East, and the denunciation of Arianism at the Council of Constantinople in 381-82 was in large measure due to his efforts. Basil fought simony, aided the victims of drought and famine, strove for a better clergy, insisted on a rigid clerical discipline, fearlessly denounced evil wherever he detected it, and excommunicated those involved in the widespread prostitution traffic in Cappadocia. He was learned, accomplished in statesmanship, a man of great personal holiness, and one of the great orators of Christianity. His feast day in the Catholic Church is January 2nd."  In the Orthodox churches, his feast day is January 1st which date for Catholics is the solemn feast of Mary, Mother of God.

Here are some quotes from the writings of St. Basil the Great:

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds.
A good deed is never lost;
he who sows courtesy reaps friendship,
and he who plants kindness gathers love.

Saint Basil the Great (329 - 379)

Troubles are usually the brooms and shovels
that smooth the road to a good man's fortune;
and many a man curses the rain that falls upon his head,
and knows not that it brings abundance to drive away hunger.

Saint Basil the Great (329 - 379)

Here is something of interest that developed over the centuries in regard to St. Basil -- Vasilopita (Greek: Βασιλόπιτα, Vasilópita, lit. 'king-pie' or '(St.) Basil-pie', see below) is a New Year's Day bread or cake in Greece and many other areas in eastern Europe and the Balkans which contains a hidden coin or trinket which gives good luck to the receiver. It is made of a variety of dough, depending on regional and family tradition.


The tradition of Vasilopita is associated with a legend from the life of Saint Basil. According to the legend, St. Basil called on the citizens of Caesarea to raise a ransom payment to stop the siege of the city. Each member of the city gave whatever they had in gold and jewellery. When the ransom was raised, the enemy was so embarrassed by the act of collective giving that he called off the siege without collecting payment. St. Basil was then tasked with returning the unpaid ransom, but had no way to know which items belonged to which family. So he baked all of the jewellery into loaves of bread and distributed the loaves to the city, and by a miracle each citizen received back their exact share.

On each New Year's Day since, families cut the Vasilopita to bless the house and bring good luck for the New Year. This is usually done at midnight of New Year's Eve.  A coin is hidden in the bread by slipping it into the dough before baking. At midnight the sign of the cross is etched with a knife across the cake. A piece of cake is sliced for each member of the family and any visitors present at the time, by order of age from eldest to youngest. Slices are also cut for various people, depending on local and family tradition, such as the Lord, St. Basil and other saints or the poor. In the past, the coin was often a valuable one, such as a gold sovereign. These days, however, it is usually a pre-arranged gift or money that is given to the coin recipient.


Next I want to show you some new animal photos -- well, they are new to me anyway!  They depict three different animals (actually four animals in three photos) engaged in some behaviour that they find particularly pleasurable.

This first photo shows a squirrel stretched out on limb, taking a nap in the warmth of a summer afternoon.  This fellow looks as though he is really enjoying his sleep.  I do hope that a big hawk doesn't come along and spot him sleeping there so soundly....

In this photo, we see a British Hedgehog taking a rest by rolling herself up in a ball.  To me this looks terribly uncomfortable; however, I understand that the hedgehog seems to find this quite pleasurable.  Sadly, I understand that they, attracted to the warmth of asphalt, tend to roll up this way on the motorways!  I think that this is probably a pretty big mistake.

Here we have a kitten almost in ecstasy as his little paws are rubbed.  Next it will be his belly at which point his purring will become so loud that the neighbours might start complaining!  Cats can truly teach us a lot about how to grab every moment of pleasure that comes along, making the absolute most of it!

Finally, we have two puppies sound asleep.  I have called this photo "Puppy Brothers in Arms".  They are both deeply asleep and quite adorable -- especially with the front leg of one thrown over the shoulder of the other.  I can just picture what will happen if "Mom" suddenly appears -- they will jump up, slightly disoriented, falling all over themselves and each other while yelping wildly.  Wish I could be there!

I continue to do reasonably well as does Suki.

I went to get my hair done today and I thought you might enjoy seeing a photo of the elegant new hair style I came home with!

How do you like it?  I know -- I am being silly again, but it is a funny photo.  Seriously, I did get my hair fixed today, but it is just short and simple as usual.
At the moment, I am quite displeased with the Air Miles people as they were one of the companies whose email list was compromised by this recent break-in at the Texas based "holding" company.  I received an apology from Air Miles but that still doesn't stop the flood of new spam that I am now receiving just in the past two days.  Fortunately, I have good spam control software, but all that stuff comes into Quarantine and just sits there until I delete it.  I, like millions of people affected, am hoping that all these people do with my email is use it for spam!  The Internet is great fun, but at times it is also very dangerous.  If you have a connection of any of the companies affected and have ever given them your email address, be very careful about what you open in the next little while.

St. Basil the Great pray for us.
May the peace of God be with us all.

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