On January 1 the Greek Orthodox Church commemorates Saint Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia.
Saint Basil was born in the year 330 in Caesarea, to a family renowned for their learning and holiness. His mother, Emilia (commemorated on July 19) and his grandmother Macrina (commemorated on June 14) are Saints of the Church, together with his brothers and sisters: Macrina, his elder sister (July 19), Gregory of Nyssa (January 10), Peter of Sebastia (January 9), and Naucratius.
The Saint studied in Constantinople under the sophist Libanius, then in Athens, where he formed a close friendship that lasted a lifetime with Gregory the Theologian.
Through the good influence of his sister Macrina, St Basil chose to embrace the ascetical life, abandoning his worldly career. He visited the monks in Egypt, in Palestine, in Syria, and in Mesopotamia, and upon returning to Caesarea, he departed to a hermitage on the Iris River in Pontus.
In the year 370, when the bishop of his country reposed, he was elected to succeed to his throne and was entrusted with the Church of Christ, which he tended for eight years, living in voluntary poverty and strict asceticism, having no other care than to defend holy Orthodoxy as a worthy successor of the Apostles.
The Emperor Valens, and Modestus, the Eparch of the East, tried with threats of exile and of torments to bend the Saint to their own confession, because he was the bastion of Orthodoxy in all Cappadocia and preserved it from heresy when Arianism was at its strongest.
The Emperor Valens himself was almost won over by Basil’s dignity and wisdom when his son fell gravely sick; he asked Saint Basil to pray for him. The Saint promised that his son would be better if Valens agreed to have him baptised Orthodox. Valens agreed, Saint Basil prayed, and the son was no longer sick. But after the Emperor had him baptised by Arians, the child died soon after.
Later, Valens, persuaded by his counsellors, decided to send the Saint into exile because he would not accept the Arians into communion; but his pen broke when he was signing the edict of banishment. He tried a second time and a third, but the pen kept on breaking, so the Emperor tore up the document and the Saint was not banished.
Saint Basil departed to the Lord on the 1st of January in 379, at the age of forty-nine.
Today is the Name Day of Vasilios, Vasilis, Vasos, Vasilia, Vasiliki, Vasoula, Bill, Billy, Vicky and Victoria.