June 14: Basil the Great, Bishop of Caesarea, 379

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, and then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

About this commemoration

Basil was born about 329, in Caesarea of Cappadocia, into a Christian family of wealth and distinction. Educated in classical Hellenism, Basil might have continued in academic life, had it not been for the death of a beloved younger brother and the faith of his sister, Macrina. He was baptized at the age of twenty-eight, and ordained a deacon soon after.

Macrina had founded the first monastic order for women at Annesi. Fired by her example, Basil made a journey to study the life of anchorites in Egypt and elsewhere. In 358 he returned to Cappadocia and founded the first monastery for men at Ibora. Assisted by Gregory Nazianzus, he compiled The Longer and Shorter Rules, which transformed the solitary anchorites into a disciplined community of prayer and work. The Rules became the foundation for all Eastern monastic discipline. The monasteries also provided schools to train leaders for Church and State.

Basil was ordained presbyter in 364. In the conflict between the Arians (supported by an Arian Emperor) and orthodox Christians, Basil became convinced that he should be made Bishop of Caesarea. By a narrow margin, he was elected Bishop of Caesarea, Metropolitan of Cappadocia, and Exarch of Pontus. He was relentless in his efforts to restore the faith and discipline of the clergy, and in defense of the Nicene faith. When the Emperor Valens sought to undercut Basil’s power by dividing the See of Cappadocia, Basil forced his brother Gregory to become Bishop of Nyssa.

In his treatise, On the Holy Spirit, Basil maintained that both the language of Scripture and the faith of the Church require that the same honor, glory, and worship is to be paid to the Spirit as to the Father and the Son. It was entirely proper, he asserted, to adore God in liturgical prayer, not only with the traditional words, “Glory to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit;” but also with the formula, “Glory to the Father with the Son together with the Holy Spirit.”

Basil was also concerned about the poor, and when he died, he willed to Caesarea a complete new town, built on his estate, with housing, a hospital and staff, a church for the poor, and a hospice for travelers.

He died at the age of fifty, in 379, just two years before the Second Ecumenical Council, which affirmed the Nicene faith.


I  Almighty God, who hast revealed to thy Church thine eternal Being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in Trinity of Persons: Give us grace that, like thy bishop Basil of Caesarea, we may continue steadfast in the confession of this faith, and constant in our worship of thee, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; who livest and reignest for ever and ever.  Amen.

II  Almighty God, you have revealed to your Church your eternal Being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in Trinity of Persons: Give us grace that, like your bishop Basil of Caesarea, we may continue steadfast in the confession of this faith, and constant in our worship of you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; for you live and reign for ever and ever.  Amen.

Psalm 139:1–9


Ezekiel 22:23–30

1 Corinthians 2:6–13

Luke 10:21–24

Preface of Trinity Sunday

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.


7 thoughts on “June 14: Basil the Great, Bishop of Caesarea, 379

  1. Bio: He needs a ‘Who he is’ and ‘Why he is important’ statement.

    New Hebrew reading: Now this is a strong reading and it will ‘preach’.

    [Note to SCLM blog poster: Thank you for the wonderful icon of Saint Basil. It is quite lovely.]

  2. John 1:1-18 is much more appropriate as the Gospel reading than Luke 10:21-24 for the Commemoration of Basil the Great (June 14). It also matches very well with 1 Corinthians 2:6-13 — John focusing on the relationship of the First and Second persons of the Trinity and Corinthians on the First and Third.

    I made this substitution yesterday at the noonday celebration of the Eucharist at Saint John’s Church, Lafayette Square, Washington, D .C.

  3. ‘Basil became convinced that he should be made Bishop of Caesarea’—I wish we could express it some other way, or not mention it at all. The worst bishop under whom I’ve served was the one most convinced he ought to be a bishop, and the best was the one who couldn’t understand why he would be elected. And ‘forcing his brother Gregory to become Bishop’ doesn’t sound like anything I want to commemorate.

    In the collect, the words ‘your bishop’ should be omitted. Almighty God has no overseer.

  4. It is recorded that Basil died on January 1. Since that date is the Feast of the Holy Name, his commemoration, long celebrated on June 14, could be moved to the open date of January 2.

    Line 4, third paragraph: substitute “to that office, and as” for “Bishop of Caesarea,”.

    Line 3, fourth paragraph: delete the redundant “is to”.

    Line 1, sixth paragraph: add “in Caesarea” after “died”.

    Line 1, sixth paragraph: substitute “on January 1,” for “in”.

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