Basil the Great


St. Basil the Great (329-379), Bishop of Caesarea in the Roman province of Cappadocia, was influential in the development of monasticism in the Eastern Orthodox Church and played a role in the Arian controversy.


One of 10 children, Basil came from a wealthy and noble Christian family of Cappadocia (now in Turkey); his younger brother Gregory, later known as Gregory of Nyssa, also became a bishop and a distinguished theologian. When he was 22, after studying in his native Caesarea and in Constantinople, Basil went to Athens for 5 years to further his liberal education. There he met Gregory of Nazianzus, a fellow student, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship.


Basil, his brother Gregory, and Gregory of Nazianzus are often referred to as the "Cappadocian fathers." After teaching rhetoric for a time in Caesarea, Basil decided to abandon the pleasures of secular life and to pursue instead the ideal of Christian perfection through monastic life. However, because of his leadership and learning, Basil was drawn away from monastic affairs into the wider life and conflicts of the Church. Between 359 and 370 two successive bishops of Caesarea summoned him to their service, the second of them ordaining him a priest. In 370 he was made bishop of Caesarea, and until his death in 379 he was one of the most important figures of the Eastern Church. The most pressing problem Basil faced was the still unresolved Arian controversy, which had severely troubled the Eastern Church over the preceding 50 years. Basil was certain that Arianism was heretical. As a Church leader, Basil showed notable courage in defying the Eastern emperor Valens, who was intent on forcing a creedal statement tolerant of Arianism on the Church and banishing anti-Arian bishops.


With fraternal affection,


Fr. Homero C