Thursday, January 01, 2009

Sts Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops, Doctors

Genuine holiness is contagious.

With the beatification last year of the parents of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, now Blesseds Louis Martin and Marie Zelie Guerin, this statement must be beyond reproach.

But if family members could inspire each other to be holy, it is also possible for friends to affect each other to lead a remarkable Christian life. Today, on the first day after the Christmas octave, the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, bishops and doctors.

Their lives and the special breed of friendship that bonded them together challenge each of us to not just be an ordinary friend, but more so, a well-equipped guide in drawing others closer to God.

Here is an excerpt from a sermon by Saint Gregory Nazianzus, which is used in the Roman Office of Readings for January 2.




A Sermon by St Gregory Nazianzen
Two bodies, but a single spirit

Basil and I were both in Athens. We had come, like streams of a river, from the same source in our native land, had separated from each other in pursuit of learning, and were now united again as if by plan, for God so arranged it.

I was not alone at that time in my regard for my friend, the great Basil. I knew his irreproachable conduct, and the maturity and wisdom of his conversation. I sought to persuade others, to whom he was less well known, to have the same regard for him. Many fell immediately under his spell, for they had already heard of him by reputation and hearsay.


What was the outcome? Almost alone of those who had come to Athens to study he was exempted from the customary ceremonies of initiation for he was held in higher honor than his status as a first-year student seemed to warrant.

Such was the prelude to our friendship, the kindling of that flame that was to bind us together. In this way we began to feel affection for each other. When, in the course of time, we acknowledged our friendship and recognized that our ambition was a life of true wisdom, we became everything to each other: we shared the same lodging, the same table, the same desires the same goal. Our love for each other grew daily warmer and deeper.

The same hope inspired us: the pursuit of learning. This is an ambition especially subject to envy. Yet between us there was no envy. On the contrary, we made capital out of our rivalry. Our rivalry consisted, not in seeking the first place for oneself but in yielding it to the other, for we each looked on the other’s success as his own.

We seemed to be two bodies with a single spirit. Though we cannot believe those who claim that everything is contained in everything, yet you must believe that in our case each of us was in the other and with the other.

Our single object and ambition was virtue, and a life of hope in the blessings that are to come; we wanted to withdraw from this world before we departed from it. With this end in view we ordered our lives and all our actions. We followed the guidance of God’s law and spurred each other on to virtue. If it is not too boastful to say, we found in each other a standard and rule for discerning right from wrong.

Different men have different names, which they owe to their parents or to themselves, that is, to their own pursuits and achievements. But our great pursuit, the great name we wanted, was to be Christians, to be called Christians.