St. Basil was born in 329 and lived a brief, but action-filled, life that ended in 379. In this short span of fifty years he accomplished three major tasks that have benefitted solidly both Christianity and the human race.
- He provided the theological refutation of the heresy of Arius, who had denied the divinity of Christ.
- He made acceptable a Christian appreciation of non-Christian literary contributions by extracting truth and beauty from worthy sources.
- He composed a monastic rule that has shaped the monastic life of the churches of the East from his time to the present.
Almost fifteen centuries after his death St. Basil was known in the West at the village of St. Basile. In this area the Congregation of Priests of St. Basil was founded in the beginning years of the 19th century. Not as a monastic Order of the Eastern church but in the manner of a Western community of men it would be sparked by the ideals and zeal of the great Bishop of Caesarea.
Basil was an educator in the classical tradition. He attend school in Constantinople in 346 and then Athens in the twilight of her Christian fame. Ten years later he was back in Caesarea.
Visits to the monks of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine made him acquainted with systematic religious life. Following his return from this experience he undertook personally the life of a monk (358-362).
Priestly ordination followed in 364. Six years later he was elected Archbishop of Caesarea.
Although it had been condemned officially in 325 at the Council of Nicea, the teaching of Arius lived on. Basil set himself to the task of ending this mistaken theology that had influenced even emperors. He was able to convince his long-time friend Gregory of Nazianzen as well as his own younger brother Gregory of Nyssa to accept bishoprics where they could effectively counteract heretical teaching.
The last of Basil’s writings was on the Holy Spirit after which this “Glorious Apostle” was crowned for his efforts.