Saint Basil the Great- Animal Patron Saint for January 1
Basil the Great, the Bishop of Caesarea
Saint Basil of Caesarea (ca. 330 – January 1) was also called Basil the Great. He was the bishop of Caesarea and a pre-eminent clergyman in the fourth century. He is a saint of the Orthodox Church of the Roman Church and one of the four main Greek Church Fathers, Saint Athanasius, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, and Saint John Chrysostom.
St.Basil, St. Gregory of Nazianzus. and Gregory de Nyssa (brother of Basil) are denominated, Cappadocian Fathers. He is also a saint and a doctor of the Catholic Church, and he is listed in the Lutheran Calendar of Saints.
He studied first in Caesarea, later in Constantinople, and finally, in Athens. In Athens, he became fast friends with St. of Nazianzus. This duo fought fiercely against the heresies rampant at that time (especially Arianism) and, along with St. Basil’s brother, St. Gregory of Nyssa, became known as “The Three Cappadocians.”
St. Basil became Bishop of Caesarea in 370. He greatly influenced religious life in both the East and West, is one of the thirty-three Doctors of the Church, and is one of the very few Saints to be awarded the title of “The Great” — others being three Popes (SS. Leo I, Gregory I, and Nicholas I) and SS. Albert (“Albert Magnus”) and Gertrude.
Saint Basil is the name that in Greek tradition carries Santa Claus. He is believed to visit the children on January 1 (when Basilio has his holiday). Thus, he corresponds to Saint Nicholas, who appears on Christmas Day, or the Three Wise Men, who arrive on January 6.
He is the author of a famous work established as “On the Hexaemeron” (“Hexaemeron” means “the six days of Creation”).
In this work, a series of six homilies, Saint Basil talks about each element of creation, their importance on the great plan of God’s creation, and the secrecy of all creation sanctified by God’s grace. His work is important because it sheds light upon other sentient beings and, in its own way, designs a path of stewardship for Humans as Guardians and keepers of God’s creation.
On The Hexaemeron
Homily I: In the Beginning, God Created the Heaven and the Earth
Homily II: The Earth was Invisible and Unfinished
Homily III: On the Firmament
Homily IV: Upon the Gathering Together of the Waters
Homily V: The Germination of the Earth
Homily VI: The Creation of Luminous Bodies
Homily VII: The Creation of Moving Creatures
Homily VIII: The Creation of Fowl and Water Animals
Homily IX: The Creation of Terrestrial Animals
Prayer of Saint Basil
An example of a great appreciation of God’s creatures, coming from an early Father of the Church, is this surprisingly modern prayer of St. Basil:
“O God, enlarge within us a sense of fellowship with all living things, our brothers and sisters the animals,
to whom you gave the earth as their home in common with us. We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised high dominion
with ruthless cruelty, so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to you in song, has been a groan of travail.
May we realize that they live not for us alone but for themselves and for you, and that they love the sweetness of life.”
Some Quotes by Saint Basil, the Great.
The human being is an animal who has received the vocation to become God.
A tree is known by its fruit, a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.
Wherever you may go, the least plant may bring you clear remembrance of the Creator.
Among irrational animals, the love of the offspring and of the parents for each other is extraordinary because God, who created them, compensated for the deficiency of reason by the superiority of their senses.
Now, suppose you notice how the swan, putting its neck down into the deep water, brings up food for itself from below. In that case, you will discover the wisdom of the Creator, in that He gave it a neck longer than its feet for this reason, that it might as if lowering a sort of fishing line, procure the food hidden in the deep water.
Do not despise the fish because they are absolutely unable to speak or reason, but fear lest you may be even more unreasonable than they by resisting the Creator’s command. Instead, listen to the fish, who through their actions all but utter this word: ‘We set out on this long journey for the perpetuation of our species.
“You have heaven adorned, earth beautified, the sea populated with its own creatures, the air filled with birds which scour it in every direction. Studious listener, think of all these creations which God has drawn out of nothing; . . . recognize everywhere the wisdom of God; never cease to wonder, and, through every creature, to glorify the Creator..”
O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, even our brothers, the animals, to whom Thou gavest the earth as their home in common with us. We must remember with shame that in the past, we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to thee in song, has been a groan of pain. May we realize that they live, not for us alone, but for themselves and for Thee and that they love the sweetness of life.
… and the liturgy of St Basil speaks of the limitless majesty of God ‘holy in all your works’.
St Basil the Great, cited in Eric Milner-White and G. W. Briggs (eds) Daily Prayer (London: Oxford University Press, 1946),
Eucharist of St. Basil; in Bouyer, op.cit., p. 288.