Holy Basil the Great of Caesarea in Cappadocia died after just nine years as bishop of a diocese closely tied to the emperor. While he was yet unbaptized, Basil's distinguished education included study at the great School of Athens. The co-founder of Orthodox monastic life, +Basil stood up for Orthodoxy against the semi-heretic Emperor Valens; Basil also ordered church employees and clergy to abandon luxury and cheating ways. The Lenten Divine Liturgy bears his name, along with hundreds of letters, books and decrees. The youthful Basil left secular life, was baptized and undertook monastic life as a mountain hermit in strictest fasting, prayer and asceticism. But when events thrust him onto the bishop's throne of the imperial diocese of Caesarea in Cappadocia, Basil sold his vast inheritance, donating it to establish the multi-purpose poorhouse-soup kitchen-hospice that came to be called “Basiliad” after him. Despite Basil's stand against the semi-heretic emperor (or because of it), the emperor Valens, “overawed” during his audience with Basil, donated “a princely endowment” as one historian puts it, including an imperial tract of land for the Basiliad to be built on. St Gregory the Theologian describes Basil’s hospice at the gates of Caesarea as a virtual “city.” Other men would have been laid low by the excruciating liver disease that tormented Basil, but records of the day show him as a tireless writer of catechisms plus over 300 letters sent throughout the empire. The bishop celebrated daily services in the cathedral, then took off his vestments, tied on an apron and served meals to the homeless and dying. We can imagine him sending to Athens for the finest physician- healers. Basil's letters show how hard he worked to uplift and reform embezzlers, prostitutes and prisoners. Holy Basil stands as our model that Orthodoxy is active and full of energy. Few of us know that the famous “wedding epistle” [1 Corinthians 13] that goes, “Love is patient, love is kind, love is not jealous . . .” is not really about that kind of sentimental love. Saint Paul's original letter is about divine love, AGAPE: charitable, selfless love: “. . . and if I give all I have in alms, and if I give my body to be burned, and have no love [AGAPE], it does me no good.” Charitable Love leaves us unable to rest easy, prodding us to seek out and help our brothers and sisters who are troubled by want, despair, distraction, sinfulness, loneliness, old age, disease, homelessness. That is the aspect of Saint Basil that we emphasize: accepting the call to devote our every effort to serve others.
"The bread that you hold back belongs to the hungry; the coat that you guard in your locked storage-chests belongs to the naked; the footwear mouldering in your closet belongs to those without shoes. The silver that you keep hidden in a safe place belongs to the one in need. Thus, however many are those whom you could have provided for, so many are those whom you have wronged."