Friday, January 1, 2010


“St. Basil and Gregory”
Artist and Date UNKNOWN 


Biographical Information about St. Basil the Great[1]

Biographical Information about St. Gregory Nazianzen

Readings for the Memorial of Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen

Readings and Commentary:

Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13

I, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit
through the bond of peace:
one Body and one Spirit,
as you were also called to the one hope of your call;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all.
But grace was given to each of us
according to the measure of Christ's gift.
And he gave some as Apostles, others as prophets,
others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers,
to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry,
for building up the Body of Christ,
until we all attain to the unity of faith
and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,
to the extent of the full stature of Christ.

Commentary on
Eph 4:1-7, 11-13

St. Paul enjoins the Church at Ephesus to holiness and unity as part of his instructions on what it means to live the Christian life. Through one baptism (“the call you have received”) we are united in Christ and through Christ to God the Father. While humility is not listed in the Greek lists as a virtue, the evangelist raises self-effacing service of others to this status (see also 1 Corinthians 13:4, Galatians 5:22, and Colossians 3:12).

He goes on speaking of the unity of different parts of the living body of Christ, the Church, saying that different gifts were given (similar lists are found at Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:1-31). He begins the list of gifts with those of spiritual leadership: Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. These have been called to service to others.

CCC: Eph 4-6 1454; Eph 4-5 1971; Eph 4:2 2219; Eph 4:3-5 866; Eph 4:3 814; Eph 4:4-6 172, 249, 2790; Eph 4:7 913; Eph 4:11-16 794; Eph 4:11-13 669; Eph 4:11 1575; Eph 4:13 674, 695, 2045
Psalm 23:1b-3a, 4, 5, 6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.

R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.

R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.

R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Commentary on
Ps 23:1b-3a, 4, 5, 6

Psalm 23 is one of the most familiar songs in the entire psalter. “God's loving care for the psalmist is portrayed under the figures of a shepherd for the flock (Psalm 23:1-4) and a host's generosity toward a guest (Psalm 23:5-6). The imagery of both sections is drawn from traditions of the exodus (Isaiah 40:1149:10Jeremiah 31:10).” [3] While the theme of Shepherd is mentioned in the first strophe, the psalm really speaks to the peace given to those who follow the Lord and place their trust in Him, even into the “dark valley.”

The reference in the third strophe above: “'You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes' occurs in an exodus context in Psalm 78:19. As my enemies watch: my enemies see that I am God's friend and guest. Oil: a perfumed ointment made from olive oil, used especially at banquets (Psalm 104:15Matthew 26:7Luke 7:3746John 12:2).”
CCC: Ps 23:5 1293
  Matthew 23:8-12

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples:
"Do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father,
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called 'Master';
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

Commentary on
Mt 23:8-12

Jesus has launched an attack on the Jewish Leadership for their authoritarian style, placing burdens on the people and seeking places of honor and titles for themselves. In this selection he describes his example of spiritual leadership. He speaks of the humility he exemplifies, placing God the Father in the place of the one true master and all who follow him as servants. See also Luke 14:11.

CCC: Mt 23:9 2367; Mt 23:12 526

We often take for granted the wisdom of the Teaching Magisterium of the Church. Because of the neatly bundled truth and wisdom provided by the teaching documents that have been developed through the millennia since St. Peter established his chair in Rome, we often focus on challenges to those documents in the current secular climate. We see the beautifully crafted tenets and creedal statements that are the bedrock of our understanding of God’s revelation as being eternal, as though they have always been there and therefore can be accepted unthinkingly.

It is well, therefore, that as we begin this new calendar year, we pause to be reminded of those heroic figures who are our forerunners in faith, those who struggled valiantly against the enemies of the faith, from within its ranks and from without. From the “age of saints” we are presented with two of the most significant, Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen. These two lifelong friends took their incredible God-given gifts of intellect and faith and used them to shape our understanding of God and Church, as a craftsman might shape metal or wood. Being early Christians (having lived from 329 to 379 and 389 respectively), they were thrust into the battle to formulate our understanding of Christ and the role of Christ’s servants in the world. St. Basil, whose intellectual prowess was legendary, was frequently in the lead. He was accompanied by Gregory Nazianzen who was seemingly thrust into the battle against his will. Yet when Basil passed (at an emotional point, much like his Savior’s, feeling all had been for naught), St. Gregory took up his standard with zeal that would have shocked his friend.

These great teachers, Doctors of the Church, helped us understand that the Lord himself must be our teacher. They taught, by word and example, that the values of the secular world are not where our true treasure lies. Rather, it is the great teacher himself, our Lord Jesus, who is our prize.

As always we see in the Saints the heights to which normal people may ascend if they allow the Holy Spirit to have sway in their lives. Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen gave their lives for us, like a candle gives up its light, showing us, in bright relief, the image of Christ to which we must all aspire.


[1] The ancient Byzantine fresco is “St. Basil and Gregory” Artist and Date UNKNOWN 
[2] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. 
[3] See NAB Footnote on Psalm 23

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