Monday, January 30, 2006

Notes on the Feast of the Three Holy Hierarchs.

Today Byzantine Christians in both the Catholic and Orthodox churches celebrate the Feast of the Three Holy Hierarchs, a joint commemoration of Saints Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom. Today's feast owes its existence to a 12th century quarrel about which of these saintly bishops of the Eastern Church was greatest; to resolve this debate, the Archbishop of Constantinople decreed that all three men should be remembered together for their cumulative impact on the life of the Church. An author of numerous apologetic works, Basil of Caesarea also produced a rule for religious life that continues to guide many monks and nuns of the Eastern Church. Gregory Nazianzen acquired the epithet 'the Theologian' for his defense of the doctrines of the Trinity and of the two natures of Christ. As Archbishop of Constantinople, John Chrysostom preached courageously against corruption in the imperial court and among the ranks of his own clergy. By remembering these three outstanding figures on the same day, the Eastern Church offers the faithful three different but equally distinguished models for emulation. At the same time, taking all three together sends an important message about the church as community; each of the Three Holy Hierarchs was outstanding in his own right, but the Church would be much the poorer without the witness of all three. On this Feast of the Three Holy Hierarchs, I'll be praying in thanksgiving for the lives of Saints Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom, and asking them to intercede on behalf of those who continue their legacy today. AMDG.


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