Friday, January 2nd, 2009
Made in the image and likeness of God to be social creatures, we should not be surprised that grace, too, which perfects our nature, is inherently social in character. As we see in so many of their lives, the saint is one who lives for others, in the union of truth and love with God and neighbor.
As the goal of grace, friendship is also the means to its growth. We need others to help us learn the truth and grow in virtue. Daily interactions with family, friends, co-workers, and fellow believers provide the necessary context within which faith and love deepen and bear fruit.
The interconnected lives of Basil and Gregory (shown above with St. John Chrysostom) bring into high relief the beauty and necessity of Christian friendship. From the Roman breviary:
Basil was born of a Christian family at Caesarea in Cappadocia in 330. Conspicuous for his learning and virtue, for a time he led the life of a hermit but in 370 was made bishop of Caesarea. He fought against the Arians and wrote many admirable works, especially his monastic rule which many Eastern monks still follow. Saint Basil died in January 1, 379.
Gregory Nazianzen was also born in 330. Traveling as a youth in the pursuit of learning, he first joined his friend Basil as a hermit and was later ordained priest and bishop. In the year 381 he was elected bishop of Constantinople; however, because of factions dividing the Church, he returned to Nazianzen where he died on January 25, 389 or 390. He was called theologus because of his outstanding and eloquence.
The second lesson in today’s Office of Readings is taken from a letter in which St. Gregory describes his friendship with St. Basil.
The same hope inspired us: the pursuit of learning. This is an ambition especially subject to envy. Yet between us there was no envy. On the contrary, we made capital out of our rivalry. Our rivalry consisted, not in seeking the first place for oneself but in yielding it to the other, for we each looked on the other’s success as his own.
Our single object and ambition was virtue, and a life of hope in the blessings that are to come; we wanted to withdraw from this world before we departed from it. With this end in view we ordered ourlives and all our actions. We followed the guidance of God’s law and spurred each other on to virtue. If it is not too boastful to say, we found in each other a standard and rule for discerning right from wrong.
Different men have different names, with they owe to their parents or to themselves, that is, to their own pursuits and achievements. But our great pursuit, the great name we wanted, was to be Christians, to be called Christians.
In God’s providence for our happiness, may we too enjoy the peace and solace of holy friendships.
God our Father,
you inspired the Church
with the example and teaching of your saints Basil and Gregory.
In humility may we come to know your truth
and put it into action with faith and love.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.