Augustine Sokolovski

Today, May 9, the Church celebrates the memory of St. Basil of Amasia. Saint Basil was a contemporary St Nicholas (270-343), Spyridon of Cyprus (270-348) and Athanasius of Alexandria (296-373), and other great saints. Like them, he survived the Great Persecution of Diocletian (303-313). As having kept the faith during the persecution, according to the ancient tradition of the Church of that time, he was considered a confessor.

The institution of "confessors" was then a special ministry. They had the right of priority to intercede for those who denied Christ during the time of persecution.

The saint was the bishop of the city of Amasia, the ancient capital of the Pontic Kingdom. Currently, this is the city of Amasya in the Black Sea province of the same name in Northern Turkey. Christianity has been preached in this area since the time of the Apostles. Apostolic origin gave the Churches a special role. The political primacy of the dioceses, which appeared with the founding of Constantinople by Constantine the Great in 330, did not yet exist. Therefore, the metropolis of Amasia was of great importance in the history of the Ancient Church. Its lands were marked by the testimony of martyrs, and there was a long succession of bishops.

In 314-315, Basil participated in episcopal councils in Ankara and Neocaesarea. The rules of these Councils, an important part of which was devoted to the topic of the return to church communion of those who had renounced during the persecution, became part of the canonical decrees of the Ancient Church.

It is important to remember that in those days, many believed that those who had denied their faith during the time of persecution could never be returned to the Church. About the impossibility for the Church to forgive the fallen wrote Tertullian (160-220). But the Rules of the Councils, and Basil was historically one of the compilers of these rules, were “of a different spirit” (cf. Luke 9:25). Contrary to the rigorists, they were inspired by mercy. It is known that Athanasius of Alexandria considered Basil the adamant of the right faith, and therefore called him "Basil the Great." Many decades later this name was given to Saint Basil of Caesarea (330-379). An amazing succession of the names of the saints!

Around the same time, in 313, Emperor Constantine signed the Edict of Milan, which declared Christianity permissible and stopped persecution for the faith. There is an opinion that it was our Saint Basil who was one of those who influenced this great providential decision. And as the experience of holiness and life in the Church testifies to this, great boldness in faith often becomes a threshold for testing and prepares a special crown for a person. According to the words of Christ in the Gospel: "To whom much has been given, much will be required of him" (Luke 12:48). Saints who cast out demons often suffered directly from evil.

At that time, Constantine's co-ruler Licinius (263–325) was married to the latter's sister Constance. He led the eastern provinces of the Empire, and signed the Edict of Milan too, but remained rather indifferent to it. One day he was inflamed with passion for his wife's servant, named Glaphyra, who was a Christian and consecrated virgin.

In turn, Constance provided Glaphyra with funds and sent her away, thus allowing her to escape persecution. Along the way, the maiden found shelter with Bishop Basil. This became famous at court. The imperial capital of that time was in neighboring Nicomedia, relatively close to Amasia.

The saint was immediately captured. He was beheaded for opposing the Emperor under the pretext, as the accusation obviously sounded, of confessing the Christian faith by himself and the virgin. He gave refuge to the defenseless and persecuted and became a martyr to the hospitality of the faith. Undoubtedly, Basil was aware of the possible dangerous consequences of such a biblical act. As a true bishop of the Church of Christ, he became like Jesus, whose hospitality the Church partakes in the Eucharist.

The head and body of Basil, by order of the authorities, were separately thrown into the sea. As if the pagans were afraid that the one who lives in Christ would rise again. Or, knowing that Jesus is the Head of the Body of the Church (Eph. 1:23), they thereby emphasized that by beheading the bishop, he left the People of God in Amaziah without a good shepherd (Jn. 10:11), so that most, to scatter the flock of Christ (Matthew 26:31).

However, the Lord in a vision indicated to the Christians his location: "Basil the Bishop is in the port of Sinop and is waiting for you." The body of the saint was found intact. Then the relics were brought to Amasia, and on April 26 (May 9) they were laid in the temple, which, thanks to the donation of Glaphyra from the funds given by Constance, Basil managed to build.

It was this accusation of this - from the point of view of Licinius - the theft and embezzlement of imperial money under the pretext of faith, that awaited Glaphyra. An order came from the capital to deliver her to the court for trial and reprisal. However, while Basil was being tried in Nicomedia, Glaphyra died. In the memory of the Church, she is canonized as one of those ancient martyrs who, like Adrian's wife Natalia, were not literally killed by the pagans, but died from unjustly inflicted unbearable mental suffering.

Today, Churches throughout the universe, following the ancient Julian calendar, celebrate the day of memory of Basil of Amasia on May 9th. Such coincidences of the remembrances of the saints with great memorable days are blessed. They help to experience time as a chronological sacrament of holiness, in which everyday life, celebrations and holidays are enlivened by heavenly intercession.

The veneration of the saints is a celebration to the glory of the Holy Spirit. The memory of the ancient righteous is akin to prayer for those whom there is no one to remember and no one to pray for. It creates special communion and kinship of people who lived in this world and those who now live on the face of the whole earth. Eternal memory is built on it in Christ Jesus.

In 306, Theodore Tyro suffered for Christ in Amasia. He was a Roman soldier. On the charge of burning the temple of the goddess Cybele and for refusing to sacrifice to the pagan gods, Tyrone, whose name is translated from Greek as "rookie", was himself burned alive. Around the same years, Basil was elected bishop of the city of Amasia. Thus, the amazing succession of the example and fellowship of holiness Theodore, Basil, Glaphyra - a soldier, a virgin, a bishop - and many others, whom the People of God remembers these days with prayer and a request for intercession, is revealed.

After the expulsion of the Orthodox population from Asia Minor as a result of World War I and the forced migration of peoples in 1922 - carried out by the conspiracy of the powerful of this world in the Asia Minor Catastrophe - the Christian presence in Amasia was terminated.

So, like St Nicholas of Myra, and Spyridon of Cyprus, Basil became one of the homeless saints of the Ancient Church, whom there is no one else to honor in their native lands. It turns out that the veneration of the now forgotten saints, like praying for those for whom there is no one else to pray for, becomes for modern Orthodox Christians a duty of biblical hospitality.