Today the Orthodox Church celebrates the memory of St. Basil of Caesarea. The saint lived only 49 years, and passed away to the Lord in 379.
Only two years he did not live to see the Second Ecumenical Council, which was the fruit of all his labors.
Basil's services to the Church are enormous. Following the Alexandrian Archbishop Dionysius (190-265), Basil became the second saint to go down in history with the name ‘Great’.
For almost ten years he was the archbishop of his native city, Caesarea of Cappadocia. The region in the central part of Asia Minor Cappadocia has always had a vast territory. Although the system of Local Churches gradually arose in Orthodoxy after the fall of Constantinople, and the Ancient Church, with the most important sees, existed rather on the principle of communicating vessels, one can say that, in fact, Basil was the head of an entire local church in Cappadocia. The title of archbishop itself speaks of this. In ancient times in the East, it meant the primate of the Church.
Caesarea itself had then almost half a million inhabitants. Under the jurisdiction of Basil were about fifty bishops. He could ordain them, but he could not move them from one diocese to another. For the ancient church canons did not allow this.
At that time Valens (364-378) was the Emperor. He was a heretic because he openly supported the Arians.
Like other Arians, he denied the divinity of Jesus Christ. He believed that the Lord was created, that is, simply invented by God as an intermediary between Himself and people.
An aggravating circumstance was that the Emperors of that time, starting with the son of Constantine the Great, Constantius (337-361), saw in the absolute monarchy of God the Father invented by the Arians as a justification for their arbitrary and undivided power.
Absolute majority of bishops of the Eastern Church, in fear of the authorities, out of selfish motives, or simply out of ignorance, was on the side of the heretics. Only a few of the Arians were intellectually strong and tried to refute the Orthodox with the help of Philosophy and Scripture. This was the most dangerous.
At that time, philosophy was, in a way, the social network of modernity. Everyone trusted her. It is important to understand that this influence was so powerful that even now, in the 21st century, Orthodox monks, however, without knowing it, wear long beards, because in ancient times philosophers used to do this.
Emperor Valens threatened Basil with exile and death. But he did not give in. Then Valens divided the Province of Cappadocia into two parts in order to split the archdiocese of Basil.
In response, Basil began to ordain as bishops those who were Orthodox by conviction, who were intellectually strong and had an impeccable reputation. Otherwise it was impossible, otherwise the Arians would have triumphed.
In response, Basil began to ordain Orthodox Christians by conviction, powerful intellectually and impeccable in holiness, as bishops. Otherwise it was impossible, otherwise the Arians would have triumphed.
So Basil ordained his friend Gregory the Theologian (329-390) as a bishop. To do this, he created a new diocese in Sasima. It was one of the places where the transit prison was located. Gregory did not want this election, and when he arrived at the place of service, he was horrified. Without performing a single liturgy, he returned back.
Subsequently, this ordination prevented him from becoming the bishop of Constantinople. In the capital, he served, preached, and, in a polemic with the Arians, eventually defended Orthodoxy. But his opponents among the Orthodox at the Second Ecumenical Council considered that he had already been a bishop of another, Sasima, diocese.
The most respected bishop of that time, the spiritual father of Basil and Gregory, Saint Meletios of Antioch (+381), died during the Council itself. It was he who once told Gregory to go and preach Orthodoxy in Constantinople.
For their part, the Bishops of Rome and Alexandria, who
then who had primacy in the universal Church, insisted that Gregory retire. As subsequent history showed, this caused enormous damage to the Church.
If Basil of Caesarea had been at the Council, he would undoubtedly have supported Gregory. But, already in the Communion of the Saints, he looked at what was happening from the City of the Heavenly Father (John 14:2). Here on earth, saints are often alone.