Tuesday, July 24, 2012

St. Basil Engages the Pagans


"Do not then imagine, O man! that the visible world is without a beginning; and because the celestial bodies move in a circular course, and it is difficult for our senses to define the point where the circle begins, do not believe that bodies impelled by a circular movement are, from their nature, without a beginning. Without doubt the circle (I mean the plane figure described by a single line) is beyond our perception, and it is impossible for us to find out where it begins or where it ends; but we ought not on this account to believe it to be without a beginning. Although we are not sensible of it, it really begins at some point where the draughtsman has begun to draw it at a certain radius from the centre. Thus seeing that figures which move in a circle always return upon themselves, without for a single instant interrupting the regularity of their course, do not vainly imagine to yourselves that the world has neither beginning nor end. "For the fashion of this world passeth away" and "Heaven and earth shall pass away." The dogmas of the end, and of the renewing of the world, are announced beforehand in these short words put at the head of the inspired history." --Excerpt from Homily I of St. Basil the Great's Hexaemeron

Read St. Basil's first sermon of his Hexaemeron here and then listen to Fr. David Smith discuss it on Harmony of Thunder.


St. Basil and his wife, St. Macrina, suffered under the persecution of Maximinus Galerius (305-314). They fled to the mountains where they suffered many privations, thereby St. Macrina is regarded as a "Confessor of the Faith". Their son, St. Basil the Elder, married St. Emmelia, the daughter of a martyr, and among their ten children were St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Peter of Sebastea, St. Macrina the Younger, and the man who wrote the homilies that you have been reading. St. Basil the Great wrote nine homilies on the six days of creation, known as "The Hexaemeron."

St. Basil the Great was born around A.D. 329, and died on January 1, 379. He studied in Caesarea, Constantinople, and later in Athens, where he became friends with St. Gregory of Nazianzus. They joined their efforts in confronting heresies, especially Arianism. St. Gregory of Nazianzus, St. Basil the Great, and Basil's brother, St. Gregory of Nyssa, became known as "The Three Cappadocians." St. Basil became Bishop of Caesarea in 370, and greatly influenced theology in both the East and West.

St. Basil's insights into the first chapters of Genesis are remarkable for their clear apologetic of the biblical doctrine of creatio ex nihilo by the Creator of the Universe.


Related reading:  Answers to Questions About God; Answers to Questions About the Creation of the Earth


4 comments:

Greg Hamm said...

I very much enjoyed your post today. I like to read the works of the early church fathers. I don't think that most Christian are aware of the vast amount of writing that is extant from the first four hundred years of church history.

Alice Linsley said...

Sad, but true. For many it is as if Christianity began in the 16th century. Personally, I have been greatly inspired, corrected and encouraged by the writings of the Fathers of the Church.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Linsley, that's quite interesting. First time I've read St. Basil. Thanks for posting. Best, Brent

Alice Linsley said...

Hi, Brent. Great to hear from you. I hope you are well and thriving.

You may read more of St. Basil's writings here at Just Genesis. You will find them listed/linked in the INDEX.