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Saint Basil the Great

Basil the Great, Saint (băˈzĭl, bāˈ–) [key], c.330–379, Greek prelate, bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, Doctor of the Church and one of the Four Fathers of the Greek Church. He was a brother of St. Gregory of Nyssa. In his student days at Athens he knew Julian, later Roman emperor, and began his lifelong friendship with St. Gregory Nazianzen. Converted to the religious life by his sister, St. Macrina, he withdrew (c.357) to a retreat in Pontus. There he wrote much of the Longer Rule and of the Shorter Rule ; on these the life of the Basilian monks is based. Through his rules Basil was a spiritual ancestor of St. Benedict. As counselor (365) and successor (370) of Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea and head of most of the church in Asia Minor, Basil established Nicene orthodoxy over Arianism in the Byzantine East. His revision of the liturgy is occasionally used in the Byzantine rite. His works On the Holy Ghost and Against Eunomius are elegant, acute defenses of the Catholic system. In the West his feast is June 14.

See his letters tr. by R. J. Deferrari (4 vol., 1926–34); studies by G. L. Prestige (1956), E. Amand de Mendieta (1965), and M. G. Murphy (1971).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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