January 1, 2015

Basil the Great and the Hesychastic Life

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

Basil the Great, the Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, excelled in many ecclesiastical sectors, namely the pastoral, the teaching of Orthodoxy, the struggle against heretics, the works of philanthropy, the liturgical life, the ascetic life, etc. He was a multitalented and polycharismatic man and bishop who left a stable and indelible trace when he passed from this life. And even if only the liturgy bearing his name was all he left for us, in which he is a living presence and spiritually nourishes us each time we perform it, it would be great and marvelous work.

However, the effect which he made on his contemporaries and those after was due to his personal experience of God which he had acquired, and which distinguishes him in all his writings. When one has such spiritual experience, then theology has stability and accuracy, when of course there are other factors as well such as education and knowledge. It is in this context that we should interpret the epithet "heaven-revealer" given to him by ecclesiastical tradition.

Basil the Great knew personally the heyschastic life since the time he lived as an ascetic near the Iris River in Pontus, and this hesychastic-neptic life was transferred within all his written texts in which he speaks of the solitary life. In this paper we will present briefly some aspects of his teaching about hesychasm as a method of coming to the knowledge of God.

Source: "Μέγας Βασίλειος καί ησυχαστική ζωή" (excerpt from a homily on Basil the Great in Bucharest). Translated by John Sanidopoulos.