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January 30, 2016

The Three Hierarchs: Towers of Faith

By Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

January, the month of the Holy Fathers. It begins with the figure of Basil the Great and ends with the joint celebration of the three greatest luminaries of the Three-sunned Divinity: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom.

They are the strongholds of piety and the writing tablet of the Holy Spirit. They are the fragrant blossoms of Paradise, and the breasts from which gushed forth the milk of salvation, according to the expression of the sacred hymnographer.1

They are the foremost of the chorus of the Holy Fathers and Teachers, who with the illumination of the Holy Spirit expressed in their time and continue to express until today with their words which are timeless, the experience of divine truth.

They did not only do this with human education, but mainly from above, which has as its center the heart of man, and they entered into the "hidden beauty"2 of divine truth and expressed this experience with words, with the sole purpose of human salvation.

It is worth for us today, besides our praises or any admiration we have for these holy figures, although this has pretty much stopped in our days, to listen to the beat of their God-bearing hearts, at the same time putting our finger on the mark of anxiousness for the truth of the faith, for which they so fought and today we compromise.

What is faith?

First, with clarity the wondrous Hierarch of Caesarea will record how faith is the unconditional acceptance of Divine Revelation and the belief that what is declared by the grace of God is the only truth.3

This faith must be contemporary and "indiscriminate", that is, we must believe without doubts what is assured to us in the word of God of Holy Scripture and at the same time what we encounter in the experiences of the God-bearing Fathers of the Church, who exist in all ages.

Basil says: "What is the special feature of faith? The without discrimination and doubt internal information and certainty that the divinely inspired words of Holy Scripture are true, information that is not shaken by any thought caused by physical need or formed for reasons that require piety."4

And the Holy Father concludes full of admiration: "We should not doubt and hesitate to believe in what was taught by the Lord, but we should have certainty that every word of God is true and can take place even if it is contrary to natural laws. This is precisely the struggle of faith."5

Second, Saint John Chrysostom calls it an "anchor". "Because such is faith: it is a sacred anchor that everywhere restrains the intellect, and then our strength becomes apparent, when one is convinced who has it to wait with virtuous hopes through impasses and difficulties, expelling disturbing thoughts."6

One who does not care nor stand on what is seen but rather on what is not seen has true faith.

This is because, adds the God-bearing father, "we do not limit ourselves only to our physical eyes, but with the eyes of the mind we imagine what is not seen. Indeed, we should consider most certain those things, rather than what we see with our physical eyes. This is faith."7

Such faith is considered the Golden Nightingale of the Church, simply because people live in the darkness of sin and idolatry and they need this enhypostatic virtue to understand both the earthly and heavenly.

His words are realistic: "Do you see how great is the darkness that surrounds us and that everywhere we require faith? Only this is stable."8

"If faith is essential in order to understand well material and earthly things, even more so it is needed to understand heavenly truths and realities that are spiritual and supernatural."9

Third is "simple agreement" according to the Theologian, Saint Gregory, Archbishop of Constantinople. To agree with what is ordered and written in the law of God.

When one is in this wavelength, they do not seek explanations, nor logical proofs, but they try to have their hearts living with the presence of Christ who will guide them "in all truth."

In his Dogmatic Poems the voice of the Theologian is telling: "If everything is obvious, then what is faith? Because faith is an unconditional agreement. When you came to faith, such a thing was not promised to you, namely wealth, freedom from care, health and the blessing of children, but a higher life and what we expect. We expect heavenly things, not earthly."10

This faith of the Fathers, perfect faith, which is strength without resistance, is needed today in our time.

In the murky crossroads of unbelief and the threatening clouds of atheism, which cover the hearts particularly of young people, there is imperatively displayed the need for faith in the person of Christ.

Let us believe as we are taught by our Holy Church.

Let us accept that which was handed down to us by these golden mouths of speech.

Let us keep as a precious treasure the way and method which they followed.

When we believe in God like this, then "we will not fear, but we will have God as our refuge and strength and quick help in the tribulations we face."11


1. Aposticha for the Feast of the Three Hierarchs.

2. Gregory the Theologian, "Fifth Theological Oration", ch. 21.

3. Basil the Great, "Discourse on Faith", ch. 1.

4. Basil the Great, "Rules", Rule 80, ch. 22. PG 31, 868.

5. Ibid. Rule 8. PG 31, 712.

6. John Chrysostom, "On the 115th Psalm", ch. 3. PG 55, 324Α.

7. John Chrysostom, "On Genesis", Homily 63, ch. 5.

8. John Chrysostom, "On Colossians", Homily 5, ch. 3.

9. John Chrysostom, "Απόδειξις του χρησίμως τας περί Χριστού και εθνών και της εκπτώσεως Ιουδαίων προφητείας ασαφείς είναι", Homily 1, ch. 2.

10. Gregory the Theologian, Dogmatic Poems, "On Providence" 2.

11. Basil the Great, "On the 45th Psalm", ch. 3.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.