March 22, 2017

Holy Hieromartyr Basil, Presbyter of Ancyra

St. Basil of Ancyra (Feast Day - March 22)


Indeed the Prophet spoke of pain in the belly,
Pierced the Martyr did not affirm pain.
On the twenty-second Basil was pierced with spikes.

Hieromartyr Basil was a Presbyter in Ancyra, Galatia when Marcellus was Bishop of Ancyra. On account of his zeal against the Arians, Marcellus was slandered by them as a Sabellian and he was banished by Constantius in 336. In his place another Basil, who was a Semi-Arian, was elevated to the bishopric of Ancyra. Saint Basil, a man of a most holy life, and unblemished conduct, and had been trained up by saints in the practices of perfect piety, fought against the Semi-Arian heresy, and he urged his flock to cling firmly to Orthodoxy. In 360 Arians had the Semi-Arian Bishop Basil deposed. That same year Saint Basil was deposed from his priestly rank by a local Arian synod, but a synod of 230 bishops in Palestine reinstated him.

When the emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363) sought to reestablish idolatry throughout the Roman Empire, Basil ran through the whole city, exhorting the Christians to continue steadfast, and not pollute themselves with the sacrifices and libations of the heathens, but fight manfully in the cause of God. The heathens laid violent hands on him, and dragged him before Saturninus the proconsul, accusing him of sedition, of having overturned altars, that he stirred up the people against the gods, and had spoken irreverently of the emperor and his religion. The proconsul asked him if the religion which the emperor had established was not the truth? The Martyr answered: “Can you yourself believe it? Can any man endued with reason persuade himself that dumb statues are gods?” The proconsul commanded him to be tortured on the rack, and scoffing, said to him, under his torments: “Do you not believe the power of the emperor to be great, who can punish those who disobey him? Experience is an excellent master, and will inform you better. Obey the emperor, worship the gods, and offer sacrifice.” The Martyr, who prayed during his torments, with great earnestness, replied: “It is what I never will do.” The proconsul remanded him to prison, and informed his master Julian of what he had done. The emperor approved of his proceedings, and dispatched Elpidius and Pegasus, two apostate courtiers, in quality of commissaries, to assist the proconsul in the trial of the prisoner. They took with them from Nicomedia one Aslepius, a wicked priest of Asclepius, and arrived at Ancyra. Basil did not cease to praise and glorify God in his dungeon, and Pegasus went there to him in hopes, by promises and entreaties, to work him into compliance, but he came back to the proconsul highly offended at the liberty with which the Martyr had reproached him with his apostasy. At the request of the commissaries, the proconsul ordered him to be again brought before them, and tormented on the rack with greater cruelty than before; and afterwards to be loaded with the heaviest irons, and lodged in the deepest dungeon.

In the meantime, Julian set out from Constantinople for Antioch, in order to prepare for his Persian expedition. From Chalcedon he turned out of his road to Pessinunte, a town in Galatia, there to offer sacrifice in a famous temple of Cybele. In that town he condemned a certain Christian to be beheaded for the faith, and the martyr went to execution with as much joy as if he had been called to a banquet. When Julian arrived at Ancyra, Saint Basil was presented before him, and the crafty emperor, putting on an air of compassion, said to him: “I myself am well skilled in your mysteries; and I can inform you, that Christ, in whom you place your trust, died under Pilate, and remains among the dead.” The Martyr answered: “You are deceived; you have renounced Christ at a time when he conferred on you the empire. But he will deprive you of it, together with your life. As you have thrown down his altars, so will he overturn your throne, and as you have violated his holy law, which you had so often announced to the people (when a Reader in the church), and have trodden it under your feet, your body shall be cast forth without the honor of a burial, and shall be trampled upon by men.” Julian replied: “I designed to dismiss you, but your impudent manner of rejecting my advice, and uttering reproaches against me, forces me to do you harm. It is therefore my command, that every day your skin be torn off you in seven different places till you have no more left.” He then gave the charge to count Frumentinus, the captain of his guards, to see this barbarous sentence executed.

The Saint, after having suffered with wonderful patience the first incisions, desired to speak to the emperor. Frumentinus would be himself the bearer of this message to Julian, not doubting that Basil intended to comply and offer sacrifice. Julian instantly ordered that the confessor should meet him in the temple of Asclepius. He there pressed him to join him in offering sacrifices. But the Martyr replied, that he could never adore blind and deaf idols. And taking a piece of his flesh which had been cut out of his body that day, and still hung to it by a bit of skin, he threw it upon Julian. The emperor went out in great indignation, and count Frumentinus, fearing his displeasure, studied how to revenge an insult, for which he seemed responsible to his master. He therefore mounted his tribunal, and ordered the torments of the Martyr to be redoubled; and so deep were the incisions made in his flesh, that his bowels were exposed to view, and the spectators wept for compassion. The Martyr prayed aloud the whole time, and at evening was carried back to prison. Next morning Julian set out for Antioch, and would not see Frumentinus. The count resolved to repair his disgrace, or at least to discharge his resentment by exerting his rage upon the servant of Christ. But to his thundering threats Basil answered: “You know how many pieces of flesh have been torn from my body, yet look on my shoulders and sides, see if any wounds appear? Know that Jesus Christ this night has healed me. Send this news to your master Julian, that he may know the power of God whom he has forsaken. He has overturned his altars, who was himself concealed under them when he was sought by Constantius to be put to death. But God has revealed to me that his tyranny shall be shortly extinguished with his life.” Frumentinus seemed no longer able to contain his rage, and commanded the Saint to be laid upon his belly, and his back to be pierced with red-hot iron spikes. The Martyr expired under these torments on the 29th of June, in 362, however his name is honored both by the Latins and Greeks on the 22nd of March, due to June 29th being the feast of the Holy Foremost Apostles Peter and Paul.

This Saint should not be confused with Holy Martyr Basil of Ancyra (Jan. 2), who was a layman and not a presbyter.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, thou didst worthily receive the anointing of the priesthood, O Basil. Thou didst offer thy martyric contest as a royal sacrifice to the King of ages. O Venerable Father, entreat Christ our God to grant us His great mercy.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
As a priest of the King of glory, thou didst also become a holy warrior by thy contest. Thou didst shame the counsels of the lawless, and receive the enjoyment of the heavenly kingdom, O Basil, blessed Hieromartyr of Christ.