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August 2, 2017

Saint Basil the Fool for Christ and Wonderworker of Moscow (+ 1557)

St. Basil the Fool for Christ of Moscow (Feast Day - August 2)

Saint Basil the Fool for Christ, Wonderworker of Moscow, was born in December 1468 in Elokhov, near Moscow (now in Moscow), according to tradition on the porch of the Elokhov church in honor of the Vladimir Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos outside Moscow, where his mother hoped she would deliver him safely. His father was named Jacob and his mother Anna, who were commoners and sent their son to be trained as a shoemaker.

During Basil’s apprenticeship, the master happened to witness a remarkable occurrence, which showed him that his student was no ordinary boy. A certain merchant had brought grain to Moscow on a barge and then went to order boots, specifying that they be made in a particular way, since he would not pick them up for a year. Basil wept and said, “I wish you would cancel the order, since you will never wear them.”

When the perplexed master questioned his apprentice he explained that the man would not wear the boots, for he would soon die. After several days the prediction came true.

When he was sixteen, Basil arrived in Moscow and began the difficult exploit of foolishness for Christ. In the burning summer heat and in the winter’s harsh frost, he walked about barefoot through the streets of Moscow. His actions were strange: here he would upset a stand with kalach, and there he would spill a jug with kvas. Angry merchants would beat the blessed one, but he endured the beatings with joy and he thanked God for them. Then it was discovered that the kalach were poorly cooked by the man who admitted to having mixed chalk and lime into the flour, and the kvas was badly prepared. The reputation of Saint Basil quickly grew, and people saw him as a holy fool, a man of God, and a denouncer of wrong.

A certain merchant wanted to build a stone church on Pokrovna in Moscow, but its arches collapsed three times. The merchant turned to Basil for advice, and he pointed him toward Kiev. “Find there John the Cripple,” he said. “He will advise you how to construct the church.”

Traveling to Kiev, the merchant sought out John, who sat in a poor hut and rocked an empty cradle. “Whom do you rock?” asked the merchant. “I weep for my beloved mother, who was made poor by my birth and upbringing.” Only then did the merchant remember his own mother, whom he had thrown out of the house. Then it became clear to him why he was not able to build the church. Returning to Moscow, he brought his mother home, begged her forgiveness, and built the church.

Once, robbers, noticing the Saint clothed in a quality fur coat given to him by a certain boyar, decided to get the coat from him by deceit. One of them played dead and the others asked Basil for a donation for the dead man's funeral. Basil covered the dead man with his fur, but seeing their deceit, said: "Be truly dead from this moment, for the evil that you have done, for it is written - the evil doers shall be consumed." And truly, the deceiver died.

Preaching mercy, the blessed one helped those who were ashamed to ask for alms, but who were more in need of help than others. Once, he gave away a rich imperial present to a foreign merchant who was left without anything at all. Although the man had eaten nothing for three days, he was not able to beg for food, since he wore fine clothing.

Basil harshly condemned those who gave alms for selfish reasons, not out of compassion for the poor and destitute, but hoping for an easy way to attract God’s blessings upon their affairs. Once, the blessed one saw a devil in the guise of a beggar. He sat at the gates of the All-Pure Virgin’s church, and he gave speedy help in their affairs to everyone who gave alms. The Saint exposed the wicked trick and drove the devil away.

For the salvation of his neighbor, Basil also visited the taverns, where he tried to see a grain of goodness, even in people very much gone to ruin, and to strengthen and encourage them by kindness. Many observed that when the Saint passed by a house in which they made merry and drank, he wept and clutched the corners of that house. They inquired of the Holy Fool what this meant, and he answered: “Angels stand in sorrow at the house and are distressed by the sins of the people, but I entreat them with tears to pray to the Lord for the conversion of sinners.”

People would sometimes deride and beat him up, but he would tolerate everything humbly. Basil spent his nights on a church porch in prayers and meditation. God glorified his righteous servant granting him the gift of discernment and wonderworking. He even rebuked Tsar Ivan the Terrible for not paying attention in church, and for his violent behavior towards the innocent. It was said that Basil was the only man Ivan feared, for he was "a seer of hearts and human thoughts." When, shortly before his death, Basil fell into a serious illness, the tsar himself visited him with Tsarina Anastasia .

Through Basil's prayers before the Vladimirskaya Icon of the Theotokos, Moscow and all of the Russian lands were saved from the invasion of the Crimean khan Makhmet-Guirey in 1521. Having burned the suburbs of Moscow the khan was scared by a vision of a great number of legions and retreated from the territory of the Russian State.

In 1547 the Holy Fool was crying inconsolably foreseeing the fire of Moscow which destroyed the city almost completely. Some time later at the reception in the palace of Tsar Ivan Terrible, the Saint three times poured some wine out of the window saying that he is putting out a fire in Novgorod. Indeed at that very time there happened a fire in Novgorod, but it did not spread to the entire city because, according to the Novgorod citizens, some unknown person was pouring water over the houses that had caught flames. On arriving to Moscow those Novgorod citizens recognized that person to be Basil.

Saint Basil died on August 2, 1557. Saint Macarius, Metropolitan of Moscow, served the Saint’s funeral with many clergy. Ivan the Terrible himself acted as pallbearer with his boyars and carried his coffin to the cemetery. His body was buried in the cemetery of Trinity church, where in 1554, the Protection cathedral was built by Ivan the Terrible in memory of the conquest of Kazan. His relics are famous for having worked many wonders. Patriarch Job glorified Saint Basil the Blessed at a Synod on August 2, 1588.

In an early icon, Saint Basil is portrayed as old, with white hair curling at the ears, and a short, curly white beard. He is completely naked, and holds a handkerchief in his hand. The veneration of Saint Basil the Blessed was always so strong that the Trinity church and the attached Protection cathedral were renamed for him, known today as the famous Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. The Saint’s chains are preserved at the Moscow Spiritual Academy.

Apolytikion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Your life, O Basil, was true and your chastity undefiled. In fasting, vigilance and exposure to heat and frost, you subdued your flesh for the sake of Christ, therefore your countenance shone with the brilliance of the sun. Today the faithful glorify your holy falling-asleep. Implore Christ to deliver us from all bondage, dissension and war, and to grant great mercy to our souls.

Another Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Thou didst live a venerable and chaste life, O Basil. For Christ's sake didst thou vanquish thy flesh by fasting, vigil and darkness and heat of the sun and slush and rainy clouds, and thy countenance has become as bright as the Sun; and now peoples of Russia approach thee, tsars and princes and soldiers among them, and we sing thy repose in Christ. Pray Christ our God for us to be saved from enslavement by enemies and from all civil strife. Pray God to grant us peace and His great mercy to our souls.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
Thou didst receive revelation from heaven, and go forth from the world's turmoil. Thou didst live a venerable life as a monk, and wast given grace to work miracles, and to heal diseases, O wise, blessed and holy Basil.