September 2, 2019

By Honoring Saint Mamas One Honors Virtue (St. Basil the Great)

By St. Basil the Great

(Excerpts from Homily 23: On the Holy Martyr Mamas)

The Church is founded upon such fathers of truth [as Mamas]. Do you see how in keeping this feast people are honoring virtue and not riches? The Church honors those who formerly led us forward so that they might continue to exhort us in the present. “Let us not aspire to wealth for ourselves,” the martyr says, “or to the unreliable wisdom of the world, or to passing glory. Such things vanish with this life. Be a holy laborer, for this is what you will take with you to heaven, leaving behind an immortal memory and acquiring permanent fame.”

So then, if such is the memorial of a shepherd, let us not worship wealth. For we have gathered to praise one who had no wealth at all. Let us not go home marveling at one who was rich, but at one who had both poverty and piety.

A shepherd is of virtually no significance. He has no appreciable skill. Wouldn’t you be insulted if someone provoked you by asking, “Are you a shepherd?” A shepherd possesses nothing more than his daily food, a leather satchel, a staff, and whatever he needs for that day, with no thought for the next. He shuns crowds, flees legal entanglements, knows nothing of flattery, business, or wealth. He has no roof over his head, living out under the open sky, gazing up to heaven at night and learning to know the Creator from the wonder of the stars.

A shepherd: let us not be ashamed of the truth, nor imitate the pagan myth-makers who embellish the truth with elegant trappings. We have here a humble man, a poor shepherd, the pride of Christians. If our father in faith is such as this, a teacher of those who seek piety, well then, so were the disciples — fisherman and tax collectors. No one was rich. No one was illustrious. All were of no account in the eyes of the world. This is the kind of person we celebrate today—one we are delighted to honor, one we love so much that we alter our lives for his sake.