Monday, January 2, 2023

The Ninth Day of Christmas 2022

Saint Basil the Great

It’s the beginning of the month, beginning of the year

High incense tree

Beginning of my good year
Church with the Holy Seat

It’s the beginning of our Christ
Saint and spiritual
He got out to walk on earth
And to welcome us

St. Basil is coming from Caesaria

And doesn’t want to deal with us
May you long live, my lady

He holds an icon and a piece of paper
With the picture of Christ our Savior
A piece of paper and a quill

Please look at me, the young man

Today, in many traditions, marks the Feast of St. Basil the Great of Caesarea, an influential Byzantine bishop from the mid-300s.  Basil was an influential theologian in the early church, marked by his care for the poor and underprivileged.  Though Basil was born into wealth, he gave away all of his possessions to the poor, the underprivileged, those in need, and children, forgoing luxury for the creation of the communal monastic life.

Because of his care for the needy, Basil in certain traditions even becomes the Santa Claus like figure of Christmastide.  In Greece, on January 1, it is Saint Basil who brings gifts to children on Saint Basil's Day.  On St Basil's Day vasilopita, a rich bread baked with a coin inside, is served, mimicking the actions of Basil as a bishop, wanting to distribute money to the poor and commissioning some women to bake sweetened bread, in which he arranged to place gold coins.

We talk a lot in Christmas about how it is a season of giving.  And we do see some evidence of that fact.  Nearly one third of all annual giving in the United States are made in December, with ten percent of all annual giving occurring in three days before New Year.  

But there is still a bit of a disconnect.  While we gave $309.66 billion in individual donations throughout 2019, we spent $707 billion in retail sales between November 1 and December 31, 2018 alone.  

And we're at a time when the need is as great as ever.  The latest data from the census indicates that roughly 13.4% of America is below the poverty line.  This means that 42.5 million Americans live below the poverty line.  Keep in mind, the United States poverty line is around $12,880 for individuals, $26,500 for a family of four.  If you expand the criteria for those below, at, or near the poverty line, it can account for nearly half of all Americans.  The amount of people living paycheck to paycheck, remains incredibly high.  Meaning most families are just one sickness, one emergency, one inconvenience, one accident away from losing everything.

In the spirit of Saint Basil, perhaps we remember our calling.

"Is this not the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Isaiah 58:6-7

Saint Basil was at the center of many important theological debates and is known as the Doctor of the Church because of his influence on our understanding of the trinity and the divinity of the Holy Spirit.  But, we celebrate him because of his charity.  We recognize him because of his practical and lived out faith.  His writings confirm that our duty is to each other.  

He served the Lord by serving the least of these.

May we go and do likewise.

“Prayer is a request for what is good, offered by the devout of God. But we do not restrict this request simply to what is stated in words… We should not express our prayer merely in syllables, but the power of prayer should be expressed in the moral attitude of our soul and in the virtuous actions that extend throughout our life…  This is how you pray continually — not by offering prayer in words, but by joining yourself to God through your whole way of life, so that your life becomes one continuous and uninterrupted prayer.”

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