9th Day of Christmas / The Cappadocians — January 2

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The Cappadocians: Gregory of Nazianus and Basil of Caeserea.

Bible connection

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another. — Galatians 5:22-26

All about the Cappadocians

On this day of Christmas many people traditionally celebrate the main members of the radical group known as “the Cappadocians:” Basil of Caesarea (330-379) and his lifelong friend, Gregory of Nazianzus (329-379). They both died in January and, as in life, they gravitated together and are remembered together on this day. May we be radical Jesus followers and loving friends like they were! Like in our time, their era was full of partisan controversy and fragile political and church relationships. They not only stuck together, they brought other people together.

Basil and his older sister, Macrina, received the best education of the day. Basil was ambitious and decided to become a teacher of rhetoric which would have provided the highest available salary at the time. His sister convinced him that his ambitions would just be replaced by further ambitions. He listened to her, was baptized, simplified his life and worked in the local church. He stayed close to his sister, his brother, Gregory of Nyssa, his cousin, Amphilochius, and his lifelong friend, Gregory of Nazianzus (they are known as the Cappadocians).  Within a decade he was made bishop of Caesarea in 370. As bishop, he fought against the Arian heresy and wrote many influential works on the Trinity and the Incarnation, as well as a rule of life for monks that is still used today.

Gregory of Nazianzus, while traveling as a youth, met Basil while studying in Athens. While Basil was determined and impulsive, as well as brilliant and a bit intimidating, Gregory was sensitive, patient, more introverted, and sometimes indecisive. Basil was drawn to public speaking, Gregory to poetry and speculation. But they teamed up for a brilliant teaching series on the Trinity that sealed their public reputations and their friendship.  At one point Basil deceptively pressured Gregory to become a bishop, which he did not want to do. This strained their friendship, but they rebuilt it.

In one of his sermons, Gregory said this about the beginning of their relationship: “When, in the course of time, we acknowledged our friendship and recognized that our ambition was a life of true wisdom, we became everything to each other: we shared the same lodging, the same table, the same desires, the same goal. Our love for each other grew daily warmer and deeper… The same hope inspired us: the pursuit of learning.” When Basil died, this was Gregory’s epitaph: “A body might as well live without a soul, as me without you, Basil, beloved servant of Christ.”


Here is a nice summation of who these good people were and why they are important [link]

Morwenna Ludlow deftly sums up the Cappadocians and the theological issues of their times (that impact ours, still) in ten minutes. (If you want the rest of Timeline, you pay):

You might be interested in the geography of Cappadocia and the famous people from the 400’s [link]

View of the circle backed by a line of tall trees, bracken in the foreground
The “Nine Ladies” on Stanton Moor https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/nine-ladies-stone-circle/history/

On the 9th day of Christmas my true love sent to me… Nine ladies dancing.

The catechists who were supposedly using “The Twelve Days of Christmas” song to teach persecuted Catholics said these nine ladies represented the nine fruit of the Holy Spirit: love,  joy,  peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  (Galatians 5:22). These go along with the ambition of Basil’s and Gregory’s life and relationship, don’t they?

What do we do with this?

Memorize the fruit of the Spirit until you can sit back with your eyes closed and meditate on each of them.  Which of them calls to you? What would you do in 2024 to gain and live out one of them more fully? Tell one of your spiritual friends about your ambition. Gregory would have written such a person a vulnerable letter.

Both Basil and Gregory got their truest ambition fueled by solitude and study.  Hopefully you have a Macrina in your life to tell you to ramp back your anxious grasping so you can listen for your truest calling. Is there any way to get more time with God into your schedule?

It is a dancing day. Have you ever heard this old carol: Tomorrow  Shall Be My Dancing Day? It is not only interesting, it is a good one to help you twirl around the room a bit with the spirit of nine ladies dancing in the Spirit.  Shake out some coldness of body and heart.

1. Tomorrow shall be my dancing day;
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play,
To call my true love to my dance;

Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love

2. Then was I born of a virgin pure,
Of her I took fleshly substance
Thus was I knit to man’s nature
To call my true love to my dance. Chorus

3. In a manger laid, and wrapped I was
So very poor, this was my chance
Betwixt an ox and a silly poor ass
To call my true love to my dance. Chorus

4. Then afterwards baptized I was;
The Holy Ghost on me did glance,
My Father’s voice heard from above,
To call my true love to my dance. Chorus

It goes on…

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