Today we commemorate three theologians from the fourth century. We read about them in an excerpt from Celebrating the Saints.
We are told by our Lord Jesus Christ that because we are Christians, we will face challenges and hardships because of our faith. But Jesus also promises that the Holy Spirit, our Helper and Comforter, will keep us steadfast in that same faith. May the Holy Spirit, true God with the Father and the Son, keep you firm in the Christian faith.
The three men commemorated this day are two brothers (Basil, bishop of Caesarea, and Gregory, bishop of Nyssa) and a close friend (Gregory, bishop of Nazianzus). They collectively are known as “the Cappadocian fathers” since they grew up together in Cappadocia (all born around AD 330) and were steadfastly and stubbornly united in their orthodox confession of the blessed Trinity.
Toward the end of his little work De Spiritu Sancto (On the Holy Spirit), in which he defended the true deity of the Third Person of the Trinity, St. Basil penned these words: “I was taught too by the children at Babylon, that, when there is no one to support the cause of true religion, we ought alone and all unaided to do our duty. They from out of the midst of the flame lifted up their voices in hymns and praise to God, reeking not of the host that set the truth at naught, but sufficient, three only that they were, with one another” (par. 79). Though they often felt quite lonely in their struggle, these three confessors of the blessed Trinity constantly called the faithful of the Church to join them in glorifying the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, of one nature, equal in majesty, though three distinct persons. No wonder Basil saw in the three children a picture of himself, his brother, and their dear friend! As the Hebrew children would not bend the knee to idolatry, neither would they.
Gregory of Nazianzus, who ended up as the Patriarch of Constantinople, was famous in his own day for preaching the Word with eloquence. Gregory of Nyssa, though in many ways the most speculative of the Cappadocians, almost sounds like Luther when he exhorts his adversaries: “Let the inspired Scripture, then, be our umpire, and the vote of truth will be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the Divine words.”
Almighty God, You revealed to Your Church Your eternal being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in a Trinity of persons. May Your Church, with bishops like Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa, receive grace to continue steadfast in the confession of the true faith and constant in our worship of You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Devotional reading and prayer are taken from Celebrating the Saints, pages 16–17 © 2016 William C. Weedon. Published by Concordia Publishing House.