Sunday, January 3, 2016

St. Genevieve of Paris

Saint Genevieve was born of wealthy parents in Gaul (modern France) in the village of Nanterre, near Paris, around 422. Her father’s name was Severus, and her mother was called Gerontia. According to the custom of the time, she often tended her father’s flocks on Mt. Valerien.

When she was about seven years old, St. Germanus of Auxerre (July 31) noticed her as he was
St. Germanus of Auxerre
passing through Nanterre. The bishop kissed her on the head and told her parents that she would become great in the sight of God, and would lead many to salvation. After Genevieve told him that she wished to dedicate herself to Christ, he gave her a brass medal with the image of the Cross upon it. She promised to wear it around her neck, and to avoid wearing any other ornaments around her neck or on her fingers.

When it was reported that Attila the Hun was approaching Paris, Genevieve and the other nuns prayed and fasted, entreating God to spare the city. Suddenly, the barbarians turned away from Paris and went off in another direction.

Years later, when she was 15, Genevieve was taken to Paris to enter the monastic life. Through fasting, vigil and prayer, she progressed in
St. Genevieve Calming the Parisians on the
Approach of Attila by Jules-Elie Delaunay.
monasticism, and received from God the gifts of clairvoyance and of working miracles. Gradually, the people of Paris and the surrounding area regarded Genevieve as a holy vessel (2 Tim. 2:21).

St. Genevieve considered the Saturday night Vigil service to be very important, since it symbolizes how our whole life should be. “We must keep vigil in prayer and fasting so that the Lord will find us ready when He comes,” she said. She was on her way to church with her nuns one stormy Saturday night when the wind blew out her lantern. The nuns could not find their way without a light, since it was dark and stormy, and the road was rough and muddy. St Genevieve made the Sign of the Cross over the lantern, and the candle within was lit with a bright flame. In this manner they were able to make their way to the church for the service.

There is a tradition that the church which St. Genevieve suggested that King Clovis build in honor of Sts. Peter and Paul became her own resting place when she fell asleep in the Lord
around 512 at the age of 89. Her holy relics were later transferred to the church of St. Etienne du Mont in Paris. Most of her relics, and those of other saints, were destroyed during the French Revolution.

In the Middle Ages, St Genevieve was regarded as the patron saint of wine makers.

The tomb of St. Genevieve located in St. Etienne du Mont in Paris.
 You can also read "St. Genevieve of Paris" by Mary Xenia Fagan to older children or young adults. 

A family activity to do together to honor St. Genevieve would to assist at a food bank or collect food items to give to the poor just like she did!

Finally, bake a loaf of french bread to remember the bread that St. Genevieve gave to the hungry with your family and sing her troparion:

O Shepherdess who guardest the sheep at Nanterre against the horde of wolves and the Scourge of God, / thou dost protect the city of the Parisians. / O St Genevieve, do not forget to guard thy spiritual sheep even now, / from heaven where thou livest after death.

Friday, January 1, 2016

St. Basil the Great of Caesarea

Our father among the St. Basil the Great (ca. 330 - January 1, 379), was bishop of Caesarea, a leading churchman in the 4th century. The Church considers him a saint and one of the Three Holy Hierarchs, together with Saints Gregory the Theologian (Gregory Nazianzus) and John Chrysostom.
Basil, Gregory the Theologian, and Basil's brother Saint Gregory of Nyssa are called the Cappadocian Fathers. The Roman Catholic Church also considers him a saint and calls him a Doctor of the Church.

St. Basil was an authority on the monastic life. He formulated the rules and regulations for the monks of his day, and these rules still prevail in most of the Christian monasteries of the world. St. Basil prepared the Divine Liturgy which we love and know so well. Although the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is used 42 Sundays a year in our Church, it is based on the slightly longer Divine Liturgy of St. Basil. St. John merely shortened the lengthy prayers and made minor alterations in other prayers. The Liturgy of St. Basil is celebrated ten times each year: during the Lenten period, Christmas Eve, and on January 1st, the anniversary of his death.

St. Basil was indeed one of the greatest pillars of the Church. He loved children and always assisted the sick and the homeless. He was the first bishop to establish orphanages and hospitals and old age homes. He first directed the attention of the Church to these unfortunate victims of society.

St. Basil's feast day is celebrated on January 1; he is also remembered on January 30 with the Three Holy Hierarchs.

St Basil is also called “the revealer of heavenly mysteries” (Ouranophantor), a “renowned and bright star,” and “the glory and beauty of the Church.” His honorable head is in the Great Lavra on Mount Athos.

In some countries it is customary to sing special carols today in honor of St. Basil. He is believed to visit the homes of the faithful, and a place is set for him at the table. People visit the homes of friends and relatives, and the mistress of the house gives a small gift to the children in places like Greece. A special bread (Vasilopita) is blessed and distributed after the Liturgy. A silver coin is baked into the bread, and whoever receives the slice with the lucky coin is said to receive the blessing of St Basil for the coming year!
Before cutting the vasilopita we first pray St. Basil’s apolytikion, and then we cross the ‘pita’ with a knife three times saying, “In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” and “Through the prayers of St. Basil the Great”. Then we cut the first piece for Christ, the second for Panagia (the Mother of God), and the third for St. Basil. 

You can read about the life of St. Basil the great! Take a look the these books:
Vassilopita: St. Basil and the Story of the New Year's Cake by Anna Marini (A podcast of this story can be found here).

Here is a good video of the life of St. Basil the Great given by Sr. Vassa