Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Vision of St. Basil the Great, St. Mercurios and Julian the Apostate

Icon of St. Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea (Icon courtesy of used with permission)

The Vision of St. Basil the Great, and Julian the Apostate
This is an amateur translation from a Greek text ( of some compelling events from the life of St. Basil. Though the details vary considerably among different versions, there are multiple historical sources that attest to the basic story, including St. Amphilochius' life of St. Basil, and others from the 6th and 7th Centuries (,

What further complicates things is the resemblance to the story behind the Vasilopita ( Most versions hold that St. Basil gathered the people's treasure to appease a merciless eparch. After St. Basil convinced him to change his mind, he had to return everyone's treasure. He asked some of his people to bake loaves of bread in which he hid their coins, jewelry, etc., and handed the bread out to his flock. Miraculously, each loaf contained precisely what each person had given. I have a hunch that this is referring to a distinct event from the life of St. Basil the Great, but regardless, may we emulate St. Basil's immense love and devotion to God and to his fellow men, and may he intercede for us all and help us!
In the years when Julian the apostate wished to revive idolatry—as some try to do in our days (neo-idolatry)--and to build again the Temple of Solomon (in his attempt terrible flames poured forth from that place and he was unable to complete his task), he stopped near Caesarea on his way to Persia [for war].

St. Basil the Great knew Julian from Athens, when the two of them studied together, but each took a different road. The Metropolitan of the city [St. Basil.] therefore went out to meet the emperor and he sought three loaves of bread from those that the Saint ate. Of course the Saint ate barley bread and from those he offered to Julian.

Julian accepted the gift and ordered St. Basil to be rewarded and for them to give the Saint grass from the field!

The Saint, seeing this scorn, said: “We, O emperor, from that which we eat, as you asked, we offered to you. And your kingdom, as is appropriate, returned the gift from that which you eat.”

As soon as the emperor heard these he was greatly angered and angrily said to the Saint:

“Now accept this gift, and when I return from Persia the victor, then, I will burn your city, I will remove your infantile people and enslave them, because the gods which I worship they dishonor, and you will receive the appropriate reward [i.e. punishment].”

And when he finished these terrible threats the emperor Julian, headed for Persia.

The Saint returned to his see in Caesarea and called all of the people. When he told them the threats of the king to destroy the city and enslave them, he advised them to not hold back their money, but to care for their lives and to gather whatever they had in one place and when the king would return, they would throw their treasures in the streets, and being avaricious, he would be appeased and would not do any evil to them.

The Christians went and gathered an uncountable treasure: gold, silver, and precious stones! The Saint placed them in the treasury, writing the name of each to keep them, until he learned of Julian's return.

Therefore when he learned that he was returning, St. Basil gathered the Christians and told them all to fast for three days. Then they all ascended the mountain of Caesarea named Didymos, because it had two peaks.

The Most-Holy Theotokos and Christ surrounded by Holy Angels (Icon courtesy of used with permission)

On that mountain was a Church of the Most-Holy Theotokos, where all the Christians, when they reached it, began with contrite heart to entreat the merciful Christ and His Most-Pure Mother, that the decision of the impious emperor be changed. Then as they were continuing in prayer, St. Basil saw a multitude of heavenly armies circle the mountain and among them was a woman sitting on a throne with much glory, who said to the Angels that were around:

“Call Mercurius to me, that he go and put to death the enemy, Julian, of my Son!”
Icon from the Skete of St. Anna, Mount Athos: The Theotokos ordering St. Mercurios to defend the Christians, and St. Basil helping the people (source)
Then the Archbishop of Caesarea saw that the Martyr Mercurius came armed with his weapon, and having received the command from that woman who was the Most-Holy Theotokos, he disappeared immediately!

[At this very moment Julian the Apostate, on his Persian campaign, was wounded by the spear of an unknown soldier, who immediately disappeared. The mortally wounded Julian, as he lay dying, cried out, "Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!" (]

St. Mercurius the Great Martyr of Cappadocia (taken from:

The Queen of the Angels, the Panagia, then called St. Basil and gave to him a book which contained all of the creation of Creation written, and then man fallen from God. In the beginning of the book was an epigraph which said, “He said”, while the end of the book which talked of the fall of man said “End” (this meant that because the Saint wrote a hermeneutical book on the Six Days of Creation of Moses [the Hexameron] and on the creation of the World in general, while the chapter on the creation of man by God he would not finish. It was completed however after his repose by his brother, St. Gregory of Nyssa).

The Saint awoke from the vision right away and together with some Clerics he descended immediately to the city of Caesarea, where the Church of the Holy Great Martyr Mercurius was located, in which was found his relic and his weapons, as St. Mercurius was martyred there a hundred years before. Archbishop Basil entered this Church and not seeing the relic or the weapons, he asked the protector of the relics of the Church what occurred. He of course did not know anything. Then the Great Basil understood that it was a true vision and that the most impious Julian would be killed that night.

Immediately, the Holy Metropolitan again ascended the mountain and told the Christians:

“Rejoice and be glad today, my bretheren. Our prayer was heard, because the infamous king suffers the appropriate punishment. Therefore giving thanks to God, let's return to the city that each may receive the money that he gave.”

As soon as the Christians heard these, they all said with a loud voice:

“We were planning to give to the impious king to preserve our lives. Now should we not offer them to the King of heaven and earth, who granted us life?”

The Saint therefore praised their willingness and ordered a third be given back to each from whom it was given, and the rest to be given to build homes for the poor, homes for strangers, hospitals, orphanages, etc. (all of these later comprised the wondrous Christian, philanthropic complex called Basiliad).

St. Basil the Great (Icon courtesy of used with permission)

Troparion — Tone 1

Your proclamation has gone out into all the earth / Which was divinely taught by hearing your voice / Expounding the nature of creatures, / Ennobling the manners of men. / O holy father of a royal priesthood, / Entreat Christ God that our souls may be saved.

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

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