On January 30th, the Orthodox Church celebrates the Three Holy Hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and Ioannis Chrysostom.
All three were highly influential bishops of the early church who played pivotal roles in shaping Christian theology and Greek education.
“The true openness and inclusiveness demonstrated by these three great luminaries is unparalleled,” Archimandrite Nephon Tsimalis said recently.
“They show us that education is not something to be feared at all, but encouraged. The Three Saintly hierarchs show how Christians can make use of education through their use of Hellenism. They baptized the ideals and values of Hellenism and utilized them as vehicles to transmit the Truth of the Gospel.”
On this day, the Greek Orthodox Church honors and celebrates the “seamless bond and marriage between Hellenism and Christianity,” the Archimandrite said.
The Three Hierarchs also commemorated separately
The Three Holy Hierarchs are also commemorated separately, however, since the 11th century, their joint celebration has been established as a sign of great gratitude and to avoid quarrels over which of the three should be honored more by the Church and the Greek community.
Some argued that Basil was superior to the other two because he explained Christian faith and monastic example.
Supporters of Ioannis Chrysostom countered that the “Golden Mouthed” (Greek: Χρυσόστομος) archbishop of Constantinople was unmatched in both eloquence and in bringing sinners to repentance.
A third group insisted that Basil’s close friend, Gregory the Theologian, was preferred to the others due to the majesty, purity, and profundity of his sermons and his defense of the faith from the Arian heresy.
The Eastern Churches teach that the three hierarchs appeared together in a vision to St. John Mauropous, bishop of Euchaita, in the year 1084, and said that they were equal before God: “There are no divisions among us, and no opposition to one another.”
With fine discernment, he selected 30 January as appropriate to the celebration, for it would set the seal to the month in which each of the three Hierarchs already had a separate commemoration (Saint Basil – January 1; Saint Gregory – January 25; Saint Ioannis (translation of relics) – January 27).
As a result, a January 30 feast day commemorating all three in common was instituted around 1100 under the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos.
The Three Hierarchs contributed not only with their explanations of the Christian faith but also because all three demonstrated a passion for educational opportunities. True philanthropists, led exemplary lives of monastic virtue. They are considered patrons of the institution of Education because having received a brilliant education, they acknowledged the significance of this high privilege.
In recognition of the contribution of the Three Holy Hierarchs, the University of Athens established in 1842 the feast of the Three Holy Hierarchs to be the day of celebration of the Greek letters, which Saints Basil, Gregory and Ioannis gave prominence as an ecumenical treasure through study, research and writing.