Feast of the Three Saints Hierarchs at the Romanian Patriarchate

On 30 January the Orthodox faithful celebrate the Three Saints Hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom. The Three Saints Hierarchs lived in the 4th century and are mentioned in the history of the Church as protectors of the theological education and of the right faith in regard to the dogma of the Holy Trinity. Besides the gift of interpreting the Holy Scriptures, they also held the high degree of hierarchy.

On this great feast, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the Patriarchal Cathedral by His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church. The Patriarch of Romania concelebrated together with His Grace Varlaam Ploiesteanul, Assistant Bishop to the Patriarch and His Grace Ieronim Sinaitul, assisted by a group of a group of priests and deacons.

His Excellency Mr. Klaus Werner Johannis, President of Romania attended the Divine Liturgy accompanied by Presidential Counsellors Sergiu Nistor and Adrian Muraru.

Feast of Three Saints Hierarchs

After reading the evangelical pericope His Beatitude delivered a sermon in which he spoke about the life and activity of the three great saints whom the Church celebrates on this day, namely Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom, pointing out the wonder that made the saints be celebrated together on this day.

“At the end of the 11th century and beginning of the 12th, at the time of the Byzantine emperor Alexis the Comnen (1091 – 1118) a dispute appeared among various Christians, especially in the capital city of the Empire, Constantinople, on the question which of the three hierarchs was greater. Some of them praised Saint Basil the Great because he joined the word with the deed, others praised Saint Gregory the Theologian for the depth of his theological thought, and some other ones praised Saint John Chrysostom for his sermons, for his nice speeches and because he was the greatest teacher of repentance. This division affected the life of the Church because some of them were called Basilians, others Gregorians, and other Johnians, according to the name of the hierarch they appreciated best. This competition in the love for hierarchs was not an ecclesiastic thought because the religious thought unites, not divides, the holy love unites people in the love of the Most Holy Trinity, while the heretic, selfish and passionate thought divides people; the spiritual thought gathers people together, calls those of the same faith to communion in the Holy Spirit. Thus, in order to end these useless disputes which showed rather selfish love and exclusivist love, than an integrating one, God decided to work just through the Three Saints Hierarchs. They went one by one and then all of them together to Bishop John from the town of Evhaites and told him: although we were different as long as we lived on the earth and after death too we worked for reconciling the people with God and one to another, in order to bring peace and union among people. For God we are not the first, the second and the third in importance, but all the three of us are one so that we command you to establish a feast to celebrate all the three of us together. Thus, this feast of the Three Saints Hierarchs was settled to celebrate them all together.”

Three Saints Hierarchs – defenders of the right faith

The Patriarch of Romania said in his sermon that the Three Saints Hierarchs were great defenders of the right faith. “The Three Saints Hierarchs are great, each of them in his own way, according to the gifts received from God, but cultivated with much effort and love for God and for their fellow beings. They are different from the point of view of their temperament, from the place they served, but they also had lots of common virtues. Their common feature is, first of all, the defence of the right faith, the faith in the Holy Life Giving and Undivided Trinity.

Protectors of the poor

The Patriarch of Romania has also shown in his speech the fact that the Three Saints Hierarchs had great love for Church and took good care of the poor.

“Besides the many homilies and books he wrote, Saint Basil the Great took good care of the sick, poor, hungry, and travellers, so that he set up a small town called Vasiliada near Caesarea of Cappadocchia town, in order to treat the sick, help the orphans, accommodate the travellers, feed the poor, and so they showed the importance of the Gospel as divine love for humans. Saint Basil the Great even embraced the lepers who were accommodated in the settlement he created in a special hospital for lepers with no fear that he would catch the disease too. Saint Gregory said that the poor were the door keepers of the Kingdom of Heaven, sever judges for the merciless and advocates or strong supporters of the merciful. Saint John Chrysostom delivered lots of sermons for mercy, for helping the poor and said that Christ is present in the cup in the Holy Altar, as well as in every poor, humiliated person, in every human who suffers and waits a sign of the brotherly merciful love from us.

Protectors of the schools of theology

“These three great hierarchs had an overwhelming influence over the Church, and this is why they are normative, burning flames, landmarks for the teaching of the Church, as well as for the life of the Church. In 1936, the Congress of the University Faculties and Institutes from Athens decided that the Three Saints Hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and Saint John Chrysostom should become the spiritual saints patrons or protectors of all the schools of Orthodox theology because we see at each of them the faith united with culture and theology, with the life, love for God and for their fellow beings, so that these three hierarchs urge us to keep the many virtues together and join faith and deed in our life.”

The President of Romania, Mr Klaus Johannis, at the Romanian Patriarchate

To end with the Divine Liturgy, His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel saluted the presence of His Excellency Mr Klaus Werner Johannis, President of Romania at the Divine Liturgy celebrated in the Patriarchal Cathedral.

“Your Excellency, Mr President of Romania, presidential counsellors, we are very glad today to have received the visit of Your Excellency at the Romanian Patriarchate and especially for your attending the Orthodox Divine Liturgy. Everybody knows that the President of Romania practices Christian religion and not since he has been a president, but all his life. We are glad because you show the people the importance of prayer, of the relationship of the human with God as Source of pure love and of light for the human’s life, as inspiration for every good deed. Your presence in the Patriarchal Cathedral is very significant especially because you attend a feast which is on a Friday this year, during the week, not on a Sunday”, the Patriarch of Romania said.

The feast of the Three Saints Hierarchs is a model of going from division to consensus

Then, His Beatitude referred to this great feast showing that the feast of these Three Hierarchs is a model of going from division to consensus.

“It is a great feast listed in the calendar with red letters because these Three Saints Hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom, who lived in the 4th century, are enlighteners, great teachers of Christianity, not only of the Eastern Christianity, but also of the Western one. All the great Western theologians, Martin Luther too, mentioned these three saints of the Church in their writings, doctors of the Universal Church. Why are they great? Because they had a strong faith united with deep faith and solid culture. They had a good command of the entire Greek – Roman culture of their time which they Christianised in their writings and this is why they have become great teachers of the world and enlightening hierarchs, having been declared protectors or spiritual patrons of all the schools of Orthodox theology. They showed to the young students and pupils, and here we have students of the Theological Seminary of Bucharest, that strong faith must be united with solid culture, as we see at Saint Paul the Apostle, in order to convey the Gospel of merciful love of Christ to all categories of people, not only to the ordinary people, but also to the cultivated ones, who are more difficult to convert; they also  show that Christ, our Lord, deifies all the gifts that man has from birth, which he cultivates with permanent effort in his life. The feast of these three hierarchs is a model of going from division to consensus, so that they are celebrated in our denomination on different days: Saint Basil the Great on 1 January, Saint Gregory the Theologian on 25 January, and Saint John Chrysostom on 27 January and on 13 November. In the 11th century, at the time of the Byzantine Emperor Alexis the Comnen, a disagreement, a dispute emerged, a sort of competition among various preferences. Some of them admired Saint Basil and said that he was the greatest of the three saints because he joined word and deed, some other ones said that Saint Gregory was the most profound theologian and he spoke the Greek language, with many nuances and much beauty in expression, while some others said that Saint John Chrysostom was the greatest because he was a great preacher and teacher for the crowds calling the people to repentance and improvement. Then, in order to do away with all divisions, God made a Bishop, John of Evhaites, propose to celebrate them all on the same day, and so this feast appeared and a consensus was reached because the faithful were divided into admirers of Saints Basil, Gregory and John, their disputes affecting the Church. Their common celebration reached peace and wisdom, showing that communion and unity were important in the Church, these three great Holy Fathers calling us to unity, communion, and good understanding in order to confess the love for humans and work for defending the right faith and human dignity”, His Beatitude also said.

The Holy Trinity – basis of every communion and genuine community

The Primate of the Romanian Orthodox Church showed that the Holy Trinity is the basis of every communion and authentic community.

“These Holy Parents were great protectors of the poor, of the humiliated ones, of those neglected by society. All of them preached mercy; Saint Gregory the Theologian said that the poor are more important in the Kingdom of God than the emperors because they are the door keepers of the Kingdom of heaven and because they are great protectors of the merciful and sever judges of the avaricious. Thus, these three saints call us, somehow, to be more human, better, more merciful, more sensitive to human sufferance. This is why this feast is a feast with a very important pedagogical educational dimension, because these saints are celebrated as protectors of education in all the schools of Orthodox theology, but not only as prayerful protectors, but also as models of missionary pastoral work. However, they help all those who have responsibilities in the leadership of schools to urge people to cooperate, to reach communion and especially to be sensitive and protect and promote the human dignity because man was created in the image of the Holy Trinity, and this is why they promoted so much the Orthodox teaching on the Holy Trinity. Unlike Judaic and Islam monotheism, Christian monotheism proclaims not a God in eternal loneliness, but a communion of eternal love among three Persons, who are not divided. This is why we do not have a treteism or three Gods, but a single God in three persons and this thing shows that the basis of creation is the eternal love of the Holy Trinity. This is why the Genesis says about the creation of the humans: Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, not in My image. The Holy Fathers of the Church interpreted this very mysterious plural as the Mystery of the Holy Trinity: Let us make Man in the image and likeness of the eternal love of God. When Jesus Christ, our Saviour, prayed for the unity of the Church, for which we have also prayed during the Week for Christian unity which has just ended, He prayed for those who believe in His name to be one and showed them the model. He did not give a model from this world, neither from the Roman Empire, nor from the Greek Republic, but He said: to be one as We are One: the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Thus, the unity of the Church has the unity of the eternal communion of love in the Holy Trinity, as source and model, in which the Persons are distinctive, equal and not separated and so this fact makes the Holy Trinity be the basis of every communion and every authentic community. Whenever we want love in the family we want, in fact, the grace of the Holy Trinity, when we want a true friendship, we want, in fact, the grace and love of the Holy Trinity. When we fight for unity, communion, for good understanding, we are inspired, in fact, by the grace of the Holy Trinity which calls the diversity to unity, the distinctive persons to communion and cooperation. The dogma of the Holy Trinity is not a speculation of mathematical type, but the basic truth of existence and this means that everything that is distinctive is called to the communion of complementarity.

 To end with, the Patriarch of Romania thanked the President of Romania.

“May God help us learn from the theology of the Holy Fathers based on the Holy Scriptures that the essence of life is the communion of love! A man is free to the extent to which he can love God in prayer and his fellow beings in good deeds. Thank you very much for the honour you made us”, His Beatitude said.

After attending the Divine Liturgy, Mr. Klaus Johannis visited the historical chapel, the museum of the patriarchs, and the Synodal Hall of the Patriarchal Residence. Here, a meeting took place between His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel and Mr President Klaus Johannis.