Today was the feast day of Gregory of Nazianzus and Basil the Great. A wonderful excuse for incense at the evening eucharist and a celebration of all that is splendid in orthodox theology.
The biography in Exciting Holiness — a book of collects and readings for Saints days — begins like this:
Gregory and Basil were two friends bound together by their desire to promote and defend the divinity of Christ as proclaimed in the Nicene Creed. This was against the seemingly overwhelming pressure from both Church and State for the establishment of Arianism, which denied Christ’s divinity and thus the whole Christian doctrine of the Trinity.
It made me think about how often impressive people come in pairs. Somehow, it is both the friction and support of friendship that stirs creativity and gives people the strength and energy to face opposition.
But maybe it is also friendship that teaches us we can survive the stress of opposition — that life goes on, that relationships can endure even when faced with anger and pain and misunderstanding.
Basil’s collect begins:
God, who in making us
wounded our hearts with the hidden spark of divine love…
Given the place of the divine spark in orthodox theology — given an anthropology that says that at our root we are made in the image of God, that there is an unquellable spark of the divine life within us — this suggests that the very thing that nurtures love, that flames the spark, is the wound love sometimes causes. I am not being clear. But there is something in this that is compelling.
And as I’ve said before, understanding is overrated.