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Three Holy Hierarchs

Among the works of Byzantine art that create a prayerful attitude on the part of the faithful are the icons of the Saints. The Icon of the Three Holy Hierarchs portrays the feast which is celebrated on January 30th. On the icon, three great Fathers of the Church are portrayed: St. Basil to the left, St. John Chrysostom in the center, and St. Gregory the Theologian to the right. We live in their presence, we see the life of Christ in them, and we worship in the Holy Spirit Who dwells among men and leads us to the fulness of truth.

St. Basil, after receiving a secular education, travelled about the monasteries of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria, learning the asceticism of the great Desert Fathers. He wrote two Rules which form the foundation for Christian monastic life. Elected a bishop in 370, Basil extended his ecclesi astical duties to establishing hospitals, caring for the poor, and providing homes for the strangers and travellers. His writings are vast, including dogmatic, liturgical, ascetic, and homiletic works as well as letters. He is the author of the Anaphora (the central portion of the Divine Liturgy) and it is read at the Divine Liturgy which bears his name and which is celebrated ten times during the liturgical year.

St. John Chrysostom also received a secular education, after which he retired to the desert to devote himself to the ascetical life and especially the study of Scripture. Failing health forced him to return to the city, where he was ordained a Deacon and received the popular title "golden mouth" because of his great eloquence and profound depth as a preacher. Later elected Patriarch of Constantinople, he never permitted internal difficulties to hinder his pastoral concern. He left numerous writings and homilies, all of which bear a characteristically pastoral tone. The Divine Liturgy celebrated during most of the liturgical year bears his name.

St. Gregory Nazianzus found himself attracted to a more contemplative style of Christian living than the active ecclesiastical leadership of his close friend, st. Basil. By contemplating the divine mystery, he became transformed into a living image of Christ. His writings speak with theological pro fundity. His great orations, poems, and letters have earned him the title: "The Theologian". This title is given to only two other Saints: St. John the Evangelist, and St. Simeon the New Theologian.The figures of the Saints appear almost motionless, but possess a deep inner life. The forehead as a vast dome is symbolic of wisdom, while hollowed cheeks and fully-molded mouth suggest that each Saint was a great orator, theologian, and a man of ascetical vision.

The Saints are dressed in the full vestments of a Bishop. Over the phelonion and around the shoulders is the omophorion, the sign of their high office, symbolizing their role as Bishops seeking the lost sheep as did our Lord. As teachers of the Church, they hold in their left hand the Gospels, while they bless with their right hand. Through the icon these Saints enter into our lives. They manifest God's speaking to us.


VESPER HYMN — Come together, O Feast-lovers, and extol in songs of praise those Bishops of Christ, the pride of the Fathers, and towers of faith, the Teachers and Defenders of the faithful, saying: "Rejoice, O Basil the Wise, light of the Church, and its unshakeable pillar! Rejoice, O Heav en-given Intellect, the great hierarch, Gregory the Theologian! Rejoice, O John the golden-mouthed Chrysostom, fervent preacher of repentance! Wherefore, O thrice-blessed Fathers, cease not to intercede with Christ for those who celebrate in faith and love Your all-blessed and divine feast."


 Buy  icons of St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory Nazianzus