Thursday, September 23, 2010

Saints by Letter: Week Oo

St Basil of Ostrog
Commemorated April 29

St. Basil (also known as Vasilije) was born and raised in the Popovo region of Herzegovina in the Sixteenth Century.  His devout parents taught their son Basil all about prayer, the Christian faith, and love for Jesus Christ.  When Basil was old enough, he chose to live as a monk.  He moved to the city of Trebinje, where he joined the Monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos.

Because of his love for the Church and his godly life, St. Basil was chosen to be ordained as a bishop.  He led the Church during an extremely difficult time of attacks from the Turkish Muslims and disagreements with Roman Catholic Christians.  Even during this hard time, St. Basil was a humble man who prayed, fasted, and did other things for God and the Church.  As a bishop, he lived at the Monastery of Tvrdog until it was destroyed by the Turks.  After that, St. Basil moved to Ostrog, where he continued to preach and teach the Orthodox faith unceasingly to his flock.  St. Basil died at Ostrog in 1671, where his tomb remains to this day.

St. Basil’s great love for Christ and His Church did not end at his death.  The Epistle to the Hebrews tells us, “You have come to … the Heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus” (Hebrews 12.22-24 RSV).  This means that departed saints like St. Basil are always with us as long as we love Christ and continue to gather with His people, the Church.  St. Basil is perhaps best known for the miracles he performed after his earthly life had ended!

St. Basil’s body in his tomb at Ostrog, called relics, continue to work wonders.  Each year on the Feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came down to the Apostles in the upper room, pilgrims gather at Ostrog to pray at the tomb of a man who was filled with the grace of the same Holy Spirit in life and in death.

St. Nikolai Velimirovic tells us a story about a healing performed by St. Basil:
“One recalcitrant young man, who ridiculed God and his parents, suddenly went insane. The entire city in which this young man lived saw, in this, the punishment of God and was terrified with the fear of God. The young man was held bound and isolated for three years. His mother wept bitterly and prayed to God for her son. One year, during the Feast of Pentecost, the mother brought her insane son to the monastery of St. Basil in Ostrog. After prayers, the insane youth was cured and became himself again. After that, he became an exemplary person and a true Christian.” (from the Prolog of Ochrid)
St. Basil also healed a United States Senator from Illinois.  Senator William Bar was almost killed on June 2, 1970, when an unknown criminal strapped dynamite to the bottom of his car.  Senator Bar survived the explosion, but needed to have his right leg removed.  He lived in great pain and constant sickness because of this.  Doctors tried to heal him from this illness but nothing worked.

However, one night the Senator had a strange dream about a white church built into the side of a giant mountain.  He had this dream repeatedly, night after night.  He would visit this white church and in it, he would witness an old man with a long white beard walking around and healing many sick people simply by touching them.

Senator Bar did not understand this dream, until one day when he went to visit a doctor who could fit him with a prosthetic leg.  He happened to see a picture in a doctor’s office of this same church, next to an icon of the same elderly white haired man from the dream!  The doctor, a Serbian Orthodox Christian, explained to the senator that the white church in the mountain is the Ostrog Monastery, and the white-bearded man is St. Basil of Ostrog.  Senator Bar received the prosthetic leg and could now walk normally, but he was still in much pain.

In 1980, Senator Bar made a pilgrimage to the Ostrog Monastery, along with a group of people who had also lost arms and legs.  He fasted for 40 days and prayed the “Our Father” constantly.  He made a very difficult climb uphill to the monastery, where he was finally able to pray in front of the relics of St. Basil.  Each time he went to the monastery, a little of the pain went away. "I admit, I was a skeptic,” Senator Bar said later.
 “I thought it may be just a superstition. But this is a phenomenon that is impossible outside the Church. I saw blind, deaf, dumb, patients carried on stretchers, children and adults, all climb uphill to the monastery either on foot or in a car. I believe in God's miracles, for I am a witness."
Senator William Bar returned home with no pain, and a much greater faith and love for God in his heart.  He became an Orthodox Christian and devoted the rest of his life to helping other people with missing arms and legs, thanks to being healed by St. Basil of Ostrog.

Troparion to St Basil of Ostrog
Tone 4

From your youth you devoted yourself entirely to the Lord, indulging in prayers, labors and fasting; O father, loyal to God, you were an example of virtue to your flock.  God, therefore seeing your virtuous attitude, appointed you as a shepherd and worthy hierarch of His Church; and after your passing away He preserved your body undecayed, O Saint Basil, and as you have no fear, beseech Christ our God to save our souls!

Copyright © Sibling Revelries 2010
Icon found at 
Troparion found at
Article about Senator Bar at

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