Friday, January 2, 2015

The Feast Of Friendship

Almost immediately into the New Year and the Church keeps the feast of two of her mighty Saints, the Bishops, Theologians and Doctors of the Church, Sts Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen. Doctors of the Church have their own feast day, they are not usually gathered into pairs or groups, but the Church has made an exception here for a reason. These two men, great teachers in the Church, great defenders of the truth about Christ, are also great examples of Christian friendship, and so as the holiness of their lives, the depth of their wisdom, their fidelity in suffering are offered to us, so the nature of their relationship is presented to us for mediation and imitation. Today is, then, as far as I see it: the feast of friendship, though the Church has yet to officially designate it as such.

We all need friends, good friends, who can not only offer us company in life, but who can help us live our Christian lives. This was what Basil and Gregory did for each other. Their relationship was firmly planted in their faith, so it was not merely human friendship, but also a divine one since it placed God at the heart of the relationship. They were very close, as St Gregory revealed in the Oration he preached at St Basil's funeral. Close friendship among men was not unusual, the Greek world, in which they lived, celebrated such friendships, however like everything else in the world it was flawed. Basil and Gregory's friendship was graced and could rise above what the Greeks cherished. The intimacy enjoyed by these Christian men was one centred on Christ, it was pure, generous, charitable and sanctifying. Their friendship was not devoid of difficulties, there was even a serious breach at one point, but they triumphed over it in charity.

It has to be said, but in recent times there have been some who, to push a particular agenda, have tried to change the nature of Basil and Gregory's friendship, as they try to change the nature of the friendship enjoyed by King David and Jonathan and the teaching and friendships of St Aelred: these relationships are now being looked at as being homosexual relationships. Quite apart from the ideological slant which is being imposed on these relationships, there is not one shred of evidence to support the claim that all these men were "gay lovers". 

Such misunderstanding must surely convince us of the importance of the feast we celebrate today: a feast of two men who loved each other deeply as friends, whose relationship was rooted and immersed in the Gospel and in the person of Christ, and who, with God's blessing, assisted each other on the path to holiness. 

Today we must remember our friends, pray for them, and thank God for those wholesome people who accompany and guide us in life. We should also strive to be the best friends we can to our friends, and the way to do that is to conform our lives more and more to the Gospel. That is what Basil and Gregory did, if we do also our friendships will become an important element on the process of our sanctification and the sanctification of those we love.

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