Two things convicted the heart of St Basil during his formative years. The first was when his younger brother Naucratius, died, and then second was the influence of his elder sister Macrina, whose rock-like faith led her to join a community of religious women who served the poor, owned no personal items, slept on the ground, ate only enough to sustain them, and lived completely for God.
Saint Basil followed this example and experienced himself the ascetic life, before being ordained and recruited to defend the Church.
He went on to address the rich "who let their wheat rot, while men die of hunger" during a time of great famine and natural disasters in this way. He said,
"You refuse to give under the pretext that you haven't got enough for your own requirements. But while your tongue excuses, your hand condemns- that ring on your finger silently declares you to be a liar! How many debtors could be released from prison with one of those rings! How many ill-clad people could be clothed from only one of your wardrobes? And yet you turn the poor away empty-handed."Saint Basil spared no one....he said
"You are poor? But there are others poorer than you. You have enough to keep you alive for ten days - but this man has only enough for one...Don't be afraid to give away that little that you have. Don't put your interests before the common need. Give your last loaf to the beggar at the door, and trust in the goodness of God."
To inspire us all, here is a miracle story that follows the advice of Ayios Vasilios told by the humble priest Father Stephanos K. Anagnostopoulos and abbreviated from his book.*
On March 24, 1942 an aunt of mine lived in the city of Drama in Northern Greece with her five children. Then they were under Bulgarian occupation, and in a state of deprivation, disease and famine that reached dreadful proportions. Her husband had been killed, and there remained only a very small amount of olive oil and a handful of corn flour.
On this the eve of the Anunciation, her eyes fell on the snuffed out vigil lamp which hanged in front of the icon stand. She was in a dilemma: Should the oil be given to the hungry children or remain in the icon stand with the icon of the Annunciation? With a sense of determination she made the sign of the Cross and told the All-Holy Mother of God:
"My all-Holy Mother! I shall light the vigil lamp because the day which is breaking is of great significance to our faith; however, You take care and feed my children."She took the very little oil and lit the vigil lamp. Its joyous light illuminated the shabby home and her heart was filled with serenity. This sense of peace accompanied them in their nightly prayer, their sleep, and throughout that unforgettable night.
The next day, after the Divine Liturgy, my aunt opened the kitchen cupboard in order to get the meager flour and she remained speechless. What did she see? The "oilcan" filled with oil all the way to the top, as well as two bagfuls of flour and spaghetti!
The woman made the sign of the Cross many times, praising and thanking God and the Theotokos for this great miracle, but she did not say a word to anyone."
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Life & Quotes of St Basil from **Evloyeite! A Pilgrim's Guide to Greece; Mother Nektaria McLees. St Nicholas Press, 2002 available here**
Miracle taken from **Experience duringt he Divine Liturgy: Protopresbyter Stephanos K. Anagnostopoulos. Piraeus 2008. Available for purchase in Greek and English here **