Basil the Great and Gregory of Nazianzus : Bishops : Teachers of the Faith
Seraphim : Monk : Spiritual Guide
Vedanayagam Samuel Azariah : Bishop : Evangelist
Christmas is for every place and every time.
Basil and Gregory were from fourth-century Cappadocia (today, Turkey); Seraphim was a mid-eighteenth-to-mid-nineteenth century Russian; Vedanayagam Samuel Azariah, a late-nineteenth-to-mid-twentieth century Indian.
Basil and Gregory were instrumental in the developing understanding of the Trinity – of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons of one substance – at a time of great debate within the Church regarding the nature of orthodox continuity and un/faithful ongoing doctrinal developments. Seraphim played a significant role in developing the desire of Orthodox Christians to live lives filled by the Holy Spirit, experiencing and exercising gifts of healing and of prophecy, and as lay-people to take on monastic spiritual disciplines. Vedanayagam Samuel Azariah understood that for Christianity to take root in India, it must be led by Indians and expressed in culturally indigenous forms, not as an external and imperial import. As the first Indian bishop of his Province, he developed the training of Indian clergy, and insisted that his cathedral be built incorporating Christian, Hindu and Islamic architecture.
In our own place and time, in which the Church is engaged in at times heated debate regarding the nature of orthodox continuity and un/faithful ongoing doctrinal developments, not least concerning views on women bishops and human sexuality...
in our own place and time, in which the Church is exploring ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit and community in the expression of New Monasticism...
in our own place and time, in which the Church is asking what needs to be transmitted from ‘outside’ and what needs to arise from ‘inside’ in order for mission and ecclesiology to be authentic; what, in any given culture, is or is not (or can or cannot be) regenerated...
we would be wise not to forget Basil the Great and Gregory of Nazianzus, Seraphim of Sarov, and Bishop Vedanayagam Samuel Azariah.
The Church may ebb and flow, fall back here and rise up there. But there is a bigger picture to be held in view. Christmas is for every place and every time.