"When, in the course of time, we acknowledged our friendship and recognized that our ambition was a life of true wisdom, we became everything to each other: we shared the same lodging, the same table, the same desires, the same goal. Our love for each other grew daily warmer and deeper....our great pursuit, the great name we wanted, was to be Christians, to be called Christians." (1) St. Gregory of Nazienzen
The saints whose lives we honor today were, in contemporary language, "soul friends." Basil, who is recognized as the father of monasticism in the East, could be fierce and unbending. Much like Mother Teresa of Calcutta in our day, he was a reformer and made decisions quickly, often without much conversation with others. Gregory, on the other hand, was shy and retiring. When appointed Archbishop of Constantinople, he lived with friends rather than take up residence at the city's center. Both men were accused of heresy and were slandered by those who resented their power and fortitude. Despite their differences, they remained friends.
All of us need people with whom we walk closely in faith, especially when life is difficult and confusing. Having one other person to accompany us through the dark and light times is a gift beyond words. Gregory and Basil had this in one another, and although their relationship was often under great stress, Gregory reminds us that their "great pursuit...to be called Christians" kept them together in love and hope.
Today, treasure the gift of a soul friend.
As the New Year begins, how can you grow in fidelity to God and your friends?