Today we honor Basil and Gregory, two saints who helped us understand what the Bible teaches us about the Trinity and about the Holy Spirit. In their search for a deep understanding, they had great help from Basil’s brother and sister.
Basil’s brother, Gregory is remembered as Gregory of Nyssa, the place where he later became bishop. As boys, Basil and the two Gregorys had studied together both in Alexandria and Athens.
But, I wanted to tell you about the older sister of Basil and Gregory. Makrina was her name, and she had inherited their family land in Cappadocia. It was there that she made a way for the three scholars to live comfortably while pursuing their sacred research.
I don’t know enough about the matter to bring you verse by verse through the Scriptures, but beginning with St. John’s telling us that God is love, and using other pertinent Scripture passages, they came around to describing the eternal inner life of the Trinity as something like a Greek specialty in which three individuals, while holding hands circle each other in a merry dance. The Greek name for such a performance is perichoresis.
Incidentally, I had long been afraid of reading about those heavy endeavors in which Basil and the Gregorys were involved. But then, I was struck by the similarity between Makrina’s hospitality and the hospitality offered by Lady Gregory of Coole, Galway, fifteen hundred years later.
Lady Gregory, as one of the British nobility in Ireland, had been reared by an Irish nurse. The old woman filled her imagination with stories from Ireland’s mythical and historical past.
Then, when Lady Gregory’s husband died, she opened her estate to W. B. Yates, Sean O’Casey, and John Millington Synge, urging them on to producing dramas and literature that have enriched us all. I was delighted, in ambling through Lady Gregory’s garden at Coole to come on the initials of those great writers carved on the same old tree.