The three Holy Hierarchs are pillars of the Byzantine church. Living in and around the 300s, Sts. Basil, Gregory, and John Chrysostom were great theologians during their age. And, not only were they highly acclaimed during their time, but we continue to read their words and be inspired by their lives now. Over a thousand years later.
While each of these great men have their own feast days, we celebrate them together on January 30th. According to tradition, during the late 11th century, there were arguments amongst the people about which of these theologians was the greatest. There was Team Basil, who admired the saint’s ability to clearly communicate the mysteries of our faith. Team Gregory protested that their saint was the closest to achieving theosis. Finally, the was Team John Chrysostom, who wrote with such eloquence that we are still using his Divine Liturgy today. (That argument might have swayed me if I lived during that time. After all, my favourite gospel is John the Evangelist’s due to his amazing Greek word-play). Anyways, all this Team one saint versus the other was clearly very unchristian! Instead of promoting the Saints, the factions were arguing and tearing each other down.
Then, one night, a bishop named John Mauropous had a dream where the three holy hierarchs appeared. The three holy hierarchs explained that they are all equal before God. And that they had no desires to be pitted against each other. Then the saints requested that they would be celebrated together on a single feast day.
And that is how we came to have the feast of the 3 Holy Hierarchs!
Troparion: (tone 4) As equals to the apostles in the way you all lived, and teachers of the whole world, intercede with the Lord of all, to grant peace to the world, and, to our souls, great mercy.
Troparion: (tone 1) Let us who love their words gather together, honoring with hymns the three great torch-bearers of the triune Godhead. You have enlightened the world with sweetly-flowing streams of wisdom, and fill all creation with rivers of heavenly knowledge. Ceaselessly intercede for us, asking for great mercy for our souls before the Holy Trinity!
Kontakion: (tone 2) Lord, You received your inspired and steadfast preachers, your great teachers into the enjoyment of your blessings and into repose. You who alone glorify your saints, accepting their labors and death as better than a sweet-smelling sacrifice.
Prokeimenon: (tone 8) Their utterance has gone forth into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.
How to Celebrate the 3 Holy Hierarchs
- Recite the Nicene Creed, a mark of the triumph of orthodoxy over Arianism. The three Holy Hierarchs played an important role in defending the true Trinity.
- Say a prayer for any monastics in your community, asking for St. Basil’s intercession.
- Find an icon of the holy hierarchs for your icon corner
- Pray the tropars for today (listed above) during your icon corner time.
- Go to Divine Liturgy, and consider the words of St. John Chrysostom as you pray.
- Children can do Holy Hierarch colouring pages, and write poems to the Trinity to honour God on this feast day.
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