Great Defenders and Holy Composers

In the first centuries of the church, men called Church Fathers forever changed the course of Christianity by defending against heresies and spreading the faith. Many of these Fathers are sainted by both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. Origen of Alexandria, St. Basil the Great, and St. Polycarp are three important and imperative men of the early Christian Church.

While Origen of Alexandria is not a saint, he is considered a Church Father. He was born around 184 AD and spent the first half of his life working in Alexandria, Egypt. As a priest he wrote around 6,000 works and preached on every part of the Bible. Origen isn’t sainted because some of his views were proclaimed as heretical by the Fifth Ecumenical Council. Origen was said to have believed in the predestination of souls, which is the belief that everyone, even demons and Satan himself, would eventually receive salvation. He also supported the view of a hierarchy within the Trinity, that is the Father at the top, followed by the Son, and then Holy Spirit. And although he was against the Gnostic heresy, he apparently believed in the inherent evil of all material creation, the core principle of the Gnostics. On top of these accusations, he was said to have castrated himself. In 250, Origen was tortured for his faith and in 253 died of his wounds. Even though Origen is not a saint, he is a Church Father because of his works and martyrdom for Christianity. 

Origen of Alexandria.

St. Basil the Great was born in 330 AD and served as the bishop of Caesarea, in modern-day Israel. Basil is one of the three Great Hierarchs of Orthodoxy along with St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory Naziazus. He’s also a Cappodocian Father with Gregory Naziazus and Gregory of Nyssia. As a bishop he fought the heresy of Arianism, the belief that Christ is not fully God, wrote the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great (which served as the regular Sunday Orthodox Liturgy until being edited and reformed by St. John Chrysostom), and helped destroy Arianism by participating in the writing of the Nicene Creed during the First Ecumenical Council of 325. Being a saint in both the Catholic and Orthodox churches, Basil is glorified mostly because of his fierce defense of Christianity against Arianism. In addition to this, Basil is also the Patron Saint of monasticism, exorcism, education, liturgists, and the country of Russia.

Icon of St. Basil the Great.

A disciple of John the Apostle and bishop of Smyrna, St. Polycarp, whose name means “much fruit,” was born in AD 65. During his time as bishop of Smyrna, he wrote the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians in which he strongly warns the Church of Philippi about heresy and apostasy. Polycarp is one of the three Apostalic Fathers alongside Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch. Receiving the holy crown of martyrdom in 155, he was burned at the stake. However, when the saint was not touched by the flames, he was stabbed to death.

Orthodox icon of St. Polycarp.

By their writings, example, and works these three prominent fathers, Origen, St. Basil the Great, and St. Polycarp helped spread the Christian faith to the world, crush heresies, and compose influential writings.

2 thoughts on “Great Defenders and Holy Composers

  1. Houston, Another interesting and informative article. I am ashamed to say that I have never heard of any of these men. I feel especially guilty after hearing of their deaths.
    So Origen self-castrated himself but then took three years to die from wounds inflicted on him. What a sacrifice!
    All of these deaths were horrible but being burned alive and not dying. We can’t begin to imagine how much suffering these men endured.
    Thank you for sharing this.
    Love Papa & Gramsey

  2. Houston once again you have taught Granny something. So proud of you and the way you research and share your information. Keep up the good work!

    Love you

    Granny

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