Basil the Blessed
Our father among the saints Basil the Blessed was a Fool-for-Christ and Wonder-worker living in Moscow at the time of Tsar Ivan the Terrible. He is also known as Vasily, Vasily Blazhenny, Basil Fool-for-Christ, or Basil of Moscow. His feast day is celebrated on August 2, the date of his repose.
Basil was born into a family of serfs in December 1468 in the village of Elokhovo, near Moscow, Russia. Elokhovo is now part of the city of Moscow. His father was named Jacob and his mother Anna. According to tradition, Basil was born on the portico of the Elokhovo church in honor of the Vladimir Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos.
Apprenticed to a shoemaker in Moscow, Basil soon showed that he was no ordinary man. When a merchant, who had brought grain to Moscow, ordered special boots that the merchant could not wait to be finished and would get when he returned in a year, Basil wept and said, "I wish you would cancel the order, since you will never wear them." When his perplexed master questioned him, Basil explained that the man would not wear the boots as he would soon die. After several days the prediction came true.
When he was sixteen, Basil adopted an eccentric lifestyle, that of the difficult exploit of foolishness for Christ. In the burning summer heat and the harsh winter's frost, Basil walked through the streets of Moscow barefoot. His actions were also strange. At one time he would upset a stand with kalachi, and at another he would spill a jug with kvas. The angry merchants beat him, but he endured the beatings with joy and he thanked God for them. Then, it was discovered that the kalachi were poorly cooked, and the kvas was badly prepared. Soon, his reputation grew, and people saw him as a holy fool, a man of God, and a denouncer of wrong.
Preaching mercy, Basil helped those who were ashamed to ask for alms, but who were more in need of help than others. He harshly condemned those who gave alms for selfish reasons, not out of compassion for the poor and destitute, but hoping for an easy way to gain God's blessings upon their affairs. Many observed that when Basil passed by a house in which the occupants made merry and drank, he wept and clutched the corners of the house. When Basil was asked what this meant, and he answered: "Angels stand in sorrow at the house and are distressed by the sins of the people, but I entreat them with tears to pray to the Lord for the conversion of sinners."
Made pure by the great deeds and by the prayer of his soul, Basil was given the gift of foreseeing the future. In 1547, he predicted the great fire of Moscow; through prayer he extinguished a fire at Novgorod; and once he reproached Tsar Ivan the Terrible, because during the divine services he was preoccupied with thoughts of building a palace on the Vorobiev hills.
At another time, Basil gave Tsar Ivan some meat during Great Lent, telling him it did not matter whether or not he fasted from eating meat, because of the murders he had committed.
St. Basil died on August 2, 1557. St. Macarius, Metropolitan of Moscow, served his funeral with many clergy. Tsar Ivan himself acted as pallbearer and carried his coffin to the cemetery. Basil is buried in the cemetery of Trinity church, where in 1554, the Protection of the Theotokos cathedral was built, on the Red Square of Moscow, in memory of the conquest of Kazan. The main chapel of the cathedral is dedicated to St. Basil.
His Holiness Patriarch Job glorified St. Basil the Blessed at a Council on August 2, 1588. The saint's chains are preserved at the Moscow Theological Academy.