HEROES AND HEROINES OF THE FAITH
ST. BASIL OF ANCYRA (continued)
The emperor, having arrived at Ancyra, summoned the Martyr before him, and inquired his name. The Saint replied: “I am a Christian. This is my principal name; but I am generally called Basil. Now, if I shall have preserved the name of a Christian without blemish, Jesus Christ will reward me on the Day of Judgment with eternal glory.” Julian: “Do not thus miserably deceive thyself, continuing to believe in Him Who was put to death under Pontius Pilate.” Basil: “No, emperor, I am not deceived, but thou hast deceived thyself, Who by thy apostasy hast forfeited thy right to Heaven. I continue to believe in Jesus Christ Whom thou hast renounced, although He placed thee upon a throne. He will, however, quickly hurl thee thence, that thou mayest know the power of the God Whom thou hast despised.” Julian: “Madman, thou art raving; it shall not befall me as thou wouldst.” Basil: “Thou hast forgotten Jesus Christ, and He shall never again remember Thee in His mercy. He that is the Emperor of all shall despoil thee of the authority thou hast, and cause thee to expire in agony; nor shall thy body find burial.” (This prediction was shortly afterwards fulfilled).
Julian, infuriated at the Martyr’s speech, said: “I had designed to discharge thee unmolested; but, since thy temerity hath gone so far as to reproach me, I now command that there be torn, every day, from off thy body, seven pieces of flesh.” This barbarous command was quickly put into execution by the Count Frumentinus to whom the charge was given. Our Saint endured it with great fortitude; and, when he had been entirely lacerated, he desired to speak with the emperor. The Count, believing that he was induced by the torture to sacrifice to the gods, made known his desire to Julian, who commanded him to be brought to the temple of Esculapius. Upon being presented to the emperor in the temple, the Saint said: “Where, sir, are the persons who are wont to accompany thee? Have they not foretold to thee the motive of this my visit?” Julian: “I suppose thou hast returned to thy senses, and art willing to adore the majesty of the gods.” Basil: “Not so; I am come to make thee know that thy gods are but blind and deaf statues, the worshipping of which is punished in hell.” Then taking a piece of his torn flesh, he cast it in the emperor’s face, saying: “Take this, O Julian, since such food pleaseth thee. To me death is a gain, and Jesus is my life and my strength; in Him I believe, and for His sake I am willing to suffer.”
The Christians looked with satisfaction upon the constancy of Basil, and the glorious testimony he had given to the Faith; but equal to their joy was the fury of Frumentinus at his disappointment. He therefore ordered the executioners to tear the Saint with irons until his bones and bowels should be laid bare. During the infliction of this sentence the holy Martyr prayed thus: “Be Thou forever blessed, O Lord, Who giveth strength unto the weak that put their trust in Thee. Mercifully vouchsafe to look upon me, and grant me the grace faithfully to consummate my sacrifice, that I may be made worthy of Thy eternal kingdom.”
On the following day the emperor departed from Ancyra without granting an order to Frumentinus, who, having summoned Basil before him, exclaimed: “O, thou most rash and obdurate of mortals! Wilt thou at last yield to the emperor, or terminate thy days amid the most excruciating torture?” Basil replied: “Dost thou not recollect to what state thou didst reduce my body yesterday, when its mangled appearance drew tears from all who beheld it? Now it hath pleased Jesus Christ to heal me, as thou seest. Make this known to thy emperor, in order that he may understand the power of that God Whom he hath abandoned to become the slave of the devil; but God will also abandon him, and he shall die in his sins.” Frumentinus replied: “Thou art mad; but if thou wilt not sacrifice, I shall cause thy entire body to be pierced with red-hot spikes.” The Saint answered: “I have not been afraid, as thou knowest, of the threats of the emperor; think now whether thy words can strike me with terror.”
Although Frumentinus was aware that the constancy of Basil was not to be overcome, he nevertheless caused the irons to be heated, and the Saint’s shoulders to be pierced through. During this most agonising torture, the Saint prayed thus: “I thank Thee, O Lord, my God, Who hast delivered my soul from hell. Preserve Thy blessed spirit within me, in order that, having overcome these torments, I may offer to Thee the sacrifice of my life, and become an heir to everlasting bliss, through the promises of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whose merits I beseech Thee to receive my soul in peace, since I have continued to the end to confess Thy Name, Who livest and reignest, world without end. Amen.” Having finished this prayer, the Saint, as though falling into a sweet sleep, in the midst of his tortures, placidly rendered his soul to God, on the 28th of June, in the year 362.