Lent Madness: John Henry Hobart vs. Basil the Great

No, this is not a matchup between a dishwasher and an herb. If recent history is any indication the title “the Great” does not guarantee success in Lent Madness — Leo the Great took a great fall to Timothy in an earlier Round One slugfest.

In recent action Florence Nightingale made quick work of David of Wales 77% to 23% and will face Clare in the Round of the Saintly Sixteen. Click Lent Madness 2011 to view the updated tournament bracket.

John Henry Hobart (1775-1830) was born in Philadelphia the year before the Declaration of Independence was signed. After being educated at the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton he was ordained deacon in 1798 and priest in 1801. After serving as an assistant minister at Trinity, Wall Street in New York he was elected assistant bishop of the diocese in 1811 and became the diocesan bishop in 1816.

He served the church at a time in United States history when the Church of England was naturally viewed with suspicion. The church in America had stagnated for some time; it was Hobart who helped reverse this trend. An energetic man small in stature, Hobart founded two institutions — a college near Geneva, New York (now Hobart College) and General Theological Seminary in New York City.

In addition to serving as the Bishop of New York, he was also the rector of Trinity, Wall Street, while simultaneously acting as bishop for Connecticut and New Jersey. As a measure of his effectiveness, he started with 26 clergy at the beginning of his episcopate had 133 by his death and the number of parishes in the diocese increased under his watch  from 50 to almost 170.

Hobart, who had lived life at such a fast and furious pace, died in 1830 at the age of 55. He is buried under the chancel of Trinity, Wall Street. 

Collect for John Henry Hobart Revive your Church, Lord God of hosts, whenever it falls into complacency and sloth, by raising up devoted leaders, like your servant John Henry Hobart whom we remember this day; and grant that their faith and vigor of mind may awaken your people to your message and their mission; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Basil the Great (329-379) was born to Christian parents in Ceasarea Cappadocia (present-day Turkey) after the time of persecution had passed. Basil intended to become a lawyer and orator and studied in Athens where his classmates included Gregory of Nazianzus and the future emperor Julian the Apostate. When he returned home he changed his plans, being inspired by the life of his sister Macrina, and decided to become a monk. He founded a wildly successful monastic community near his home and wrote a rule for his monks still in use in the East.

In 367-8 a severe famine struck the land and Basil sold his family’s extensive lands to purchase and distribute food to the poor. He refused to feed only Christians and welcomed Jews to his soup kitchens saying that the digestive tracts of the two were indistinguishable. Basil had been ordained a priest in 362 and became Bishop of Ceasarea in 370.

This was a time of great controversy over the nature of God and the Trinity. Basil tried to unite the semi-Arians with the Nicene party against the full Arians (who professed that Christ was inferior to God the Father — as opposed to being co-equal and co-eternal). He used the formula “three persons in one substance,” thus acknowledging a distinction between the Father and the Son while still insisting on their essential unity.

When the Arian emperor Valens confronted Basil on the issue, Basil refused to back down. When Valens expressed surprise at Basil’s defiance, Basil reportedly retorted, “Perhaps you have never met a real bishop before.” Valens retaliated by slicing up Cappadocia in an attempt to reduce Basil’s influence.

Many of Basil’s writings have survived including Hexaemeron (“The Six Days”), a series of sermons about creation; Against Eunomius, an argument against an Arian’s view of the divinity of Christ; and On the Holy Spirit; in addition to over 300 letters.

Basil died in 379 shortly after the death in battle of his nemesis, the Arian emperor Valens, and was mourned throughout the region by Christians, Jews, and pagans alike.

Collect for Basil the Great Almighty God, who has revealed to your Church your eternal Being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in Trinity of Persons: Give us grace that, like your bishop Basil of Caesarea, we may continue steadfast in the confession of this faith, and constant in our worship of you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; who live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.



4 Comments on “Lent Madness: John Henry Hobart vs. Basil the Great”

  1. Bob Chapman says:

    Oh, dear. I was willing to vote for Bishop Hobart without reservation until I ran into this in Wikipedia:

    He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, being fifth in direct descent from Edmund Hobart, a founder of Hingham, Massachusetts.” (emphasis added)

    I had to do more research. After reading what the Society of Archbishop Justus had to say on anglican.org, I came to the conclusion that Basil would have to agree that, if meeting Hobart, would say, “I have now met (another) bishop.”

    As an aside, where did the bishops of the Diocese of New York get there names? Hobart’s predecessor was Benjamin Moore.

  2. Father Tim says:

    The Hingham town dump is on Hobart Street.

  3. commcanon says:

    I like the feisty ones, even when it’s clear that there must be plenty of soup in that there beard.

  4. Vicki says:


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