Saint Basil, the Elder of St Paisius Velichkovsky (November 15), was born toward the end of the seventeenth century. He received monastic tonsure at Dalhautsi-Focshani Skete in 1705 or 1706, laboring in asceticism with great fervor.
St Basil was ordained to the holy priesthood, and became igumen of Dalhautsi in 1715. He remained in that position for twenty years, and was a wise instructor of monks, teaching them obedience, humility, and the art of the Jesus Prayer.
The fame of this great spiritual Father began to spread, so that even Prince Constantine Mavrocordat heard of him. St Basil’s community became known as a spiritual school of hesychasm, based on the wisdom of the Holy Fathers. When the number of his disciples increased until there was no longer room for all of them at Dalhautsi, they settled in other Sketes in the area. In this way, his influence and teaching spread to other places, inspiring a spiritual renewal of Romanian monastic life in the eighteenth century.
St Basil renovated the Poiana Manului (Apple Orchard) Skete near the city of Romni-Sarat between 1730-1733, then moved there with twelve disciples. In addition to his duties as Igumen of Poiana Marului, St Basil was the spiritual guide of all the Sketes in the Buzau Mountains. One of his most famous disciples was St Paisius Velichkovsky, whom he tonsured on Mount Athos in 1750.
The holy Elder Basil also wrote introductions to the writings of Sts Gregory of Sinai, Nilus of Sora, and others who wrote about the spiritual life, guarding the mind, and on the Jesus Prayer. He taught that the Holy Scriptures are a “saving medicine” for the soul, and recommended reading the Holy Fathers in order to obtain a correct understanding of Scripture, and to avoid being led astray through misunderstanding. St Basil also warned against any inclination to excuse ourselves and our sins, for this hinders true repentance.
St Basil fell asleep in the Lord on April 15, 1767, leaving behind many disciples. His influence has been felt in other Orthodox countries beyond the borders of Romania.