Today the Church remembers a great miracle in Nicaea, when Saint Basil the Great, by his prayers, opened the doors of the Cathedral Church.
During a visit to Nicaea, Emperor Valens, at the request of some prominent Arians, took the Cathedral away from the Orthodox by force and allowed the Arians to occupy it. The Orthodox were grief stricken by this terrible calamity. Later, when Saint Basil happened to arrive in Nicaea, the faithful wept and told him what the Emperor had done. The saint went to Constantinople and criticized Valens for his unjust action. The Emperor was furious, but knew that he had been wrong in giving the Cathedral to the heretics. He said, “Return to Nicaea and judge between the parties, but do not show any favoritism to your side.”
Saint Basil went back to Nicaea with an imperial decree and called the Arians together. He said, “The Emperor has given me authority to decide whether you or the Orthodox should have the church.”
They replied, “Very well, but judge the way that the Emperor would judge if he were here.”
Saint Basil ordered the Arians and the Orthodox to lock the doors of the church, affix their seals, and appoint some men to guard it. Then he told the Arians to go and pray for three days and nights, and then return. If the doors opened because of their prayers, they would be allowed to retain possession of the church. He said, “If the doors do not open for you, then we shall pray for just one night, and then return. If the doors open for us, then we shall own the building again. If they do not open for us, then it will be yours.”
The Arians accepted this proposal, but the Orthodox thought that Saint Basil was giving an unfair advantage to the heretics because he feared the Emperor. However, the church was locked and sealed, and guards were stationed there. After three days and nights, the Arians’ prayers had achieved nothing, so they continued praying until noon of the fourth day. When the doors still failed to open, they hung their heads in shame and went away.
Saint Basil led the Orthodox to the church of Saint Diomedes outside the city, and served an All-Night Vigil. The next morning, the hierarch led a procession back to the Cathedral as the people chanted “Holy God.” Halting before the doors of the church, he ordered them to lift their hands to Heaven and to cry, “Lord, have mercy.” Then they prayed, and Saint Basil made the Sign of the Cross over the doors three times and shouted, “Blessed is the God of the Christians, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.”
Suddenly there was an earthquake which broke the locks, threw the bars on the floor, and split the seals, and then the doors flew open. Saint Basil entered the building with all the Orthodox. After celebrating the divine service, he dismissed the faithful.
Many Arians who came to see what would happen renounced their heresy and became Orthodox. As for Valens, he was amazed when he heard of this great miracle, but he did not convert to Orthodoxy. Later, he was wounded in a battle and he hid in a barn which was filled with straw. His enemies surrounded the barn and set it on fire. The evil tyrant perished in the flames and his soul departed to the everlasting fire.