Basil: letters, hexaemeron - II. WORKS
TO Barses the bishop, truly God-beloved and worthy of all reverence and honour, Basil sends greeting in the Lord. As my dear brother Domninus3 is setting out to you, I gladly seize the opportunity of writing, and I greet you by him, praying the holy God that we may be so long preserved in this life as to be permitted to see you, and to enjoy the good gifts which you possess. Only pray, I beseech you, that the Lord may not deliver us for aye to the enemies of the Cross of Christ, but that He will keep His Churches, until the time of that peace which the just Judge Himself knows when He will bestow. For He will bestow it. He will not always abandon us. As He limited seventy years4 for the period of captivity for the Israelites in punishment for their sins, so peradventure the Mighty One, after giving us up for some appointed time, will recall us once again, and will restore us to the peace of the beginning—unless indeed the apostasy is now nigh at hand, and the events that have lately happened are the beginnings of the approach of Antichrist. If this be so, pray that the good Lord will either take away our afflictions, or preserve us through our afflictions unvanquished. Through yon I greet all those who have been thought worthy to be associated with you. All who are with me salute your reverence. May you, by the grace of the Holy One, be preserved to the Church of God in good health, trusting in the Lord, and praying for me.
To Eulogius, Alexander, and Harpocration, bishops of Egypt, in exile.
1. In all things we find that the providence exercised by our good God over His Churches is mighty, and that thus the very things which seem to be gloomy, and do not turn out as we should like, are ordained for the advantage of most, in the hidden wisdom of God, and in the unsearchable judgments of His righteousness. Now the Lord has removed you from the regions of Egypt, and has brought yon and established you in the midst of Palestine, after the manner of Israel of old, whom He carried away by captivity into the land of the Assyrians, and there extinguished idolatry through the sojourn of His saints. Now too we find the same thing, when we observe that the Lord is making known your struggle for the sake of true religion, opening to you through your exile the arena of your blessed contests, and to all who see before them your noble constancy, giving the boon of your good example to lead them to salvation. By God’s grace, I have heard of the correctness of your faith, and of your zeal for the brethren and that it is in no careless or perfunctory spirit that you provide what is profitable and necessary for salvation, and that you support all that conduces to the edification of the Churches. I have therefore thought it right that I should be brought into communion with your goodness, and be united to your reverences by letter. For these reasons I have sent my very dear brother the deacon Elpidius, who not only conveys my letter, bat is moreover fully qualified to announce to you whatever may have been omitted in my letter.
2. I have been specially moved to desire union with you by the report of the zeal of your reverences in the cause of orthodoxy. The constancy of your hearts has been stirred neither by multiplicity of books nor by variety of ingenious arguments. You have on the contrary, recognised those who endeavoured to introduce innovations in opposition to the apostolic doctrines, and you have refused to keep silence concerning the mischief which they are causing. I have in truth found great distress among all who cleave to the peace of the Lord at the divers innovations of Apollinarius of Laodicea. He has all the more distressed me from the fact that he seemed at the beginning on our side. A sufferer can in a certain sense endure what comes to him from an open enemy, even though it be exceedingly painful, as it is written, “For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could bare borne it.”2 But it is intolerable, and beyond the power of comfort, to be wronged by a close and sympathetic friend. Now that very man whom I have expected to have at my right hand in defence of the truth, I have found in many ways hindering those who are being saved, by seducing their minds and drawing them away from direct doctrine. What rash and hasty deed has he not done? What ill considered and dangerous argument has he not risked? Is not all the Church divided against herself, specially since the day when men have been sent by him to the Churches governed by orthodox bishops, to rend them asunder and to set up some peculiar and illegal service? Is not ridicule brought upon the great mystery of true religion when bishops go about without people and clergy, having nothing but the mere name and title, and effecting nothing for the advancement of the Gospel of peace and salvation? Are not his discourses about God full of impious doctrines, the old impiety of the insane Sabellius being now renewed by him in his writings? For if the works which are current among the Sebastenes are not the forgery of foes, and are really his composition, he has reached a height of impiety which cannot be surpassed, in saying that Father, Son, and Spirit are the same, and other dark pieces of irreverence which I have declined even to hear, praying that I may have nothing to do with those who have uttered them. Does he not confuse the doctrine of the incarnation? Has not the oeconomy of salvation been made doubtful to the many on account of his dark and cloudy speculations about it? To collect them all, and refute them, requires long time and much discussion. But where have the promises of the Gospel been blunted and destroyed as by his figments? So meanly and poorly has he dared to explain the blessed hope laid up for all who live according to the Gospel of Christ, as to reduce it to mere old wives’ fables and doctrines of Jews. He proclaims the renewal of the Temple, the observance of the worship of the Law, a typical high priest over again after the real High Priest, and a sacrifice for sins after the Lamb of God Who taketh away the sin of the world.3 He preaches partial baptisms after the one baptism, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the Church which, through its faith in Christ, has not spot or wrinkle, or any such thing;4 cleansing of leprosy after the painless state of the resurrection; an offering of jealousy5 when they neither marry nor are given in marriage; shew-bread after the Bread from heaven; burning lamps after the true Light. In a word, if the law of the Commandments has been done away with by dogmas, it is plain that under these circumstances the dogmas of Christ will be nullified by the injunctions of the law.6 At these things shame and disgrace have covered my face,7 and heavy grief hath filled my heart. Wherefore, I beseech you, as skilful physicians, and instructed how to discipline antagonists with gentleness, to try and bring him back to the right order of the Church, and to persuade him to despise the wordiness of his own works; for he has proved the truth of the proverb “in the multitude of words there wanteth not sin”8 Put boldly before him the doctrines of orthodoxy, in order that his amendment may be published abroad, and his repentance made known to his brethren.
3. It is also desirable that I should remind your reverence about the followers of Marcellus, in order that you may decide nothing in their case rashly or inconsiderately. On account of his impious doctrines he has gone out from the Church.9 It is therefore necessary that his followers should only be received into communion on condition that they anathematize that heresy, in order that those who are united to me through you may he accepted by all the brethren. And now most men are moved to no small grief on hearing that you have both received them and admitted them to ecclesiastical communion on their coming to your excellency. Nevertheless you ought to have known that by God’s grace you do not stand alone in the East, but have many in communion with you, who vindicate the orthodoxy of the Fathers, and who put forth the pious doctrine of the Faith at Nicaea. The Westerns also all agree with you and with me, whose exposition of the Faith I have received and keep with me, assenting to their sound doctrine. You ought, then, to have satisfied all who are in agreement with you, that the action which is being taken may he ratified by the general consent, and that peace may not be broken by the acceptance of some while others are kept apart. Thus you ought to have at the same time seriously and gently taken counsel about matters which are of importance to all the Churches throughout the world. Praise is not due to him who hastily determines any point, but rather to him who rules every detail firmly and unalterably, so that when his judgment is enquired into, even at a later time, it may be the more esteemed. This is the man who is acceptable both to God and man as one who guides his words with discretion.10 Thus I have addressed your reverence in such terms as are possible in a letter. May the Lord grant that one day we may meet, that so, after arranging everything together with you for the government of the Churches, I may with you receive the reward prepared by the righteous Judge for faithful and wise stewards. In the mean time he so good as to let me know with what intention you have received the followers of Marcellus, knowing this, that even if you secure everything, so far as you yourselves are concerned, you ought not to deal with a matter of such importance on your own sole responsibility. It is further necessary that the Westerns, and those who are in communion with them in the East, should concur in the restoration of these men.
To Petrus, bishop of Alexandria.2
1. You have very properly rebuked me, and in a manner becoming a spiritual brother who has been taught genuine love by the Lord, because I am not giving you exact and detailed information of all that is going on here, for it is both your part to be interested in what concerns me, and mine to tell you all that concerns myself. But I must tell yon, right honourable and well-beloved brother, that our continuous afflictions, and this mighty agitation which is now shaking the Churches, result in my talking all that is happening as a matter of coarse. Just as in smithies where men whose ears are deafened get accustomed to the sound, so by the frequency of the strange tidings that reach me I have now grown accustomed to be undisturbed and undismayed at extraordinary events. So the policy which has been for a long time pursued by the Arians to the detriment of the Church, although their achievements have been many and great and noised abroad through all the world, has nevertheless been endurable to me, because of their being the work of open foes and enemies of the word of truth. It is when these men do something unusual that I am astonished, not when they attempt something great and andacious against true religion. But I am grieved and troubled at what is being done by men who feel and think with me. Yet their doings are so frequent and so constantly reported to me, that even they do not appear surprising. So it comes about that I was not agitated at the recent disorderly proceedings, partly because I knew perfectly well that common report would carry them to you without my help, and partly because I preferred to wait for somebody else to give you disagreeable news. And yet, further, I did not think it reasonable that I should show indignation at such proceedings, as though I were annoyed at suffering a slight. To the actual agents in the matter I have written in becoming terms, exhorting them, because of the dissension arising among some of the brethren there, not to fall away from charity, but to wait for the matter to be set right by those who i have authority to remedy disorders in due ecclesiastical form. That you should have so acted, stirred by honourable and becoming motives, calls for my commendation, and moves my gratitude to the Lord that there remains preserved in you a relic of the ancient discipline, and that the Church has not lost her own might in my persecution. The canons have not suffered persecution as well as I. Though importuned again by the Galatians, I was never able to give them an answer, because I waited for your decision. Now, if the Lord so will and they will consent to listen to me, I hope that I shall be able to bring the people to the Church. It cannot then be cast in my teeth that I have gone over to the Marcellians, and they on the contrary will become limbs of the body of the Church of Christ. Thus the disgrace caused by heresy will be made to disappear by the method I adopt, and I shall escape the opprobrium of having gone over to them.
2. I have also been grieved by our brother Dorotheus, because, as he has himself written, he has not gently and mildly reported everything to your excellency. I set this down to the difficulty of the times. I seem to be deprived by my sins of all success in my undertakings, if indeed the best of my brethren are proved ill-disposed and incompetent, by their failure to perform their duties in accordance with my wishes. On his return Dorotheus reported to me the conversation which he had had with your excellency in the presence of the very venerable bishop Damasus, and he caused me distress by saying that our God-beloved brethren and fellow-ministers, Meletius and Eusebius, had been reckoned among the Ariomaniacs.3 If their orthodoxy were established by nothing else, the attacks made upon them by the Arians are, to the minds of all right thinking people, no small proof of their rectitude. Even your participation with them in sufferings endured for Christ’s sake ought to unite your reverence to them in love. Be assured of this, right honourable sir, that there is no word of orthodoxy which has not been proclaimed by these men with all boldness. God is my witness. I have heard them myself. I should not certainly have now admitted them to communion, if I had caught them tripping in the faith. But, if it seem good to you, let us leave the past alone. Let us make a peaceful start for the future. For we have need one of another in the fellowship of the members, and specially now, when the Churches of the East are looking to us, and will take your agreement as a pledge of strength and consolidation. If, on the other hand, they perceive that you are in a state of mutual suspicion, they will drop their hands, and slacken in their resistance to the enemies of the faith.4
To Barses, bishop of Edessa, in exile.
Fen the sake of the affection which I entertain for you, I long to be with you, to embrace you, my dear friend, in person, and to glorify the Lord Who is magnified in you, and has made your honourable old age renowned among all them that fear Him throughout the world. But severe sickness afflicts me, and to a greater degree than I can express in words, I am weighed down by the care of the Churches. I am not my own master, to go whither I will, and to visit whom I will. Therefore I am trying to satisfy the longing I have for the good gifts in you by writing to you, and I beseech your reverence to pray for me and for the Church, that the Lord may grant to me to pass the remaining days or hours of my sojourn here without offence. May He permit me to see the peace of His Churches. Of your fellow-ministers and fellow-athletes may I hear all that I pray for, and of yourself that you are granted such a lot as the people under you seek for by day and by night from the Lord of righteousness. I have not written often, not even so often as I ought, but I have written to your reverence. Possibly the brethren to whom I committed my greetings were not able to preserve them. But now that I have found some of my brethren travelling to your excellency, I have readily entrusted my letter to them, and I have sent some messages which I beg you to receive from my humility without disdain, and to bless me after the manner of the patriarch Isaac.2 I have been much occupied, and have had my mind drowned in a multiplicity of cares. So it may well be that I have omitted something which I ought to have said. If so, do not reckon it against me; and do not be grieved. Act in all things up to your own high character, that I, like every one else, may enjoy the fruit of your virtue. May you be granted to me and to the Church, in good health, rejoicing in the Lord, praying for me.
To Eusebius, in exile.
Even in our time the Lord has taught us, by protecting with His great and powerful hand the life of your holiness, that He does not abandon His holy ones. I reckon your case to be almost like that of the saint remaining unhurt in the belly of the monster of the deep, or that of the men who feared the Lord, living unscathed in the fierce fire. For though the war is round about you on every side, He, as I hear, has kept you unharmed. May the mighty God keep you, if I live longer, to fulfil my earnest prayer that I may see you! If not for me, may He keep you for the rest, who wait for your return as they might for their own salvation. I am persuaded that the Lord in His loving-kindness will give heed to the tears of the Churches, and to the sighs which all are heaving over you, and will preserve you in life until He grant the prayer of all who night and day are praying to Him. Of all the measures taken against you, up to the arrival of our beloved brother Libanius the deacon,2 I have been sufficiently informed by him while on his way. I am anxious to learn what happened afterwards. I hear that in the meanwhile still greater troubles have occurred where you are; about all this, sooner if possible, but, if not, at least by our reverend brother Paul the presbyter, on his return, may I learn, as I pray that I may, that your life is preserved safe and sound. But on account of the report that all the roads are infested with thieves and deserters,3 I have been afraid to entrust anything to the brother’s keeping, for fear of causing his death. If the Lord grant a little quiet, (as I am told of the coming of the army), I will try to send you one of my own men, to visit you, to bring me back news of everything about you.
To the wife of Ariathaeus, the General. Consolatory.
1. IT had been only proper, and due to your affection, that I should have been on the spot, and have taken part in the present occurrences. Thus I might have at once assuaged my own sorrow, and given some consolation to your excellency. But my body will no longer endure long journeys, and so I am driven to approach you by letter, that I seem not to count what has happened as altogether of no interest to me. Who has not mourned for that man? Who is so stony of heart as not to have shed a warm tear over him? I especially have been filled with mourning at the thought of all the marks of respect which I have received from him, and of the general protection which he has extended to the Churches of God. Nevertheless, I have bethought me that he was human, and had done the work he had to do in this life, and now in the appointed time has been taken back again by God Who ordains our lots. All this, I beseech you, in your wisdom, to take to heart, and to meet the event with meekness, and, so far as is possible, to endure your loss with moderation. Time may be able to soothe your heart, and allow the approach of reason. At the same time your great love for your husband, and year goodness to all, lead me to fear that, from the very simplicity of your character, the wound of your grief may pierce yon deeply, and that yon may give yourself up entirely to your feelings. The teaching of Scripture is always useful, and specially at times like this. Remember, then, the sen, the passed by our Creator. By it all we who are dust shall return to dust.2 No one is so great as to be superior to dissolution.
2. Your admirable husband was a good and great man, and his bodily strength rivalled the virtues of his soul. He was unsurpassed, I must own, in both respects. But he was human, and he is dead; like Adam. like Abel, like Noah, like Abraham, like Moses, or any one else of like nature that you can name. Let us not then complain because he has been taken from us. Let us rather thank Him, who joined us to him, that we dwelt with him from the beginning. To lose a husband is a lot which you share with other women; but to have been united to such a husband is a boast which I do not think any other woman can make. In truth our Creator fashioned that man for us as a model of what human nature ought to be. All eyes were attracted towards him, and every tongue told of his deeds. Painters and sculptors fell short of his excellence, and historians, when they tell the story of his achievements in war, seem to fall into the region of the mythical and the incredible. Thus it has come about that most men have not even been able to give credit to the report conveying the sad tidings, or to accept the truth of the news that Arinthaeus is dead. Nevertheless Arinthaeus has suffered what will happen to heaven and to sun and to earth. He has died a bright death; not bowed down by old age; without losing one whir of his honour; great in this life; great in the life to come; deprived of nothing of his present splendour in view of the glory hoped for, because he washed away all the stain of his soul, in the very moment of his departure hence, in the layer of regeneration. That you should have arranged and joined in this rite is cause of supreme consolation. Turn now your thoughts from the present to the future, that you may be worthy through good works to obtain a place of rest like his. Spare an aged mother; spare a tender daughter, to whom you are now the sole comfort. Be an example of fortitude to other women, and so regulate your grief that you may neither eject it from your heart, nor be overwhelmed by your distress. Ever keep your eyes fixed on the great reward of patience, promised, as the requital of the deeds of this life, by our Lord Jesus Christ.3
Without Address. Concerning Raptus.2
I AM distressed to find that you are by no means indignant at the sins forbidden, and that you seem incapable of understanding, how this raptus, which has been committed, is an act of unlawfulness and tyranny against society and human nature, and an outrage on free men. I am sure that if you had all been of one mind in this matter, there would have been nothing to prevent this bad custom from being long ago driven out of your country. Do thou at the present time shew the zeal of a Christian man, and be moved as the wrong deserves. Wherever you find the girl, insist on taking her away, and restore her to her parents, shut out the man from the prayers, and make him excommunicate. His accomplices, according to the canon3 which I have already put forth, cut off, with all their household, from the prayers. The village which received the girl after the abduction, and kept her, or even fought against her restitution, shut out with all its inhabitants from the prayers; to the end that all may know that we regard the ravisher as a common foe, like a snake or any other wild beast, and so hunt him out, and help those whom he has wronged.
To Eusebius,2 my comrade, to recommend Cyriacus the presbyter.
AT once and in haste, after your departure, I came to the town. Why need I tell a man not needing to be told, because he knows by experience, how distressed I was not to find you? How delightful it would have been to me to see once more the excellent Eusebius, to embrace him, to travel once again in memory to our young days, and to be reminded of old times when for both of us there was one home, one hearth, the same schoolmaster, the same leisure, the same work, the same treats, the same hardships, and everything shared in common! What do you think I would not have given to recall all this by actually meeting you, to rid me of the heavy weight of my old age, and to seem to be turned from an old man into a lad again? But I have lost this pleasure. At least of the privilege of meeting your excellency in correspondence, and of consoling myself by the best means at my disposal, I am not deprived. I am so fortunate as to meet the very reverend presbyter Cyriacus. I am ashamed to recommend him to you, and to make him, through me, your own, lest I seem to be performing a superfluous task in offering to you what you already possess and value as your own. But it is my duty to witness to the truth, anti to give the best boons I have to those who are spiritually united to me. I think that the man’s blamelessness in: his sacred position is well known to you; but I confirm it, for I do not know that any charge is brought against him by those who do not fear the Lord and are laying their hands upon all. Even if they had done anything of the kind, the man would not have been unworthy, for the enemies of the Lord rather vindicate the orders of those whom they attack than deprive them of any of the grace given them by the Spirit. However, as I said, nothing has even been thought of against the man. Be so good then as to look upon him as a blameless presbyter, in union with me, and worthy of all reverence. Thus will you benefit yourself and gratify me.
To Sophronius the magister officiorum.2
1. It has been reported to me by Actiacus the deacon, that certain men have moved you to anger against me, by falsely stating me to be ill-disposed towards your excellency. I cannot be astonished at a man in your position being followed by certain sycophants. High position seems to be in some way naturally attended by miserable hangers-on of this kind. Destitute as they are of any good quality of their own whereby they may be known, they endeavour to recommend themselves by means of other people’s ills. Peradventure, just as mildew is a blight which grows in corn, so flattery stealing upon friendship is a blight of friendship. So, as I said, I am by no means astonished that these men should buzz about your bright and distinguished hearth, as drones do about the hives. But what has moved my wonderment, and has seemed altogether astounding, is that a man like yourself, specially distinguished by the seriousness of your character, should have been induced to give both your ears to these people and to accept their calumny against me. From my youth up to this my old age I have felt affection for many men, but I am not aware that I have ever felt greater affection for any one than for your excellency. Even had not my reason induced me to regard a man of such a character, our intimacy from boyhood would have sufficed to attach me to your soul. You know yourself how much custom has to do with friendship. Pardon my deficiency, if I can show nothing worthy of this preference. You will not ask some deed from me in proof of my good will; you will be satisfied with a temper of mind which assuredly prays for you that yon may have all that is best. May your fortunes never fall so low, as that you should need the aid of any one so insignificant as myself!
2. How then was I likely to say anything against you, or to take any action in the matter of Memnonius? These points were reported to me by the deacon. How could I put the wealth of Hymetius before the friendship of one so prodigal of his substance as you are? There is no truth in any of these things. I have neither said nor done anything against you. Possibly some ground may have been given for some of the lies that are being told, by my remarking to some of those who are causing disturbance, “If the man has determined to accomplish what he has in mind, then, whether you make disturbance or not, what he means to be done will certainly be done. You will speak, or hold your tongues; it will make no difference. If he changes his mind, beware how you defame my friend’s honourable name. Do not, under the pretence of zeal in your patron’s cause, attempt to make some personal profit out of your attempts to threaten and alarm.” As to that person’s making his will. I have never said one word, great or small, directly or indirectly, about the matter.
3. You must not refuse to believe what I say, unless you regard me as quite a desperate character, who thinks nothing of the great sin of lying. Put away all suspicion of me in relation to the business, and for the future reckon my affection for you as beyond the reach of all calumny. Imitate Alexander, who received a letter, saying that his physician was plotting his death, at the very moment when he was just about to drink his medicine, and was so far from believing the slanderer that he at one and the same time read the letter and drank the drought.3 I refuse to admit that I am in any way inferior to the men who have been famous for their friendship, for I have never been detected in any breach of mine; and, besides this, I have received from my God. the commandment of love, and owe you love not only as part of mankind in general, but because I recognise you individually as a benefactor both of my country and of myself.
Without address. Concerning Hera.
I AM sure that your excellency loves me well enough to regard all that concerns me as concerning you. Therefore I commend to your great kindness and high consideration my very reverend brother Hera, whom I do not merely call brother by any conventional phrase, but because of his boundless affection. I beseech you to regard him as though he were nearly connected with yourself, and, so far as you can, to give him your protection in the matters in which he requires your generous and thoughtful aid. I shall then have this one more kindness to reckon in addition to the many which I have already received at your hands.
To Himerius, the master.
That my friendship and affection for the very reverend brother Hera began when I was quite a boy, and has, by God’s grace, continued up to my old age, no one knows better than yourself. For the Lord granted me the affection of your excellency at about the same time that He allowed me to become acquainted with Hera. He now needs your patronage, and I therefore beseech and supplicate you to do a favour for the sake of our old affection, and to heed the necessity under which we now lie. I beg you to make his cause your own, that he may need no other protection, but may return to me, successful in all that be is praying for. Then to the many kindnesses which I have received at your hands I shall be able to add yet this one more. I could not claim any favour more important to myself, or one more nearly touching my own interests.
Without address. Concerning Hera.
You have anticipated my entreaties in your affection for my very reverend brother Hera, and you have been better to him than I could have prayed for you to be in the abundant honour which you have shewn him, and the protection which you have extended to him on every occasion. But I cannot allow his affairs to go unnoticed by a word, and I must beseech your excellency that for my sake you will add something to the interest you have shewn in him, and will send him back to his own country victorious over the revilings of his enemies. Now many are trying to insult the peacefulness of his life, and he is not beyond the reach of envy’s shafts. Against his foes we shall find one sure means of safety, if you will consent to extend your protection over him.
To the great Harmatius.
The common law of human nature makes elders fathers to youngsters, and the special peculiar law of us Christians puts us old men in the place of parents to the younger. Do not, then, think that I am impertinent or shew myself indefensibly meddlesome, if I plead with you on behalf of your son. In other respects I think it only right that you should exact obedience from him; for, so far as his body is concerned, he is subject to you, both by the law of nature, and by the civil law under which we live. His soul, however, is derived from a diviner source, and may properly be held to be subject to another authority. The debts which it owes to God have a higher claim than any others. Since, then, he has preferred the God of us Christians, the true God, to your many gods which are worshipped by the help of material symbols, be not angry with him. Rather admire his noble firmness of soul, in sacrificing the fear and respect due to his father to close conjunction with God, through true knowledge and a life of virtue. Nature herself will move you, as well as your invariable gentleness and kindliness of disposition, not to allow yourself to feel angry with him even to a small extent. And I am sure that you will not set my mediation at naught,—or rather, I should say, the mediation of your townsmen of which I am the exponent. They all love you so well, and pray so earnestly for all blessings for you, that they suppose that in you they have welcomed a Christian too. So overjoyed have they been at the report which has suddenly reached the town).
Basil: letters, hexaemeron - II. WORKS