Basil: letters, hexaemeron - II. WORKS
6. It may however be thought that the account here given of the hypostasis does not tally with the sense of the Apostle’s words, where he says concerning the Lord that He is “the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person,”21 for if we have taught hypostasis to be the conflux of the several properties; and if it is confessed that, as in the case of the Father something is contemplated as proper and peculiar, whereby He alone is known, so in the same way is it believed about the Only-begotten; how then does Scripture in this place ascribe the name of the hypostasis to the Father alone, and describes the Son as form of the hypostasis, and designated not by His own proper notes, but by those of the Father? For if the hypostasis is the sign of several existence, and the property of the Father is confined to the unbegotten being, and the Son is fashioned according to His Father’s properties, then the term unbegotten can no longer be predicated exclusively of the Father, the existence of the Only-begotten being denoted by the distinctive note of the Father.
7. My opinion is, however, that in this passage the Apostle’s argument is directed to a different end; and it is looking to this that he uses the terms “brightness of glory,” and “express image of person.” Whoever keeps this carefully in view will find nothing that clashes with what I have said, but that the argument is conducted in a special and peculiar sense. For the object of the apostolic argument is not the distinction of the hypostases from one another by means of the apparent notes; it is rather the apprehension of the natural, inseparable, and close relationship of the Son to the Father. He does not say “Who being the glory of the Father” (although in truth He is); he omits this as admitted, and then in the endeavour to teach that we must not think of one form of glory in the case of the Father and of another in that of the Son, He defines the glory of the Only-begotten as the brightness of the glory of the Father, and, by the use of the example of the light, causes the Son to be thought of in indissoluble association with the Father. For just as the brightness is emitted by the flame, and the brightness is not after the flame, but at one and the same moment the flame shines and the light beams brightly, so does the Apostle mean the Son to be thought of as deriving existence from the Father, and yet the Only-begotten not to be divided from the existence of the Father by any intervening extension in space, but the caused to be always conceived of together with the cause. Precisely in the same manner, as though by way of interpretation of the meaning of the preceding cause, and with the object of guiding us to the conception of the invisible by means of material examples, he speaks also of “express image of person.” For as the body is wholly in form, and yet tile definition of the body and the definition of the form are distinct, and no one wishing to give the definition of the one would be found in agreement with that of the other; and yet, even if in theory you separate the form from the body, nature does not admit of the distinction, and both are inseparably apprehended; just so the Apostle thinks that even if the doctrine of the faith represents the difference of the hypostases as unconfounded and distinct, he is bound by his language to set forth also the continuous and as it were concrete relation of the Only-begotten to the Father. And this he states, not as though the Only-begotten had not also a hypostatic being, but in that the union does not admit of anything intervening between the Son and the Father, with the result that he, who with his soul’s eyes fixes his gaze earnestly on the express image of the Only-begotten, is made perceptive also of the hypostasis of the Father. Yet the proper quality contemplated in them is not subject to change, nor yet to commixture, in such wise as that we should attribute either an origin of generation to the Father or an origin without generation to the Son, but so that if we could compass the impossibility of detaching one from the other, that one might be apprehended severally and alone, for, since the mere name implies the Father, it is not possible that any one should even name the Son without apprehending the Father.22
8. Since then, as says the Lord in the Gospels,23 he that hath seen the Son sees tim Father also; on this account he says that the Only-begotten is the express image of His Father’s person. That this may be made still plainer I will quote also other passages of the apostle in which he calls the Son “the image of the invisible God,”24 and again “image of His goodness;”25 not because the image differs from the Archetype according to the definition of indivisibility and goodness, but that it may be shewn that it is the same as the prototype, even though it be different. For the idea of the image would be lost were it not to preserve throughout the plain and invariable likeness. He therefore that has perception of the beauty of the image is made perceptive of the Archetype. So he, who has, as it were mental apprehension of the form of the Son, prints the express image of the Father’s hypostasis, beholding the latter in tile former, not beholding in the reflection tile unbegotten being of the Father (for thus there would be complete identity and no distinction), but gazing at tile unbegotten beauty in the Begotten. Just as he who in a polished mirror beholds the reflection of the form as plain knowledge of the represented face, so he, who has knowledge of the Son, through his knowledge of the Son receives in his heart the express image of the Father’s Person. For all things that are the Father’s are beheld in the Son, and all things that are the Son’s are the Father’s; because the whole Son is in the Father and has all the Father in Himself.26 Thus the hypostasis of the Son becomes as it were form and face of the knowledge of the Father, and the hypostasis of the Father is known in the form of the Son, while the proper quality which is contemplated therein remains for the plain distinction of the hypostases.
Julian2 to Basil.
The proverb says “You are not proclaiming war,”3 and, let me adds out of the comedy, “O messenger of golden words.”4 Come then; prove this in act, and hasten to me. You will come as friend to friend. Conspicuous and unremitting devotion to business seems, to those that treat it as of secondary importance, a heavy burden; yet the diligent are modest, as I persuade myself, sensible, and ready for any emergency. I allow myself relaxations so that even rest may be permitted to one who neglects nothing. Our mode of life is not marked by the court hypocrisy, of which I think you have had some experience, and in accordance with which compliments mean deadlier hatred than is felt to our worst foes; but, with becoming freedom, while we blame and rebuke where blame is due, we love with the love of the dearest friends. I may therefore, let me say, with all sincerity, both be diligent in relaxation and, when at work, not get worn out, and sleep secure; since when awake I do not wake more for myself, than, as is fit, for every one else. I am afraid this is rather silly and trifling, as I feel rather lazy, (I praise myself like Astydamas5 ) but I am writing to prove to you that to have the pleasure of seeing you, wise man as you are, will be more likely to do me good than to cause any difficulty. Therefore, as I have said, lose no time: travel post haste. After you have paid me as long a visit as you likes you shall go on your journey, whithersoever you will, with my best wishes.
Julian to Basil.
While showing up to the present time the gentleness and benevolence which have been natural to me from my boyhood, I have reduced all who dwell beneath the sun to obedience. For lo! every tribe of barbarians to the shores of ocean has come to lay its gifts before my feet. So too the Sagadares who dwell beyond the Danube, wondrous with their bright tattooing, and hardly like human beings, so wild and strange are they, now grovel at my feet, and pledge themselves to obey all the behests my sovereignty imposes on them. I have a further object. I must as soon as possible march to Persia and rout and make a tributary of that Sapor, descendant of Darius. I mean too to devastate the country of the Indians and the Saracens until they all acknowledge my superiority and become my tributaries. You, however, profess a wisdom above and beyond these things; you call yourself clad with piety, but your clothing is really impudence and everywhere you slander me as one unworthy of the imperial dignity. Do you not know that I am the grandson of the illustrious Constantius?2 I know this of you, and yet I do not change the old feelings which I had to you, and you to me in the days when we were both young.3 But of my merciful will I command that a thousand pounds of gold be sent me from you, when I pass by Caesarea; for I am still on the march, and with all possible dispatch am hurrying to the Persian campaign.. If you refuse I am prepared to destroy Caesarea, to overthrow the buildings that have long adorned it; to erect in their place temples and statues; and so to induce all men to submit to the Emperor of the Romans and not exalt themselves. Wherefore I charge you to send me without fail by the hands of some trusty messenger the stipulated gold, after duly counting and weighing it, and sealing it with your ring. In this way I may show mercy to you for your errors, if you acknowledge, however late, that no excuses will avail. I have learned to know, and to condemn, what once I read.4
Basil to Julian.
1). The heroic deeds of your present splendour are small, and your grand attack against me, or rather against yourself, is paltry. When I think of you robed in purple, a crown on your dishonoured head, which, so long as true religion is absents, rather disgraces than graces your empire, I tremble. And you yourself who have risen to be so high and great, now that vile and honour-hating demons have brought you to this pass, have begun not only to exalt yourself above all human nature, but even to uplift yourself against God, and insult His Church, mother and nurse of all, by sending to me, most insignificant of men, orders to forward you a thousand pounds of gold. I am not so much astonished at the weight of the gold, although it is very serious; but it has made me shed bitter tears over your so rapid ruin. I bethink me how you and I have learned together the lessons of the best and holiest books. Each of us went through the sacred and God-inspired Scriptures. Then nothing was hid from you. Nowadays you have become lost to proper feeling, beleaguered as you are with pride. Your serene Highness did not find out for the first time yesterday that I do not live in the midst of superabundant wealth. To-day you have demanded a thousand pounds of gold of me. I hope your serenity will deign to spare me. My property amounts to so much, that I really shall not have enough to eat as much as I shall like to-day. Under my roof the art of cookery is dead. My servants’ knife never touches blood. The most important viands, in which lies our abundance, are leaves of herbs with very coarse bread and sour wine, so that our senses are not dulled by gluttony, and do not indulge in excess.
2. Your excellent tribune Lausus, trusty minister of your orders, has also reported to me that a certain woman came as a suppliant to your serenity on the occasion of the death of her son by poison; that it has been judged by you that poisoners are not allowed to exist;2 if any there be, that they are to be destroyed, or, only those are reserved, who are to fight with beasts. And, this rightly decided by you, seems strange to me, for your efforts to cure the pain of great wounds by petty remedies are to the last degree ridiculous. After insulting God, it is useless for you to give heed to widows and orphans. The former is mad and dangerous; the latter the part of a merciful and kindly man. It is a serious thing for a private individual like myself to speak to an emperor; it will be more serious for you to speak to God. No one will appear to mediate between God and man. What you read yon did not understand. If you had understood, you would not have condemned.3
To Chilo, his disciple.
1. IF, my true brother, you gladly suffer yourself to be advised by me as to what course of action you should pursue, specially in the points in which you have referred to me for advice, you will owe me your salvation. Many men have had the courage to enter upon the solitary life; but to live it out to the end is a task which perhaps has been achieved by few. The end is not necessarily involved in the intention; yet in the end is the guerdon of the toil. No advantage, therefore, accrues to men who fail to press on to the end of what they have in view and only adopt the solitary’s life in its inception. Nay, they make their profession ridiculous, and are charged by outsiders with unmanliness and instability of purpose. Of these, moreover, the Lord says, who wishing to build a house “sitteth not down first and counteth the cost whether he have sufficient to finish it? lest haply after he hath laid the foundation and is not able to finish it,” the passers-by “begin to mock him saying,” this man laid a foundation “and was not able to finish.”2 Let the start, then, mean that you heartily advance in virtue. The right noble athlete Paul, wishing us not to rest in easy security on so much of our life as may have been lived well in the past, but, every day to attain further progress, says “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling.”3 So truly stands the whole of human life, not contented with what has gone before and fed not so much on the past as on the future. For how is a man the better for having his belly filled yesterday, if his natural hunger fails to find its proper satisfaction in food to-day? In the same way the soul gains nothing by yesterday’s virtue unless it be followed by the right conduct of to-day. For it is said “I shall judge thee as I shall find thee.”
2. Vain then is the labour of the righteous man, and free from blame is the way of the sinner, if a change befall, and the former turn from the better to the worse, and the latter from the worse to the better. So we hear from Ezekiel teaching as it were in the name of the Lord, when he says, “if the righteous turneth away and committeth iniquity, I will not remember the righteousness which he committed before; in his sin he shall die,”4 and so too about the sinner; if he turn away from his wickedness, and do that which is right, he shall live. Where were all the labours of God’s servant Moses, when the gainsaying of one moment shut him out from entering into the promised land? What became of the companionship of Gehazi with Elissaeus, when he brought leprosy on himself by his covetousness? What availed all Solomon’s vast wisdom, and his previous regard for God, when afterwards from his mad love of women he fell into idolatry? Not even the blessed David was blameless, when his thoughts went astray and he sinned against the wife of Uriah. One example were surely enough for keeping safe one who is living a godly life, the fall from the better to the worse of Judas, who, after being so long Christ’s disciple, for a mean gain sold his Master and got a halter for himself. Learn then, brother, that it is not he who begins well who is perfect. It is he who ends well who is approved in God’s sight. Give then no sleep to your eyes or slumber to your eyelids5 that you may be delivered “as a roe from the net and a bird from the snare.”6 For, behold, you are passing through the midst of snares; you are treading on the top of a high wall whence a fall is perilous to the fuller; wherefore do not straightway attempt extreme discipline; above all things beware of confidence in yourself, lest you fall from a height of discipline through want of training. It is better to advance a little at a time. Withdraw then by degrees from the pleasures of life, gradually destroying all your wonted habits, lest you bring on yourself a crowd of temptations by irritating all your passions at once. When you have mastered one passion, then begin to wage war against another, and in this manner you will in good time get the better of all. Indulgence, so far as the name goes, is one, but its practical workings are diverse. First then, brother, meet every temptation with patient endurance. And by what various temptations the faithful man is proved; by worldly loss, by accusations, by lies, by opposition, by calumny, by persecution! These and the like are the tests of the faithful. Further, be quiet, not rash in speech, not quarrelsome, not disputatious, not covetous of vain glory, not more anxious to get than to give knowledge,7 not a man of many words, but always more ready to learn than to teach. Do not trouble yourself about worldly life; from it no good can come to you. It is said, “That my mouth speak not the works of men.”8 The man who is fond of talking about sinners’ doings, soon rouses the desire for self indulgence; much better busy yourself about the lives of good men for so you will get some profit for yourself. Do not be anxious to go travelling about9 from village to village anti house to house; rather avoid them as traps for souls. If any one, for true pity’s sake, invite you with many pleas to enter his house, let him be told to follow the faith of the centurion, who, when Jesus was hastening to him to perform an act of healing, besought him not to do so in the words, “Lord I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof, but speak the word only and my servant shall be healed,”10 and when Jesus had said to him “Go thy way; as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee,”11 his servant was healed from that hour. Learn then, brother, that it was the faith of the suppliant, not the presence of Christ, which delivered the sick man. So too now, if you pray, in whatever place you be, and the sick man believes that he will be aided by your prayers, all will fall out as he desires.
3. You will not love your kinsfolk more than the Lord. “He that loveth,” He says, “father, or mother, or brother, more than me, is not worthy of me.”12 What is the meaning of the Lord’s commandment? “He that taketh not up his cross and followeth after me, cannot be my disciple?”13 If, together with Christ, you died to your kinsfolk according to the flesh, why do you wish to live with them again? If for your kinsfolk’s sake you are building up again what you destroyed for Christ’s sake, you make yourself a transgressor. Do not then for your kinsfolk’s sake abandon your place: if you abandon your place, perhaps you will abandon your mode of life. Love not the crowd, nor the country, nor the town; love the desert, ever abiding by yourself with no wandering mind,14 regarding prayer anti praise as your life’s work. Never neglect reading, especially of the New Testament, because very frequently mischief comes of reading the Old; not because what is written is harmful, but because the minds of the injured are weak. All bread is nutritious, but it may be injurious to the sick. Just so all Scripture is God inspired and profitable,15 and there is nothing in it unclean: only to him who thinks it is unclean, to him it is unclean. “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.”16 “All things are lawful but all things are not expedient.”17 Among all, with whom you come in contact, be in all things a giver of no offence,18 cheerful, “loving as a brother,”19 pleasant, humble-minded, never missing the mark of hospitality through extravagance of meats, but always content with what is at hand. Take no more from any one than the daily necessaries of the solitary life. Above all things shun gold as the soul’s foe, the father of sin and the agent of the devil. Do not expose yourself to the charge of covetousness on the pretence of ministering to the poor; but, if any one brings you money for the poor and you know of any who are in need, advise the owner himself to convey it to his needy brothers, lest haply your conscience may be defiled by the acceptance of money.
4. Shun pleasures; seek after continence; train your body to hard work; accustom your soul to trials. Regarding the dissolution of soul and body as release from every evil, await that enjoyment of everlasting good things in which all the saints have part. Ever, as it were, holding the balance against every suggestion of the devil throw in a holy thought, and, as the scale inclines do thou go with it. Above all when the evil thought starts up and says, “What is the good of your passing your life in this place? What do you gain by withdrawing yourself from the society of men? Do you not know that those, who are ordained by God to be bishops of God’s churches, constantly associate with their fellows, and indefatigably attend spiritual gatherings at which those who are present derive very great advantage? There are to be enjoyed explanations of hard sayings, expositions of the teachings of the apostles, interpretations of the thoughts of the gospels. lessons in theology and the intercourse of spiritual brethren, who do great good to all they meet if only by the sight of their faces. You, however, who have decided to be a stranger to all these good things, are sitting here in a wild state like the beasts. You see round you a wide desert with scarcely a fellow creature in it, lack of all instruction, estrangement from your brothers, and your spirit inactive in carrying out the commandments of God.” Now, when the evil thought rises against you, with all these ingenious pretexts and wishes to destroy you, oppose to it in pious reflection Your own practical experience, and say, u tell me that the things in the world are good; the reason why I came here is because I judged myself unfit for the good things of the world. With the world’s good things are mingled evil things, and the evil things distinctly have the upper hand. Once when I attended the spiritual assemblies I did with difficulty find one brother, who, so far as I could see, feared God, but he was a victim of the devil, and I heard from him amusing stories and tales made up to deceive those whom he met. After him I fell in with many thieves, plunderers, tyrants. I saw disgraceful drunkards; I saw the blood of the oppressed; I saw women’s beauty, which tortured my chastity. From actual fornication I fled, but I defiled my virginity by the thoughts of my heart. I heard many discourses which were good for the soul, but I could not discover in the case of any one of the teachers that his life was worthy of his words. After this, again, I heard a great number of plays, which were made attractive by wanton songs. Then I heard a lyre sweetly played, the applause of tumblers, the talk of clowns, all kinds of jests and follies and all the noises of a crowd. I saw the tears of the robbed, the agony of the victims of tyranny, the shrieks of the tortured. I looked and lo, there was no spiritual assembly, but only a sea, wind-tossed and agitated, and trying to drown every one at once under its waves.20 Tell me, O evil thought, tell me, daemon of short lived pleasure and vain glory, what is the good of my seeing and hearing all these things, when I am powerless to succour any of those who are thus wronged; when I am allowed neither to defend the helpless nor correct the fallen; when I am perhaps doomed to destroy myself too. For just as a very little fresh water is blown away by a storm of wind and dust, in like manner the good deeds, that we think we do in this life, are overwhelmed by the multitude of evils. Pieces acted for men in this life are driven through joy and merriment, like stakes into their hearts, so that the brightness of their worship is be-dimmed. But the wails and lamentations of men wronged by their fellows are introduced to make a show of the patience of the poor.
5. What good then do I get except the loss of my soul? For this reason I migrate to the hills like a bird. “I am escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers.”21 I am living, O evil thought, in the desert in which the Lord lived. Here is the oak of Mature; here is the ladder going up to heaven, and the stronghold of the angels which Jacob saw; here is the wilderness in which the people purified received the law, and so came into the land of promise and saw God. Here is Mount Carmel where Elias sojourned and pleased God. Here is the plain whither Esdras withdrew, and at God’s bidding uttered all the God inspired books.22 Here is the wilderness in which the blessed Jn ate locusts and preached repentance to men. Here is the Mount of Olives, whither Christ came and prayed, and taught us to pray. Here is Christ the lover of the wilderness, for He says “Where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them.”23 “Here is the strait and narrow way which leadeth unto life.”24 Here are the teachers and prophets “wandering in deserts and in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth.”25 Here are apostles and evangelists and solitaries’ life remote from cities. This I have embraced with all my heart, that I may win what has been promised to Christ’s martyrs and all His other saints, and so I may truly say, “Because of the words of thy lips I have kept hard ways.”26 I have heard of Abraham, God’s friend, who obeyed the divine voice and went into the wilderness; of Isaac who submitted to authority; of Jacob, the patriarch, who left his home; of Joseph, the chaste, who was sold; of the three children. who learnt how to fast, and fought with the fire; of Daniel thrown twice into the lion’s den;27 of Jeremiah speaking boldly, and thrown into a pit of mud; of Isaiah, who saw unspeakable things, cut asunder with a saw; of Israel led away captive; of Jn the rebuker of adultery, beheaded; of Christ’s martyrs slain. But why say more? Here our Saviour Himself was crucified for our sakes that by His death He might give us life, and train and attract us all to endurance. To Him I press on, and to the Father and to the Holy Ghost. I strive to be found true, judging myself unworthy of this world’s goods. And yet not I because of the world, but the world because of me. Think of all these things in your heart; follow them with zeal; fight, as you have been commanded, for the truth to the death. For Christ was made “obedient” even “unto death.”28 The Apostle says, “Take heed lest there be in any of you an evil heart ... in departing from the living God. But exhort one another ... (and edify one another29 ) while it is called to-day.”30 To-day means the whole time of our life, Thus living, brother, you will save yourself, you will make me glad, and you will glorify God from everlasting to everlasting. Amen.
Admonition to the Young.
O Faithful man of solitary life, and practiser of true religion, learn the lessons of the evangelic conversation, of mastery over the body, of a meek spirit, of purity of mind, of destruction of pride. Pressed into the service,2 add to your gifts, for the Lord’s sake; robbed, never go to law; hated, love; persecuted, endure; slandered, entreat. Be dead to sin; be crucified to God. Cast all your care upon the Lord, that you may be found where are tens of thousands of angels, assemblies of the first-born, the thrones of prophets, sceptres of patriarchs, crowns of martyrs, praises of righteous men. Earnestly desire to be numbered with those righteous men in Christ Jesus our Lord. To Him be glory for ever. Amen.
To a lapsed Monk.2
1. I DO not wish you joy, for there is no joy for the wicked. Even now I cannot believe it; my heart cannot conceive iniquity so great as the crime which you have committed: if, that is, the truth really is what is generally understood. I am at a loss to think how wisdom so deep can have been made to disappear; how such exact discipline can have been undone; whence blindness so profound can have been shed round you; how with utter inconsiderateness you have wrought such destruction of souls. If this be true, you have given over your own soul to the pit, and have slackened the earnestness of all who have heard of your impiety. You have set at nought the faith; you have missed the glorious fight. I grieve over you. What cleric3 does not lament as he hears? What ecclesiastic does not beat the breast? What layman is not downcast? What ascetic is not sad? Haply, even the sun has grown dark at your fall, and the powers of heaven have been shaken at your destruction. Even senseless stones have shed tears at your madness; even your enemies have wept at the greatness of your iniquity. Oh hardness of heart! Oh cruelty! You did not fear God; you did not reverence men; you cared nothing for your friends you made shipwreck of all at once; at once you were stripped of all. Once more I grieve over you, unhappy man. You were proclaiming to all the power of the kingdom, and you fell from it. You were making all stand in fear of your teaching, and there was no fear of God before your eyes. You were preaching purity, and you are found polluted. You were priding yourself on your poverty, and you are convicted of covetousness; you were demonstrating and explaining the chastisement of God, and you yourself brought! chastisement on your own head. How am I to lament you, flow grieve for you? How is Lucifer that was rising in the morning fallen and dashed on the ground? Both the ears of every hearer will tingle. How is the Nazarite, brighter than gold, become dark above pitch? How has the glorious son of Sion become an unprofitable vessel! Of him, whose memory of the sacred Scriptures was in all men’s mouths, the memory to-day has perished with the sound. The man of quick intelligence has quickly perished. The man of manifold wit has wrought manifold iniquity. All who profiled by your teaching have been injured by your fall. All who came to listen to your conversation have stopped their ears at your fall. I, sorrowful and downcast, weakened in every way, eating ashes for breast and with sackcloth on my wound, am thus recounting your praises; or rather, with none to comfort and none to cure, am making an inscription for a tomb. For comfort is hid from my eyes. I have no salve, no oil, no bandage to put on. My wound is sore, how shall I be healed?
2. If you have any hope of salvation; if you have the least thought of God, or any desire for good things to come; if you have any fear of the chastisements reserved for the impenitent, awake without delay, lift up your eyes to heaven, come to your senses, cease from your wickedness, shake off the stupor that enwraps you, make a stand against the foe who has struck you down. Make an effort to rise from the ground. Remember the good Shepherd who will follow and rescue you. Though it be but two legslobe of an ear,4 spring back from the beast that has wounded you. Remember the mercies of God and how He cures with oil and wine. Do not despair of salvation. Recall your recollection of how it is written in the Scriptures that he who is filling rises and he who turns away returns;5 the wounded is healed, the prey of beasts escapes; he who owns his sin is not rejected. The Lord willeth not the death of a sinner but rather that he should turn and live.6 Do not despise, like the wicked in the pit of evil.7 There is a time of endurance, a time of long suffering, a time of healing, a time of correction. Have you stumbled? Arise. Have you sinned? Cease. Do not stand in the way of sinners,8 but spring away. When you are converted and groan you shall be saved. Out of labour comes health, out of sweat salvation. Beware lest, from your wish to keep certain obligations, you break the obligations to God which you professed before many witnesses.9 Pray do not hesitate to come to me for any earthly considerations. When I have recovered my dead I shall lament, I shall tend him, I will weep “because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people.”10 All are ready to welcome you, all will share your efforts. Do not sink back. Remember the days of old. There is salvation; there is amendment. Be of good cheer; do not despair. It is not a law condemning to death without pity, but mercy remitting punishment and awaiting improvement. The doors are not yet shut; the bridegroom hears; sin is not the master. Make another effort, do not hesitate, havepity on yourself and on all of us in Jesus Christ our Lord, to Whom be glory and might now and for ever and ever. Amen.
To a lapsed Monk.
1. I AM doubly alarmed to the very bottom of my heart, and you are the cause. I am either the victim of some unkindly prepossession, and so am driven to make an unbrotherly charge; or, with every wish to feel for you, and to deal gently with your troubles, I am forced to take a different and an unfriendly attitude. Wherefore, even as I take my pen to write, I have nerved my unwilling hand by reflection; but my face, downcast as it is, because of my sorrow over you, I have had no power to change. I am so covered with shame, for your sake, that my lips are turned to mourning and my mouth straightway falls. Ah me! What am I to write? What shall I think in my perplexity?
If I call to mind your former empty mode of life, when you were rolling in riches and had abundance of petty mundane reputation, I shudder; then you were followed by a mob of flatterers, and had the short enjoyment of luxury, with obvious peril and unfair gain on the one hand, fear of the magistrates scattered your care for your salvation, on the other the agitations of public affairs disturbed your home, and the continuance of troubles directed your mind to Him Who is able to help yon. Then, little by little, you took to seeking for the Saviour, Who brings you fears for your good, Who delivers you and protects you, though you mocked Him in your security. Then you began to train yourself for a change to a worthy life, treating all your perilous property as mere dung, and abandoning the care of your household and the society of your wife. All abroad like a stranger and a vagabond, wandering through town and country, you betook yourself to Jerusalem.2 There I myself lived with you, and, for the toil of your ascetic discipline, called you blessed, when fasting for weeks you continued in contemplation before God, shunning the society of your fellows, like a routed runaway. Then you arranged for yourself a quiet and solitary life, and refused all the disquiets of society. You pricked your body with rough sackcloth; you tightened a hard belt round your loins; you bravely put wearing pressure on your bones; you made your sides hang loose from front to back, and all hollow with fasting; you would wear no soft bandage, and drawing in your stomach, like a gourd, made it adhere to the parts about your kidneys. You emptied out all fat from your flesh; all the channels below your belly you dried up; your belly itself you folded up for want of food; your ribs, like the caves of a house, you made to overshadow all the parts about your middle, and, with all your body contracted, you spent the long hours of the night in pouring out confession to God, and made your beard wet with channels of tears. Why particularize? Remember how many mouths of saints you saluted with a kiss, how many bodies you embraced, how many held hands as undefiled, how many servants God, as though in worship, ran and clasped you by the knees.
2. And what is the end of all this? My ears are wounded by a charge of adultery, flying swifter than an arrow, and piercing my heart with a sharper sting. What crafty wiliness of wizard has driven you into so deadly a trap? What many-meshed devil’s nets have entangled you and disabled all the powers of your virtue? What has become of the story of your labours? Or must we disbelieve them? How can we avoid giving credit to what has long been hid when we see what is plain? What shall we say of your having by tremendous oaths bound souls which fled for refuge to God, when what is there than yea and nay is carefully attributed to the devil?3 You have made yourself security for fatal perjury; and, by setting the ascetic character at nought, you have cast blame even upon the Apostles and the very Lord Himself. You have shamed the boast of purity. You have disgraced the promise of chastity; we have been made a tragedy of captives, and our story is made a play of be-Jews and Greeks. You have made a in the solitaries’ spirit, driving those of exacter discipline into fear and cowardice, while they still wonder at the power of the devil, and seducing the careless into imitation of your incontinence. So far as you have been able, you have destroyed the boast of Christ, Who said, “Be of good cheer I have overcome the world,”4 and its Prince. You have mixed for your country a bowl of ill repute. Verily you have proved the truth of the proverb, “Like a hart stricken through the liver.”5
But what now? The tower of strength has not fallen, my brother. The remedies of correction are not mocked; the city of refuge is not shut. Do not abide in the depths of evil. Do not deliver yourself to the slayer of souls. The Lord knows how to set up them that are dashed down. Do not try to flee afar off, but hasten to me. Resume once more the labours of your youth, and by a fresh course of good deeds destroy the indulgence that creeps foully along the ground. Look to the end, that has come so near to our life. See how now the sons of Jews and Greeks are being driven to the worship of God, and do not altogether deny the Saviour of the World. Never let that most awful sentence apply to you, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”6
Basil: letters, hexaemeron - II. WORKS