Basil: letters, hexaemeron - II. WORKS
To the same Amphilochius.
I). Enquiry has already frequently been made concerning the saying of the gospels as to our Lord Jesus Christ’s ignorance of the day and of the hour of the end;2 an objection constantly put forward by the Anomoeans to the destruction of the glory of the Only-Begotten, in order to show Him to be unlike in essence and subordinate in dignity; inasmuch as, if He know not all things, He cannot possess the same nature nor be regarded as of one likeness with Him, who by His own prescience and faculty of forecasting the future has knowledge coextensive with the universe. This question has now been proposed to me by your intelligence as a new one. I can give in reply the answer which I heard from our fathers when I was a boy, anti which on account of my love for what is good, I have received without question. I do not expect that it can undo the shamelessness of them that fight against Christ, for where is the reasoning strong enough to stand their attack? It may, however, suffice to convince all that love the Lord, anti in whom the previous assurance supplied them by faith is stronger than any demonstration of reason.
Now “no man” seems to be a general expression, so that not even one person is excepted by it, but this is not its use in Scripture, as I have observed in the passage “there is none good but one, that is, God.”3 For even in this passage the Son does not so speak to the exclusion of Himself from the good nature. But, since the Father is the first good, we believe the words” no man” to have been uttered with the understood addition of “first.”4 So with the passage “No than knoweth the Son but the Father; “5 even here there is no charge of ignorance against the Spirit, but only a testimony that knowledge of His own nature naturally belongs to the Father first. Thus also we understand “No man knoweth,”6 to refer to the Father the first knowledge of things, both present and to be, and generally to exhibit to men the first cause. Otherwise how can this passage fall in with the rest of the evidence of Scripture, or agree with the common notions of us who believe that the Only-Begotten is the image of the invisible God, and image not of the bodily figure, but of the very Godhead and of the mighty qualities attributed to the essence of God, image of power, image of wisdom, as Christ is called “the power of God and the wisdom of God “?7 Now of wisdom knowledge is plainly a part; and if in any part He falls short, He is not an image of the whole; and how can we understand the Father not to have shewn that day and that hour—the smallest portion of the ages—to Him through Whom He made the ages ? How can the Creator of the universe fall short of the knowledge of the smallest portion of the things created by Him? How can He who says, when the end is near, that such and such signs shall appear in heaven and in earth, be ignorant of the end itself? When He says, “The end is not yet.”8 He makes a definite statement, as though with knowledge and not in doubt. Then further, it is plain to the fair enquirer that our Lord says many things to men, in the character of man; as for instance, “give me to drink”9 is a saying of our Lord, expressive of His bodily necessity; and yet the asker was not soulless flesh. but Godhead using flesh endued with soul.10 So in the present instance no one will be carried beyond the bounds of the interpretation of true religion, who understands the ignorance of him who had received all things according to the oeconomy,11 and was advancing with God and man in favour and wisdom.12
2. It would be worthy of your diligence to set the phrases of the Gospel side by side, and compare together those of Matthew and those of Mark, for these two alone are found in concurrence in this passage. The wording of Matthew is “of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”13 That of Mc runs, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”14 What is noticeable in these passages is this; that Matthew says nothing about the ignorance of the Son, and seems to agree with Mc as to sense in saying “but my Father only.” Now I understand the word “only” have been used in contradistinction to the angels, but that the Son is not included with His own servants in ignorance.
(He could not say what is false Who said “All things that the Father hath are Mine,”15 but one of the things which the Father hath is knowledge of that day and of that hour. In the passage in Matthew, then, the Lord made no mention of His own Person, as a matter beyond controversy, and said that the angels knew not and that His Father alone knew, tacitly asserting the knowledge of His Father to be His own knowledge too, because of what He had said elsewhere. “as the Father knoweth me even so know I the Father,”16 and if the Father has complete knowledge of the Son, nothing excepted, so that He knows all knowledge to dwell in Him, He will clearly be known as fully by the Son with all His inherent wisdom and all His knowledge of things to come. This modification, I think, may be given to the words of Matthew, “but my Father only.” Now as to the words of Mark, who appears distinctly to exclude the Son from the knowledge, my opinion is this. No man knoweth, neither the angels of God; nor yet the Son would have known unless the Father had known: that is, the cause of the Son’s knowing comes from the Father. To a fair hearer there is no violence in this interpretation, because the wore “only” is not added as it is in Matthew. Mark’s sense, then, is as follows: of that day and of that hour knoweth no man, nor the angels of God; but even the Son would not have known if the Father had not known, for the knowledge naturally His was given by the Father. This is very decorous and becoming the divine nature to say of the Son, because He has, His knowledge and His being, beheld in all the wisdom and glory which become His Godhead, from Him with Whom He is consubstantial.
3. As to Jeconias, whom the prophet Jeremiah declares in these words to have been rejected from the land of Judah, “Jeconias was dishonoured like a vessel for which there is no more use; and because he was cast out he and his seed; and none shall rise from his seed sitting upon the throne of David and ruling in Judah,”17 the matter is plain and clear. On the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, the kingdom had been destroyed, and there was no longer an hereditary succession of reigns as before. Nevertheless, at that time, the deposed descendants of David were living in captivity. On the return of Salathiel and Zerubbabel i the supreme government rested to a greater degree with the people, and the sovereignty was afterwards transferred to the priesthood, on account of the intermingling of the priestly and royal tribes; whence the Lord, in things pertaining, to God, is both King and High Priest. Moreover, the royal tribe did not fail until the coming of the Christ; nevertheless, the seed of Jeconias sat no longer upon the throne of David. Plainly it is the royal dignity which is described by the term “throne.” You remember the history, how all Judaea, Idumaea, Moab. both the neighbouring regions of Syria and the further countries up to Mesopotamia, and the country on the other side as far as the river of Egypt, were all tributary to David. If then none of his descendants appeared with a sovereignty so wide, how is not the word of the prophet true that no one of the seed of Jeconias should any longer sit upon the throne of David, for none of his descendants appears to have attained this dignity. Nevertheless, the tribe of Judah did not fail, until He for whom it was destined came. But even He did not sit upon the material throne. The kingdom of Judaea was transferred to Herod, the son of Antipater the Ascalonite, and his sons who divided Judaea into four principalities, when Pilate was Procurator and Tiberius was Master of the Roman Empire. It is the indestructible kingdom which he calls the throne of David on which the Lord sat. He is the expectation of the Gentiles18 and not of the smallest division of the world, for it is written, “In that day there shall be a root of Jesse which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek.”19 “I have called thee ...for a covenant of the people for a light of the Gentiles “;20 and thus then God remained a priest although He did not receive the sceptre of Judah, and King of all the earth; so the blessing of Jacob was fulfilled, and in Him21 “shall all the nations of the earth be blessed,” and all the nations shall call the Christ blessed.
4. And as to the tremendous question put by the facetious Encratites, why we do not eat everything? Let this answer be given, that we turn with disgust from our excrements. As far as dignity goes, to us flesh is grass; but as to distinction between what is and what is not serviceable, just as in vegetables, we separate the unwholesome from the wholesome, so in flesh we distinguish between that which is good and that which is bad for food. Hemlock is a vegetable, just as vulture’s flesh is flesh yet no one in his senses would eat henbane nor dog’s flesh unless he were in very great straits. If he did, however, he would not sin.
5. Next as to those who maintain that human affairs are governed by fate, do not ask information from me, but stab them with their own shafts of rhetoric. The question is too long for my present infirmity. With regard to emerging in baptism—I do not know how it came into your mind to ask such a question, if indeed you understood immersion to fulfil the figure of the three days. It is impossible for any one to be immersed three times, without emerging three times. We write the word favgo" paroxytone.22
6. The distinction between oujsia and ujpovstasi" is the same as that between the general and the particular; as, for instance, between the animal and the particular man. Wherefore, in the case of the Godhead, we confess one essence or substance so as not to give a variant definition of existence hut we confess a particular hypostasis, in order that our conception of Father, Son and Holy Spirit may be without confusion and clear.23 If we have no distinct perception of the separate characteristics, namely, fatherhood, sonship, and sanctification, but form our conception of God t from the general idea of existence, we cannot possibly give a sound account of our i faith. We must, therefore, confess the faith by adding the particular to the common. The Godhead is common; the fatherhood particular. We must therefore combine the two and say,” I believe in God the Father.” The like course must be pursued in the confession of the Son; we must combine the particular with the common and say “I believe in God the Son,” so in the case of the Holy Ghost we must make our utterance conform to the appellation and say “in God24 the Holy Ghost.” Hence it results that there is a satisfactory preservation of the unity by the confession of the one Godhead, while in the distinction of the individual properties regarded in each there is the confession of the peculiar properties of the i Persons. On the other hand those who identify essence or substance and hypostasis are compelled to confess only three Persons,25 and, in their hesitation to speak of three hypostases, are convicted of failure to avoid the error of Sabellius, for even Sabellius himself, who in many places confuses the conception, yet, by asserting that the same hypostasis changed its form26 to meet the needs of the moment, does endeavour to distinguish persons.
7. Lastly as to your enquiry in what manner things neutral and indifferent are ordained for us, whether by some chance working by its own accord, or by the righteous providence of God, my answer is this: Health and sickness, riches and poverty, credit and discredit, inasmuch as they do not render their possessors good, are not in the category of things naturally good, but, in so far as in any way they make life’s current flow more easily, in each case the former is to be preferred to its contrary, and has a certain kind of value. To some men these things are given by God for stewardship’s sake,27 as for instance to Abraham, to Jb and such like. To inferior characters they are a challenge to improvement. For the man who persists in unrighteousness, after so goodly a token of love from God, subjects himself to condemnation without defence. The good man, however, neither turns his heart to wealth when he has it, nor seeks after it if he has it not. He treats what is given him as given him not for his selfish enjoyment, but for wise administration. No one in his senses, runs after the trouble of distributing other people’s property, unless he is trying to get the praise of the world, which admires and envies anybody in authority.
Good men take sickness as athletes take their contest, waiting for the crowns that are to reward their endurance. To ascribe the dispensation of these things to any one else is as inconsistent with true religion as it is with common sense.
To Eusebius, bishop of Samosata.
I. I Both wrote to your reverence by the vicar of Thrace, and sent other letters by one of the officers of the treasury of Philippopolis, who was starting from our country into Thrace, and begged him to take them on his departure. But the vicar never received my letter, for while I was visiting my diocese,2 he came into town in the evening and started early in the morning, so that the church officers did not know of his coming, and the letter remained at my house. The treasurer, too, on account of some unexpected and urgent business, set out without seeing me or taking my letters. No one else could be found; so I remained, sorry at not being able to write to you and at not receiving any letter from your reverence. Yet I was wishful, were it possible, to tell you all that happens to me day by day. So many astonishing things happen as to need a daily narrative, and you may be sure that I would have written one, unless my mind had been diverted from its purpose by the pressure of events.
2. The first and greatest of my troubles was the visit of the Vicar. As to whether he is a man really heretically minded I do not know; for I think that he is quite unversed in doctrine, and has not the slightest interest or experience in such things, for I see him day and night busy, both in body and soul, in other things. But he is certainly a friend of heretics; and he is not more friendly to them than he is ill-disposed to me. He has a summoned a synod of wicked men in mid-winter in Galatia.3 He has deposed Hypsinus and set up Ecdicius in his place.4
I He has ordered the removal of my brother on the accusation of one man, and that one quite insignificant. Then, after being occupied for some little time about the army, he came to us again breathing rage and slaughter,5 and, in one sentence, delivered all the Church of Caesarea to the Senate. He settled for several days at Sebaste, separating friends from foes,6 calling those in communion with me senators, and condemning them to the public service, while he advanced the adherents of Eustathius. He has ordered a second synod of bishops of Galatia and Pontus to be assembled at Nyssa.7 They have submitted, have met, and have sent to the Churches a man of whose character I do not like to speak; but your reverence can well understand what sort of a man he must be who would put himself at the disposal of such counsels of men.8 Now, while I am thus writing, the same gang have hurried to Sebaste to unite with Eustathius, and, with him, to upset the Church of Nicopolis. For the blessed Theodotus has fallen asleep. Hitherto the Nicopolitans have bravely and stoutly resisted the vicar’s first assault; for he tried to persuade them to receive Eustathius, and to accept their bishop on his appointment. But, on seeing them unwilling to yield, he is now trying, by yet more violent action, to effect the establishment of the bishop whom it has been attempted to give them.9 There is, moreover, said to be some rumoured expectation of a synod, by which means they mean to summon me to receive them into communion, or to be friendly with them. Such is the position of the Churches. As to my own health, I think it better to say nothing. I cannot bear not to tell the truth, and by telling the truth I shall only grieve you.
To the presbyters of Nicopolis.2
I Have received your letter, my reverend brethren, but it told me nothing that I did not already know. for the whole country round about was already full of the report announcing the disgrace of that one among you who has fallen, and through lust of vain glory has brought on himself very shameful dishonour, and has through his self-love lost the rewards promised to faith. Nay, through the just hatred of them that fear the Lord he misses even that contemptible little glory for lust of which he has been sold to impiety. By the character he has now shown he has very plainly proved, concerning all his life, that he has never at any time lived in hope of the promises laid up for us by the Lord, but, in all his transactions of human affairs, has used words of faith and mockery of piety, all to deceive every one whom he met. But how are you injured? Are you any worse off for this than you were before ? One of your number has fallen away, and if one or two others have gone with him, they are to be pitied for their fall, but, by God’s grace, your body is whole. The useless part has gone, and what is left has not suffered mutilation. You are haply distressed that you are driven without the walls, but you shall dwell under the protection of the God of Heaven,3 and the angel who watches over the Church has gone out with you. So they lie down in empty places day by day, bringing upon themselves heavy judgment through the dispersion of the people. And, if in all this there is sorrow to be borne, I trust in the Lord that it will not be without its use to you. Therefore, the more have been your trials, look for a more perfect reward from your just Judgeú Do not take your present troubles ill. Do not lose hope. Yet a little while and your Helper will come to you and will not tarry.4
To Eusebius, bishop of Samosata.
I). The Lord has granted me the privilege of now saluting your holiness by our beloved and very reverend brother, the presbyter Antiochus, of exhorting you to pray for me as you are wont, and offering in our communication by letter some consolation for our long separation. And, when you pray, I ask you to beg from the Lord this as the first and greatest boon, that I may be delivered from vile and wicked men, who have gained such power over the people that now I seem to see, indeed, a repetition of the events of the taking of Jerusalem.2 For the weaker grow the Churches the more does men’s lust for power increase. And now the very title of bishop has been conferred on wretched slaves, for no servant of God would choose to come forward in opposition to claim the see;—no one but miserable fellows like the emissaries of Anysius the creature of Euippius, and of Ecdicius of Parnassus: whoever has appointed him3 has sent into the Churches a poor means of aiding his own entry into the life to come.
They have expelled my brother from Nyssa, and into his place have introduced hardly a man—a mere scamp4 worth only an obol or two, but, so far as regards the ruin of the faith, a match for those who have put him where he is.
At the town of Doara they have brought shame upon the poor name of bishop, and have sent there a wretch, an orphans’ domestic, a runaway from his own masters, to flatter a godless woman, who formerly used George as she liked, and now has got this fellow to succeed him.
And who could properly lament the occurrences at Nicopolis ? That unhappy Fronto did, indeed, for a while pretend to be on the side of the truth, but now he has shamefully betrayed both the faith and himself, and for the price of his betrayal has got a name of disgrace. He imagines that he has obtained from these men the rank of bishop; in reality he has become, by God’s grace, the abomination of all Armenia. But there is nothing that they will not dare; nothing wherein they are at a loss for worthy accomplices. But the rest of the news of Syria my brother knows better@ and can tell you better, than I.
2. The news of the West you know already, on the recital of brother Dorotheus. What sort of letters are to be given him on his departure? Perhaps he will travel with the excellent Sanctissimus, who is full of enthusiasm, journeying through the East, and collecting letters and signatures from all the men of mark.5 What ought to be written by them, or how I can come to an agreement with those who are writing, I do not know. If you hear of any one soon travelling my way, be so good as to let me know. I am moved to say, as Diomede said,
“Would God, Atrides, thy request were yet to undertake;
... he’s proud enough.”6
Really lofty souls, when they are courted, get haughtier than ever. If the Lord be propitious to us, what other thing do we need? If the anger of the Lord lasts on what help can come to us from the frown of the West? Men who do not know the truth, and do not wish to learn it, but are prejudiced by false suspicions, are doing now as they did in the case of Marcellus,7 when they quarrelled with men who told them the truth, and by their own action strengthened the cause of heresy. Apart from the common document, I should like to have written to their Coryphaeus—nothing, indeed, about ecclesiastical affairs except gently to suggest that they know nothing of what is going on here, and will not accept the only means whereby they might learn it. I would say, generally, that they ought not to press hard on men who are crushed by trials. They must not take dignity for pride. Sin only avails to produce enmity against God.
To the Presbyters of Nicopolis.
I. You have done quite right in sending me a letter, and in sending it by the hands of one who, even if you had not written, would have been perfectly competent to give me considerable comfort in all my anxieties, and an authentic report as to the position of affairs. Many vague rumours were continually reaching me, and therefore I was desirous of getting information on many points from some one able to give it through accurate knowledge. Touching all these I have received a satisfactory and intelligent narrative from our well-beloved and honourable brother Theodosius the presbyter. I now write to your reverences the advice which I give myself, for in many respects our positions are identical; and that not only at the present moment, but in times gone by too, as many instances may prove. Of some of these we possess records in writing; others we have received through unwritten recollection from persons acquainted with the facts. We know how, for the sake of the name of the Lord, trials have beset alike individuals and cities that have put their trust in Him. Nevertheless, one and all have passed away, and the distress caused by the days of darkness bus not been everlasting. For just as when hail-storm and flood, and all natural calamities, at once injure and destroy things that have no strength, while they are only themselves affected by falling on the strong, so the terrible trials set in action against the Church have been proved feebler than the firm foundation of our faith in Christ. The hail-storm has passed away; the torrent has rushed over its bed; clear sky has taken the place of the former, and the latter has left the course without water and i dry, over which it travelled, and has disappeared in the deep. So, too, in a little while the storm, now bursting upon us, will cease to be. But this will be on the condition of our being will big not to look to the present, but to gaze in hope at the future somewhat further off.
2. Is the trial heavy, my brethren? Let us endure the toil. No one who shuns the blows and the dust of battle wins a crown. Are those mockeries of the devil, and the enemies sent to attack us, insignificant ? They are troublesome because they are his ministers, but contemptible because God has in them combined wickedness with weakness. Let us beware of being condemned for crying out too loud over a little pain. Only one thing is worth anguish, the loss of one’s own self, when for the sake of the credit of the moment, if one can really call making a public disgrace of one’s self credit, one has deprived one’s self of the everlasting reward of the just. You are children of confessors; you are children of martyrs; you have resisted sin unto blood.2 Use, each one of you, the examples of those near and dear to you to make you brave for true religion’s sake. No one of us has been torn by lashes;3 no one of us has suffered confiscation of his house; we have not been driven into exile; we have not suffered imprisonment. What great suffering have we undergone, unless peradventure it is grievous that we have suffered noticing, and have not been reckoned worthy of the sufferings of Christ?4 But if you are grieved because one whom I need not name occupies the house of prayer, and you worship the Lord of heaven and earth in the open air, remember that the eleven disciples were shut up in the upper chamber, when they that had crucified the Lord were worshipping in the Jews’ far-famed temple. Peradventure, Judas, who preferred death by hanging to life in disgrace, proved himself a better man than those who now meet universal condemnation without a blush.
3. Only do not be deceived by their lies when they claim to be of the right faith. They are not Christians, but traffickers in Christ,5 always preferring their profit in this life to living in accordance with the truth. When they thought that they should get this empty dignity, they joined the enemies of Christ: now that they have seen the indignation of the people, they are once more for pretending orthodoxy. I do not recognise as bishop—I would not count among Christ’s clergy6 —a man who has been promoted to a chief post by polluted hands, to the destruction of the faith. This is my decision. If you have any part with me, you will doubtless think as I do. If you take counsel on your own responsibility, every man is master of his own mind, and I am innocent of this blood.7 I have written thus, not because I distrust you, but that by declaring my own mind I may strengthen some men’s hesitation, and prevent any out from being prematurely received into communion, or after receiving the laying on of hands of our enemies, when peace is made, later on, trying to force me to enroll them in the ranks of the sacred ministry. Through you I salute the clergy of the city and diocese, and all the laity who fear the Lord.
To Eusebius, bishop of
IT is not to increase your distress that I am so lavish of painful topics in my letters to your excellency. My object is to get some comfort for myself in the lamentations which are a kind of natural means of dispersing deep-seated pain whenever they are produced. and further to rouse you, my great-hearted friend, to more earnest prayer on behalf of the Churches. We know that Moses prayed continually for the people; yet, when his battle with Amalek had begun, he did not. let down his hands from morning to evening, and the uplifting of the hands of the saint only ended with the end of the fight.
To the Westerns.2
1). The Holy God Holy God has promised a happy of issue out of all their infirmities to those that trust in Him. We, therefore, though we have been cut off in a mid-ocean of troubles, though we are tossed by the great waves raised up against us by the spirits of wickedness, nevertheless hold out in Christ Who strengthens us. We have not slackened the strength of our zeal for the Churches, nor, as though despairing of our salvation, while the billows in the tempest rise above our heads, do we look to be destroyed. On the contrary, we are still holding out with all possible earnestness, remembering how even he who was swallowed by the sea monster, because he did not despair of his life, but cried to the Lord, was saved. Thus too we, though we have reached the last pitch of peril, do not give up our hope in God. On every side we see His succour round about us. For these reasons now we turn our eyes to you, right honourable brethren. In many an hour of our affliction we have expected that you would be at our side; and disappointed in that hope we have said to ourselves, “I looked for some to take pity and there was none; and for comforters but I found none.”3 Our sufferings are such as to have reached the confines of the empire; and since, when one member suffers, all the members suffer,4 it is doubtless right that your pity should be shown to us who have been so long in trouble. Fort hat sympathy, which we have hoped you of your charity feel for us, is caused less by nearness of place than by union of spirit.
2. How comes it to pass then that we have received nothing of what is due to us by the law of love; no letter of consolation, no visit from brethren? This is now the thirteenth year since the war of heresy began against us.5 in this the Churches have suffered more tribulations than all those which are on record since Christ’s gospel was first preached.6 I am unwilling to describe these one by one, lest the feebleness of my narrative should make the evidence of the calamities less convincing. It is moreover the less necessary for me to tell you of them, because you have long known what has happened from the reports which will have reached you. The sum and substance of our troubles is this: the people have left the houses of prayer and are holding congregations in the wildernesses. It is a sad sight. Women, boys, old men, and those who are in other ways infirm, remain in the open air, in heavy rain, in the snow, the gales and the frost of winter as well as in summer under the blazing heat of the sun. All this they are suffering because they refuse to have anything to do with the wicked leaven of Arius.
3. How could mere words give you any clear idea of all this without your being stirred to sympathy by personal experience and the evidence of eyewitnesses ? We implore you, therefore, to stretch out a helping hand to those that have already been stricken to the ground, and to send messengers to retailed us of the prizes in store for the reward of all who patiently suffer for Christ. A voice that we are used to is naturally less able to comfort us than one; which sounds from afar, and that one coming from men who over all the world are known by
God’s grace to be among the noblest; for common report everywhere represents you as having remained steadfast, without suffering a wound in your faith, and as having kept the deposit of the apostles inviolate. This is not our case. here are among us some who, through lust of glory and that puffing up which is especially wont to destroy the souls of Christian men, have audaciously uttered certain novelties of expression with the result that the Churches have become like cracked pots and pans and bare let in the inrush of heretical impurity. But do you, whom we love and long for, be to us ass surgeons for the wounded, as trainers for the whole, healing the limb that is diseased, and anointing the limb that is sound for the service of the true religion.
To the bishops of Italy and Gaul concerning the condition and confusion of the Churches.
I. To his brethren truly God-beloved and very dear, and fellow ministers of like mind, the bishops of Gaul and Italy, Basil, bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia. Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has deigned to style the universal Church of God His body, and has made us individually members one of another, has moreover granted to all of us to live in intimate association with one another, as befits the agreement of the members. Wherefore, although we dwell far away from one another, yet, as regards our close conjunction, we are very near. Since, then, the head cannot say to the feet, I have no need of you,2 you will not, I am sure, endure to reject us; you will, on the contrary, sympathize with us in the troubles to which, for our sins, we have been given over, in proportion as we rejoice together with you in your glorying in the peace which the Lord has bestowed on you. Ere now we have also at another time invoked your charity to send us succour and sympathy; but our punishment was not full, and you were not suffered to rise up to succour us. One chief object of our desire is that through you the state of confusion in which we are situated should be made known to the emperor of your part of the world.3 If this is difficult, we beseech you to send envoys to visit and comfort us in our affliction, that you may have the evidence of eyewitnesses of those sufferings of the East which cannot be told by word of mouth, because language is inadequate to give a clear report of our condition.
2. Persecution has come upon us, right honourable brethren, and persecution in the severest form. Shepherds are persecuted that their flocks may be scattered. And the worst of all is that those who are being treated ill cannot accept their sufferings in proof of their testimony, nor can the people reverence the athletes as in the army of martyrs, because the name of Christians is applied to the persecutors. The one charge which is now sure to secure severe punishment is the careful keeping of the traditions of the Fathers. For this the pious are exiled from their homes, and are sent away to dwell in distant regions. No reverence is shown by the judges of iniquity to the hoary head, to practical piety, to the life lived from boyhood to old age according to the Gospel. No malefactor is doomed without proof, but bishops have been convicted on calumny alone, and are consigned to penalties on charges wholly unsupported by evidence. Some have not even known who has accused them, nor been brought before any tribunal, nor even been falsely accused at all. They have been apprehended with violence late at night, have been exiled to distant places, and, through the hardships of these remote wastes, have been given over to death.4 The rest is notorious, though I make no mention of it—the flight of priests; the flight of deacons the foraying of all the clergy. Either the image must be worshipped, or we are delivered to the wicked flame of whips.5 The laity groan; tears are filling without ceasing in public and in private; all are mutually lamenting their woes. No one’s heart is so hard as to lose a father, and bear the bereavement meekly. There is a sound of them that mourn in the city—a sound in the fields, in the roads, in the deserts. But one voice is heard from all that utter sad and piteous words. Joy and spiritual gladness are taken away. Our feasts are turned into mourning.6 Our houses of prayer are shut. The altars of the spiritual service are lying idle. Christians no longer assemble together; teachers no longer preside. The doctrines of salvation are no longer taught. We have no more solemn assemblies, no more evening hymns, no more of that blessed joy of souls which arises in the souls of all that believe in the Lord at communions, and the imparting of spiritual boons.7 We may well say, “Neither is there at this time prince, or prophet, or reader, or offering, or incense, or place to sacrifice before thee, and to find mercy.”8
3. We are writing to those who know these things, for there is not a region of the world which is ignorant of our calamities. Do not suppose that we are using these words as though to give information, or to recall ourselves to your recollection. We know that you could no more forget us than a mother forget the sons of her womb.9 But all who are crushed by any weight of agony find some natural alleviation for their pain in uttering groans of distress, and it is for this that we are doing as we do. We get rid of the load of our grief in telling you of our manifold misfortunes, and in expressing the hope that you may haply be the more moved to pray for us, and may prevail on the Lord to be reconciled to us. And if these afflictions had been confined to ourselves, we might even have determined to keep silence, and to rejoice in our sufferings for Christ’s sake, since “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”10 But at the present time we are alarmed, lest the mischief growing day by days like a flame spreading through some burning wood, when it has consumed what is close at hand, may catch distant objects too. The plague of heresy is spreading, and there is ground of apprehension lest, when it has ’devoured our Churches, it may afterwards creep on even so far as to the sound portion of your district.11 Peradventure it is because with us iniquity has abounded that we have been first delivered to be devoured by the cruel teeth of the enemies of God. But the gospel of the kingdom began in our regions, and then went forth over all the world. So, peradventure—and this is most probable—the common enemy of our souls, is striving to bring it about that the seeds of apostasy, originating in the same quarter, should be distributed throughout the world. For the darkness of impiety plots to come upon the very hearts whereon the “light of the knowledge” of Christ has shone.12
4. Reckon then, as true disciples of the Lord, that our sufferings are yours. We are not being attacked for the sake of riches. or glory, or any temporal advantages. We stand in the arena to fight for our common heritage, for the treasure of the sound faith, derived from our Fathers. Grieve with us, all ye who love the brethrens at the shutting of the mouths of our men of true religion, and at the opening of the bold and blasphemous lips of all that utter unrighteosness against God.13 The pillars and foundation of the truth are scattered abroad. We, whose insignificance has allowed of our being overlooked, are deprived of oar right of free speech. Do ye enter into the straggle, for the people’s sake. Do not think only of your being yourselves moored in a safe haven, where the grace of God gives you shelter from the tempest of the winds of wickedness. Reach out a helping hand to the Churches that are being buffeted by the storm, lest, if they be abandoned, they suffer complete shipwreck of the faith. Lament for us, in that the Only-begotten is being blasphemed, and there is none to offer contradiction. The Holy Ghost is being set at nought and he who is able to confute the error has been sent into exile. Polytheism has prevailed. Our opponents own a great God and a small God. “Son” is no longer a name of nature, but is looked upon as a title of some kind of honour. The Holy Ghost is regarded not as complemental of the Holy Trinity, nor as participating in the divine and blessed Nature, but as in some sort one of the number of created beings, and attached to Father and Son, at mere haphazard and as occasion may require. ’’ Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears,”14 and I will weep many days for the people who are being driven to destruction by these vile doctrines. The ears of the simple are being led astray, and have now got used to heretical impiety. The nurslings of the Church are being brought up in the doctrines of iniquity. What are they to do ? Our opponents have the command of baptisms; they speed the dying on their way;15 they visit the sick; they console the sorrowful; they aid the distressed; they give succour of various kinds; they communicate the mysteries. All these things, as long as the performance of them is in their hands, are so many ties to bind the people to their views. The result will be that in a little time, even if some liberty be conceded to us, there is small hope that they who have been long under the influence of error will be recalled to recognition of the truth.
5. Under these circumstances it would have been well for many of us to have travelled to your reverences, and to have individually reported each his own position. You may now take as a proof of the sore straits in which we are placed the fact that we are not even free to travel abroad. For if any one leaves his Church, even for a very brief space, he will leave his people at the mercy of those who are plotting their ruin. By God’s mercy instead of many we have sent one, our very reverend and beloved brother the presbyter Dorotheus. He is fully able to supply by his personal report whatever has been omitted in our letter, for he has carefully followed all that has occurred, and is jealous of the right faith. Receive him in peace, and speedily send him back to us, bringing us good news of your readiness to succour the brotherhood.
To Patrophilus, bishop of Aegae.2
I. I Have read, and read with pleasure, the letter which you have sent by Strategius the presbyter. How should I not so read it, written as it is by a wise man, anti dictated by a heart which has learned to observe the universal love taught by the commandment of the Lord? Possibly I am not unaware of the reasons which have hitherto kept you silent. You have been, as it were, amazed and astounded, at the idea of the change in the notorious Basil. Why, ever since he was a boy he did such and such service to such an one; at such and such times he did such and such things; he waged war against foes innumerable for the sake of his allegiance to one man; now he has become a totally different character; he has exchanged love for war; he is all that you have written; so you naturally shew considerable astonishment at the very unexpected turn of affairs. And if you have found some fault, I do not take it ill. I am not so beyond correction as to be amazed at the affectionate rebukes of my brothers. Indeed so far was I from being vexed at your letter that it really almost made me laugh to think that when there were, as I thought, so many strong causes already existing to cement our friendship, you should have expressed such very great astonishment at the trifles which have been reported to you. So truly have you suffered the fate of all those who omit to enquire into the nature of circumstances, and give heed to the men who are being discussed; of all who do not examine into the truth, but judge by the distinction of persons, in forgetfulness of the exhortion “Ye shall not respect persons in judgment.”3
2. Nevertheless, since God in judgment of man does not accept persons, I will not refuse to make known to you the defence which I have prepared for the great tribunal. On my side, from the beginning, there has been no cause of quarrel, either small or great; but men who hate ,he, for what reason is best known to themselves (I must not say a word about them), incessantly calumniated me. I cleared myself again and! again of slanders. There seemed no end to the matter, and no good came of my continual defence, because I was far away, and the authors of the false statements, being on the spot, were able by their calumnies against me to wound a susceptible heart, and one which has never learnt to keep one ear open. for the absent. When the Nicopolitans, as you yourself are partly aware, were asking for some proof of faith, I determined to have recourse to the written document.4 I thought that I should fulfil two objects at once; I expected both to persuade the Nicopolitans not to think ill of the man,5 and to shut the mouths of my calumniators, because agreement in faith would exclude slander on both sides. Indeed the creed had been drawn up, and it was brought from me, and signed. After it had been signed, a place was appointed for a second meeting, and another date fixed, so that my brethren in the diocese might come together and be united with one another, and our communion for the future be genuine and sincere. I, for my part, arrived at the appointed time, and, of the brethren who act with me, some were on the spot, and others were hurrying thither, all joyous and eager as though on the high road to peace.6 Couriers and a letter from myself announced my arrival; for the spot appointed for the reception of those who were assembling was mine. But nobody appeared on the other side; no one came in advance; no one to announce the approach of the expected bishops. So those who had been sent by me returned with the report of the deep dejection and the complaints of those who were assembled, as though a new creed had been promulgated by me. They were moreover said to be for deciding, that they certainly would not suffer their bishop to go over to me. Then came a messenger bringing me a letter hastily drawn up, and containing no mention of the points originally agreed on. My brother Theophilus,7 a man worthy of all respect and honour at my hands, sent one of his adherents, and made certain announcements, which he thought it not improper for him to utter, nor unbecoming in me to hear. He did not condescend to write, not so much because he was afraid of being convicted on written evidence, as because he was anxious not to be compelled to address me as bishop. Assuredly his language was violent, and came from a heart a vehemently agitated. Under these circumstances I departed abashed and depressed, not knowing what to answer to my questioners. Then, without any long interval of time, there was the journey into Cilicia,8 the return thence, and forthwith a letter repudiating communion with me.9
3. The cause of the rupture was the allegation that I wrote to Apollinarius and was in communion with the presbyter Diodorus. I never regarded Apollinarius as an enemy, and for some reasons I even respect him. But I never so far trotted myself to him as to take upon me the charges against him; indeed I have myself some accusations to bring against him after reading some of his books. I do not know that I ever asked him for a book on the Holy Spirit, or received it on his sending: I am told that he has become a most copious writer, but I have read very few of his works.10 I have not even time to investigate such matters. Indeed I shrink from admitting any of the more recent works, for my health does not even allow of my reading the inspired Scriptures with diligence and as I ought. What, then, is it to me, if some one has written something displeasing to somebody else? Yet if one man is to render an account on behalf of another, let him who accuses me for Apollinarius’ sake defend himself to me for the sake of Arius his own master and of Aetius his own disciple. I never learnt anything from, nor taught anything to this man whose guilt is laid at my door. Diodorus, as a nursling of the blessed Silvanus, I did receive from the beginning: I love him now and respect him on account of his grace of speech, whereby many who meet him are made the better men.11
4. At this letter I was affected in such a manner as might be expected, and astounded at so sudden and pleasant a change. I felt quite unable to reply. My heart could hardly beat; my tongue failed me, and my hand grew numb. I felt like a poor creature (for the truth shall be told; yet it is pardonable); I all but fell into a state of misanthropy; I looked on every one with suspicion and thought that there was no charity to be found in mankind. Charity seemed a mere specious word, serving as a kind of decoration to those who use it, while no such sentiment was really to be found in the heart of man. Could it really be that out who seethed to have disciplined himself froth boyhood to old age, could be so easily brutalized on such grounds, without a thought for me, without any idea that his experience of bygone years ought to have more weight than this wretched slander ? Could he really, like an unbroken colt as yet untaught to carry his rider properly, on some petty suspicion rear and unseat his rider and fling to the ground what was once his pride? If so, what must be thought of the rest with whom I had no such strong ties of friendship, and who had given no such proofs of a well trained life? All this I turned over in my soul and continually revolved in my heart, or, shall I rather say my heart was turned over by these things fighting and pricking me at the recollection of them? I wrote no answer; not that I kept silence from contempt; do not think it of me my brother, for I am not defending myself to men but I speak before God in Christ. I kept silence from utter inability to say a word commensurate with my grief.
Basil: letters, hexaemeron - II. WORKS