Fathers of the Church

EPISTLE L: TO BASIL

Description

Gregory explains his actions to Basil, asking him where he had wronged him.

Provenance

Gregory was the first Greek author to publish a collection of his letters; he did so at the request of Nicobulus, a grandson of his sister Gorgonia. Incidentally, he also sets forth a theory of epistolography; he demands that a good letter should have four characteristics: shortness, clearness, charm and simplicity. Although he refuses to present his own epistles as models, they are carefully written, in many cases not without humor, and most of them are brief and pointed. (Quasten)

At the request of Anthimus it would appear that St. Gregory wrote to St. Basil a letter, not now extant, proposing a conference between the rival Metropolitans. Basil took umbrage at the well-meant proposal, and wrote a stiff letter to St. Gregory, to which the following is the reply.

by Gregory Nazianzen in Unknown | translated by Charles Gordon Browne, M.A., James Edward Swallow, M.A

How hotly and like a colt you skip in your letters. Nor do I wonder that when you have just become the property of glory you should wish to shew me what you find glory to be, so that you may make yourself more majestic, like those painters who picture the seasons. But, to explain the whole matter about the Bishops, and the letter by which you were annoyed; what was my starting point, and how far I went, and where I stopped, appears to me to be too long a matter for a letter, and to be a subject not so much for an apology as for a history. To explain it to you concisely:— the most noble Anthimus came to us with certain Bishops, whether to visit my Father (this at least was the pretext), or to act as he did act. He sounded me in many ways and on many subjects; dioceses, the marshes of Sasima, my ordination, ... flattering, questioning, threatening, pleading, blaming, praising, drawing circles round himself, as though I ought only to look at him and his new Metropolis, as being the greater. Why, I said, do you draw your line to include our city, for we too deem our Church to be really a Mother of Churches, and that too from ancient times? In the end he went away without having gained his object, much out of breath, and reproaching me with Basilism, as if it were a kind of Philipism. Do you think I did you wrong in this? And now look at the letter from me, who, you say, insulted you. They fashioned a Synodal summons to me; and when I declined it and said that the thing was an insult, they then asked as an alternative that through me you should be invited to deliberate upon these matters. This I promised, in order to prevent their first plan being carried out; placing the whole matter in your hands, if you choose to call them together, and where and when. And if I have not injured you in this, tell me where there is room for injury. If you have to learn this from me, I will read you the letter which Anthimus sent me, after invading the marshes, notwithstanding my prohibitions and threats, insulting and reviling me, and as it were singing a song of triumph over my defeat. And what reason is there that I should offend him for your sake and at the same time displease you, as though I were currying favour with him? You ought to have learnt this first, my dear friend; and even if it had been so, you should not have insulted me,—if only because I am a Priest. But if you are very much disposed to ostentation and quarrelsomeness, and speak as my Superior—as the Metropolitan to an insignificant Suffragan, or even as to a Bishop without a See—I too have a little pride to set against yours. That is very easy to anybody, and is perhaps the most suitable course.

Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (LNPF II/VII, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.