Fathers of the Church

Letter III: to Candidianus

Description

In the following letter, Basil relates to Count Candidianus how his house was violently broken into, and asks for his help in securing it in the future.

Provenance

St. Basil's correspondence is a copious and invaluable store of information for the history of the Eastern Church in the fourth century, particularly in Cappadocia. Since he never found a real biographer, his letters represent the best source for his life and times, for his many activities and far-reaching influence, especially for his personality and his character. (Quasten)

by Basil the Great in 357-370 | translated by Blomfield Jackson, M.A

1. WHEN I took your letter into my hand. I underwent an experience worth telling. I looked at it with the awe due to a document making some state announcement, and as I was breaking the wax, I felt a dread greater than ever guilty Spartan felt at sight of the Laconian scytale.

When, however, I had opened the letter, and read it through, I could not help laughing, partly for joy at finding nothing alarming in it; partly because I likened your state of affairs to that of Demosthenes. Demosthenes, you remember, when he was providing for a certain little company of chorus dancers and musicians, requested to be styled no longer Demosthenes, but "choragus." You are always the same, whether playing the "choragus" or not. "Choragus" you are indeed to soldiers myriads more in number than the individuals to whom Demosthenes supplied necessaries; and yet you do not when you write to me stand on your dignity, but keep up the old style. You do not give up the study of literature, but, as Plato has it, in the midst of the storm and tempest of affairs, you stand aloof, as it were, under some strong wall, and keep your mind clear of all disturbance; nay, more, as far as in you lies, you do not even let others be disturbed. Such is your life; great and wonderful to all who have eyes to see; and yet not wonderful to any one who judges by the whole purpose of your life.

Now let me tell my own story, extraordinary indeed, but only what might have been expected.

2. One of the hinds who live with us here at Annesi, on the death of my servant, without alleging any breach of contract with him, without approaching me, without making any complaint, without asking me to make him any voluntary payment, without any threat of violence should he fail to get it, all on a sudden, with certain mad fellows like himself, attacked my house, brutally assaulted the women who were in charge of it, broke in the doors, and after appropriating some of the contents himself, and promising the rest to any one who liked, carried off everything. I do not wish to be regarded as the ne plus ultra of helplessness, and a suitable object for the violence of any one who likes to attack me. Shew me, then, now, I beg you, that kindly interest which you have always shewn in my affairs. Only on one condition can my tranquillity be secured,—that I be assured of having your energy on my side. It would be quite punishment enough, from my point of view, if the man were apprehended by the district magistrate and locked up for a short period in the gaol. It is not only that I am indignant at the treatment I have suffered, but I want security for the future.

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. (PNPF II/VIII, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.