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Fathers of the Church

Letter IV: to Olympius

Description

Basil had a great longing for friendship and loyalty. Thus the letters addressed to friends for the exchange of ideas, for consolation, encouragement and advice are especially numerous. (Quasten) In this letter he laughingly "rebukes" his friend Olympius for driving away Lady Poverty with his presents to Basil.

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

WHAT do you mean, my dear Sir, by evicting from our retreat my dear friend and nurse of philosophy, Poverty? Were she but gifted with speech, I take it you would have to appear as defendant in an action for unlawful ejectmeat. She might plead "I chose to live with this man Basil, an admirer of Zeno, who, when he had lost everything in a shipwreck, cried, with great fortitude, 'well done, Fortune! you are reducing me to the old cloak;' a great admirer of Cleanthes, who by drawing water from the well got enough to live on and pay his tutors' fees as well; an immense admirer of Diogenes, who prided himself on requiring no more than was absolutely necessary, and flung away his bowl after he had learned from some lad to stoop down and drink from the hollow of his hand." In some such terms as these you might be chidden by my dear mate Poverty, whom your presents have driven from house and home. She might too add a threat; "if I catch you here again, I shall shew that what went before was Sicilian or Italian luxury: so I shall exactly requite you out of my own store."

But enough of this. I am very glad that you have already begun a course of medicine, and pray that you may be benefited by it. A condition of body fit for painless activity would well become so pious a soul.

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.