Fathers of the Church

Letter XXXII: to Sophronius the Master

Description

Basil beseeches Sophronius to intercede on Gregory's behalf.

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

OUR God—beloved brother, Gregory the bishop, shares the troubles of the times, for he too, like everybody else, is distressed at successive outrages, and resembles a man buffeted by unexpected blows. For men who have no fear of God, possibly forced by the greatness of their troubles, are reviling him, on the ground that they have lent Caesarius money. It is not indeed the question of any loss which is serious, for he has long learnt to despise riches. The matter rather is that those who have so freely distributed all the effects of Caesarius that were worth anything, after really getting very little, because his property was in the hands of slaves, and of men of no better character than slaves, did not leave much for the executors. This little they supposed to be pledged to no one, and straightway spent it on the poor, not only from their own preference, but because of the injunctions of the dead. For on his death bed Caesarius is declared to have said "I wish my goods to belong to the poor." In obedience then to the wishes of Caesarius they made a proper distribution of them. Now, with the poverty of a Christian, Gregory is immersed in the bustle of a chafferer. So I bethought me of reporting the matter to your excellency, in order that you may state what you think proper about Gregory to the Comes Thesaurorum, and so may honour a man whom you have known for many years, glorify the Lord who takes as done to Himself what is done to His servants, and honour me who am specially bound to you. You will, I hope, of your great sagacity devise a means of relief from these outrageous people and intolerable annoyances.

2. No one is so ignorant of Gregory as to have any unworthy suspicion of his giving an inexact account of the circumstances because he is fond of money. We have not to go far to find a proof of his liberality. What is left of the property of Caesarius he gladly abandons to the Treasury, so that the property may be kept there, and the Treasurer may give answer to those who attack it and demand their proofs; for we are not adapted for such business. Your excellency may be informed that, so long as it was possible, no one went away without getting what he wanted, and each one carried off what he demanded without any difficulty. The consequence indeed was that a good many were sorry that they had not asked for more at first; and this made still more objectors, for with the example of the earlier successful applicants before them, one false claimant starts up after another. I do then entreat your excellency to make a stand against all this and to come in, like some intervening stream, and solve the continuity of these troubles. You know how best you will help matters, and need not wait to be instructed by me. I am inexperienced the affairs of this life, and cannot see my way out of our difficulties. Of your great wisdom discover I some means of help. Be our counsellor. Be our champion.

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.