Fathers of the Church

Letter XVIII: to Macarius and John

Description

Here Basil exhorts those who aspire to a holy life not to be discourage by afflictions but rather to hope in Christ.

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

THE labours of the field come as no novelty to tillers of the land; sailors are not astonished if they meet a storm at sea; sweats in the summer heat are the common experience of the hired hind; and to them that have chosen to live a holy life the afflictions of this present world cannot come unforeseen. Each and all of these have the known and proper labour of their callings, not chosen for its own sake, but for the sake of the enjoyment of the good things to which they look forward. What in each of these cases acts as a consolation in trouble is that which really forms the bond and link of all human life,—hope. Now of them that labour for the fruits of the earth, or for earthly things, some enjoy only in imagination what they have looked for, and are altogether disappointed; and even in the case of others, where the issue has answered expectation, another hope is soon needed, so quickly has the first fled and faded out of sight. Only of them that labour for holiness and truth are the hopes destroyed by no deception; no issue can destroy their labours, for the kingdom of the heavens that awaits them is firm and sure. So long then as the word of truth is on our side, never be in any wise distressed at the calumny of a lie; let no imperial threats scare you; do not be grieved at the laughter and mockery of your intimates, nor at the condemnation of those who pretend to care for you, and who put forward, as their most attractive bait to deceive, a pretence of giving good advice. Against them all let sound reason do battle, invoking the championship and succour of our Lord Jesus Christ, the teacher of true religion, for Whom to suffer is sweet, and "to die is gain."

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.