Fathers of the Church

Letter XXIII: to a Solitary

Description

Here Basil requests that the addressee introduce an acquaintance of his to the ascetic life.

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

A CERTAIN man, as he says, on condemning the vanity of this life, and perceiving that its joys are ended here, since they only provide material for eternal fire and then quickly pass away, has come to me with the desire of separating from this wicked and miserable life, of abandoning the pleasures of the flesh, and of treading for the future a road which leads to the mansions of the Lord. Now if he is sincerely firm in his truly blessed purpose, and has in his soul the glorious and laudable passion, loving the Lord his God with all his heart, with all his strength, and with all his mind, it is necessary for your reverence to show him the difficulties and distresses of the strait and narrow way, and establish him in the hope of the good things which are as yet unseen, but are laid up in promise for all that are worthy of the Lord. I therefore write to entreat your incomparable perfection in Christ, if it be possible to mould his character, and, without me, to bring about his renunciation according to what is pleasing to God, and to see that he receive elementary instruction in accordance with what has been decided by the Holy Fathers, and put forth by them in writing. See too that he have put before him all things that are essential to ascetic discipline, and that so he may be introduced to the life, after having accepted, of his own accord, the labours undergone for religion's sake, subjected himself to the Lord's easy yoke, adopted a conversation in imitation of Him Who for our sakes became poor and took flesh, and may run without fail to the prize of his high calling, and receive the approbation of the Lord. He is wishful to receive here the crown of God's loves but I have put him off, because I wish, in conjunction with your reverence, to anoint him for such struggles, and to appoint over him one of your number whom he may select to be his trainer, training him nobly, and making him by his constant and blessed care a tried wrestler, wounding and overthrowing the prince of the darkness of this world, and the spiritual powers of iniquity, with whom, as the blessed Apostle says, is "our wrestling." What I wish to do in conjunction with you, let your love in Christ do without me.

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.