Fathers of the Church

Letter CI: Consolatory

Description

A consolatory letter to an unknown person.

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

THIS is my first letter to you, and I could have prayed that its subject were a brighter one. Had it been so, things would have fallen out as I desire, for it is my wish that the life of all those who are purposed to live in true religion should be happily spent. But the Lord, Who ordains our course in accordance with His ineffable wisdom, has arranged that all these things should come about for the advantage of our souls, whereby He has, on the one hand, made your life sorrowful, and on the other, roused the sympathy of one who, like myself, is united to you in godly love. Therefore on my learning from my brothers what has befallen you it has seemed to me that I could not but give you such comfort as I can. Had it indeed been possible to me to travel to the place in which you are now living I would have made every effort to do so. But my bad health and the present business which occupies me have caused this very journey, which I have undertaken, to be injurious to the interests of my Church. I have, therefore, determined to address your excellency in writing, to remind you that these afflictions are not sent by the Lord, Who rules us, to the servants of God to no purpose, but as a test of the genuineness of our love to the divine Creator. Just as athletes win crowns by their struggles in the arena, so are Christians brought to perfection by the trial of their temptations, if only we learn to accept what is sent us by the Lord with becoming patience, with all thanksgiving. All things are ordained by the Lord's love. We must not accept anything that befalls us as grievous, even if, for the present, it affects our weakness. We are ignorant, peradventure, of the reasons why each tiring that happens to us is sent to us as a blessing by the Lord but we ought to be convinced that all that happens to us is for our good, either for the reward of our patience, or for the soul which we have received, lest, by lingering too long in this life, it be filled with the wickedness to be found in this world. If the hope of Christians is limited to this life, it might rightly have been reckoned a bitter lot to be prematurely parted from the body; but if, to them that love God, the sundering of the soul from these bodily fetters is the beginning of our real life, why do we grieve like them which have no hope? Be comforted then, and do not fall under your troubles, but show that you are superior to them and can rise above them.

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.