Fathers of the Church

Letter LI: to Bishop Bosporius

Description

Basil denies any slander on his part against Dianius.

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

How do you think my heart was pained at hearing of the slanders heaped on me by some of those that feel no fear of the Judge, who "shall destroy them that speak leasing"? I spent nearly the whole night sleepless, thinking of your words of love; so did grief lay hold upon my heart of hearts. For verily, in the words of Solomon, slander humbleth a man. And no man is so void of feeling as not to be touched heart, and bowed down to the ground, if he falls in with lips prone to lying. But we must needs put up with all things and endure all things, after committing our vindication to the Lord. He will not despise us; for "he that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker." They, however, who have patched up this new tragedy of blasphemy seem to have lost all belief in the Lord, Who has declared that we must give account at the day of judgment even for an idle word. And I, tell me, I anathematized the right blessed Dianius? For this is what they have said against me. Where? When? In whose presence? On what pretext? In mere spoken words, or in writing? Following others, or myself the author and originator of the deed? Alas for the impudence of men who make no difficulty at saying anything l Alas for their contempt of the judgment of God! Unless, indeed, they add this further to their fiction, that they make me out to have been once upon a time so far out of my mind as not to know what I was saying. For so long as I have been in my senses I know that I never did anything of the kind, or had the least wish to do so. What I am, indeed, conscious of is this; that from my earliest childhood I was brought up in love for him, thought as I gazed at him how venerable he looked, how dignified, how truly reverend. Then when I grew older I began to know him by the good qualities of his soul, and took delight in his society, gradually learning to perceive the simplicity, nobility, and liberality of his character, and all his most distinctive qualities, his gentleness of soul, his mingled magnanimity and meekness, the seemliness of his conduct, his control of temper, the beaming cheerfulness and affability which he combined with majesty of demeanour. From all this I counted him among men most illustrious for high character.

However, towards the close of his life (I will not conceal the truth) I, together with many of them that in our country feared the Lord, sorrowed over him with sorrow unendurable, because he signed the creed brought from Constantinople by George. Afterwards, full of kindness and gentleness as he was, and willing out of the fulness of his fatherly heart to give satisfaction to everyone, when he had already fallen sick of the disease of which he died, he sent for me, and, calling the Lord to witness, said that in the simplicity of his heart he had agreed to the document sent from Constantinople, but had had no idea of rejecting the creed put forth by the holy Fathers at Nicaea, nor had had any other disposition of heart than from the beginning he had always had. He prayed, moreover, that he might not be cut off from the lot of those blessed three hundred and eighteen bishops who had announced the pious decree to the world. In consequence of this satisfactory statement I dismissed all anxiety and doubt, and, as you are aware, communicated with him, and gave over grieving. Such have been my relations with Dianius. If anyone avers that he is privy to any vile slander on my part against Dianius, do not let him buzz it slave-wise in a corner; let him come boldly out and convict me in the light of day.

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.