Fathers of the Church

Letter CIV: to the Prefect Modestus

Description

Basil requests that the clergy might once again be exempt from contribution.

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

MERELY to write to so great a man, even though there be no other reason, must be esteemed a great honour. For communication with personages of high distinction confers glory upon all to whom it is permitted. My supplication, however, is one which I am driven by necessity to make to your excellency, in my great distress at the condition of my whole country. Bear with me, I beg you, kindly and in accordance with your own characters and reach a helping hand to my country, now beaten to the knee. The immediate object of my entreaty is as follows. By the old census, the clergy of God, presbyters and deacons, were left exempt. The recent registrars, however, without any authority from your lordship, have enrolled them, except that in some cases a few were granted immunity on the score of age. I ask, then, that you will leave us this memorial of your beneficence, to preserve through all coming time your good fame; that in accordance with the old law the clergy be exempt from contribution. I do not ask the remission to be conceded personally and individually to those who are now included, in which case the grace will pass to their successors, who may not always be worthy of the sacred ministry. I would suggest that some general concession be made to the clergy, according to the form in the open register, so that the exemption may be given in each place to ministers by the rulers of the Church. This boon is sere to bring undying glory to your excellency for your good deeds, and will cause many to pray for the imperial house. It will also really be profitable to the government, if we afford the relief of exemption, not generally to all the clergy, but to those who from time to time are in distress. This, as any one who chooses may know, is the course we actually pursue when we are at liberty.

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.