Fathers of the Church

Letter LV: to Paregorius, the Presbyter

Description

Basil tells Paregorius that despite all his arguments to the contrary, he is not allowed to live with a woman.

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

I HAVE given patient attention to your letter, and I am astonished that when you are perfectly well able to furnish me with a short and easy defence by taking action at once, you should choose to persist in what is my ground of complaint, and endeavour to cure the incurable by writing a long story about it. I am not the first, Paregorius, nor the only man, to lay down the law that women are not to live with men. Read the canon put forth by our holy Fathers at the Council of Nicaea, which distinctly forbids subintroducts. Unmarried life is honourably distinguished by its being cut off from all female society. If, then, any one, who is known by the outward profession, in reality follows the example of those who live with wives, it is obvious that he only affects the distinction of virginity in name, and does not hold aloof from unbecoming indulgence. You ought to have been all the more ready to submit yourself without difficulty to my demands, in that you allege that you are free from all bodily appetite. I do not suppose that a man of three score years and ten lives with a woman from any such feelings, and I have not decided, as I have decided, on the ground of any crime having been committed. But we have learnt from the Apostle, not to put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in a brother's way;" and I know that what is done very properly by some, naturally becomes to others an occasion for sin. I have therefore given my order, in obedience to the injunction of the holy Fathers, that you are to separate from the woman. Why then, do you find fault with the Chorepiscopus? What is the good of mentioning ancient ill-will? Why do you blame me for lending an easy ear to slander? Why do you not rather lay the blame on yourself, for not consenting to break off your connexion with the woman? Expel her from your house, and establish her in a monastery. Let her live with virgins, and do you be served by men, that the name of God be not blasphemed in you. Till you have so done, the innumerable arguments, which you use in your letters, will not do you the slightest service. You will die useless, and you will have to give an account to God for your uselessness. If yon persist in clinging to your clerical position without correcting your ways, you will be accursed before all the people, and all, who receive you, will be excommunicate throughout the Church.

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.