Fathers of the Church

Letter LVI: to Pergamius

Description

Basil explains why he has not written and asks Pergamius to not hold him at fault for his preoccupation with work.

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 NATURALLY forget very easily, and I have had lately many things to do, and so my natural infirmity is increased. I have no doubt, therefore, that you have written to me, although I have no recollection of having received any letter from your excellency; for I am sure you would not state what is not the case. But for there having been no reply, it is not I that am in fault; the guilt lies with him who did not ask for one. Now, however, you have this letter, containing my defence for the past and affording ground for a second greeting. So, when you write to me, do not suppose that yon are taking the initiative in another correspondence. You are only discharging your proper obligation in this. For really, although this letter of mine is a return for a previous one of yours, as it is more than twice as bulky, it will fulfil a double purpose. You see to what sophisms my idleness drives me. But, my dear Sir, do not in a few words bring serious charges, indeed the most serious of all. Forgetfulness of one's friends, and neglect of them arising from high place, are faults which involve every kind of wrong. Do we fail to love according to the commandment of the Lord? Then we lose the distinctive mark imprinted on us. Are we puffed to repletion with empty pride and arrogance? Then we fall into the inevitable condemnation of the devil. If, then, you use these words because yon held such sentiments about me, pray that I may flee from the wickedness which you have found in my ways; if, however, your tongue shaped itself to these words, in a kind of inconsiderate conventionality, I shall console myself, and ask you to be good enough to adduce some tangible proof of your allegations. Be well assured of this, that my present anxiety is an occasion to me of humility. I shall begin to forget you, when I cease to know myself. Never, then, think that because a man is a very busy man he is a man of faulty character.

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.