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Fathers of the Church

Letter CXVI: to Firminius

Description

Basil asks Firminius whether he has decided to remain in the military or to return to the city and take up a public office.

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

You write seldom, and your letters are short, either because you shrink from writing or from avoiding the satiety that comes from excess; or perhaps to train yourself to curt speech. I, indeed, am never satisfied and however abundant be your communication, it is less than my desire, because I wish to know every detail about you. How are you as to health? How as to ascetic discipline? Do you persevere in your original purpose? Or have you formed some new plan, changing your mind according to circumstances? Had you remained the same, I should not have wanted a great number of letters. I should have been quite satisfied with "I am quite well and I hope you are quite well." But I hear what I am ashamed to say, that you have deserted the ranks of your blessed forefathers, and deserted to your paternal grandfather, and are anxious to be rather a Brettanius than a Firminius. I am very anxious to hear about this, and to learn the reasons which have induced you to take to this kind of life. You have yourself been silent; ashamed, I suppose, of your intentions, and therefore I must implore you not to entertain any project, which can be associated with shame. If any such idea has entered into your mind, put it from you, come to yourself again, bid a long farewell to soldiering and arms and the toils of the camp. Return home thinking it, as your forefathers thought before you, quite enough for ease of life and all possible distinction to hold a high place in your city. This, I am sure, you will be able to achieve without difficulty, when I consider your natural gifts and the small number of your rivals. If, then, this was not your original intention, or if after forming it you have rejected it, let me know at once. If, on the other hand, which God forbid, you remain in the same mind, let the trouble come self announced. I do not want a letter.

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.