Fathers of the Church

Letter LXVII: to Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria

Description

Following on Letter LXVI, Athanasius makes it clear that he thinks Meletius should be the bishop of Antioch.

Provenance

Basil's main concern was the unity of the Church. The almost total lack of unity among the Christians in the East and West caused him to enlist the patronage of Athanasius in his attempt to establish better relations between Rome and the Orient. He was convinced that orthodoxy could succeed only if there were no dissensions and no waste of strength among the believers. Unfortunately, one obstacle stood out prominently in the way of the desired harmony between East and West, namely, the dispute of Paulinus and Meletius as to which of the two was the rightful bishop of Antioch. Basil's appeal to Athanasius and to Rome for the healing of this schism was rejected, mainly because the hierarchy of the West was opposed to Meletius whom he favored, and recognized Paulinus. (Quasten)

by Basil the Great in 357-370 | translated by Blomfield Jackson, M.A

IN my former letter it seemed to me sufficient to point out to your excellency, that all that portion of the people of the holy Church of Antioch who are sound in the faith, ought to be brought to concord and unity. My object was to make it plain that the sections, now divided into several parts, ought to be united under the God-beloved bishop Meletius. Now the same beloved deacon, Dorotheus, has requested a more distinct statement on these subjects, and I am therefore constrained to point out that it is the prayer of the whole East, and the earnest desire of one who, like myself, is so wholly united to him, to see him in authority over the Churches of the Lord. He is a man of unimpeachable faith; his manner of life is incomparably excellent, he stands at the head, so to say, of the whole body of the Church, and all else are mere disjointed members. On every ground, then, it is necessary as well as advantageous, that the rest should be united with him, just as smaller streams with great ones. About the rest, however, a certain amount of management is needed, befitting their position, and likely to pacify the people. This is in keeping with your own wisdom, and with your famous readiness and energy. It has however by no means escaped your intelligence, that this same course of procedure has already recommended itself to the Westerns who are in agreement with you, as I learn from the letters brought to me by the blessed Silvanus.

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.