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Fathers of the Church

Letter CXXXI: to Olympius

Description

In answer to the charges made against him, Basil states that he does not "maintain three Gods, nor communicate with Apollinarius."

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

1. TRULY unexpected tidings make both ears tingle. This is my case. These compositions against me, which are being carried about, have fallen upon ears by this time pretty well seasoned, on account of my having formerly received the letter, appropriate enough to my sins, but which I should never have expected to be written by those who sent it. Nevertheless what followed did seem to me so extraordinarily cruel as to blot out all that had gone before. How could I fail to be driven almost out of my senses when I read the letter addressed to the reverend brother Dazinas, full of outrageous insults and calumnies and of attacks against me, as though I had been convicted of much pernicious designs against the Church? Moreover proofs were forthwith offered of the truth of the calumnies against me, from the document of whose authorship I am ignorant. Parts I recognise, I own, as having been written by Apollinarius of Laodicea. These I had purposely not even ever read, but I had heard of them from the report of others. Other portions I found included, which I had never either read or heard of from any one else; of the truth of this there is a faithful witness in heaven. How then can men who shun lies, who have learnt that love is the fulfilling of the law, who profess to bear the burdens of the weak, have consented to bring these calumnies against me and to condemn me out of other men's writings? I have often asked myself this question, but I cannot imagine the reason, unless it be, as I have said from the beginning, that my pain in all this is a part of the punishment which is due to my sins.

2. First of all I sorrowed in soul that truths were lessened by the sons of men; in the second place I feared for my own self, lest in addition to my other sins, I should become a misanthrope, believing no truth and honour to be left in any man; if indeed those whom I have most greatly trusted are proved to be so disposed both to me and to the truth. Be sure then, my brother, and every one who is a friend of the truth, that the composition is not mine; I do not approve of it, for it is not drawn up according to my views. Even if I did write, a good many years ago, to Apollinarius or to any one else, I ought not to be blamed. I find no fault myself if any member of any society has been cut off into heresy (and you know perfectly well whom I mean though I mention nobody by name), because each man will die in his own sin.

This is my reply to the document sent me, that you may know the truth, and make it plain to all who wish not to hold the truth in unrighteousness. If it prove necessary to defend myself more at length on each separate count, I will do so, God being my helper. I, brother Olympius, neither maintain three Gods, nor communicate with Apollinarius.

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.