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Fathers of the Church

Letter CXXXVIII: to Eusebius, Bishop of Samosata

Description

Basil asks for advice regarding a situation with the Churches in the West.

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. WHAT was my state of mind, think you, when I received your piety's letter? When I thought of the feelings which its language expressed, I was eager to fly straight to Syria; but when I thought of the bodily illness, under which I lay bound, I saw myself unequal, not only to flying, but even to turning on my bed. This day, on which our beloved and excellent brother and deacon, Elpidius, has arrived, is the fiftieth of my illness. I am much reduced by the fever. For lack of what it might feed on, it lingers in this dry flesh as in an expiring wick, and so has brought on a wasting and tedious illness. Next my old plague, the liver, coming upon it, has kept me from taking nourishment, prevented sleep, and held me on the confines of life and death, granting just life enough to feel its inflictions. In consequence I have had recourse to the hot springs, and have availed myself of help from medical men.

But for all these the mischief has proved too strong. Perhaps another man might endure it, but, coining as it did unexpectedly, no one is so stout as to bear it. Long troubled by it as I have been, I have never been so distressed as now at being prevented by it from meeting you and enjoying your true friendship. I know of how much pleasure I am deprived, although last year I did touch With the tip of my finger the sweet honey of your Church.

2. For many urgent reasons I felt bound to meet your reverence, both to discuss many things with you and to learn many things from you. Here it is not possible even to find genuine affection. And, could one even find a true friend, none can give counsel to me in the present emergency with anything like the wisdom and experience which you have acquired in your many labours on the Church's behalf. The rest I must not write. I may, however, safely say what follows. The presbyter Evagrius, son of Pompeianus of Antioch, who set out some time ago to the West with the blessed Eusebius, has now returned from Rome. He demands from me a letter couched in the precise terms dictated by the Westerns. My own he has brought back again to me, and reports that it did not give satisfaction to the more precise authorities there. He also asks that a commission of men of repute may be promptly sent, that they may have a reasonable pretext for visiting me. My sympathisers in Sebasteia have stripped the covering from the secret sore of the unorthodoxy of Eustathius, and demand my ecclesiastical care.

Iconium is a city of Pisidia, anciently the first after the greatest, and now it is capital of a part, consisting of an union of different portions, and allowed the government of a distinct province. Iconium too calls me to visit her and to give her a bishop; for Faustinus is dead. Whether I ought to shrink from consecrations over the border; what answer I ought to give to the Sebastenes; what attitude I should show to the propositions of Evagrius; all these are questions to which I was anxious to get answers in a personal interview with you, for here in my present weakness I am cut off from everything. If, then, you can find any one soon coming this way, be so good as to give me your answer on them all. If not, pray that what is pleasing to the Lord may come into my mind. In your synod also bid mention to be made of me, and pray for me yourself, and join your people with you in the prayer that it may be permitted me to continue my service through the remaining days or hours of my sojourning here in a manner pleasing to the Lord.

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.