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Fathers of the Church

Letter CXLI: to Eusebius, Bishop of Samosata

Description

Basil explains why he did not attend the synod (illness) and how he has not been neglectful of the Churches.

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. I HAVE now received two letters from your divine and most excellent wisdom, whereof the one told me clearly how I had been expected by the laity under the jurisdiction of your holiness, and what disappointment I had caused by failing to attend the sacred synod. The other, which from the writing I conjecture to be of the earlier date, though it was delivered later, gave me advice, at once honourable to yourself and necessary to me, not to neglect the interests of God's Churches, nor little by little to allow the guidance of affairs to pass to our opponents, whereby their interests must win, and ours lose. I think that I answered both. But, as I am uncertain whether my replies were preserved by those who were entrusted with the duty of conveying them, I will make my defence over again. As to my absence, I can put in an unimpeachable plea, as to which I think intelligence must have reached your holiness, that I have been detained by illness which bus brought me to the very gates of death. Even now as I write about it, the remains of sickness are still upon me. And they are such as to another man might be unendurable.

2. As to the fact of its not being owing to my neglect that the interests of the Churches have been betrayed to our opponents, I wish your reverence to know that the bishops in communion with me, from lack of earnestness, or because they suspect me and are not open with me, or because the devil is always at hand to oppose good works, are unwilling to cooperate with me. Formerly, indeed, the majority of us were united wish one another, including the excellent Bosporius. In reality they give me no aid in what is most essential. The consequence of all this is, that to a great extent my recovery is hindered by my distress, and the sorrow I feel brings back my worst symptoms. What, however, can I do alone and unaided, when the canons, as you yourself know, do not allow points of this kind to be settled by one man? And yet what remedy have I not tried? Of what decision have I failed to remind them, some by letter and some in person? They even came to the city, when they heard a report of my death; when, by God's will, they found me yet alive I made them such a speech as was proper to the occasion. In my presence they respect me, and promise all that is fit, but no sooner have they got back again than they return to their own opinion. In all this I am a sufferer, like the rest, for the Lord has clearly abandoned us, whose love has grown cold because iniquity abounds. For all this may your great and powerful intercession with God be sufficient for me. Perhaps we shall either become of some use, or, even if we fail in our object, we may escape condemnation.

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.