Action Alert!

Fathers of the Church

Letter CCXXV: to Demosthenes, As from the Synod of Bishops

Description

Basil asks Demosthenes not to be angry at the postponment of his brother Gregory of Nyssa's trial, because Gregory had just become ill and was unable to attend.

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

I am always very thankful to God and to the emperor, under whose rule we live. when I see the government of my country put into the hands of one who is not only a Christian, but is moreover correct in life and a careful guardian of the laws according to which our life in this world is ordered. I have had special reason for offering this gratitude to God and to our God-beloved emperor on the occasion of your coming among us. I have been aware that some of the enemies of peace have been about to stir your august tribunal against me, and have been waiting to be summoned by your excellency that you might learn the truth from me; if indeed your high wisdom condescends to consider the examination of ecclesiastical matters to be within your province. The, tribunal overlooked me, but your excellency, moved by the reproaches of Philochares, ordered my brother and fellow-minister Gregory to be haled before your judgment seat. He obeyed your summons; how could he do otherwise? But he was attacked by pain in the side, and at the same time, in consequence of a chill, was attacked by his old kidney complaint. He has therefore been compelled, forcibly detained by your soldiers as he was, to be conveyed to some quiet spot, where he could have his maladies attended to, and get some comfort in his intolerable agony. Under these circumstances we have combined to approach your lordship with the entreaty that you will feel no anger at the postponement of the trial. The public interests have not in any way suffered through our delay, nor have those of the Church been injured. If there is any question of the wasteful expenditure of money, the treasurers of the Church funds are there, ready to give an account to any one who likes, and to exhibit the injustice of the charges advanced by men who have braved the careful hearing of the case before you. For they can have no difficulty in making the truth clear to any one who seeks it from the actual writings of the blessed bishop himself. If there is any other point of canonical order which requires investigation, and your excellency deigns to undertake to hear and to judge it, it will be necessary for us all to be present, because, if there has been a failure in any point of canonical order, the responsibility lies with the consecrators and not with him who is forcibly compelled to undertake the ministry. We therefore petition you to reserve the hearing of the case for us in our own country, and not to compel us to travel beyond its borders, nor force us to a meeting with bishops with whom we have not yet come to agreement on ecclesiastical questions. I beg you also to be merciful to my own old age and ill health. You will learn by actual investigation, if it please God, that no canonical rule be it small or great was omitted in the appointment of the bishop. I pray that under your administration unity and peace may be brought about with my brethren; but so long as this does not exist it is difficult for us even to meet, because many of our simpler brethren suffer from our mutual disputes.

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.