Fathers of the Church

Letter CCVI: to Elpidius the Bishop

Description

A consolatory letter to Elpidius on the loss of his son.

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

Now, most of all, do I feel my bodily infirmity, when I see how it stands in the way of my soul's good. Had matters gone as I hoped, I should not now be speaking to you by letter or by messenger, but should in my own person have been paying the debt of affection and enjoying spiritual advantage face to face. Now, however, I am so situated that I am only too glad if I am able even to move about in my own country in the necessary visitation of parishes in my district. But may the Lord grant to you both strength and a ready will, and to me, in addition to my eager desire, ability to enjoy your society when I am in the country of Comana. I am afraid lest your domestic trouble may be some hindrance to you. For I have learnt of your affliction in the loss of your little boy. To a grandfather his death cannot but be grievous. On the other hand to a man who has attained to so high a degree of virtue, and alike from his experience of this world and his spiritual training knows what human nature is, it is natural that the removal of those who are near and dear should not he wholly intolerable. The Lord requires from us what He does not require from every one. The common mass of mankind lives by habit, but the Christian's rule of life is the commandment of the Lord, and the example of holy men of old, whose greatness of soul was, above all, exhibited in adversity. To the end, then, that you may yourself leave to them that come after you an example of fortitude and of genuine trust in what we hope for, show that you are not vanquished by your grief, but are rising above your sorrows, patient in affliction, and rejoicing in hope. Pray let none of these things be a hindrance to our hoped for meeting. Children, indeed, are held blameless on account of their tender age; but you and I are under the responsibility of serving the Lord, as He commands us, and in all things to be ready for the administration of the affairs of the Churches. For the due discharge of that duty the Lord has reserved great rewards for faithful and wise stewards.

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.