Fathers of the Church

Letter CCXXXVII: to Eusebius, Bishop of Samosata

Description

Basil writes of the trouble in the Churches caused by the Vicar of Thrace.

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 BOTH wrote to your reverence by the vicar of Thrace, and sent other letters by one of the officers of the treasury of Philippopolis, who was starting from our country into Thrace, and begged him to take them on his departure. But the vicar never received my letter, for while I was visiting my diocese, he came into town in the evening and started early in the morning, so that the church officers did not know of his coming, and the letter remained at my house. The treasurer, too, on account of some unexpected and urgent business, set out without seeing me or taking my letters. No one else could be found; so I remained, sorry at not being able to write to you and at not receiving any letter from your reverence. Yet I was wishful, were it possible, to tell you all that happens to me day by day. So many astonishing things happen as to need a daily narrative, and you may be sure that I would have written one, unless my mind had been diverted from its purpose by the pressure of events.

2. The first and greatest of my troubles was the visit of the Vicar. As to whether he is a man really heretically minded I do not know; for I think that he is quite unversed in doctrine, and has not the slightest interest or experience in such things, for I see him day and night busy, both in body and soul, in other things. But he is certainly a friend of heretics; and he is not more friendly to them than he is ill-disposed to me. He has a summoned a synod of wicked men in mid-winter in Galatia. He has deposed Hypsinus and set up Ecdicius in his place. I He has ordered the removal of my brother on the accusation of one man, and that one quite insignificant. Then, after being occupied for some little time about the army, he came to us again breathing rage and slaughter, and, in one sentence, delivered all the Church of Caesarea to the Senate. He settled for several days at Sebaste, separating friends from foes, calling those in communion with me senators, and condemning them to the public service, while he advanced the adherents of Eustathius. He has ordered a second synod of bishops of Galatia and Pontus to be assembled at Nyssa. They have submitted, have met, and have sent to the Churches a man of whose character I do not like to speak; but your reverence can well understand what sort of a man he must be who would put himself at the disposal of such counsels of men. Now, while I am thus writing, the same gang have hurried to Sebaste to unite with Eustathius, and, with him, to upset the Church of Nicopolis. For the blessed Theodotus has fallen asleep. Hitherto the Nicopolitans have bravely and stoutly resisted the vicar's first assault; for he tried to persuade them to receive Eustathius, and to accept their bishop on his appointment. But, on seeing them unwilling to yield, he is now trying, by yet more violent action, to effect the establishment of the bishop whom it has been attempted to give them. There is, moreover, said to be some rumoured expectation of a synod, by which means they mean to summon me to receive them into communion, or to be friendly with them. Such is the position of the Churches. As to my own health, I think it better to say nothing. I cannot bear not to tell the truth, and by telling the truth I shall only grieve you.

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.