Fathers of the Church

Letter CCLXXVI: to the Great Harmatius

Description

Basil asks Harmatius not to be angry with his son, who has forsaken his father's pagan gods and turned to the one true God.

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. Always ready to help, Basil addressed a great number of letters to high authorities and wealthy persons in order to recommend the poor and oppressed, to intercede for cities and towns, for relatives and friends. (Quasten)

by Basil the Great in 357-370 | translated by Blomfield Jackson, M.A

THE common law of human nature makes elders fathers to youngsters, and the special peculiar law of us Christians puts us old men in the place of parents to the younger. Do not, then, think that I am impertinent or shew myself indefensibly meddlesome, if I plead with you on behalf of your son. In other respects I think it only right that you should exact obedience from him; for, so far as his body is concerned, he is subject to you, both by the law of nature, and by the civil law under which we live. His soul, however, is derived from a diviner source, and may properly be held to be subject to another authority. The debts which it owes to God have a higher claim than any others. Since, then, he has preferred the God of us Christians, the true God, to your many gods which are worshipped by the help of material symbols, be not angry with him. Rather admire his noble firmness of soul, in sacrificing the fear and respect due to his father to close conjunction with God, through true knowledge and a life of virtue. Nature herself will move you, as well as your invariable gentleness and kindliness of disposition, not to allow yourself to feel angry with him even to a small extent. And I am sure that you will not set my mediation at naught,—or rather, I should say, the mediation of your townsmen of which I am the exponent. They all love you so well, and pray so earnestly for all blessings for you, that they suppose that in you they have welcomed a Christian too. So overjoyed have they been at the report which has suddenly reached the town.

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.