Catholic Culture News
Catholic Culture News

Fathers of the Church

Epistle XLVIII: to Basil


Gregory writes that he is tired of bearing the blame and suffering the wrong for Basil's actions — for such is the present situation.


Gregory was the first Greek author to publish a collection of his letters; he did so at the request of Nicobulus, a grandson of his sister Gorgonia. Incidentally, he also sets forth a theory of epistolography; he demands that a good letter should have four characteristics: shortness, clearness, charm and simplicity. Although he refuses to present his own epistles as models, they are carefully written, in many cases not without humor, and most of them are brief and pointed. (Quasten)

Shortly after the events described in Epistle XLVII, Basil determined to strengthen his own hands by creating a number of new Bishoprics in the disputed Province, to one of which, Sasima, he consecrated Gregory, very much against the will of the latter, who felt that he had been hardly used, and did not attempt to disguise his reluctance.

by Gregory Nazianzen in 372 | translated by Charles Gordon Browne, M.A., James Edward Swallow, M.A

Do leave off speaking of me as an ill-educated and uncouth and unfriendly man, not even worthy to live, because I have ventured to be conscious of the way in which I have been treated. You yourself would admit that I have not done wrong in any other respect, and my own conscience does not reproach me with having been unkind to you in either great or small matters; and I hope it never may. I only know that I saw that I had been deceived—too late indeed, but I saw it—and I throw the blame on your throne, as having on a sudden lifted you above yourself; and I am weary of being blamed for faults of yours, and of having to make excuses for them to people who know both our former and our present relations. For of all that I have to endure this is the most ridiculous or most pitiable thing, that the same person should have both to suffer the wrong and to bear the blame, and this is my present case. Different people blame me for different things according to the tastes of each, or each man's disposition, or the measure of their ill feeling on my account; but the kindest reproach me with contempt and disdain, and they throw me on one side after making use of me, like the most valueless vessels, or those frames upon which arches are built, which after the building is complete are taken down and cast aside. We will let them be and say what they please; no one shall curb their freedom of speech. And do you, as my reward, pay off those blessed and empty hopes, which you devised against the evil speakers, who accused you of insulting me on pretence of honouring me, as though I were lightminded and easily taken in by such treatment. Now I will plainly speak out the state of my mind, and you must not be angry with me. For I will tell you just what I said at the moment of the suffering, not in a fit of anger or so much in the sense of astonishment at what had happened as to lose my reason or not to know what I said. I will not take up arms, nor will I learn tactics which I did not learn in former times, when the occasion seemed more suitable, as every one was arming and in frenzy (you know the illness of the weak), nor will I face the martial Anthimus, though he be an untimely warrior, being myself unarmed and unwarlike, and thus the more exposed to wounds. Fight with him yourself if you wish (for necessity often makes warriors even of the weak), or look out for some one to fight when he seizes your mules, keeping guard over a defile, and like Amalek of old, barring the way against Israel. Give me before all things quiet. Why should I fight for sucking pigs and fowls, and those not my own, as though for souls and canons? Why should I deprive the Metropolis of the celebrated Sasima, or lay bare and unveil the secret of your mind, when I ought to join in concealing it? Do you then play the man and be strong and draw all parties to your own conclusion, as the rivers do the winter torrents, without regard for friendship or intimacy in good, or for the reputation which such a course will bring you. Give yourself up to the Spirit alone. I shall gain this only from your friendship, that I shall learn not to trust in friends, or to esteem anything more valuable than God.

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. (LNPF II/VII, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.

To Fathers of the Church home page