Fathers of the Church
Letter CLVI: to the Presbyter Evagrius
by Basil the Great in 357-370 | translated by Blomfield Jackson, M.A
1. So far from being impatient at the length of your letter, I assure you I thought it even short, from the pleasure it gave me when reading it. For is there anything more pleasing than the idea of peace? Is anything more suitable to the sacred office. or more acceptable to the Lord, than to take measures for effecting it? May you have the reward of the peace-maker, since so blessed an office has been the object of your good desires and earnest efforts. At the same time, believe me, my revered friend, I will yield to none in my earnest wish and prayer to see the day when those who are one in sentiment shall all fill the same assembly. Indeed it would be monstrous to feel pleasure in the schisms and divisions of the Churches, and not to consider that the greatest of goods consists in the knitting together of the members of Christ's body. But, alas! my inability is as real as my desire. No one knows better than yourself, that time alone is the remedy of ills that time has matured. Besides, a strong and vigorous treatment is necessary to get at the root of the complaint. You will understand this hint, though there is no reason why I should not speak out.
2. Self-importance, when rooted by habit in the mind, cannot be destroyed by one man, by one single letter, or in a short time. Unless there be some arbiter in whom all parties have confidence, suspicions and collisions will never altogether cease. If, indeed, the influence of Divine grace were shed upon me, and I were given power in word and deed and spiritual gifts to prevail with these rival parties, then this daring experiment might be demanded of me; though, perhaps, even then, you would not advise me to attempt this adjustment of things by myself, without the co-operation of the bishop, on whom principally falls the care of the church. But he cannot come hither, nor can I easily undertake a long journey while the winter lasts, or rather I cannot anyhow, for the Armenian mountains will be soon impassable, even to the young and vigorous, to say nothing of my continued bodily ailments. I have no objection to write to tell him of all this; but I have no expectation that writing will lead to anything, for I know his cautious character, and after all written words have little power to convince the mind. There are so many things to urge, and to bear, and to reply to, and to object, that a letter has no soul, and is in fact but waste paper. However, as I have said, I will write. Only give me credit, most religious and dear brother, for having no private feeling in the matter. Thank God. I have no such feeling towards any one. I have not busied myself in the investigation of the supposed or real complaints which are brought against this or that man; so my opinion has a claim on your attention as that of one who really cannot act from partiality or prejudice. I only desire, through the Lord's good will, that all things may be done with ecclesiastical propriety.
3. I was vexed to find from my dear son Dorotheus, our associate in the ministry, that you had been unwilling to communicate with him. This was not the kind of conversation which you had with me, as well as I recollect. As to my sending to the West it is quite out of the question. I have no one fit for the service. Indeed, when I look round, I seem to have no one on my side. I can but pray I may be found in the number of those seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal. I know the present persecutors of us all seek my life; yet that shall not diminish ought of the zeal which I owe to the Churches of 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. (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.