Fathers of the Church
Letter Cxc: to Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium
by Basil the Great in 357-370 | translated by Blomfield Jackson, M.A
1. THE interest which you have shewn in the affairs of the Isaurian Church is only what might have been expected from that zeal and propriety of conduct which so continually rouses my admiration of you. The most careless observer must at once perceive that it is in all respects more advantageous for care and anxiety to be divided among several bishops. This has not escaped your observation, and you have done well in noting, and in acquainting me with, the position of affairs. But it is not easy to find fit men. While, then, we are desirous of having the credit that comes of numbers, and cause God's Church to be more effectively administered by more officers, let us be careful lest we unwittingly bring the word into contempt on account of the unsatisfactory character of the men who are called to office, and accustom the laity to indifference. You yourself know well that the conduct of the governed is commonly of a piece with that of those who are set over them. Perhaps therefore it might be better to appoint one well approved man, though even this may not be an easy matter, to the supervision of the whole city, and entrust him with the management of details on his own responsibility. Only let him be a servant of God, "a workman that needeth not to be ashamed," not "looking on his own things," but on the things of the most, "that they be saved." If he finds himself overweighted with responsibility, he will associate other labourers for the harvest with himself. If only we can find such a man, I own that I think the one worth many, and the ordering of the cure of souls in this way likely to be attended at once with more advantage to the Churches and with less risk to us. If, however, this course prove difficult, let us first do our best to appoint superintendents to the small townships or villages which have of old been episcopal sees. Then afterwards we will appoint once more the [bishop] of the city. Unless we take this course the man appointed may prove a hindrance to subsequent administration. and from his wish to rule over a larger diocese, and his refusal to accept the ordination of the bishops, we may find ourselves suddenly involved in a domestic quarrel. If this course is difficult, and time does not allow, see to it that the Isaurian bishop is strictly kept within his own bounds by ordaining some of his immediate neighbours. In the future it will be reserved for us to give to the rest bishops at the proper season, after we have carefully examined those whom we ourselves may judge to be most fit.
2. I have asked George, as you requested. He replies as you reported. In all this we must remain quiet, casting the care of the house on the Lord. For I put my trust in the Holy God that He will by my aid grant to him deliverance from his difficulties in some other way, and to me to live my life without trouble. If this cannot be, be so good as to send me word yourself as to what part I must look after, that I may begin to ask this favour of each of my friends in power, either for nothing, or for some moderate price, as the Lord may prosper me.
I have, in accordance with your request, written to brother Valerius. Matters at Nyssa are going on as they were left by your reverence, and, by the aid of your holiness, are improving. Of those who were then separated from me some have gone off to the court, and some remain waiting for tidings from it. The Lord is able as well to frustrate the expectations of these latter as to make the return of the former useless.
3. Philo, on the authority of some Jewish tradition, explains the manna to have been of such a nature that it changed with the taste of the eater: that of itself it was like millet seed boiled in honey; it served sometimes for bread, sometimes for meat, either of birds or beasts; at other times for vegetables, according to each man's liking; even for fish so that the flavour of each separate kind was exactly reproduced in the eater's mouth.
Scripture recognises chariots containing three riders, because while other chariots contained two, the driver and the man-at-arms, Pharaoh's held three, two men-at-arms. and one to hold the reins.
Sympius has written me a letter expressive of respect and communion. The letter which I have written in reply I am sending to your holiness, that you may send it on to him if you quite approve of it, with the addition of some communication from yourself. May you, by the loving kindness of the Holy One, be preserved for me and for the Church of God, in good health, happy in the Lord, and ever praying for me.
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.