Fathers of the Church
Letter CCLXVI: to Petrus, Bishop of Alexandria
by Basil the Great in 357-370 | translated by Blomfield Jackson, M.A
1. You have very properly rebuked me, and in a manner becoming a spiritual brother who has been taught genuine love by the Lord, because I am not giving you exact and detailed information of all that is going on here, for it is both your part to be interested in what concerns me, and mine to tell you all that concerns myself. But I must tell you, right honourable and well-beloved brother, that our continuous afflictions, and this mighty agitation which is now shaking the Churches, result in my talking all that is happening as a matter of course. Just as in smithies where men whose ears are deafened get accustomed to the sound, so by the frequency of the strange tidings that reach me I have now grown accustomed to be undisturbed and undismayed at extraordinary events. So the policy which has been for a long time pursued by the Arians to the detriment of the Church, although their achievements have been many and great and noised abroad through all the world, has nevertheless been endurable to me, because of their being the work of open foes and enemies of the word of truth. It is when these men do something unusual that I am astonished, not when they attempt something great and audacious against true religion. But I am grieved and troubled at what is being done by men who feel and think with me. Yet their doings are so frequent and so constantly reported to me, that even they do not appear surprising. So it comes about that I was not agitated at the recent disorderly proceedings, partly because I knew perfectly well that common report would carry them to you without my help, and partly because I preferred to wait for somebody else to give you disagreeable news. And yet, further, I did not think it reasonable that I should show indignation at such proceedings, as though I were annoyed at suffering a slight. To the actual agents in the matter I have written in becoming terms, exhorting them, because of the dissension arising among some of the brethren there, not to fall away from charity, but to wait for the matter to be set right by those who have authority to remedy disorders in due ecclesiastical form. That you should have so acted, stirred by honourable and becoming motives, calls for my commendation, and moves my gratitude to the Lord that there remains preserved in you a relic of the ancient discipline, and that the Church has not lost her own might in my persecution. The canons have not suffered persecution as well as I. Though importuned again by the Galatians, I was never able to give them an answer, because I waited for your decision. Now, if the Lord so will and they will consent to listen to me, I hope that I shall be able to bring the people to the Church. It cannot then be cast in my teeth that I have gone over to the Marcellians, and they on the contrary will become limbs of the body of the Church of Christ. Thus the disgrace caused by heresy will be made to disappear by the method I adopt, and I shall escape the opprobrium of having gone over to them.
2. I have also been grieved by our brother Dorotheus, because, as he has himself written, he has not gently and mildly reported everything to your excellency. I set this down to the difficulty of the times. I seem to be deprived by my sins of all success in my undertakings, if indeed the best of my brethren are proved ill-disposed and incompetent, by their failure to perform their duties in accordance with my wishes. On his return Dorotheus reported to me the conversation which he had had with your excellency in the presence of the very venerable bishop Damasus, and he caused me distress by saying that our God-beloved brethren and fellow- ministers, Meletius and Eusebius, had been reckoned among the Ariomaniacs. If their orthodoxy were established by nothing else, the attacks made upon them by the Arians are, to the minds of all right thinking people, no small proof of their rectitude. Even your participation with them in sufferings endured for Christ's sake ought to unite your reverence to them in love. Be assured of this, right honourable sir, that there is no word of orthodoxy which has not been proclaimed by these men with all boldness. God is my witness. I have heard them myself. I should not certainly have now admitted them to communion, if I had caught them tripping in the faith. But, if it seem good to you, let us leave the past alone. Let us make a peaceful start for the future. For we have need one of another in the fellowship of the members, and specially now, when the Churches of the East are looking to us, and will take your agreement as a pledge of strength and consolidation. If, on the other hand, they perceive that you are in a state of mutual suspicion, they will drop their hands, and slacken in their resistance to the enemies of the faith.
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.