LETTERS OF ST. BASIL THE GREAT, 292-365
[Translated by the Rev. Blomfield Jackson, M.A., Vicar of Saint Bartholomew's, Moor Lane, and Fellow of King's college, London.]
[***N.B. The letters numbered CCXCII.-CCCLXVI. are included by the Ben. Ed. in a "Classis Tertia," having no note of time. Some are doubtful, and some plainly spurious. Of these I include such as seem most important.***]
LETTER CCXCII: To Palladius.
THE one-half of my desire has God fulfilled in the interview He granted me with our fair sister, your wife. The other half He is able to accomplish; and so with the sight of your excellency I shall render my full thanks to God.
And I am the more desirous of seeing you, now that I hear you have been adorned with that great ornament, the clothing of immortality, which clokes our mortality, and puts out of sight the death of the flesh; by virtue of which the corruptible is swallowed up in incorruption.
Thus God of His goodness has now alienated you from sin, united you to Himself, has opened the doors of Heaven, and pointed out the paths that lead to heavenly bliss. I entreat you therefore by that wisdom wherein you excel all other men, that you receive the divine favour circumspectly, proving a faithful guardian of this treasure, as the repository of this royal gift, keeping watch over it with all carefulness. Preserve this seal of righteousness unsullied, that so you may stand before God, shining in the brightness of the Saints. Let no spot or wrinkle defile the pure robe of immortality; but keep holiness in all your members, as having put on Christ. "For," it is said, " as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ."(1) Wherefore let all your members be holy as becomes their investment in a raiment of holiness and light.
LETTER CCXCIII: To Julianus.
HOW fare you this long while? Have you altogether recovered the use of your hand? And how do other things prosper? According to your wishes and my prayers? In accordance with your purposes ?
Where men are readily disposed to change, it is only natural that their lives are not well ordered: but where their minds are fixed, steadfast and unalterable, it follows that their lives should be conformable to their purposes.
True, it is not in the helmsman's power to make a calm when he wishes; but with us. it is quite easy to render our lives tranquil by stilling the storms of passion that surge within, by rising superior to those that assail us from without. The upright man is touched by neither loss, nor sickness, nor the other ills of life; for he walks in heart with God. keeps his gaze fixed upon the future, and easily and lightly weathers the storms that rise from earth.
Be not troubled with the cares of earth. Such men are like fat birds, in vain endowed with flight, that creep like beasts upon the ground. But you--for I have witnessed you in difficulties--are like swimmers racing out at sea.
A single claw reveals the whole lion: so from a slight acquaintance I think I know you fully. And I count it a great thing, that you set some store by me, that I am not absent from your thoughts, but constantly in your recollection.
Now writing is a proof of recollection; and the oftener you write, the better pleased I am.
LETTER CCXCIV: To Festus and Magnus.
IT is doubtless a father's duty to make provision for his children; a husbandman's to tend his plants and crops; a teacher's to bestow care upon his pupils, especially when, innate goodness shews signs of promise for them.
The husbandman finds toil a pleasure when he sees the ears ripen or the plants increase; the teacher is gladdened at his pupils' growth in knowledge, the father at his son's in stature. But greater is the care I feel for you; higher the hopes I entertain; in proportion as piety is more excellent than all the arts, than all the animals and fruits together.
And piety I planted in your heart while still pure and tender, and I matured it in the hopes of seeing it reach maturity and bearing fruits in due season. My prayers meanwhile were furthered by your love of learning. And you know well that you have my good wishes, and that God's favour rests upon your endevours; for when rightly directed, called or uncalled, God is at hand to further them.
Now every man that loves God is prone to teaching; nay, where there is the power to teach things profitable, their eagerness is well nigh uncontrollable; but first their hearers' minds must be cleared of all resistance.
Not that separation in the body is a hindrance to instruction. The Creator, in the fulness of His love and wisdom, did not confine our minds within our bodies, nor the power of speaking to our tongues. Ability to profit derives some advantage even from lapse of time; thus we are able to transmit instruction, not only to those who are dwelling far away, but even to those who are hereafter to be born. And experience proves my words: those who lived many years before teach posterity by instruction preserved in their writings; and we, though so far separated in the body, are always near in thought, and converse together with ease.
Instruction is bounded neither by sea nor land, if only we have a care for our souls' profit.
LETTER CCXCV: To monks.
I DO not think that I need further commend you to God's grace, after the words that I addressed to you in person. I then bade you adopt the life in common, after the manner of living of the Apostles. This you accepted as wholesome instruction, and gave God thanks for it.
Thus your conduct was due, not so much to the words I spoke, as to my instructions to put them into practice, conducive at once to your advantage who accepted, to my comfort who gave you the advice, and to the glory and praise of Christ, by Whose name we are called.
For this reason I have sent to you our well-beloved brother, that he may learn of your zeal, may quicken your sloth, may report to me of opposition. For great is my desire to see you all united in one body, and to hear that you are not content to live a life without witness; but have undertaken to be both watchful of each other's diligence, and witnesses of each other's success.
Thus will each of you receive a reward in full, not only on his own behalf, but also for his brother's progress. And, as is fitting, you will be a source of mutual profit, both by your words and deeds, as a result of constant intercourse and exhortation. But above all I exhort you to be mindful of the faith of the Fathers, and not to be shaken by those who in your retirement would try to wrest you from it. For you know that unless illumined by faith in God, strictness of life availeth nothing; nor will a right confession of faith, if void of good works, be able to present you before the Lord.
Faith and works must be joined: so shall the man of God be perfect, and his life not halt through any imperfection.
For the faith which saves us, as saith the Apostle, is that which worketh by love.
LETTER CCXCVI: To a widow.
[A short letter in which Basil excuses himself for making use of the widow's mules.]
LETTER CCXCVII: To a widow.
[A short letter of introduction.]
LETTER CCXCVIII: Without address.
[A short letter of commendation.]
LETTER CCXCIX: To a Censitor.(1)
I WAS aware, before you told me, that you do not like your employment in public affairs. It is an old saying that those who are anxious to lead a pious life do not throw themselves with pleasure into office. The case of magistrates seems to me like that of physicians. They see awful sights; they meet with bad smells; they get trouble for themselves out of other people's calamities. This is at least the case with those who are real magistrates. All men who are engaged in business, look also to make a profit, and are excited about this kind of glory, count it the greatest possible advantage to acquire some power and influence by which they may be able to benefit their friends, punish their enemies, and get what they want for themselves. You are not a man of this kind. How should you be? You have voluntarily withdrawn from even high office in the State. You might have ruled the city like one single house, but you have preferred a life free from care and anxiety. You have placed a higher value on having no troubles yourself and not troubling other people, than other people do on making themselves disagreeable. But it has seemed good to the Lord that the district of Ibora(2) should not be under the power of hucksters, nor be turned into a mere slave market. It is His will that every individual in it should be enrolled, as is right. Do you therefore accept this responsibility? It is vexatious, I know, but it is one which may bring you the approbation of God. Neither fawn upon the great and powerful, nor despise the poor and needy. Show to all under your rule an impartiality of mind, balanced more exactly than any scales. Thus in the sight of those who have entrusted you with these responsibilities your zeal for justice will be made evident, and they will view you with exceptional admiration. And even though you go unnoticed by them, you will not be unnoticed by our God. The prizes which He has put before us for good works are great.
LETTER CCC: Without address.
[A consolatory letter to a father.]
LETTER CCCI: To Maximus.
[Consolatory on the death of his wife.]
LETTER CCCII: To the wife of Briso.
[Consolatory on the death of her husband. These three consolatory letters present no features different from those contained in previous letters of a similar character.]
LETTER CCCIII: To the Comes Privatarum.
YOU have, I think, been led to impose a contribution of mares(1) on these people by false information on the part of the inhabitants. What is going on is quite unfair. It cannot but be displeasing to your excellency, and is distressing to me on account of my intimate connexion with the victims of the wrong. I have therefore lost no time in begging year Lordship not to allow these promoters of iniquity to succeed in their malevolence.
LETTER CCCIV: To Aburgius.
[A few unimportant words of introduction.]
LETTER CCCV: Without address.
[An unimportant letter of recommendation.]
LETTER CCCVI: To the Governor of Sebasteia.(2)
I AM aware that your excellency is favourably receiving my letters, and I understand why. You love all that is good; you are ready in doing kindnesses. So whenever I give you the opportunity of shewing your magnanimity, you are eager for my letters, because you know that they furnish an occasion for good deeds. Now, once more, behold an occasion for your shewing all the signs of rectitude, and at the same time for the public exhibition of your virtues !Certain persons have come from Alexandria for the discharge of a necessary duty which is due from all men to the dead. They ask your excellency to give orders that it may be permitted them to have conveyed away, under official sanction, the corpse of a relative who departed this life at Sebasteia, while the troops were quartered there. They further beg that, as far as possible, aid may be given them for travelling at the public expense, so that, of your bounty, they may find some help and solace in their long journey. The tidings of this will travel as far as to great Alexandria. and will convey thither the report of your excellency's astonishing kindness. This you well understand without my mentioning it. I shall add gratitude for this one more favour to that which I feel for all which you have done me.
LETTER CCCVII: Without address.
[A request to mediate between two litigants.]
LETTER CCCVIII: Without address.
[Commendatory, with the mention of a place called Capralis.]
LETTER CCCIX: Without address.
[Commendatory on behalf of a man reduced from wealth to poverty, with three children, and anxious about his rating.]
LETTER CCCX: Without address.
[Commendatory on behalf of some kinsfolk, and of the people of Ariarathia, a place in the Sargaransene, about 60 m. E. of Caesarea.(1)]
[Commendatory: short and of no importance.]
[Commendatory: short and unimportant.]
[Commendatory of the interests of Sulpicius.]
LETTER CCCXIV: Without address.
LETTER CCCXV: Without address.
[Commendatory of a widow.]
LETTERS CCCXVI., CCCXVII., CCCXVIII., CCCXIX: Without address.
LETTER CCCXX: Without address.
LETTER CCCXXI: To Thecla.
[Included among the Letters of Gregory of Nazianzus, who is assumed by the Ben. Ed. to be indubitably the writer.(1)]
LETTER CCCXXII: Without address.
[Asking a friend to come with his wife and spend Easter with him.]
LETTER CCCXXIII: To Philagrius Arcenus.
LETTER CCCXXIV: To Pasinicus, the Physician.
LETTER CCCXXV: To Magninianus.
LETTER CCCXXVI: Without address.
LETTER CCCXXVII: Without address.
LETTER CCCXXVII: To Hyperectius.
[On Basil's health.]
LETTER CCCXXIX: To Phalirius.
[WITH thanks for a present of fish.]
LETTERS CCCXXX., CCCXXXI., CCCXXXII., CCCXXXIII.
[All short and without address. Letters from CCCXXIII to CCCXXXIII. have no importance.]
LETTER CCCXXXIV: To a writer.
WRITE straight, and make the lines straight. Do not let your hand go too high or too low. Avoid forcing the pen to travel slantwise, like Aasop's crab. Advance straight on, as if following the line of the carpenter's rule, which always preserves exactitude and prevents any irregularity. The oblique is ungraceful. It is the straight which pleases the eye, and does not allow the reader's eyes to go nodding up and down like a swing-beam. This has been my fate in reading your writing. As the lines lie ladderwise, I was obliged, when I had to go from one to another, to mount up to the end of the last: then, when no connexion was to be found, I bad to go back, and seek for the right order again, retreating and following the furrow,(1) like Theseus in the story following Ariadne's thread.(3) Write straight, and do not confuse our mind by your slanting and irregular writing.
[The correspondence with the pagan sophist and rhetorician Libanius is at least partly (e.g. 335-346, 358) genuine.]
LETTER CCCXXXV: Basil to Libanius.(3)
I AM really ashamed of sending you the Cappadocians out by one. I should prefer to induce all our youths to devote themselves to letters and learning, and to avail themselves of your instruction in their training. But it is impracticable to get hold of them all at once, while they choose what suits themselves. I therefore send you those who from time to time are won over; and this I do with the assurance that I am conferring on them a boon as great as that which is given by those who bring thirsty men to the fountain. The lad, whom I am now sending, will be highly valued for his own sake when he has been in your society. He is already well known on account of his father, who has won a name among us both for rectitude of life and for authority in our community. He is, moreover, a close friend of my own. To requite him for his friendship to me, I am conferring on his son the benefit of an introduction to you--a boon well worthy of being earnestly prayed for by all who are competent to judge of a man's high character.
LETTER CCCXXXVI: Libanius to Basilius.
1. After some little time a young Cappadocian has reached me. One gain to me is that he is a Cappadocian. But this Cappadocian is one of the first rank. This is another gain. Further, he brings me a letter from the admirable Basil. This is the greatest gain of all. You think that I have forgotten you. I had great respect for you in your youth. I saw you vying with old men in self-restraint, and this in a city teeming with pleasures. I saw you already in possession of considerable learning. Then you thought that you ought also to see Athens, and you persuaded Celsus to accompany you. Happy Celsus, to be dear to you! Then you returned, and lived at home, and I said to myself, What, I wonder, is Basil about now? To what occupation has he betaken himself? Is he following the ancient orators, and practising in the courts? Or is he turning the sons of fortunate fathers into orators? Then there came those who reported to me that you were adopting a course of life better than any of these, and were, rather, bethinking you how you might win the friendship of God than heaps of gold, I blessed both you and the Cappadocians; you, for making this your aim; them, for being able to point to so noble a fellow-countryman.
2. I am aware that the Firmus, whom you mention, has continually won everywhere; hence his great power as a speaker. But with all the eulogies that have been bestowed on him, I am not aware that he has ever received such praise as I have heard of in your letter. For what a credit it is to him, that it should be you who declare that his reputation is inferior to none!
Apparently, you have despatched this young man to me before seeing Firminus; had you done so, your letters would not have failed to mention him. What is Firminus now doing or intending to do? Is he still anxious to be married? Or is all that over now? Are the claims of the senate heavy on him? Is he obliged to stay where he is? Is there any hope of his taking to study again? Let him send me an answer, and I trust it may be satisfactory. If it be a distressing one, at least it will relieve him from seeing me at his door. And if Firminus had been now at Athens, what would your senators have done? Would they have sent the Salaminia(2) after him? You see that it is only by your fellow- countrymen that I am wronged. Yet I shall never cease to love and praise the Cappadocians. I should like them to be better disposed to me, but, if they continue to act as they do, I shall bear it. Firminus was four months with me, and was not a day idle. You will know how much he has acquired, and perhaps will not complain. As to his being able to come here again, what ally can I call in? If your senators are right- mided, as men of education ought to be, they will honour me in the second case, since they grieved me in the first.
LETTER CCCXXXVII: Basil to Libanius.
Lo and behold, yet another Cappadocian has come to you; a son of my own! Yet my present position makes all men my sons. On this ground he may be regarded as a brother of the former one, and worthy of the same attention alike from me his father, and from you his instructor--if really it is possible for these young men, who come from me, to obtain any further favours. I do not mean that it is not possible for your excellency to give anything more to your old comrades, but because your services are so lavishly bestowed upon all. It will be sufficient for the lad before he gets experience if he be numbered among those who are intimately known to you. I trust you may send him back to me worthy of my prayers and of your great reputation in learning and eloquence. He is accompanied by a young man of his own age, and of like zeal for instruction; a youth of good family, and closely associated with myself. I am sure be will be in every way as well treated, though his means are smaller than is the case with the rest.
LETTER CCCXXXVIII: Libanius to Basil.
I KNOW you will often write, "Here is another Cappadocian for you !" I expect that you will send me many. I am sure that you are everywhere putting pressure on both fathers and sons by all your complimentary expressions about me. But it would not be kind on my part not to mention what happened about your good letter. There were sitting with me not a few of our people of distinction, and among them the very excellent Alypius, Hierocles' cousin. The messengers gave in the letter. I read it right through without a word; then with a smile, and evidently gratified, I exclaimed, "I am vanquished!" "How? When? Where ?" they asked. "How is it that you are not distressed at being vanquished ?" " I am beaten," I replied, "in beautiful letter writing. Basil has won. But I love him; and so I am delighted." On hearing this, they all wanted to hear of the victory from the letter itself. It was read by Alypius, while all listened. It was voted that what I had said was quite true. Then the reader went out, with the letter still in his hand, to shew it, I suppose, to others. I had some difficulty in getting it back. Go on writing others like it; go on winning. This is for me to win. You are quite right in thinking that my services are not measured by money. Enough for him who has nothing to give, that he is as wishful to receive. If I perceive any one who is poor to be a lover of learning, he takes precedence of the rich. True, I never found such instructors; but nothing shall stand in the way of my being, at least in that respect, an improvement on mine. Let no one, then, hesitate to come hither because he is poor, if only he possesses the one qualification of knowing how to work.
LETTER CCCXXXIX: Basil to Libanius.
WHAT could not a sophist say? And such a sophist! One whose peculiar art is, whenever he likes, to make great things small, and to give greatness to small things! This is what you have shewn in my case. That dirty little letter of mine, as, perhaps, you who live in all luxury of eloquence would call it, a letter in no way more tolerable than the one you hold in your hands now you have so extolled as, forsooth, 'to be eaten by it, and to be yielding me the prize for composition! You are acting much as fathers do, when they join in their boys' games, and let the little fellows be proud of the victories which they have let them win without any loss to themselves, and with much gain to the children's emulation. Really and truly the delight your speech must have given, when you were joking about me, must have been indescribable !It is as though some Polydamas(1) or Milo(2) were to decline the pancratium or a wrestling bout with me !(3) After carefully examining, I have found no sign of weakness. So those who look for exaggeration are the more astonished at your being able to descend in sport to my level, than if you had led the barbarian in full sail over Athos.(4) I, however, my dear sir, am now spending my time with Moses and Elias, and saints like them, who tell me their stories in a barbarous tongue,(5) and I utter what I learnt from them, true, indeed, in sense, though rude in phrase, as what I am writing testifies. If ever I learned anything from you, I have forgotten it in the course of time. But do you continue to write to me, and so suggest other topics for correspondence. Your letter will exhibit you, and will not convict me. I have already introduced to you the son of Anysius, st as a son of my own. If he is my son, he is e the child of his father, poor, and a poor man's e son. What I am saying is well known to who is wise as well as a sophist.(1)
LETTER CCCXL: Libanius to Basil.
HAD you been for a long time considering how best you could reply to my letter about yours, you could not in my judgment have acquitted yourself better than by writing as you have written now. You call me a sophist, and you allege that it is a sophist's business to make small things great and great things small. And you maintain that the object of my letter was to prove yours a good one, when it was not a good one, and that it was no better than the one which you have sent last, and, in a word that you have no power of expression, the books which you have now in hand producing no such effect, and the eloquence which you once possessed having all disappeared. Now, in the endeavour to prove this, you have made this epistle too, which you are reviling, so admirable, that my visitors could not refrain from leaping with admiration as it was being read. I was astonished that after your trying to run down the former one by this, by saying that the former one was like it, you have really complimented the former by it. To carry out your object, you ought to have made this one worse, that you might slander the former. But it is not like you, I think, to do despite to the truth. It would have been done despite to, if you had purposely written badly, and not put out the powers you have. It would be characteristic of you not to find fault with what is worthy of praise, lest in your attempt to make great things insignificant, your proceedings reduce you to the rank of the sophists. Keep to the books which you say are inferior in style, though better in sense. No one hinders you. But of the principles which are ever mine, and once were yours, the roots both remain and will remain, as long as you exist. Though you water them ever so little, no length of time will ever completely destroy them.
LETTER CCCXLI: Libanius to Basil.
You have not yet ceased to be offended with me, and so I tremble as I write. If you have cared, why, my dear sir, do you not write? If you are still offended, a thing alien from any reasonable soul and from your own, why, while you are preaching to others, that they must not keep their anger till sundown,(1) have you kept yours during many suns? Peradventure you have meant to punish me by depriving me of the sound of your sweet voice? Nay; excellent sir, be gentle, and let me enjoy your golden tongue.
LETTER CCCXLII: Basil to Libanius.
ALL who are attached to the rose, as might be expected in the case of lovers of the beautiful, are not displeased even at the thorns from out of which the flower blows. I have even heard it said about roses by some one, perhaps in jest, or, it may be, even in earnest, that nature has furnished the bloom with those delicate thorns, like stings of love to lovers, to excite those who pluck them to intenser longing by these ingeniously adapted pricks.(2) But what do I mean by this introduction of the rose into my letter? You do not need telling, when you remember your own letter. It had indeed the bloom of the rose, and, by its fair speech, opened out all spring to me; but it was bethorned with certain fault findings and charges against me. But even the thorn of your words is delightful to me, for it enkindles in me a greater longing for your friendship.
LETTERCCCXLIII: Libanius to Basil.
IF these are the words of an untrained tongue, what would you be if you would polish them? On your lips live fountains of words better than the flowing of springs. I, on the contrary, if I am not daily watered, am silent.
LETTER CCCXLIV: Basil to Libanius.
I AM dissuaded from writing often to you, learned as you are, by my timidity and my ignorance. But your persistent silence is different. What excuse can be offered for it? If any one takes into account that you are slow to write to me, living as you do in the midst of letters, he will condemn you for forgetfulness of me. He who is ready at speaking is not unprepared to write. And if a man so endowed is silent, it is plain that he acts either from forgetfulness or from contempt. I will, however, requite your silence with a greeting. Farewell, most honoured sir. Write if you like. If you prefer it, do not write.
LETTER CCCXLV: Libanius to Basil.
IT is, I think, more needful for me to defend myself for not having begun to write to you long ago, than to offer any excuse for beginning now. I am that same man who always used to run up whenever you put in an appearance, and who listened with the greatest delight to the stream of your eloquence; rejoicing to hear you; with difficulty tearing myself away; saying to my friends, This man is thus far superior to the daughters of Achelous, in that, like them, he soothes, but he does not hurt as they do. Truly it is no great thing not to hurt; but this man's songs are a positive gain to the hearer. That I should be in this state of mind, should think that I am regarded with affection, and should seem able to speak, and yet should not venture to write, is the mark of a man guilty of extreme idleness, and, at the same time, inflicting punishment on himself. For it is clear that you will requite my poor little letter with a fine large one, and will take care not to wrong me again. At this word, I fancy, many will cry out, and will crowd round with the shout, What! has Basil done any wrong--even a small wrong? Then so have Oeacus, and Minos and his brother.(1) In other points I admit that you have won. Who ever saw you that does not envy you? But in one thing yon have sinned against me; and, if I remind you of it, induce those who are indignant thereat not to make a public outcry. No one has ever come to yon and asked a favour which it was easy to give, and gone away unsuccessful. But I am one of those who have craved a boon without receiving it. What then did I ask? Often when I was with you in camp. I was desirous of entering, with the aid of your wisdom, into the depth of Homer's frenzy. If the whole is impossible, I said, do you bring me to a portion of what I want. I was anxious for a part, wherein, when things have gone ill with the Greeks. Agamemnon courts with gifts the man whom he has insulted. When I so spoke, you laughed, because you could not deny that you could if you liked, but were unwilling to give. Do I really seem to be wronged to you and to your friends, who were indignant at my saying that you were doing a wrong?
LETTER CCCXLVI: Libanius to Basil.
You yourself will judge whether I have added anything in the way of learning to the young men whom you have sent. I hope that this addition, however little it be, will get the credit of being great, for the sake of your friendship towards me. But inasmuch as you give less praise to learning than to temperance and to a refusal to abandon our souls to dishonourable pleasures, they have devoted their main attention to this, and have lived, as indeed they ought, with due recollection of the friend who sent them hither.
So welcome what is your own, and give praise to men who by their mode of life have done credit both to you and to me. But to ask you to be serviceable to them is like asking a father to be serviceable to his children.
LETTER CCCXLVII: Libanius to Basil.
EVERY bishop is a thing out of which it is very hard to get anything.(1) The further you have advanced beyond other people in learning, the more you make me afraid that you will refuse what I ask. I want some rafters.(2) Any other sophist would have called them stakes, or poles, not because he wanted stakes or poles, but rather for shewing off his wordlets than out of any real need. If you do not supply them, I shall have to winter in the open air.
LETTER CCCXLVIII: Basil to Libanius.
If gripi'zein is the same thing as to gain, and this is the meaning of the phrase which your sophistic ingenuity has got from the depths of Plato, consider, my dear sir, who is the more hard to be got from, I who am thus impaled(1) by your epistolary skill, or the tribe of Sophists, whose craft is to make money out of their words. What bishop ever imposed tribute by Iris words? What bishop ever made his disciples pay taxes? It is you who make your words marketable, as confectioners make honey-cakes. See how you have made the old man leap and bound! However, to who make such a fuss about your declamations, I have ordered as many rafters to be supplied as there were fighters at Thermopylae,(2) all of goodly length, and, as Homer has it, "long-shadowing,"(3) which the sacred Alphaeus has promised to restore.(4)
LETTER CCCXLIX: Libanius to Basil.
WILL you not give over, Basil, packing this sacred haunt of the Muses with Cappadocians, and these redolent of the frost(5) and snow and all Cappadocia's good things? They have almost made me a Cappadocian too, always chanting their "I salute you."
I must endure, since it is Basil who commands. Know, however, that I am making a careful study of the manners and customs of the country, and that I mean to metamorphose the men into the nobility and the harmony of my Calliope, that they may seem to you to be turned from pigeons into doves.
LETTER CCCL: Basil to Libanius.
YOUR annoyance is over. Let this be the beginning of my letter. Go on mocking and abusing me and mine, whether laughing or in earnest. Why say anything about frost(5) or snow, when you might be luxuriating in mockery? For my part, Libanius, that I may rouse you to a hearty laugh, I have written my letter enveloped in a snow-white veil. When you take the letter in your hand, you will feel how cold it is, and how it symbolizes the condition of the sender--kept at home and not able to put head out of doors. For my house is a rave till spring comes and brings us back from death to life, and once more gives to us, as to plants, the boon of existence.
LETTER CCCLI: Basil to Libanius.
MANY, who have come to me from where you are, have admired your oratorical power. They were remarking that there has been a very brilliant specimen of this, and a very great contest, as they alleged, with the result that all crowded together, and no one appeared in the whole city but Libanius alone in the lists, and everybody, young and old, listening. For no one was willing to be absent--not a man of rank--not a distinguished soldier--not an artisan. Even women hurried to be present at the struggle. And what was it? What was the speech which brought together this vast assembly? I have been told that it contained a description of a man of peevish temper. Pray lose no time in sending me this much admired speech, in order that I too may join in praising your eloquence. If I am a praiser of Libanius without his works, what am I likely to become after receiving the grounds on which to praise him?
LETTER CCCLII: Libanius to Basil.
BEHOLD! I have sent you my speech, all streaming with sweat as I am! How should I be otherwise, when sending my speech to one who by his skill in oratory is able to shew that the wisdom of Plato and the ability of Demosthenes were belauded in vain? I feel like a gnat compared with an elephant. How I shiver and shake, as I reckon up the day when you will inspect my performance I am almost out of my wits!
LETTER CCCLIII: Basil to Libanius.
I HAVE read your speech, and have immensely admired it. O muses; O learning; O Athens; what do you not give to those who love you! What fruits do not they gather who spend even a short time with you! Oh for your copiously flowing fountain! What men all who drink of it are shewn to be! I seemed to see the man himself in your speech, in the company of his chattering little woman. A living story has been written on the ground by Libanius, who alone has bestowed the gift of life upon his words.
LETTER CCCLIV: Libanius to Basil.
Now I recognise men's description of me! Basil has praised me, and I am hailed victor over all! Now that I have received your vote, I am entitled to walk with the proud gait of a man who haughtily looks down on all the world. You have composed an oration against drunkenness. I should like to read it. But I am unwilling to try to say anything clever. When I have seen your speech it will teach me the art of expressing myself.
LETTER CCCLV: Libanius to Basil.
ARE you living at Athens, Basil? Have you forgotten yourself? The sons of the Caesareans could not endure to hear these things. My tongue was not accustomed to them. Just as though I were treading some dangerous ground, and were struck at the novelty of the sounds, it said to me its father, "My father, you never taught this! This man is Homer, or Plato, or Aristotle, or Susarion. He knows everything." So far my tongue. I only wish, Basil, that you could praise me in the same manner!
LETTER CCCLVI: Basil to Libanius.
I AM delighted at receiving what you write, but when you ask me to reply, I am in a difficulty. What could I say in answer to so Attic a tongue, except that I confess, and confess with joy, that I am a pupil of fishermen?
LETTER CCCLVII: Libanius to Basil.
WHAT has made Basil object to the letter, the proof of philosophy? I have learned to make fun from you, but nevertheless your fun is venerable and, so to say, hoary with age. But, by our very friendship, by our common pastimes, do away, I charge you, with the distress caused by your letter ... in nothing differing.(1)
LETTER CCCLVIII: Libanius to Basil.
OH, for the old days in which we were all in all to one another! Now we are sadly separated! Ye have one another, I have no one like you to replace you. I hear that Alcimus in his old age is venturing on a young man's exploits, and is hurrying to Rome, after imposing on you the labour of remaining with the lads. You, who are always so kind, will not take this ill. You were not even angry with me for having to write first.
LETTER CCCLIX: Basil to Libanius.
YOU, who have included all the art of the ancients in your own mind, are so silent, that you do not even let me get any gain in a letter. I, if the art of Daedalus had only been safe, would have made me Icarus' wings and come to you. But wax cannot be entrusted to the sun, anti so, instead of Icarus' wings, I send you words to prove my affection. It is the nature of words to indicate the love of the heart. So far, words.(1) You do with them what you will, and, possessing all the power you do, are silent. But pray transfer to me the fountains of words that spring from your mouth.
LETTER CCCLX.(2): Of the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, the invocation of Saints, and their Images.
ACCORDING to the blameless faith of the Christians which we have obtained from God, I confess and agree that I believe in one God the Father Almighty; God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost; I adore and worship one God, the Three.(3) I confess to the oeconomy of the Son in the flesh,(4) and that the holy Mary, who gave birth to Him according to the flesh, was Mother of God.(5) I acknowledge also the holy apostles, prophets, and martyrs; and I invoke them to supplication to God, that through them, that is, through their mediation, the merciful God may be propitious to me, and that a ransom may be made and given me for my sins. Wherefore also I honour and kiss the features of their images, inasmuch as they have been handed down from the holy apostles, and are not forbidden, but are in all our churches.
LETTERS CCCLXI. and CCCLXIII., to Apollinarius, and Letters CCCLXII. and CCCLXIV., from Apollinarius to Basil, are condemned as indubitably spurious, not only on internal evidence, but also on the ground of Basil's asseveration that he had never written but once to Apollinarius, and that "as layman to layman."(1) [The authenticity of these letters, unfortunately omitted by the editor, has since been persuasively defended by G. L. Prestige.] Letter CCCLXV., "to the great emperor Theodosius," on an inundation in Cappadocia, is also condemned by the Ben. Ed. as spurious, and contains nothing of ecclesiastical or theological interest. Tillemont however (vol. v., p. 739) thought its style not unworthy of a young man and a rhetorician, and conjectures the Theodosius to whom it is addressed to be not the great emperor, but some magistrate of Cappadocia.
LETTER CCCLXVI.(2): Basil to Urbicius the monk, concerning continency.
You do well in making exact definitions for us, so that we may recognise not only continency, but its fruit. Now its fruit is the companionship of God. For not to be corrupted, is to have part with God; just as to be corrupted is the companionship of the world. Continency is denial of the body, and confession to God. It withdraws from anything mortal, like a body which has the Spirit of God. It is without rivalry and envy, and causes us to be united to God. He who loves a body envies another. He who has not admitted the disease of corruption into his heart, is for the future strong enough to endure any labour, and though he have died in the body, he lives in incorruption. Verily, if I rightly apprehend the matter, God seems to me to be continency. because tie desires nothing, but has all things in Himself. He reaches after nothing, nor has any sense in eyes or ears; wanting nothing, He is in all respects complete and full. Concupiscence is a disease of the soul; but continency is its health. And continency must not be regarded only in one species, as, for instance, in matters of sensual love. It must be regarded in everything which the soul lusts after in an evil manner, not being content with what is needful for it. Envy is caused for the sake of gold, and innumerable wrongs for the sake of other lusts. Not to be drunken is continency. Not to overeat one's self is continency. To subdue the body is continency, and to keep evil thoughts in subjection, whenever the soul is disturbed by any fancy false and bad, and the heart is distracted by vain cares. Continency makes men free, being at once a medicine and a power, for it does not teach temperance; it gives it. Continency is a grace of God. Jesus seemed to be continency, when He was made light to land and sea; for He was carried neither by earth nor ocean, and just as He walked on the sea, so He did not weigh down the earth. For if death comes of corruption, and not dying comes of not having corruption, then Jesus wrought not mortality but divinity.(1) He ate and drank in a peculiar manner, without rendering his food., So mighty a power in Him was continency, that His food was not corrupted in Him, since He had no corruption. If only there be a little continency in us, we are higher than all. We have been told that angels were ejected from heaven because of concupiscence and became incontinent. They were vanquished; they did not come down. What could that plague have effected there, if an eye such as I am thinking of had been there? Wherefore I said, If we have a little patience, and do not love the world, but the life above, we shall be found there where we direct our mind. For it is the mind, apparently, which is the eye that seeth unseen things. For we say "the mind sees;" "the mind hears." I have written at length, though it may seem little to you. But there is meaning in all that I have said, and, when you have read it, you will see it.