The Letters of St. Basil

I wanted to put together several letters sent from St. Basil the Great (Archbishop of Caesarea) to friends, philosophers, widows, heretics, and so forth for purposes of encouragement. I think you will enjoy them:

Letter X: To a Widow

The art of snaring pigeons is as follows. When the men who devote themselves to this craft have caught one, they tame it, and make it feed with them. Then they smear its wings with sweet oil and let it go join the rest outside. Then the scent of that sweet oil makes the free flock the posession of the owner of the tame bird, for all the rest are attracted by the fragrance, and settle in the house. But why do I begin my letter thus?

Because I have taken your son Dionysus, once Diomedes, and anointed the wings of his soul with the sweet oil of God, and sent him to you that you may take flight with him, and make for the nest which he has built under my roof. If I live to see this, and you, my honoured friend, translated to our lofty life, I shall require many persons worthy of God to pay Him all the honour that is He due.

Letter VII: To Gregory my friend

For the present I implore you, as I have implored you before, to devote yourself entirely to the advocacy of the truth, and to the intellectual energies God gives you for the establishment of what is good. With this be content, and ask nothing more from me. I am really much less capable than is supposed, and am more likely to do harmto the word by my weakness than to add strength to the truth by my advocacy.

Letter VI: To the wife of Nectarius

But our lives arenot without a Providence. So we have learnt in the Gospel, for not a sparrow falls to the ground without the will of our Father. Whatever has come to pass has come to pass by the will of our Creator. And who can resist God’s will? Let us accept what has befallen us; for if we take it ill we do not mend the past and we work our own ruin. Do not let us arraign the righteous judgement of God. . . The Lord is now making trial of your love for Him.

Now there is an opportunity for you, through your patience, to take the martyr’s lot. The mother of the Maccabees saw the death of seven sons without a sigh, without even shedding one unworthy tear. She gave thanks to God for seeing them freed from the fetters of the flesh by fire and steel and cruel blows, and she won praise from God, and fame among men. The loss is great, as I can say myself; but great too are the rewards laid up by the Lord for the patient.


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