Basil the Great: The gospel is a forecast of the life that follows on the resurrection Tuesday, May 10 2016 

St-Basil-the-GreatContinued from here….

We do not…wash ourselves at each defilement, but own the baptism of salvation to be one.

For there the death on behalf of the world is one, and one the resurrection of the dead, whereof baptism is a type.

For this cause the Lord, who is the Dispenser of our life, gave us the covenant of baptism, containing a type of life and death, for the water fulfils the image of death, and the Spirit gives us the earnest of life.

Hence it follows that the answer to our question why the water was associated with the Spirit is clear.

The reason is because in baptism two ends were proposed; on the one hand, the destroying of the body of sin, that it may never bear fruit unto death; on the other hand, our living unto the Spirit, and having our fruit in holiness.

The water receiving the body as in a tomb figures death, while the Spirit pours in the quickening power, renewing our souls from the deadness of sin unto their original life.

This then is what it is to be born again of water and of the Spirit, the being made dead being effected in the water, while our life is wrought in us through the Spirit.

In three immersions, then, and with three invocations, the great mystery of baptism is performed, to the end that the type of death may be fully figured, and that by the handing-over of the divine knowledge the baptized may have their souls enlightened.

It follows that if there is any grace in the water, it is not of the nature of the water, but of the presence of the Spirit. For baptism is not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God (1 Peter 3:21).

So, in training us for the life that follows on the resurrection, the Lord sets out all the manner of life required by the Gospel, laying down for us the law of gentleness, of endurance of wrong, of freedom from the defilement that comes of the love of pleasure, and from covetousness, to the end that we may of set purpose win beforehand and achieve all that the life to come of its inherent nature possesses.

If therefore any one in attempting a definition were to describe the gospel as a forecast of the life that follows on the resurrection, he would not seem to me to go beyond what is meet and right.

Basil the Great (330-379): On the Holy Spirit 15, 35 [slightly adapted].

Basil the Great: A return from the alienation caused by disobedience to close communion with God Friday, Apr 8 2016 

St-Basil-the-GreatThe dispensation of our God and Saviour concerning man is a recall from the fall and a return from the alienation caused by disobedience to close communion with God.

This is the reason for the sojourn of Christ in the flesh, the pattern life described in the Gospels, the sufferings, the cross, the tomb, the resurrection; so that the man who is being saved through imitation of Christ receives that old adoption.

For perfection of life the imitation of Christ is necessary, not only in the example of gentleness, lowliness, and long suffering set us in His life, but also of His actual death.

So Paul, the imitator of Christ, says, being made conformable unto his death: “if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).

How then are we made “in the likeness of His death” (Romans 6:4-5)? In that we were buried with Him by baptism.

What then is the manner of the burial? And what is the advantage resulting from the imitation?

First of all, it is necessary that the continuity of the old life be cut. And this is impossible less a man be born again, according to the Lord’s word (John 3:3), for the regeneration, as indeed the name shows, is a beginning of a second life. So before beginning the second, it is necessary to put an end to the first.

For just as in the case of runners who turn and take the second course, a kind of halt and pause intervenes between the movements in the opposite direction, so also in making a change in lives it seemed necessary for death to come as mediator between the two, ending all that goes before, and beginning all that comes after.

How then do we achieve the descent into hell? By imitating, through baptism, the burial of Christ. For the bodies of the baptized are, as it were, buried in the water.

Baptism then symbolically signifies the putting off of the works of the flesh; as the apostle says, “you were circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; buried with him in baptism” (Colossians 2:11-12).

And there is, as it were, a cleansing of the soul from the filth that has grown on it from the carnal mind, as it is written, You shall wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow (Psalm 50:7).

Basil the Great (330-379): On the Holy Spirit 15,35.

Basil the Great: Run with gladness to the gift of the fast Wednesday, Feb 10 2016 

St-Basil-the-Great“Sound the trumpet at the new moon,” says the Psalmist, “in the notable day of your feast” (Psalm 80:4 [LXX]).

This injunction is prophetic….

The Lord says: “Be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance, but anoint thine head, and wash thy face” (Matthew 6:16-17).

Let us, therefore, exhibit the demeanor that we have been taught, not being doleful about the coming days, but maintaining a joyful attitude, as befits holy people.

No one who desponds is crowned; no one who sulks sets up a trophy of victory.

Do not be sullen while you are being healed.

It would be absurd not to rejoice over the health of your soul, but rather to be distressed over a change of diet and to give the impression of setting more store by the pleasure of your stomach than by the care of your soul.

For satiety brings delight to the stomach, whereas fasting brings profit to the soul.

Be of good cheer, for the physician has given you a medicine that destroys sin.

For…fasting—a remedy truly worthy of its appellation—when introduced into the soul, kills off the sin that lurks deep within it.

“Anoint thine head, and wash thy face” Matthew 6:17).  This sentence summons you to mysteries. One who has been anointed has received unction; he who has been washed has been cleansed.

Apply this injunction to your inner members. Wash your soul clean of sins. Have your head anointed with holy oil, so that you might become a partaker of Christ, and approach the fast in this spirit.

Do not disfigure your face as do the hypocrites (St. Matthew 6:16). The face is disfigured when one’s inner disposition is obscured by a sham external appearance, concealed by falsehood as if beneath a veil.

An actor in a theatre is one who assumes someone else’s persona…. Likewise, in this life, as if on some stage, the majority of people turn their existence into a theatre, entertaining one thing in their hearts, but displaying something else to men by their outward appearance.

Therefore, do not disfigure your face. Whatever you may be, appear as such. Do not transform yourself into a sullen person, seeking the glory that comes from appearing to be abstemious.

For there is no profit in trumpeting your good deeds, nor any gain in advertising your fasting. Things that are done for outward show do not yield any fruit in the age to come, but terminate in human praise.

Run with gladness to the gift of the fast. Fasting is an ancient gift, which does not grow old or become outmoded, but is ever renewed and flourishes with vigor.

Basil the Great (330-379): On Fasting 1-2, translated from the Greek original in Patrologia Græca, Vol. XXXI, cols. 164A-184C @ Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Greece.

Basil the Great: God’s energies come down to us, but His essence remains beyond our reach Saturday, Jan 2 2016 

St-Basil-the-GreatWe know the greatness of God, His power, His wisdom, His goodness, His providence over us, and the justness of His judgment; but not His very essence.

[…] Our idea of God is gathered from all the attributes which I have enumerated.

Some say “God is simple, and whatever attribute you have reckoned as knowable are of His essence.”

When all these high attributes have been enumerated, are they all names of one essence?

[…] The energies are various, and the essence simple, but we say that we know our God from His energies, but do not undertake to approach near to His essence.

His energies come down to us, but His essence remains beyond our reach.

[…] I do know that He exists. What His essence is, I look at as beyond intelligence.

How then am I saved?  Through faith.  It is faith sufficient to know that God exists, without knowing what He is; and “He is a rewarder of them that seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).

So knowledge of the divine essence involves perception of His incomprehensibility, and the object of our worship is not that of which we comprehend the essence, but of which we comprehend that the essence exists.

“No man hath seen God at any time, the Only-begotten which is in the bosom hath declared him” (John 1:18).

What of the Father did the Only-begotten Son declare?  His essence or His power?  If His power, we know so much as He declared to us.  If His essence, tell me where He said that His essence was the being unbegotten?

When did Abraham worship?  Was it not when he believed?  And when did he believe?  Was it not when he was called?  Where in this place is there any testimony in Scripture to Abraham’s comprehending?

When did the disciples worship Him?  Was it not when they saw creation subject to Him?  It was from the obedience of sea and winds to Him that they recognised His Godhead.

Therefore the knowledge came from the energies, and the worship from the knowledge.  “Believest thou that I am able to do this?”  “I believe, Lord” (Matt. 9:28), and he worshipped Him.

So worship follows faith, and faith is confirmed by power.  But if you say that the believer also knows, he knows from what he believes; and vice versa he believes from what he knows.  We know God from His power.  We, therefore, believe in Him who is known, and we worship Him who is believed in.

Basil the Great (330-379): Letter 234 [slightly adapted].

Basil the Great: The mind is a wonderful thing, and therein we possess that which is after the image of the Creator Wednesday, Dec 16 2015 

St-Basil-the-GreatThe mind is a wonderful thing, and therein we possess that which is after the image of the Creator.

[…] But there are in it two faculties; in accordance with the view of us who believe in God, the one evil, that of the dæmons which draws us on to their own apostasy; and the divine and the good, which brings us to the likeness of God.

When, therefore, the mind remains alone and unaided, it contemplates small things, commensurate with itself.

When it yields to those who deceive it, it nullifies its proper judgment, and is concerned with monstrous fancies.

Then it considers wood to be no longer wood, but a god; then it looks on gold no longer as money, but as an object of worship.

If on the other hand it assents to its diviner part, and accepts the boons of the Spirit, then, so far as its nature admits, it becomes perceptive of the divine.

[…]  The mind which is impregnated with the Godhead of the Spirit is at once capable of viewing great objects; it beholds the divine beauty, though only so far as grace imparts and its nature receives.

[…] The judgment of our mind is given us for the understanding of the truth.

Now our God is the very truth. So the primary function of our mind is to know one God, but to know Him so far as the infinitely great can be known by the very small.

When our eyes are first brought to the perception of visible objects, all visible objects are not at once brought into sight.

The hemisphere of heaven is not beheld with one glance, but we are surrounded by a certain appearance, though in reality many things, not to say all things, in it are unperceived;—the nature of the stars, their greatness, their distances, their movements, their conjunctions, their intervals, their other conditions, the actual essence of the firmament….

Nevertheless, no one would allege the heaven to be invisible because of what is unknown; it would be said to be visible on account of our limited perception of it.

It is just the same in the case of God.  If the mind has been injured by devils it will be guilty of idolatry, or will be perverted to some other form of impiety.  But if it has yielded to the aid of the Spirit, it will have understanding of the truth, and will know God.

But it will know Him, as the Apostle says, in part; and in the life to come more perfectly.  For “when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away” (1 Cor. 13:10).

Basil the Great (330-379): Letter 233.

Basil the Great: That your life be made one ceaseless and uninterrupted prayer… Thursday, Nov 26 2015 


Ought we to pray without ceasing?  Is it possible to obey such a command?

[…] Prayer is a petition for good addressed by the pious to God.  But we do not rigidly confine our petition to words.

Nor yet do we imagine that God requires to be reminded by speech.  He knows our needs even though we ask Him not.

What do I say then?  I say that we must not think to make our prayer complete by syllables.

The strength of prayer lies rather in the purpose of our soul and in deeds of virtue reaching every part and moment of our life.

“Whether ye eat,” it is said, “or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

As you take your seat at table, pray.  As you lift the loaf, offer thanks to the Giver.  When you sustain your bodily weakness with wine, remember Him Who supplies you with this gift, to make your heart glad and to comfort your infirmity.

Has your need for taking food passed away?  Let not the thought of your Benefactor pass away too.  As you are putting on your tunic, thank the Giver of it.

As you wrap your cloak about you, feel yet greater love to God, Who alike in summer and in winter has given us coverings convenient for us, at once to preserve our life, and to cover what is unseemly.

Is the day done?  Give thanks to Him Who has given us the sun for our daily work, and has provided for us a fire to light up the night, and to serve the rest of the needs of life.

Let night give the other occasions of prayer.  When you look up to heaven and gaze at the beauty of the stars, pray to the Lord of the visible world; pray to God the Arch-artificer of the universe, Who in wisdom has made them all.

When you see all nature sunk in sleep, then again worship Him Who gives us even against our wills release from the continuous strain of toil, and by a short refreshment restores us once again to the vigour of our strength.

[…] Let your slumbers be themselves experiences in piety; for it is only natural that our sleeping dreams should be for the most part echoes of the anxieties of the day.  As have been our conduct and pursuits, so will inevitably be our dreams.

Thus will you pray without ceasing, if you not only pray in words, but unite yourself to God through all the course of life so that your life be made one ceaseless and uninterrupted prayer.

Basil the Great (330-379): Panegyrical Homily 5 (on Julitta the Martyr) [slightly adapted], quoted in the introduction to St Basil’s homilies in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Series II Volume 8.

Basil the Great: “But the counsel of the Lord standeth for ever; the thoughts of his heart to all generations” Saturday, Nov 7 2015 

St-Basil-the-Great‘The Lord bringeth to nought the counsels of nations; and he rejecteth the devices of people’ (Psalm 32:10).

God created those who believe in Him in consequence of His bringing to nought the foolish counsels which the people held about idolatry and all vanity, and in consequence of His rejection of the counsels of princes.

And it is possible to refer these things to the time of His passion when they thought that they were crucifying the King of Glory, but He through the economy of the Cross was renewing humanity.

For, in the Resurrection, the counsel of nations, of Pilate and his soldiers, and of whoever was active in the matter of the Cross, was brought to nought; the counsels of the princes were rejected, and also those of the high priests and scribes and kings of the people.

In fact, the Resurrection destroyed their every device. If you will read the things in each history which God did to the faithless nations, you will find that the statement has much force even according to our corporeal intelligence.

[…] ‘But the counsel of the Lord standeth for ever: the thoughts of his heart to all generations’ (Psalm 3:11).

Do you not see the teachings of the nations, this empty philosophy, how subtle and farfetched they are concerning the inventions of their teachings, both in the rational speculations and in the moral injunctions, and in certain natural sciences and the other so-called esoteric teachings?

How all things have been scattered and rendered useless, and the truths of the Gospel alone now hold place in the world?

For, many are the counsels in the hearts of men, but the counsel of the Lord has prevailed. And it is necessary, at least if the counsel from God is to remain in our souls firm and steadfast, for the human thoughts which we formerly held, first to be rejected.

Just as he who intends to write on wax, first smooths it down and thus puts on whatever forms he wishes, so also the heart which is to admit clearly the divine words must be made clean of the opposite thoughts.

‘The thoughts of his heart to all generations’. Since, then, there are two chosen peoples, and two testaments were given to them according to the saying ‘The thoughts of his heart to all generations (eis genean kai genein),’ since ‘generation’ is named twice, there can be understood also two thoughts, the one, according to which we received the previous testament, but the second, bestowing upon us the new and saving teaching of Christ.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 15 (on Psalm 32[33]), 6-7,  from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 239-241.

Basil the Great: “Let all the earth fear the Lord, and let all the inhabitants of the world be in awe of Him” Wednesday, Oct 14 2015 

St-Basil-the-Great“Gathering together the waters of the sea, as a vessel; laying up the depths in storehouses” (Psalm 32:7).

If you seek to know…why there are shipwrecks, earthquakes, droughts, heavy rains, why things destructive of men are created, consider that the judgments of God are the depths and, because they are enclosed in the divine storehouses, are not easily grasped by those encountering them.

To him who believes, a promise is given by God: ‘I will give thee hidden treasures, unseen ones’ (Isaiah 45:3).

When we have been deemed worthy of knowledge face to face, we shall see also the depths in the storehouses of God.

If you will gather together the sayings in Scripture about vessels, you will better comprehend the prophetic meaning.

Those, then, who are renewed day by day and who take new wine from the true vine, are said in the Gospel to be new vessels.

But, they who have not yet put off the old man are old vessels, unable to be trusted for the reception of new wine.

For, no one puts new wine into old wineskins, lest the wine be spilt, and those skins be entirely ruined, inasmuch as they are considered worthy of no excuse hereafter, if they spill the good new wine.

New wine must be poured into fresh skins (cf. Matt. 9:17).

The new and spiritual wine and that which is glowing with the Holy Spirit, the perception of truth which never becomes old, must be put in the new man, who, because ‘he always bears about in his body the dying of Jesus’ (cf. 2 Cor. 4:10), might justly be said to be a new vessel.

‘Let all the earth fear the Lord, and let all the inhabitants of the world be in awe of Him (Psalm 32:8).

Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, let those who are earthly minded be taught through fear.

In fact, fear is necessarily employed as introductory to true religion, but love, now taking over, brings to perfection those who have been prepared by a fear that is capable of knowledge.

To the whole earth, therefore, Scripture advises fear. ‘Let all the inhabitants of the world’ it says, ‘be in awe of him.’

Let them make every movement, as it were, whether effected by the mind or by bodily action, according to the will of God. At least I understand the words, ‘Let them be in awe of him’ in this way.

For example, let neither the eye be moved without God, nor the hand be put in motion without God, nor the heart think on things not well pleasing to God.

In short, let them be in awe of no one else, and let nothing move them except the fear of God.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 15 (on Psalm 32[33]), 5-6,  from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 236-238.

Basil the Great: “By the Word of the Lord the heavens were established; and all the power of them by the Spirit of His mouth” Friday, Sep 18 2015 

St-Basil-the-Great[Following on from here….]

‘By the word of the Lord the heavens were established; and all the power of them by the spirit of his mouth’ (Psalm 32:6).

Where are those who set at naught the Spirit? Where are those who separate It from the creative power?

Where are those who dissever It from union with the Father and Son?

Let them hear the psalm which says: ‘By the word of the Lord the heavens were established; and all the power of them by the spirit of his mouth’.

The term ‘Word’ will not be considered as this common form of diction which consists of names and expressions, nor will the Spirit be considered as vapor poured out in the air;

but as the Word, which was in the beginning with God (John 1:1), and as the Holy Spirit, which has obtained this appellation as Its own.

As, then, the Creator, the Word, firmly established the heavens, so the Spirit which is from God, which proceeds from the Father, that is, which is from His mouth (that you may not judge that It is some external object or some creature, but may glorify It as having Its substance from God) brings with It all the powers in Him.

Therefore, all the heavenly power was established by the Spirit; that is, it has from the assistance of the Spirit the solidity and firmness and constancy in holiness and in every virtue that is becoming to the sacred powers.

In this place, therefore, the Spirit was described as from His mouth; we shall find elsewhere that the Word also was said to be from His mouth, in order that it may be understood that the Savior and His Holy Spirit are from the Father.

Since, then, the Savior is the Word of the Lord, and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit from His mouth, both joined with Him in the creation of the heavens and the powers in them, and for this reason the statement was made: ‘By the word of the Lord the heavens were established; and all the power of them by the spirit of his mouth’.

For, nothing is made holy, except by the presence of the Spirit. The Word, the Master Craftsman and Creator of the universe, gave entrance into existence to the angels; the Holy Spirit added holiness to them.

The angels were not created infants, then perfected by gradual exercise and thus made worthy of the reception of the Spirit; but, in their initial formation and in the material, as it were, of their substance they had holiness laid as a foundation.

Wherefore, they are turned toward evil with difficulty, for they were immediately steeled by sanctity, as by some tempering, and possessed steadfastness in virtue by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 15 (on Psalm 32[33]), 4,  from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 234-235.

Basil the Great: “The Lord loveth mercy and judgment; the earth is full of the mercy of the Lord” Saturday, Aug 29 2015 

St-Basil-the-Great‘The Lord loveth mercy and judgment; the earth is full of the mercy of the Lord’ (Psalm 32:5).

If the judgment of God, who renders precisely according to our deserts what is due to us for our deeds, should be by itself, what hope would there be?

Who of all mankind would be saved? But, as it is, ‘He loveth mercy and judgment.’

It is as if He had made mercy a coadjutor to Himself, standing before the royal throne of His judgment, and thus He leads each one to judgment.

‘If thou, O Lord, wilt mark iniquities: Lord, who shall stand it?’ (Psalm 129:3).

Neither is mercy without judgment, nor judgment without mercy. He loves mercy, therefore, before judgment, and after mercy He comes to judgment.

However, these qualities are joined to each other, mercy and judgment, lest either mercy alone should produce presumption, or judgment alone cause despair.

The Judge wishes to have mercy on you and to share His own compassion, but on condition that He finds you humble after sin, contrite, lamenting much for your evil deeds, announcing publicly without shame sins committed secretly, begging the brethren to labor with you in reparation;

in short, if He sees that you are worthy of pity, He provides His mercy for you ungrudgingly.

But, if He sees your heart unrepentant, your mind proud, your disbelief of the future life, and your fearlessness of the judgment, then He desires the judgment for you —

— just as a reasonable and kind doctor tries at first with hot applications and soft poultices to reduce a swelling, but, when he sees that the mass is rigidly and obstinately resisting, casting away the olive oil and the gentle method of treatment, he prefers henceforth the use of the knife.

Therefore, He loves mercy in the case of those repenting, but He also loves judgment in the case of the unyielding.

[…] ‘The earth is full of the mercy of the Lord’. Here [on earth] mercy is separated from judgment. The earth is full of only the mercy of the Lord, since His judgment is stored up for the appointed time.

Here, then, mercy is apart from judgment; indeed, He did not come ‘in order that He might judge the world, but that He might save the world’ (cf. John 3:17).

But there, judgment is not apart from mercy because man could not be found clean from stain, not even if he had lived for only one day (cf. Job 14:4-5 LXX).

[…] While we are on earth, we need mercy…. For, when we were dead by reason of our offenses and sins God, having mercy, brought us to life together with Christ (cf. Eph. 2:5).

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 15 (on Psalm 32[33]), 3-4,  from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 232-234.

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