Letter of Basil the Great to Amphilochius, bishop of Ikonia, De Spirito Sancto

Exposition of the present state of the Churches

374-375 AC

(Translation from latin)

I prize your inclination for God comprehension and diligence, extremely joyous am I for   astute and sober your reasoning, my right well-beloved and most deeply respected brother Amphilochius!

Wherefore with the help, if I may so say, of the Holy Spirit Himself, I will approach the exposition of the subject.

To what shall I liken our present condition? It may be compared, I think, to some naval battle which has arisen out of time old quarrels, and is fought by men who cherish a deadly hate against one another, of long experience in naval warfare, and eager for the fight. Suppose, too, that the men are all smitten with the incurable plague of mad love of glory, so that they do not cease from their struggle each to get the better of the other, while their ship is actually settling down into the deep.

We attack one another. We are overthrown by one another. If our enemy is not the first to strike us, we are wounded by the comrade at our side. If a foeman is stricken and falls, his fellow soldier tramples him down. There is at least this bond of union between us that we hate our common foes, but no sooner have the enemy gone by than we find enemies in one another.

The terror of universal ruin is already imminent, and yet their mutual rivalry is so unbounded as to blunt all sense of danger. Individual hatred is of more importance than the general and common warfare. Plain speaking is fatal to friendship, and disagreement in opinion all the ground that is wanted for a quarrel.

So, since no human voice is strong enough to be heard in such a disturbance, I reckon silence more profitable than speech.The love of many has waxed cold; [Matt. xxiv. 12] brotherly concord is destroyed, the very name of unity is ignored, brotherly admonitions are heard no more, nowhere is there Christian pity, nowhere falls the tear of sympathy.

For all these reasons I ought to have kept silence, but I was drawn in the other direction by love, which “seeketh not her own,” [1 Cor. xiii. 5] and desires to overcome every difficulty put in her way by time and circumstance.

Amen.

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