Twenty-four homilies on miscellaneous subjects, published under St. Basil's name, are generally accepted as genuine. They are conveniently classified as (i) Dogmatic and Exegetic, (ii) Moral, and (iii) Panegyric. To Class (i) will be referred
III. In Illud, Attende tibi ipsi.
VI. In Illud, Destruam horrea, etc.
IX. In Illud, Quod Deus non est auctor malorum.
XII. In principium Proverbiorum.
XV. De Fide.
XVI. In Illud, In principio erat Verbum.
XXIV. Contra Sabellianos et Arium et Anomoeos.
Class (ii) will include
I. and II. De Jejunio.
IV. De gratiarum actione.
VII. In Divites.
VIII. In famem et siccitatem.
X. Adversus beatos.
XI. De invidia.
XIII. In Sanctum Baptismum.
XIV. In Ebriosos.
XX. De humilitate.
XXI. Quod rebus mundanis adhærendum non sit, et de incendio extra ecclesiam facto.
XXII. Ad adolescentes, de legendis libris Gentilium.
The Panegyric (iii) are
V. In martyrem Julittam.
XVII. In Barlaam martyrem.
XVIII. In Gordium martyrem.
XIX. In sanctos quadraginta martyres.
XXIII. In Mamantem martyrem.
Homily III. on Deut. xv.9, is one of the eight translated by Rufinus. Section 2 begins:
|Take heed,' it is written, to thyself.' Every living creature possesses within himself, by the gift of God, the Ordainer of all things, certain resources for self protection. Investigate nature with attention, and you will find that the majority of brutes have an instinctive aversion from what is injurious; while, on the other hand, by a kind of natural attraction, they are impelled to the enjoyment of what is beneficial to them. Wherefore also God our Teacher has given us this grand injunction, in order that what brutes possess by nature may accrue to us by the aid of reason, and that what is performed by brutes unwittingly may be done by us through careful attention and constant exercise of our reasoning faculty. We are to be diligent guardians of the resources given to us by God, ever shunning sin as brutes shun poisons, and ever hunting after righteousness, as they seek for the herbage that is good for food. Take heed to thyself, that thou mayest be able to discern between the noxious and the wholesome. This taking heed is to be understood in a twofold sense. Gaze with the eyes of the body at visible objects. Contemplate incorporeal objects with the intellectual faculty of the soul. If we say that obedience to the charge of the text lies in the action of our eyes, we shall see at once that this is impossible. How can there be apprehension of the whole self through the eye? The eye cannot turn its sight upon itself; the head is beyond it; it is ignorant of the back, the countenance, the disposition of the intestines. Yet it were impious to argue that the charge of the Spirit cannot be obeyed. It follows then that it must be understood of intellectual action. Take heed to thyself.' Look at thyself round about from every point of view. Keep thy soul's eye sleepless in ceaseless watch over thyself. Thou goest in the midst of snares.' Hidden nets are set for thee in all directions by the enemy. Look well around thee, that thou mayest be delivered as a gazelle from the net and a bird from the snare.' It is because of her keen sight that the gazelle cannot be caught in the net. It is her keen sight that gives her her name. And the bird, if only she take heed, mounts on her light wing far above the wiles of the hunter.
|Beware lest in self protection thou prove inferior to brutes, lest haply thou be caught in the gins and be made the devil's prey, and be taken alive by him to do with thee as he will.|
A striking passage from the same Homily is thus rendered by Rufinus: |Considera ergo primo omnium quod homo es, id est solum in terres animal ipsis divinis manibus formatum. Nonne sufficeret hoc solum recte atque integre sapienti ad magnum summumque solutium, quod ipsius Dei manibus qui omnia reliqua præcepti solius fecit auctoritate subsistere, homo fictus es et formatus? Tum deinde quod cum ad imaginem Creatoris et similitudinem sis, potes sponte etiam ad angelorum dignitatem culmenque remeare. Animam namque accepisti intellectualem, et rationalem, per quam Deum possis agnoscere, et naturam rerum conspicabili rationis intelligentia contemplari: sapientiæ dulcissimis fructibus perfrui præsto est. Tibi omnium cedit animantium genus, quæ per connexa montium vel prærupta rupium aut opaca silvarum feruntur; omne quod vel aquis tegitur, vel præpetibus pennis in aere suspenditur. Omne, inquam, quod hujus mundi est, servitis et subjectioni tuæ liberalis munificentia conditoris indulsit. Nonne tu, sensu tibi rationabili suggerente, diversitates artium reperisti? Nonne tu urbes condere, omnemque earum reliquum usum pernecessarium viventibus invenisti? Nonne tibi per rationem quæ in te est mare pervium fit? Terra, flumina, fontesque tuis vel usibus vel voluptatibus famulantur. Nonne aer hic et coelum ipsum atque omnes stellarum chori vitæ mortalium ministerio cursus suos atque ordines servant? Quid ergo deficis animo, et deesse tibi aliquid putas, si non tibi equus producitur phaleris exornatus et spumanti ore frena mandens argentea? Sed sol tibi producitur, veloci rapidoque cursu ardentes tibi faces caloris simul ac luminis portans. Non habes aureos et argenteos discos: sed habes lunæ discum purissimo et blandissimo splendore radiantem. Non ascendis currum, nec rotarum lupsibus veheris, sed habes pedum tuorum vehiculum tecum natum. Quid ergo beatos censes eos qui aurum quidem possisent, alienis autem pedibus indigent, ad necessarios commeatus? Non recubas eburneis thoris, sed adjacent fecundi cespites viridantes et herbidi thori, florum varietate melius quam fucatis coloribus Tyrii muricis picti, in quibus dulces et salubres somni nullis curarum morsibus effugantur. Non te contegunt aurata laquearia; sed coelum te contegit ineffabili fulgore stellarum depictum. Hæc quidem quantum ad communem humanitatis attinet vitam. Accipe vero majora. Propter te Deus in hominibus, Spiritus sancti distributio, mortis ablatio, resurrectionis spes. Propter te divina præcepta hominibus delata, quæ te perfectam doceant vitam, et iter tuum ad Deum per mandatorum tramitem dirigant. Tibi panduntur regna coelorum, tibi coronæ justitiæ præparantur; si tamen labores et ærumnas pro justitia ferre non refugis.|
Homily VI., on Luke xii.18, is on selfish wealth and greed.
Beware, says the preacher, lest the fate of the fool of the text be thine. |These things are written that we may shun their imitation. Imitate the earth, O man. Bear fruit, as she does, lest thou prove inferior to that which is without life. She produces her fruits, not that she may enjoy them, but for thy service. Thou dost gather for thyself whatever fruit of good works thou hast strewn, because the grace of good works returns to the giver. Thou hast given to the poor, and the gift becomes thine own, and comes back with increase. Just as grain that has fallen on the earth becomes a gain to the sower, so the loaf thrown to the hungry man renders abundant fruit thereafter. Be the end of thy husbandry the beginning of the heavenly sowing. Sow,' it is written, to yourselves in righteousness.' Why then art thou distressed? Why dost thou harass thyself in thy efforts to shut up thy riches in clay and bricks? A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.' If thou admire riches because of the honour that comes from them, bethink thee how very much more it tends to thine honour that thou shouldst be called the father of innumerable children than that thou shouldst possess innumerable staters in a purse. Thy wealth thou wilt leave behind thee here, even though thou like it not. The honour won by thy good deeds thou shalt convey with thee to the Master. Then all people standing round about thee in the presence of the universal Judge shall hail thee as feeder and benefactor, and give thee all the names that tell of loving kindness. Dost thou not see theatre-goers flinging away their wealth on boxers and buffoons and beast-fighters, fellows whom it is disgusting even to see, for the sake of the honour of a moment, and the cheers and clapping of the crowd? And art thou a niggard in thy expenses, when thou art destined to attain glory so great? God will welcome thee, angels will laud thee, mankind from the very beginning will call thee blessed. For thy stewardship of these corruptible things thy reward shall be glory everlasting, a crown of righteousness, the heavenly kingdom. Thou thinkest nothing of all this. Thy heart is so fixed on the present that thou despisest what is waited for in hope. Come then; dispose of thy wealth in various directions. Be generous and liberal in thy expenditure on the poor. Let it be said of thee, He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for ever.' Do not press heavily on necessity and sell for great prices. Do not wait for a famine before thou openest thy barns. He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him.' Watch not for a time of want for gold's sake -- for public scarcity to promote thy private profit. Drive not a huckster's bargains out of the troubles of mankind. Make not God's wrathful visitation an opportunity for abundance. Wound not the sores of men smitten by the scourge. Thou keepest thine eye on thy gold, and wilt not look at thy brother. Thou knowest the marks on the money, and canst distinguish good from bad. Thou canst not tell who is thy brother in the day of distress.|
The conclusion is |Ah!' -- it is said -- words are all very fine: gold is finer.' I make the same impression as I do when I am preaching to libertines against their unchastity. Their mistress is blamed, and the mere mention of her serves but to enkindle their passions. How can I bring before your eyes the poor man's sufferings that thou mayest know out of what creep groanings thou art accumulating thy treasures, and of what high value will seem to thee in the day of judgment the famous words, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungred and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty and ye gave me drink:...I was naked and ye clothed me.' What shuddering, what sweat, what darkness will be shed round thee, as thou hearest the words of condemnation! -- Depart from me, ye cursed, into outer darkness prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungred and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty and ye gave me no drink:...I was naked and ye clothed me not.' I have told thee what I have thought profitable. To thee now it is clear and plain what are the good things promised for thee if thou obey. If thou disobey, for thee the threat is written. I pray that thou mayest change to a better mind and thus escape its peril. In this way thy own wealth will be thy redemption. Thus thou mayest advance to the heavenly blessings prepared for thee by the grave of Him who hath called us all into His own kingdom, to Whom be glory and might for ever and ever. Amen.|
Homily IX. is a demonstration that God is not the Author of Evil. It has been conjectured that it was delivered shortly after some such public calamity as the destruction of Nicæa in 368. St. Basil naturally touches on passages which have from time to time caused some perplexity on this subject. He asks if God is not the Author of evil, how is it said |I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create evil,| and again, |The evil came down from the Lord unto the gate of Jerusalem,| and again, |Shall there be evil in a city and the Lord hath not done it,| and in the great song of Moses, |See now that I, even I, am he and there is no god with me: I kill and I make alive, I wound and I heal|? But to any one who understands the meaning of Scripture no one of these passages accuses God of being the Cause and Creator of evil. He who uses the words, |I form the light and create darkness,| describes Himself not as Creator of any evil, but as Demiurge of creation. |It is lest thou shouldst suppose that there is one cause of light and another of darkness that He described Himself as being Creator and Artificer of parts of creation which seem to be mutually opposed. It is to prevent thy seeking one Demiurge of fire, another of water, one of air and another of earth, these seeming to have a kind of mutual opposition and contrariety of qualities. By adopting these views many have ere now fallen into polytheism, but He makes peace and creates evil. Unquestionably He makes peace in thee when He brings peace into thy mind by His good teaching, and calms the rebel passions of thy soul. And He creates evil, that is to say, He reduces those evil passions to order, and brings them to a better state so that they may cease to be evil and may adopt the nature of good. Create in me a clean heart, O God.' This does not mean Make now for the first time; it means Renew the heart that had become old from wickedness. The object is that He may make both one. The word create is used not to imply the bringing out of nothing, but the bringing into order those which already existed. So it is said, If any man be in Christ he is a new creature.' Again, Moses says, Is not He thy Father that hath bought thee? Hath He not made thee and created thee?' Now, the creation put in order after the making evidently teaches us that the word creation, as is commonly the case, is used with the idea of improvement. And so it is thus that He makes peace, out of creating evil; that is, by transforming and bringing to improvement. Furthermore, even if you understand peace to be freedom from war, and evil to mean the troubles which are the lot of those who make war; marches into far regions, labours, vigils, terrors, sweatings, wounds, slaughters, taking of towns, slavery, exile, piteous spectacles of captives; and, in a word, all the evils that follow upon war, all these things, I say, happen by the just judgment of God, Who brings vengeance through war on those who deserve punishment. Should you have wished that Sodom had not been burnt after her notorious wickedness? Or that Jerusalem had not been overturned, nor her temple made desolate after the horrible wickedness of the Jews against the Lord? How otherwise was it right for these things to come to pass than by the hands of the Romans to whom our Lord had been delivered by the enemies of His life, the Jews? Wherefore it does sometimes come to pass that the calamities of war are righteously inflicted on those who deserve them -- if you like to understand the words I kill and I make alive' in their obvious sense. Fear edifies the simple. I wound and I heal' is at once perceived to be salutary. The blow strikes terror; the cure attracts to love. But it is permissible to thee to find a higher meaning in the words, I kill' -- by sin; I make alive' -- by righteousness. Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.' He does not kill one and make another alive, but He makes the same man alive by the very means by which He kills him; He heals him by the blows which He inflicts upon him. As the proverb has it, Thou shalt beat him with the rod and shalt deliver his soul from hell.' The flesh is smitten that the soul may be healed; sin is put to death that righteousness may live. In another passage it is argued that death is not an evil. Deaths come from God. Yet death is not absolutely an evil, except in the case of the death of the sinner, in which case departure from this world is a beginning of the punishments of hell. On the other hand, of the evils of hell the cause is not God, but ourselves. The origin and root of sin is what is in our own control and our free will.|
Homily XII. is |on the beginning of the proverbs.| |The proverbs of Solomon, the son of David, king of Israel.|
|The name proverbs (paroimiai) has been by heathen writers used of common expressions, and of those which are generally used in the streets. Among them a way is called oimos, whence they define a paroimia to be a common expression, which has become trite through vulgar usage, and which it is possible to transfer from a limited number of subjects to many analogous subjects. With Christians the paroimia is a serviceable utterance, conveyed with a certain amount of obscurity, containing an obvious meaning of much utility, and at the same time involving a depth of meaning in its inner sense. Whence the Lord says: These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs, but the time cometh when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father.'|
On the |wisdom and instruction| of verse 2, it is said: Wisdom is the science of things both human and divine, and of their causes. He, therefore, who is an effective theologian knows wisdom. The quotation of 1 Cor. ii.6, follows.
On general education it is said, |The acquisition of sciences is termed education, as it is written of Moses, that he was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. But it is of no small importance, with a view to man's sound condition, that he should not devote himself to any sciences whatsoever, but should become acquainted with the education which is most profitable. It has ere now happened that men who have spent their time in the study of geometry, the discovery of the Egyptians, or of astrology, the favourite pursuit of the Chaldæans, or have been addicted to the loftier natural philosophy which is concerned with figures and shadows, have looked with contempt on the education which is based upon the divine oracles. Numbers of students have been occupied with paltry rhetoric, and the solution of sophisms, the subject matter of all of which is the false and unreal. Even poetry is dependent for its existence on its myths. Rhetoric would not be but for craft in speech. Sophistics must have their fallacies. Many men for the sake of these pursuits have disregarded the knowledge of God, and have grown old in the search for the unreal. It is therefore necessary that we should have a full knowledge of education, in order to choose the profitable, and to reject the unintelligent and the injurious. Words of wisdom will be discerned by the attentive reader of the Proverbs, who thence patiently extracts what is for his good.|
The Homily concludes with an exhortation to rule life by the highest standard.
|Hold fast, then, to the rudder of life. Guide thine eye, lest haply at any time through thine eyes there beat upon thee the vehement wave of lust. Guide ear and tongue, lest the one receive aught harmful, or the other speak forbidden words. Let not the tempest of passion overwhelm thee. Let no blows of despondency beat thee down; no weight of sorrow drown thee in its depths. Our feelings are waves. Rise above them, and thou wilt be a safe steersman of life. Fail to avoid each and all of them skilfully and steadily, and, like some untrimmed boat, with life's dangers all round about thee, thou wilt be sunk in the deep sea of sin. Hear then how thou mayest acquire the steersman's skill. Men at sea are wont to lift up their eyes to heaven. It is from heaven that they get guidance for their cruise; by day from the sun, and by night from the Bear, or from some of the ever-shining stars. By these they reckon their right course. Do thou too keep thine eye fixed on heaven, as the Psalmist did who said, Unto thee lift I up mine eye, O thou that dwellest in the heavens.' Keep thine eyes on the Sun of righteousness. Directed by the commandments of the Lord, as by some bright constellations, keep thine eye ever sleepless. Give not sleep to thine eyes or slumber to thine eyelids, that the guidance of the commandments may be unceasing. Thy word,' it is said, is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my paths.' Never slumber at the tiller, so long as thou livest here, amid the unstable circumstances of this world, and thou shalt receive the help of the Spirit. He shall conduct thee ever onward. He shall waft thee securely by gentle winds of peace, till thou come one day safe and sound to yon calm and waveless haven of the will of God, to Whom be glory and majesty for ever and ever, Amen.|
Homilies XV. and XVI. are more distinctly dogmatic. They do not present the doctrines of which they treat in any special way. XV., De Fide, is concerned rather with the frame of mind of the holder and expounder of the Faith than with any dogmatic formula.
XVI., on John i.1, begins by asserting that every utterance of the gospels is grander than the rest of the lessons of the Spirit, inasmuch as, while in the latter He has spoken to us through His servants the prophets, in the gospels the Master has conversed with us face to face. |The most mighty voiced herald of the actual gospel proclamation, who uttered words loud beyond all hearing and lofty beyond all understanding, is John, the son of thunder, the prelude of whose gospel is the text.| After repeating the words the preacher goes on to say that he has known many who are not within the limits of the word of truth, many of the heathen, that is, |who have prided themselves upon the wisdom of this world, who in their admiration for these words have ventured to insert them among their own writings. For the devil is a thief, and carries off our property for the use of his own prophets.|
|If the wisdom of the flesh has been so smitten with admiration for the force of the words, what are we to do, who are disciples of the Spirit?...Hold fast to the text, and you will suffer no harm from men of evil arts. Suppose your opponent to argue, If He was begotten, He was not,' do you retort, In the beginning He was.' But, he will go on, Before He was begotten, in what way was He?' Do not give up the words He was.' Do not abandon the words In the beginning.' The highest point of beginning is beyond comprehension; what is outside beginning is beyond discovery. Do not let any one deceive you by the fact that the phrase has more than one meaning. There are in this world many beginnings of many things, yet there is one beginning which is beyond them all. Beginning of good way,' says the Proverb. But the beginning of a way is the first movement whereby we begin the journey of which the earlier part can be discovered. And, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.' To this beginning is prefixed something else, for elementary instruction is the beginning of the comprehension of arts. The fear of the Lord is then a primary element of wisdom, but there is something anterior to this beginning -- the condition of the soul, before it has been taught wisdom and apprehended the fear of the Lord....The point is the beginning of the line, and the line is the beginning of the surface, and the surface is the beginning of the body, and the parts of speech are the beginnings of grammatical utterance. But the beginning in the text is like none of these....In the beginning was the Word! Marvellous utterance! How all the words are found to be combined in mutual equality of force! Was' has the same force as In the beginning.' Where is the blasphemer? Where is the tongue that fights against Christ? Where is the tongue that said, There was when He was not'? Hear the gospel: In the beginning was. ' If He was in the beginning, when was He not? Shall I bewail their impiety or execrate their want of instruction? But, it is argued, before He was begotten, He was not. Do you know when He was begotten, that you may introduce the idea of priority to the time? For the word before' is a word of time, placing one thing before another in antiquity. In what way is it reasonable that the Creator of time should have a generation subjected to terms of time? In the beginning was -- ' Never give up the was, and you never give any room for the vile blasphemy to slip in. Mariners laugh at the storm, when they are riding upon two anchors. So will you laugh to scorn this vile agitation which is being driven on the world by the blasts of wickedness, and tosses the faith of many to and fro, if only you will keep your soul moored safely in the security of these words.|
In § 4 on the force of with God. |Note with admiration the exact appropriateness of every single word. It is not said The Word was in God.' It runs was with God.' This is to set forth the proper character of the hypostasis. The Evangelist did not say in God,' to avoid giving any pretext for the confusion of the hypostasis. That is the vile blasphemy of men who are endeavouring to confound all things together, asserting that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, form one subject matter, and that different appellations are applied to one thing. The impiety is vile, and no less to be shunned than that of those who blasphemously maintain that the Son is in essence unlike God the Father. The Word was with God. Immediately after using the term Word to demonstrate the impassibility of the generation, he forthwith gives an explanation to do away with the mischief arising in us from the term Word. As though suddenly rescuing Him from the blasphemers' calumny, he asks, what is the Word? The Word was God. Do not put before me any ingenious distinctions of phrase; do not with your wily cleverness blaspheme the teachings of the Spirit. You have the definitive statement. Submit to the Lord. The Word was God.|
Homily XXIV., against the Sabellians, Arians, and Anomoeans, repeats points which are brought out again and again in the De Spiritu Sancto, in the work Against Eunomius, and in some of the Letters.
Arianism is practical paganism, for to make the Son a creature, and at the same time to offer Him worship, is to reintroduce polytheism. Sabellianism is practical Judaism, -- a denial of the Son. John i.1, xiv.9, 7, xvi.28, and viii.16 are quoted against both extremes. There may be a note of time in the admitted impatience of the auditory at hearing of every other subject than the Holy Spirit. The preacher is constrained to speak upon this topic, and he speaks with the combined caution and completeness which characterize the De Spiritu Sancto. |Your ears,| he says, |are all eager to hear something concerning the Holy Ghost. My wish would be, as I have received in all simplicity, as I have assented with guileless agreement, so to deliver the doctrine to you my hearers. I would if I could avoid being constantly questioned on the same point. I would have my disciples convinced of one consent. But you stand round me rather as judges than as learners. Your desire is rather to test and try me than to acquire anything for yourselves. I must therefore, as it were, make my defence before the court, again and again giving answer, and again and again saying what I have received. And you I exhort not to be specially anxious to hear from me what is pleasing to yourselves, but rather what is pleasing to the Lord, what is in harmony with the Scriptures, what is not in opposition to the Fathers. What, then, I asserted concerning the Son, that we ought to acknowledge His proper Person, this I have also to say concerning the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is not identical with the Father, because of its being written God is a Spirit.' Nor on the other hand is there one Person of Son and of Spirit, because it is said, If any man have not the spirit of Christ he is none of his....Christ is in you.' From this passage some persons have been deceived into the opinion that the Spirit and Christ are identical. But what do we assert? That in this passage is declared the intimate relation of nature and not a confusion of persons. For there exists the Father having His existence perfect and independent, root and fountain of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. There exists also the Son living in full Godhead, Word and begotten offspring of the Father, independent. Full too is the Spirit, not part of another, but contemplated whole and perfect in Himself. The Son is inseparably conjoined with the Father and the Spirit with the Son. For there is nothing to divide nor to cut asunder the eternal conjunction. No age intervenes, nor yet can our soul entertain a thought of separation as though the Only-begotten were not ever with the Father, or the Holy Ghost not co-existent with the Son. Whenever then we conjoin the Trinity, be careful not to imagine the Three as parts of one undivided thing, but receive the idea of the undivided and common essence of three perfect incorporeal [existences]. Wherever is the presence of the Holy Spirit, there is the indwelling of Christ: wherever Christ is, there the Father is present. Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you ?'|
First of the Homilies on moral topics come I. and II. on Fasting. The former is of uncontested genuineness. Erasmus rejected the latter, but it is accepted without hesitation by Garnier, Maran, and Ceillier, and is said by the last named to be quoted as Basil's by John of Damascus and Symeon Logothetes. From Homily I. two passages are cited by St. Augustine against the Pelagians. The text is Ps. lxxx.3. |Reverence,| says one passage, |the hoary head of fasting. It is coæval with mankind. Fasting was ordained in Paradise. The first injunction was delivered to Adam, Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat.' Thou shalt not eat' is a law of fasting and abstinence.| The general argument is rather against excess than in support of ceremonial abstinence. In Paradise there was no wine, no butchery of beasts, no eating of flesh. Wine came in after the flood. Noah became drunk because wine was new to him. So fasting is older than drunkenness. Esau was defiled, and made his brother's slave, for the sake of a single meal. It was fasting and prayer which gave Samuel to Hannah. Fasting brought forth Samson. Fasting begets prophets, strengthens strong men. Fasting makes lawgivers wise, is the soul's safeguard, the body's trusty comrade, the armour of the champion, the training of the athlete.
The conclusion is a warning against mere carnal abstinence. |Beware of limiting the good of fasting to mere abstinence from meats. Real fasting is alienation from evil. Loose the bands of wickedness.' Forgive your neighbour the mischief he has done you. Forgive him his trespasses against you. Do not fast for strife and debate.' You do not devour flesh, but you devour your brother. You abstain from wine, but you indulge in outrages. You wait for evening before you take food, but you spend the day in the law courts. Wo to those who are drunken, but not with wine.' Anger is the intoxication of the soul, and makes it out of its wits like wine. Drunkenness, too, is sorrow, and drowns our intelligence. Another drunkenness is needless fear. In a word, whatever passion makes the soul beside herself may be called drunkenness....Dost thou know Whom thou art ordained to receive as thy guest? He Who has promised that He and His Father will come and make their abode with thee. Why do you allow drunkenness to enter in, and shut the door on the Lord? Why allow the foe to come in and occupy your strongholds? Drunkenness dare not receive the Lord; it drives away the Spirit. Smoke drives away bees, and debauch drives away the gifts of the Spirit.
Wilt thou see the nobility of fasting? Compare this evening with to-morrow evening: thou wilt see the town turned from riot and disturbance to profound calm. Would that to-day might be like to-morrow in solemnity, and the morrow no less cheerful than to-day. May the Lord Who has brought us to this period of time grant to us, as to gladiators and wrestlers, that we may shew firmness and constancy in the beginning of contests, and may reach that day which is the Queen of Crowns; that we may remember now the passion of salvation, and in the age to come enjoy the requital of our deeds in this life, in the just judgment of Christ.|
Homily IV. on the giving of thanks (peri eucharistias), is on text 1 Thess. v.16. Our Lord, it is remarked, wept over Lazarus, and He called them that mourn blessed. How is this to be reconciled with the charge |Rejoice alway|? |Tears and joy have not a common origin. On the one hand, while the breath is held in round the heart, tears spontaneously gush forth, as at some blow, when an unforeseen calamity smites upon the soul. Joy on the other hand is like a leaping up of the soul rejoicing when things go well. Hence come different appearances of the body. The sorrowful are pale, livid, chilly. The habit of the joyous and cheerful is blooming and ruddy; their soul all but leaps out of their body for gladness. On all this I shall say that the lamentations and tears of the saints were caused by their love to God. So, with their eyes ever fixed on the object of their love, and from hence gathering greater joy for themselves, they devoted themselves to the interests of their fellow-servants. Weeping over sinners, they brought them to better ways by their tears. But just as men standing safe on the seashore, while they feel for those who are drowning in the deep, do not lose their own safety in their anxiety for those in peril, so those who groan over the sins of their neighbours do not destroy their own proper cheerfulness. Nay, they rather increase it, in that, through their tears over their brother, they are made worthy of the joy of the Lord. Wherefore, blessed are they that weep; blessed are they that mourn; for they shall themselves be comforted; they themselves shall laugh. But by laughter is meant not the noise that comes out through the cheeks from the boiling of the blood, but cheerfulness pure and untainted with despondency. The Apostle allows us to weep with weepers, for this tear is made, as it were, a seed and loan to be repaid with everlasting joy. Mount in mind with me, and contemplate the condition of the angels; see if any other condition becomes them but one of joy and gladness. It is for that they are counted worthy to stand beside God, and to enjoy the ineffable beauty and glory of our Creator. It is in urging us on to that life that the Apostle bids us always rejoice.|
The Homily contains an eloquent exhortation to Christian fortitude in calamity, and concludes with the charge to look beyond present grief to future felicity. |Hast thou dishonour? Look to the glory which through patience is laid up for thee in heaven. Hast thou suffered loss? Fix thine eyes on the heavenly riches, and on the treasure which thou hast put by for thyself through thy good works. Hast thou suffered exile? Thy fatherland is the heavenly Jerusalem. Hast thou lost a child? Thou hast angels, with whom thou shalt dance about the throne of God, and shalt be glad with everlasting joy. Set expected joys over against present griefs, and thus thou wilt preserve for thyself that calm and quiet of the soul whither the injunction of the Apostle calls us. Let not the brightness of human success fill thy soul with immoderate joy; let not grief bring low thy soul's high and lofty exaltation through sadness and anguish. Thou must be trained in the lessons of this life before thou canst live the calm and quiet life to come. Thou wilt achieve this without difficulty, if thou keep ever with thee the charge to rejoice alway. Dismiss the worries of the flesh. Gather together the joys of the soul. Rise above the sensible perception of present things. Fix thy mind on the hope of things eternal. Of these the mere thought suffices to fill the soul with gladness, and to plant in our hearts the happiness of angels.|
Homily VII., against the rich, follows much the same line of argument as VI. Two main considerations are urged against the love of worldly wealth; firstly, the thought of the day of judgment; secondly, the fleeting and unstable nature of the riches themselves. The luxury of the fourth century, as represented by Basil, is much the same as the luxury of the nineteenth.
|I am filled with amazement,| says the preacher, |at the invention of superfluities. The vehicles are countless, some for conveying goods, others for carrying their owners; all covered with brass and with silver. There are a vast number of horses, whose pedigrees are kept like men's, and their descent from noble sires recorded. Some are for carrying their haughty owners about the town, some are hunters, some are hacks. Bits, girths, collars, are all of silver, all decked with gold. Scarlet cloths make the horses as gay as bridegrooms. There is a host of mules, distinguished by their colours, and their muleteers with them, one after another, some before and some behind. Of other household servants the number is endless, who satisfy all the requirements of men's extravagance; agents, stewards, gardeners, and craftsmen, skilled in every art that can minister to necessity or to enjoyment and luxury; cooks, confectioners, butlers, huntsmen, sculptors, painters, devisers and creators of pleasure of every kind. Look at the herds of camels, some for carriage, some for pasture; troops of horses, droves of oxen, flocks of sheep, herds of swine with their keepers, land to feed all these, and to increase men's riches by its produce; baths in town, baths in the country; houses shining all over with every variety of marble, -- some with stone of Phrygia, others with slabs of Spartan or Thessalian. There must be some houses warm in winter, and others cool in summer. The pavement is of mosaic, the ceiling gilded. If any part of the wall escapes the slabs, it is embellished with painted flowers....You who dress your walls, and let your fellow-creatures go bare, what will you answer to the Judge? You who harness your horses with splendour, and despise your brother if he is ill-dressed; who let your wheat rot, and will not feed the hungry; who hide your gold, and despise the distressed? And, if you have a wealth-loving wife, the plague is twice as bad. She keeps your luxury ablaze; she increases your love of pleasure; she gives the goad to your superfluous appetites; her heart is set on stones, -- pearls, emeralds, and sapphires. Gold she works and gold she weaves, and increases the mischief with never-ending frivolities. And her interest in all these things is no mere by-play: it is the care of night and day. Then what innumerable flatterers wait upon their idle wants! They must have their dyers of bright colours, their goldsmiths, their perfumes their weavers, their embroiderers. With all their behests they do not leave their husbands breathing time. No fortune is vast enough to satisfy a woman's wants, -- no, not if it were to flow like a river! They are as eager for foreign perfumes as for oil from the market. They must have the treasures of the sea, shells and pinnas, and more of them than wool from the sheep's back. Gold encircling precious stones serves now for an ornament for their foreheads, now for their necks. There is more gold in their girdles; more gold fastens hands and feet. These gold-loving ladies are delighted to be bound by golden fetters, -- only let the chain be gold! When will the man have time to care for his soul, who has to serve a woman's fancies?|
Homily VIII., on the Famine and Drought, belongs to the disastrous year 368. The circumstances of its delivery have already been referred to. The text is Amos iii.8, |The lion hath roared: who will not fear?| National calamity is traced to national sin, specially to neglect of the poor. Children, it appears, were allowed a holiday from school to attend the public services held to deprecate the divine wrath. Crowds of men, to whose sins the distress was more due than to the innocent children, wandered cheerfully about the town instead of coming to church.
Homily X. is against the angry. Section 2 contains a description of the outward appearance of the angry men. |About the heart of those who are eager to requite evil for evil, the blood boils as though it were stirred and sputtering by the force of fire. On the surface it breaks out and shews the angry man in other form, familiar and well known to all, as though it were changing a mask upon the stage. The proper and usual eyes of the angry man are recognized no more; his gaze is unsteady, and fires up in a moment. He whets his teeth like boars joining battle. His countenance is livid and suffused with blood. His body seems to swell. His veins are ruptured, as his breath struggles under the storm within. His voice is rough and strained. His speech -- broken and falling from him at random -- proceeds without distinction, without arrangement, and without meaning. When he is roused by those who are irritating him, like a flame with plenty of fuel, to an inextinguishable pitch, then, ah! then indeed the spectacle is indescribable and unendurable. See the hands lifted against his fellows, and attacking every part of their bodies; see the feet jumping without restraint on dangerous parts. See whatever comes to hand turned into a weapon for his mad frenzy. The record of the progress from words to wounds recalls familiar lines which probably Basil never read. Rage rouses strife; strife begets abuse; abuse, blows; blows, wounds; and from wounds often comes death.|
St. Basil, however, does not omit to notice that there is such a thing as righteous indignation, and that we may |be angry and sin not.| |God forbid that we should turn into occasions for sin gifts given to us by the Creator for our salvation! Anger, stirred at the proper time and in the proper manner, is an efficient cause of manliness, patience, and endurance....Anger is to be used as a weapon. So Moses, meekest of men, armed the hands of the Levites for the slaughter of their brethren, to punish idolatry. The wrath of Phinehas was justifiable. So was the wrath of Samuel against Agag. Thus, anger very often is made the minister of good deeds.|
Homily XI., against Envy, adduces the instances of Saul's envy of David, and that of the patriarchs against Joseph. It is pointed out that envy grows out of familiarity and proximity. |A man is envied of his neighbour.| The Scythian does not envy the Egyptian. Envy arises among fellow-countrymen. The remedy for this vice is to recognise the pettiness of the common objects of human ambition, and to aspire to eternal joys. If riches are a mere means to unrighteousness, wo be to the rich man! If they are a ministering to virtue, there is no room for envy, since the common advantages proceeding from them are open to all, -- unless any one out of superfluity of wickedness envies himself his own good things!
In Homily XIII., on Holy Baptism, St. Basil combats an error which had naturally arisen out of the practice of postponing baptism. The delay was made an occasion of license and indulgence. St. Augustine cites the homily as St. Chrysostom's, but the quotation has not weakened the general acceptance of the composition as Basil's, and as one of those referred to by Amphilochius. Ceillier mentions its citation by the emperor Justinian. It was apparently delivered at Easter. Baptism is good at all times. |Art thou a young man? Secure thy youth by the bridle of baptism. Has thy prime passed by? Do not be deprived of thy viaticum. Do not lose thy safeguard. Do not think of the eleventh hour as of the first. It is fitting that even at the beginning of life we should have the end in view.|
|Imitate the eunuch. He found one to teach him. He did not despise instruction. The rich man made the poor man mount into his chariot. The illustrious and the great welcomed the undistinguished and the small. When he had been taught the gospel of the kingdom, he received the faith in his heart, and did not put off the seal of the Spirit.|
Homily XIV., against Drunkards, has the special interest of being originated by a painful incident which it narrates. The circumstances may well be compared with those of the scandal caused by the deacon Glycerius. Easter day, remarks St. Basil, is a day when decent women ought to have been sitting in their homes, piously reflecting on future judgment. Instead of this, certain wanton women, forgetful of the fear of God, flung their coverings from their heads, despising God, and in contempt of His angels, lost to all shame before the gaze of men, shaking their hair, trailing their tunics, sporting with their feet, with immodest glances and unrestrained laughter, went off into a wild dance. They invited all the riotous youth to follow them, and kept up their dances in the Basilica of the Martyrs' before the walls of Cæsarea, turning hallowed places into the workshop of their unseemliness. They sang indecent songs, and befouled the ground with their unhallowed tread. They got a crowd of lads to stare at them, and left no madness undone. On this St. Basil builds a stirring temperance sermon. Section 6 contains a vivid picture of a drinking bout, and Section 7 describes the sequel. The details are evidently not imaginary.
|Sorrowful sight for Christian eyes! A man in the prime of life, of powerful frame of high rank in the army, is carried furtively home, because he cannot stand upright, and travel on his own feet. A man who ought to be a terror to our enemies is a laughing stock to the lads in the streets. He is smitten down by no sword -- slain by no foe. A military man, in the bloom of manhood, the prey of wine, and ready to suffer any fate his foes may choose! Drunkenness is the ruin of reason, the destruction of strength; it is untimely old age; it is, for a short time, death.
|What are drunkards but the idols of the heathen? They have eyes and see not, ears and hear not. Their hands are helpless; their feet dead.| The whole Homily is forcible. It is quoted by Isidore of Pelusium, and St. Ambrose seems to have been acquainted with it.
Homily XX., on Humility, urges the folly of Adam, in sacrificing eternal blessings to his ambition, and the example of St. Paul in glorying only in the Lord.
Pharaoh, Goliath, and Abimelech are instanced. St. Peter is cited for lack of humility in being sure that he of all men will be true to the death.
|No detail can be neglected as too insignificant to help us in ridding ourselves of pride. The soul grows like its practices, and is formed and fashioned in accordance with its conduct. Your appearance, your dress, your gait, your chair, your style of meals, your bed and bedding, your house and its contents, should be all arranged with a view to cheapness. Your talk, your songs, your mode of greeting your neighbour, should look rather to moderation than to ostentation. Give me, I beg, no elaborate arguments in your talk, no surpassing sweetness in your singing, no vaunting and wearisome discussions. In all things try to avoid bigness. Be kind to your friend, gentle to your servant, patient with the impudent, amiable to the lowly. Console the afflicted, visit the distressed, despise none. Be agreeable in address, cheerful in reply, ready, accessible to all. Never sing your own praises, nor get other people to sing them. Never allowing any uncivil communication, conceal as far as possible your own superiority.|
Homily XXI., on disregard of the things of this world, was preached out of St. Basil's diocese, very probably at Satala in 372. The second part is in reference to a fire which occurred in the near neighbourhood of the church on the previous evening.
|Once more the fiend has shewn his fury against us, has armed himself with flame of fire, and has attacked the precincts of the church. Once more our common mother has won the day, and turned back his devices on himself. He has done nothing but advertise his hatred....How do you not suppose the devil must be groaning to-day at the failure of his projected attempt? Our enemy lighted his fire close to the church that he might wreck our prosperity. The flames raised on every side by his furious blasts were streaming over all they could reach; they fed on the air round about; they were being driven to touch the shrine, and to involve us in the common ruin; but our Saviour turned them back on him who had kindled them, and ordered his madness to fall on himself. The congregation who have happily escaped are urged to live worthily of their preservation, shining like pure gold out of the furnace.|
Homily XXII., which is of considerable interest, on the study of pagan literature, is really not a homily at all. It is a short treatise addressed to the young on their education. It would seem to have been written in the Archbishop's later years, unless the experience of which he speaks may refer rather to his earlier experience, alike as a student and a teacher.
No source of instruction can be overlooked in the preparation for the great battle of life, and there is a certain advantage to be derived from the right use of heathen writers. The illustrious Moses is described as training his intellect in the science of the Egyptians, and so arriving at the contemplation of Him Who is. So in later days Daniel at Babylon was wise in the Chaldean philosophy, and ultimately apprehended the divine instruction. But granted that such heathen learning is not useless, the question remains how you are to participate in it. To begin with the poets. Their utterances are of very various kinds, and it will not be well to give attention to all without exception. When they narrate to you the deeds and the words of good men, admire and copy them, and strive diligently to be like them. When they come to bad men, shut your ears, and avoid imitating them, like Ulysses fleeing from the sirens' songs. Familiarity with evil words is a sure road to evil deeds, wherefore every possible precaution must be taken to prevent our souls from unconsciously imbibing evil influences through literary gratification, like men who take poison in honey. We shall not therefore praise the poets when they revile and mock, or when they describe licentious, intoxicated characters, when they define happiness as consisting in a laden table and dissolute ditties. Least of all shall we attend to the poets when they are talking about the gods, specially when their talk is of many gods, and those in mutual disagreement. For among them brother is at variance with brother, parent against children, and children wage a truceless war against parents. The gods' adulteries and amours and unabashed embraces, and specially those of Zeus, whom they describe as the chief and highest of them all, -- things which could not be told without a blush of brutes, -- all this let us leave to actors on the stage.
I must make the same remark about historians, specially when they write merely to please. And we certainly shall not follow rhetoricians in the art of lying....I have been taught by one well able to understand a poet's mind that with Homer all his poetry is praise of virtue, and that in him all that is not mere accessory tends to this end. A marked instance of this is his description of the prince of the Kephallenians saved naked from shipwreck. No sooner did he appear than the princess viewed him with reverence; so far was she from feeling anything like shame at seeing him naked and alone, since his virtue stood him in the stead of clothes. Afterwards he was of so much estimation among the rest of the Phæacians that they abandoned the pleasures amid which they lived, all looked up to him and imitated him, and not a man of the Phæacians prayed for anything more eagerly than that he might be Ulysses, -- a mere waif saved from shipwreck. Herein my friend said that he was the interpreter of the poet's mind; that Homer all but said aloud, Virtue, O men, is what you have to care for. Virtue swims out with the shipwrecked sailor, and when he is cast naked on the coast, virtue makes him more noble than the happy Phæacians. And truly this is so. Other belongings are not more the property of their possessors than of any one else. They are like dice flung hither and thither in a game. Virtue is the one possession which cannot be taken away, and remains with us alike alive and dead.
It is in this sense that I think Solon said to the rich,
'All' hemeis autois ou diameipsometha
Tes aretes ton plouton; epei to men empedon aiei,
Chremata d' anthropon allote allos echei
Similar to these are the lines of Theognis, in which he says that God (whatever he means by |God|) inclines the scale to men now one way and now another, and so at one moment they are rich, and at another penniless. Somewhere too in his writings Prodicus, the Sophist of Chios, has made similar reflexions on vice and virtue, to whom attention may well be paid, for he is a man by no means to be despised. So far as I recollect his sentiments, they are something to this effect. I do not remember the exact words, but the sense, in plain prose, was as follows:
Once upon a time, when Hercules was quite young, and of just about the same age as yourselves, he was debating within himself which of the two ways he should choose, the one leading through toil to virtue, the other which is the easiest of all. There approached him two women. They were Virtue and Vice, and though they said not a word they straightway shewed by their appearance what was the difference between them. One was tricked out to present a fair appearance with every beautifying art. Pleasure and delights were shed around her and she led close after her innumerable enjoyments like a swarm of bees. She showed them to Hercules, and, promising him yet more and more, endeavoured to attract him to her side. The other, all emaciated and squalid, looked earnestly at the lad, and spoke in quite another tone. She promised him no ease, no pleasure, but toils, labours, and perils without number, in every land and sea. She told him that the reward of all this would be that he should become a god (so the narrator tells it). This latter Hercules followed even to the death. Perhaps all those who have written anything about wisdom, less or more, each according to his ability, have praised Virtue in their writings. These must be obeyed, and the effort made to show forth their teaching in the conduct of life. For he alone is wise who confirms in act the philosophy which in the rest goes no farther than words. They do but flit like shadows.
It is as though some painter had represented a sitter as a marvel of manly beauty, and then he were to be in reality what the artist had painted on the panel. But to utter glorious eulogies on virtue in public, and make long speeches about it, while in private putting pleasure before continence and giving gain higher honour than righteousness, is conduct which seems to me illustrated by actors on the stage: they enter as monarchs and magnates, when they are neither monarchs nor magnates, and perhaps even are only slaves. A singer could never tolerate a lyre that did not match his voice, nor a coryphæus a chorus that did not chant in tune. Yet every one will be inconsistent with himself, and will fail to make his conduct agree with his words. The tongue has sworn, but the heart has never sworn, as Euripedes has it; and a man will aim at seeming, rather than at being, good. Nevertheless, if we may believe Plato, the last extreme of iniquity is for one to seem just without being just. This then is the way in which we are to receive writings which contain suggestions of good deeds. And since the noble deeds of men of old are preserved for our benefit either by tradition, or in the works of poets and historians, do not let us miss the good we may get from them. For instance: a man in the street once pursued Pericles with abuse, and persisted in it all day. Pericles took not the slightest notice. Evening fell, and darkness came on, and even then he could hardly be persuaded to give over. Pericles lighted him home, for fear this exercise in philosophy might be lost. Again: once upon a time a fellow who was angry with Euclid of Megara threatened him with death, and swore at him. Euclid swore back that he would appease him, and calm him in spite of his rage. A man once attacked Socrates the son of Sophoniscus and struck him again and again in the face. Socrates made no resistance, but allowed the drunken fellow to take his fill of frenzy, so that his face was all swollen and bloody from the blows. When the assault was done, Socrates, according to the story, did nothing besides writing on his forehead, as a sculptor might on a statue, |This is so and so's doing.|
This was his revenge. Where conduct, as in this case, is so much on a par with Christian conduct, I maintain that it is well worth our while to copy these great men. The behaviour of Socrates on this occasion is akin to the precept that we are by no means to take revenge, but to turn the other cheek to the smiter. So the conduct of Pericles and Euclid matches the commands to put up with persecutors, and to bear their wrath with meekness, and to invoke not cursing but blessing on our enemies. He who has been previously instructed in these examples will no longer regard the precepts as impracticable. I should like, too, to instance the conduct of Alexander, when he had captured the daughters of Darius. Their beauty is described as extraordinary, and Alexander would not so much as look at them, for he thought it shameful that a conqueror of men should be vanquished by women. This is of a piece with the statement that he who looks at a woman impurely, even though he do not actually commit the act of adultery with her, is not free from guilt, because he has allowed lust to enter his heart. Then there is the case of Clinias, the follower of Pythagoras: it is difficult to believe this is a case of accidental, and not intentional, imitation of our principles. What of him? He might have escaped a fine of three talents by taking an oath, but he preferred to pay rather than swear, and this when he would have sworn truly. He appears to me to have heard of the precept which orders us to swear not at all. To return to the point with which I began. We must not take everything indiscriminately, but only what is profitable. It would be shameful for us in the case of food to reject the injurious, and at the same time, in the case of lessons, to take no account of what keeps the soul alive, but, like mountain streams, to sweep in everything that happens to be in our way. The sailor does not trust himself to the mercy of the winds, but steers his boat to the port; the archer aims at his mark; the smith and the carpenter keep the end of the crafts in view. What sense is there in our shewing ourselves inferior to these craftsmen, though we are quite able to understand our own affairs? In mere handicrafts is there some object and end in labour, and is there no aim in the life of man, to which any one ought to look who means to live a life better than the brutes? Were no intelligence to be sitting at the tiller of our souls, we should be dashed up and down in the voyage of life like boats that have no ballast. It is just as with competitions in athletics, or, if you like, in music. In competitions mere crowns are offered for prizes, there is always training, and no one in training for wrestling or the pancration practices the harp or flute. Certainly not Polydamas, who before his contests at the Olympic games used to make chariots at full speed stand still, and so kept up his strength. Milo, too, could not be pushed off his greased shield, but, pushed as he was, held on as tightly as statues fastened by lead. In one word, training was the preparation for these feats. Suppose they had neglected the dust and the gymnasia, and had given their minds to the strains of Marsyas or Olympus, the Phrygians, they would never have won crowns or glory, nor escaped ridicule for their bodily incapacity. On the other hand Timotheus did not neglect harmony and spend his time in the wrestling schools. Had he done so it would never have been his lot to surpass all the world in music, and to have attained such extraordinary skill in his art as to be able to rouse the soul by his sustained and serious melody, and then again relieve and sooth it by his softer strains at his good pleasure. By this skill, when once he sang in Phrygian strains to Alexander, he is said to have roused the king to arms in the middle of a banquet, and then by gentler music to have restored him to his boon companions. So great is the importance, alike in music and in athletics, in view of the object to be attained, of training....
. . . . . . . . . . .
To us are held out prizes whereof the marvelous number and splendour are beyond the power of words to tell. Will it be possible for those who are fast asleep, and live a life of indulgence, to seize them without an effort? If so, sloth would have been of great price, and Sardanapalus would have been esteemed especially happy, or even Margites, if you like, who is said by Homer to have neither ploughed nor dug, nor done any useful work, -- if indeed Homer wrote this. Is there not rather truth in the saying of Pittacus, who said that |It is hard to be good ?|...
. . . . . . . . . . .
We must not be the slaves of our bodies, except where we are compelled. Our best provision must be for the soul. We ought by means of philosophy to release her from fellowship with all bodily appetites as we might from a dungeon, and at the same time make our bodies superior to our appetites. We should, for instance, supply our bellies with necessaries, not with dainties like men whose minds are set on cooks and table arrangers, and who search through every land and sea, like the tributaries of some stern despot, much to be pitied for their toil. Such men are really suffering pains as intolerable as the torments of hell, carding into a fire, fetching water in a sieve, pouring into a tub with holes in it, and getting nothing for their pains. To pay more than necessary attention to our hair and dress is, as Diogenes phrases it, the part either of the unfortunate or of the wicked. To be finely dressed, and to have the reputation of being so, is to my mind quite as disgraceful as to play the harlot or to plot against a neighbour's wedlock. What does it matter to a man with any sense, whether he wears a grand state robe, or a common cloak, so long as it serves to keep off heat and cold? In other matters necessity is to be the rule, and the body is only to be so far regarded as is good for the soul.|
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Similar precepts are urged, with further references and allusions to Pythagoras, the Corybantes, Solon, Diogenes, Pythius, the rich man who feasted Xerxes on his way to Greece, Pheidias, Bias, Polycletus, Archilochus, and Tithonus.
It is suggestive to compare the wealth of literary illustration in this little tract with the severe restrictions which Basil imposes on himself in his homilies for delivery in church, where nothing but Scripture is allowed to appear. In studying the sermons, it might be supposed that Basil read nothing but the Bible. In reading the treatise on heathen authors, but for an incidental allusion to David and Methuselah, it might be supposed that he spent all his spare time over his old school and college authors.
(iii) The Panegyrical Homilies are five in number.
Homily V. is on Julitta, a lady of Cæsarea martyred in 306, and commemorated on July 30. (In the Basilian menology, July 31.) Her property being seized by an iniquitous magistrate, she was refused permission to proceed with a suit for restitution unless she abjured Christianity. On her refusal to do this she was arraigned and burned. She is described as having said that women no less than men were made after the image of God; that women as well as men were made by their Creator capable of manly virtue; that it took bone as well as flesh to make the woman, and that constancy, fortitude, and endurance are as womanly as they are manly.
The homily, which recommends patience and cheerfulness in adversity, contains a passage of great beauty upon prayer. |Ought we to pray without ceasing? Is it possible to obey such a command? These are questions which I see you are ready to ask. I will endeavour, to the best of my ability, to defend the charge. 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.' As thou takest thy seat at table, pray. As thou liftest the loaf, offer thanks to the Giver. When thou sustainest thy bodily weakness with wine, remember Him Who supplies thee with this gift, to make thy heart glad and to comfort thy infirmity. Has thy need for taking food passed away? Let not the thought of thy Benefactor pass away too. As thou art putting on thy tunic, thank the Giver of it. As thou wrappest thy cloak about thee, 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 thou lookest up to heaven and gazest 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 hath made them all. When thou seest 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 not night herself be all, as it were, the special and peculiar property of sleep. Let not half thy life be useless through the senselessness of slumber. Divide the time of night between sleep and prayer. Nay, let thy 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 wilt thought pray without ceasing; if thought prayest not only in words, but unitest thyself to God through all the course of life and so thy life be made one ceaseless and uninterrupted prayer.|
Barlaam, the subject of Homily XVII., was martyred under Diocletian, either at Antioch or at Cæsarea. The ingenuity of his tormentors conceived the idea of compelling him to fling the pinch of incense to the gods by putting it, while burning, into his hand, and forcing him to hold it over the altar. The fire fought with the right hand, and the fire proved the weaker. The fire burned through the hand, but the hand was firm. The martyr might say, |Thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.| The homily concludes with an apostrophe to the painters of such scenes. |Up, I charge you, ye famous painters of the martyrs' struggles! Adorn by your art the mutilated figure of this officer of our army! I have made but a sorry picture of the crowned hero. Use all your skill and all your colours in his honour.|
This was taken at the second Council of Nicæa as proof of an actual painting.
Homily XVIII. is on the martyr Gordius, who was a native of Cæsarea, and was degraded from his rank of centurion when Licinius removed Christians from the army. Gordius retired into the wilderness, and led the life of an anchorite. One day there was a great festival at Cæsarea in honour of Mars. There were to be races in the theatre, and thither the whole population trooped. Not a Jew, not a heathen, was wanting. No small company of Christians had joined the crowd, men of careless life, sitting in the assembly of folly, and not shunning the counsel of the evil-doers, to see the speed of the horses and the skill of the charioteers. Masters had given their slaves a holiday. Even boys ran from their schools to the show. There was a multitude of common women of the lower ranks. The stadium was packed, and every one was gazing intently on the races. Then that noble man, great of heart and great of courage, came down from the uplands into the theatre. He took no thought of the mob. He did not heed how many hostile hands he met....In a moment the whole theatre turned to stare at the extraordinary sight. The man looked wild and savage. From his long sojourn in the mountains his head was squalid, his beard long, his dress filthy. His body was like a skeleton. He carried a stick and a wallet. Yet there was a certain grace about him, shining from the unseen all around him. He was recognised. A great shout arose. Those who shared his faith clapped for joy, but the enemies of the truth urged the magistrate to put in force the penalty he had incurred, and condemned him beforehand to die. Then an universal shouting arose all round. Nobody looked at the horses -- nobody at the charioteers. The exhibition of the chariots was mere idle noise. Not an eye but was wholly occupied with looking at Gordius, not an ear wanted to hear anything but his words. Then a confused murmur, running like a wind through all the theatre, sounded above the din of the course. Heralds were told to proclaim silence. The pipes were hushed, and all the band stopped in a moment. Gordius was being listened to; Gordius was the centre of all eyes, and in a moment he was dragged before the magistrate who presided over the games. With a mild and gentle voice the magistrate asked him his name, and whence he came. He told his country, his family, the rank he had held, the reason for his flight, and his return. |Here I am,| he cried; |ready to testify by creed to the contempt in which I hold your orders, and my faith in the God in whom I have trusted. For I have heard that you are inferior to few in cruelty. This is why I have chosen this time in order to carry out my wishes.| With these words he kindled the wrath of the governor like a fire, and roused all his fury against himself. The order was given, |Call the lictors; where are the plates of lead? Where are the scourges? Let him be stretched upon a wheel; let him be wrenched upon the rack; let the instruments of torture be brought in; make ready the beasts, the fire, the sword, the cross. What a good thing for the villain that he can die only once!| |Nay,| replied Gordius. |What a bad thing for me that I cannot die for Christ again and again!|...
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All the town crowded to the spot where the martyrdom was to be consummated. Gordius uttered his last words. Death is the common lot of man. As we must all die, let us through death win life. Make the necessary voluntary. Exchange the earthly for the heavenly. He then crossed himself, he stepped forward for the fatal blow, without changing colour or losing his cheerful mien. It seemed as though he were not going to meet an executioner, but to yield himself into the hands of angels.
Homily XIX. is on the Forty Soldier Martyrs of Sebaste, who were ordered by the officers of Licinius, a.d.320, to offer sacrifice to the heathen idols, and, at their refusal, were plunged for a whole night into a frozen pond in the city, in sight of a hot bath on the brink. One man's faith and fortitude failed him. He rushed to the relief of the shore, plunged into the hot water, and died on the spot. One of the executioners had stood warming himself and watching the strange scene. He had seemed to see angels coming down from heaven and distributing gifts to all the band but one. When the sacred number of forty was for the moment broken the officer flung off his clothes, and sprang into the freezing pond with the cry, |I am a Christian.| Judas departed. Matthias took his place....
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What trouble wouldst thou not have taken to find one to pray for thee to the Lord! Here are forty, praying with one voice. Where two or three are gathered together in the name of the Lord, there is He in the midst. Who doubts His presence in the midst of forty? The afflicted flees to the Forty; the joyous hurries to them; the former, that he may find relief from his troubles; the latter, that his blessings may be preserved. Here a pious woman is found beseeching for her children; she begs for the return of her absent husband, or for his health if he be sick. Let your supplications be made with the martyrs. Let young men imitate their fellows. Let fathers pray to be fathers of like sons. Let mothers learn from a good mother. The mother of one of these saints saw the rest overcome by the cold, and her son, from his strength or his constancy, yet alive. The executioners had left him, on the chance of his having changed his mind. She herself lifted him in her arms, and placed him on the car in which the rest were being drawn to the pyre, a veritable martyr's mother.
The last of the Panegyrical Homilies (XXIII.) is on Saint Mamas, commemorated on September 2 by the Greeks, and on August 17 by the Latins. He is said to have been a shepherd martyred at Cæsarea in 274 in the persecution of Aurelian. Sozomen (v.2) relates that when the young princes Julian and Gallus were at the castle of Macellum they were engaged in building a church in the martyr's honour, and that Julian's share in the work never prospered. The homily narrates no details concerning the saint, and none seem to be known. It does contain a more direct mention of a practice of invocation. There is a charge to all who have enjoyed the martyr in dreams to remember him; to all who have met with him in the church, and have found him a helper in their prayers; to all those whom he has aided in their doings, when called on by name. The conclusion contains a summary of the Catholic doctrine concerning the Son. |You have been told before, and now you are being told again, In the beginning was the Word,' to prevent your supposing that the Son was a being generated after the manner of men, from His having come forth out of the non-existent. Word' is said to you, because of His impassibility. Was' is said because of His being beyond time. He says beginning' to conjoin the Begotten with His Father. You have seen how the obedient sheep hears a master's voice. In the beginning,' and was,' and Word.' Do not go on to say, How was He?' and If He was, He was not begotten;' and If He was begotten, He was not.' It is not a sheep who says these things. The skin is a sheep's; but the speaker within is a wolf. Let him be recognised as an enemy. My sheep hear my voice.' You have heard the Son. Understand His likeness to His Father. I say likeness because of the weakness of the stronger bodies: In truth, and I am not afraid of approaching the truth, I am no ready deceiver: I say identity, always preserving the distinct existence of Son and Father. In the hypostasis of Son understand the Father's Form, that you may hold the exact doctrine of this Image, -- that you may understand consistently with true religion the words, I am in the Father and the Father in me.' Understand not confusion of essences, but identity of characters.|