Basil Letters And Select Works by Basil
Letter LXXXI. To Bishop Innocent.
I was delighted to receive the letter your affection sent me; but I am equally grieved at your having laid on me the load of a responsibility which is more than I can carry. How can I, so far removed as I am, undertake so great a charge? As long as the Church possesses you, it rests as it were on its proper buttress. Should the Lord be pleased to make some dispensation in the matter of your life, whom, from among us here can I send to take the charge of the brethren, who will be in like esteem with yourself? That is a very wise and proper wish which you express in your letter, that while you are yet alive you may see the successor destined after you to guide the chosen flock of the Lord (like the blessed Moses, who both wished and saw). As the place is great and famous, and your work has great and wide renown, and the times are difficult, needing no insignificant guide on account of the continuous storms and tempests which are attacking the Church, I have not thought it safe for my own soul to treat the matter perfunctorily, specially when I bear in mind the terms in which you write. For you say that, accusing me of disregard of the Churches, you mean to withstand me before the Lord. Not then to be at issue with you, but rather to have you on my side in my defence which I make in the presence of Christ I have, after looking round in the assembly of the presbyters of the city, chosen the very honourable vessel, the offspring of the blessed Hermogenes, who wrote the great and invincible creed in the great Synod. He is a presbyter of the Church, of many years standing, of steadfast character, skilled in canons, accurate in the faith, who has lived up to this time in continence and ascetic discipline, although the severity of his austere life has now subdued the flesh; a man of poverty, with no resources in this world, so that he is not even provided with bare bread, but by the labour of his hands gets a living with the brethren who dwell with him. It is my intention to send him. If, then, this is the kind of man you want, and not some younger man fit only to be sent and to discharge the common duties of this world, be so good as to write to me at the first opportunity, that I may send you this man, who is elect of God, adapted for the present work, respected by all who meet him, and who instructs with meekness all who differ from him. I might have sent him at once, but since you yourself had anticipated me in asking for a man of honourable character, and beloved by myself, but far inferior to the one whom I have indicated, I wished my mind in the matter to be made known to you. If therefore this is the kind of man you want, either send one of the brethren to fetch him at the time of the fast, or, if you have no one able to undertake the journey to me, let me know by letter.