BASIL THE GREAT: Eighth Epistle



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St Basil the Great, Bishop of Caesarea: 

EPISTLE VIII: A defence of his withdrawal, and concerning the faith.

(Called "to the Caesareans", but it may have been to a group of monks 
 founded by Basil and fallen into Arianism. Date: 360.)

                        Translated by Rev. Blomfield Jackson

                        Edited by Friar Martin Fontenot, CANDLE Library


I have often been astonished
at your feeling towards me as you do,
and how it comes about that an individual
so small and insignificant,
and having, maybe,
very little that is lovable about him,
should have so won your allegiance.
You remind me of the claims of friendship and of fatherland,
and press me urgently in your attempts
to make me come back to you,
as though I were a runaway from a father's heart and home.

That I am a runaway, I confess.
I should be sorry to deny it;
since you are already regretting me,
you shall be told the cause.

I was astounded like a man stunned
by some sudden noise.
I did not crush my thoughts,
but dwelt on them as I fled,
and now I have been absent from you
a considerable time.
Then I began to yearn for the divine doctrines,
and the philosophy that is concerned with them.
How, said I,
could I
overcome the mischief dwelling with us?
Who is to be my Laban,
setting me free from Esau,
and leading me to the supreme philosophy?
By God's help, I have,
so far as in me lies,
attained my object.
I have found a chosen vessel;
a deep well.
I mean Gregory [of Nazianzus]: Christ's mouth.

Give me, therefore, I beg you,
a little time.
I am not embracing a city life.
I am quite well aware how the evil one,
by such means,
devises deceit for mankind,
but I do hold the society of saints most useful.
For in the more constant changes of ideas
about the divine dogmas
I am acquiring a lasting habit of contemplation.
Such is my present situation.


Friends, godly and well beloved,
do, I implore you,
beware of the shepherds of the Philistines.
Let them not choke your wills unawares.
Let them not befoul the purity
of your knowledge of the faith.
This is ever their object,
not to teach simple souls lessons
drawn from Holy Scripture,
but to mar the harmony of the truth
by heathen philosophy.

Is not he an open Philistine
who is introducting the terms "unbegotten" and "begotten"
into our faith,
and asserts that there was once a time
when the Everlasting was not;
that He, who is by nature and eternally a Father
became a Father;
and that the Holy Spirit is not eternal?
He bewitches our patriarch's sheep
that they may not drink
"of the well of water springing up
into everlasting life," [John 4:14],
but may, rather,
bring upon themselves
the words of the prophet,
"They have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed themselves out cisterns;
broken cisterns that can hold no water." [Jer. 2:13]
All the while they ought to confess
that the Father is God,
the Son is God,
and the Holy Spirit God,
as they have been taught
by the divine words,
and by those who have understood them
in their highest sense.

Against those who cast it in our teeth
that we are Tritheists,
let it be answered
that we confess One God
not in number, but in nature.
For everything which is called one in number
is not one absolutely,
nor yet simple in nature.
But God is universally confessed
to be simple and not composite.
God, therefore, is not one in number.
What I mean is this:
We say that the world is one in number,
but not one by nature, nor yet simple;
for we divide it into its constituent elements,
fire, water, air and earth.
Again, a man is called one in number.
We frequently speak of one man,
but man, who is composed of body and soul
is not simple.
Similarly we say one angel in number,
but not one by nature nor yet simple,
for we conceive of the hypostasis of the angel
as essence with sanctification.
If therefore everything which is one in number
is not one in nature,
and that which is one and simple in nature
is not one in number;
and if we call God one in nature
how can number be charged against us,
when we utterly exclude it
from that blessed and spiritual nature?

Number relates to quantity;
and quantity is conjoined with bodily nature.
We believe our Lord to be Creator of bodies.
Wherefore every number indicates
those things which have received
a material and circumscribed nature.
Monad and Unity
on the other hand
signify the nature which is simple
and incomprehensible.

Whoever therefore
confesses either the Son of God
or the Holy Ghost
to be number or creature
introduces unawares
a material and circumscribed nature.
And by circumscribed
I mean not only locally limited,
but a nature which is comprehended
in foreknowledge by Him
who is about to educe it
from the non-existant into the existant
and which can be comprehended by science.
Every holy thing, then,
of which the nature is circumscribed,
and of which the holiness is acquired,
is not insusceptible of evil.
But the Son and the Holy Spirit
are the source of sanctification
by which every reasonable creature
is hallowed in proportion to its virtue.


We in accordance with the true doctrine
speak of the Son as neither like,
nor unlike the Father.
Each of these terms
is equally impossible,
for like and unlike are predicated
in relation to quality,
and the divine is free from quality.
We, on the contrary,
confess identity of nature
both accepting the consubstantiality,
and rejecting the composition of the Father,
God in substance,
Who begat the Son, God in substance.
From this the consubstantiality ["homoousion"] is proved.
For God in essence or substance
is co-essential or consubstantial
with God in essence or substance.
But when every man is called "god"
as in the words, "I have said you are gods," [Ps. 81(82):6],
or demon, as in the words,
"The gods of the nations are demons," [Ps. 95(96):5 LXX],
in the former case the name is given by favor,
in the latter untruly.

God alone is essentially or substantially God.
When I say "alone" I set forth
the holy and uncreated essence of God.
For the word "alone"
is used in the case of any individual
and generally of human nature.
In the case of an individual:
as for instance of Paul,
that he alone was caught into the third heaven
and "heard unspeakable words
which it is not lawful
for a man to utter". [2 Cor. 12:4]
And of human nature:
as when David says,
"as for man, his days are as grass." [Ps. 101(102):15],
not meaning any particular man,
but human nature in general;
for every man is short lived and mortal.
So we understand these words to be said of the nature
"who alone has immorality" [1 Tim. 6:16],
and "to God only wise" [Rom. 16:27],
and "none is good save one, that is God" [Luke 18:19],
for here "one"
means the same as alone.

So also, "which alone spreads out the heavens," [Job 9:8],
and again, "You shall worship the Lord your God
and Him only shall you serve." [Deut. 6:13 LXX]
"There is no God beside me." [Deut. 32:39 LXX]
In Scripture "one" and "only"
are not predicated of God
to mark distinction from the Son
and the Holy Spirit,
but to except the unreal gods falsely so called.
As, for instance,
"The Lord alone did lead them
and there was no strange god with them," [Deut. 32:12 LXX],
and, "then the children of Israel
did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth,
and did serve the Lord only." [1 Sam. 7:4]

And so St Paul, "For as there be gods many
and lords many, but to us, there is but one God,
the Father, of whom are all things;
and one Lord, Jesus Christ
by whom all things are." [1 Cor. 8:5,6]
Here we enquire why
when he had said,
"One God" he was not content,
for we have said that "one" and "only"
when applied to God,
indicate nature.
Why did he add the word Father
and make mention of Christ?

Paul, a chosen vessel, did not,
I imagine, think it sufficient only to preach
that the Son is God and the Holy Ghost God,
which he had expressed by the phrase, "One God"
without, by the further addition of "The Father",
expressing Him of Whom are all things;
and, by mentioning the Lord,
signifying the Word by Whom are all things;
and, yet further, by adding the words Jesus Christ,
announcing the incarnation,
setting forth the passion
and publishing the resurrection.
For the word Jesus Christ suggests all these ideas to us.

For this reason too,
before His passion,
our Lord deprecates the designation of Jesus Christ
and charges his disciples
to "tell no one that He was Jesus, the Christ." [Matt. 16:19]
For His purpose was,
after the completion of the -oeconomia-,
after His resurrection from the dead
and His assumption into heaven,
to commit to them
the preaching of Him as Jesus, the Christ.
Such is the force of the words,
"That they may know You
the only True God,
and Jesus Christ
whom You have sent," [John 17:3],
and again,
"You believe in God,
believe also in me." [John 14:1]
Everywhere the Holy Ghost
secures our conception of Him
to save us from faling in one direction
while we advance in the other,
heeding the theology,
but neglecting the economy,
and so by ommision,
falling into impiety.


Now let us examine,
and to the best of our ability explain,
the meaning of the words of Holy Scripture,
which our opponents seize
and wrest to their own sense
and urge against us
for the destruction of the glory
of the Only Begotten.

First of all take the words,
"I live because of the Father,"
["ego zo dia ton patera", John 6:57]
for this is one of the shafts hurled heavenward
by those who impiously use it.
These words I do not understand
to refer to the eternal life,,
for whatever lives because of something else
cannot be self existant
just as that which is warmed by another
cannot be warmth itself.
But He, who is our Christ and God says,
"I am the life". [John 11:25]
I understand the life lived
because of the Father
to be this life in the flesh,
and in this time.
Of His own will He came to live
the life of men.
He did not say,
"I have lived because of the Father,"
but "I live because of the Father,"
clearly indicating the present time,
and the Christ, having the word of God in Himself,
is able to call the life which he leads,
and that this is His meaning
we shall learn from what follows.

"He that eats me," He says,
"he also shall live because of Me." [John 6:57]
For we eat His flesh, and drink His blood,
being made through His incarnation
and His visible life
partakers of His Word and His Wisdom.
For all His mystic sojourn among us
He called flesh and blood,
and set forth the teaching
consisting of all practical science,
of physics, and of theology,
whereby our soul is nourished
and is meanwhile trained
for the contemplation
of actual realities.
This is, perhaps,
the intended meaning of what He says.


And again, [John 14:28],
" My Father is greater than I."
This passage is also employed
by the ungrateful creatures,
the brood of the evil one.
I believe that even from this passage
the consubstantiality of the Son with the Father
is set forth.
For I know that comparisons can be made
between things which are of the same nature.
We speak of angel as greater than angel,
of man as juster than man,
of bird as fleeter than bird.
If then, comparisons are made between things
of the same species,
and the Father, by comparison,
is said to be greater than the Son,
then the Son is of the same substance
as the Father.

But there is another sense
underlying the expression.
In what is it extraordinary
that He who
"is the Word and was made flesh" [John 1:14]
confesses His Father
to be greater than Himself,
when He was seen
in glory inferior to angels,
and in form to men?
For, "You have made him a little lower
than the angels," [Ps. 8:5],
and again,
"who was made a little lower than the angels," [Heb. 2:9],
"we saw Him and He had neither form
nor comeliness,
his form was deficient beyond all men." [Isa. 53:2,3 LXX]
All this He endured
on account of His work,
that He might save the lost sheep
and bring it home
when He had saved it,
and bring back safe and sound
to his own land
the man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho
and so fell among thieves. [Luke 10:30]

Will the heretic cast in His teeth
the manger out of which he
in his unreasonableness
was fed by the Word of reason?
Will he, because the carpenter's son
had no bed to lie on,
complain of His being poor?
This is why the Son is less than the Father;
for your sakes
He was made dead to free you from death
and make you sharers
in heavenly life.
It is just as though any one
were to find fault with the physician
for stooping to sickness,
and breathing its foul breath,
that he may heal the sick.


It is on your account
that He knows not the hour and the day
of judgement. [Mark 13:32]
Yet nothing is beyond the ken
of the real Wisdom,
for, "all things were made by Him", [John 1:3];
and even among men
no one is ignorant of what has been made.
But this is His dispensation ["oeconomia"]
because of your own infirmity,
that sinners be not plunged
into despair
by the narrow limits
of the appointed period,
no opportunity for repentence being left them;
and that, on the other hand,
those who are waging a long war
with the forces of the enemy
may not desert their post
on account of the protracted time.
For both of these classes He arranges ["economizes"]
by means of His assumed ignorance;
for the former cutting the time short
for their glorious struggle's sake;
for the latter providing an opportunity
for repentence because of their sins.

In the gospels
He numbered Himself among the ignorant,
on account, as I have said,
of the infirmity of the greater part
of mankind.
In the Acts of the Apostles [1:7],
speaking, as it were,
to the perfect apart, He says,
"It is not for you
to know the times or the seasons
which the Father has put
in His own power."
Here He implicitly excepts Himself.

So much for a rough statement
by way of preliminary attack.
Now let us enquire
into the meaning of the text
from a higher point of view.
Let me knock at the door of knowledge,
if haply I may wake
the Master of the House,
Who gives the spiritual bread
to them who ask Him,
since they whom we are eager to entertain
are friends and brothers.


Our Savior's holy disciples,
after getting beyond the limits
of human thought,
and then being purified
by the word [John 15:3],
are inquiring about the end,
and longing to know
the ultimate blessedness which our Lord declared
to be unknown to His angels
and to Himself. [Mark 13:32]
He calls all the exact comprehension
of the purposes of God, a day;
and the contemplation of the One-ness and Unity,
knowledge of which He attributes
to the Father alone,
an hour.
I apprehend, therefore,
that God is said to know of Himself what is;
and not to know what is not;
God, Who is, of His own nature,
very righteousness and wisdom,
is said to know righteousness and wisdom;
but to be ignorant
of unrighteousness and wickedness;
for God who created us
is not unrighteousness and wickedness.
If then, God is said to know about Himself
that which is,
and not to know that which is not;
and if our Lord,
according to the purpose of the Incarnation
and the denser doctrine,
is not the ultimate object of desire;
then our Saviordoes not know the end
and the ultimate blessedness.

But He says the angels do not know [Mark 13:32];
that is to say,
not even the contemplation which is in them,
nor the methods of their ministries
are the ultimate object of desire.
For even their knowledge,
which is face to face,
is dense.

Only the Father, He says, knows,
since He is Himself the end and the ultimate blessedness,
for when we no longer know God in mirrors
and not immediately, [cf. 1 Cor. 13:12, 2 Cor. 3:18],
but approach Him as one and alone,
then we shall know
even the ultimate end.

For all Material knowledge is said to be
the kingdom of Christ;
while immaterial knowledge,
and so to say
the knowledge of actual Godhead,
is that of God the Father.

But our Lord is also
Himself the end and the ultimate blessedness
according to the purpose of the Word;
for what does He say in the Gospel?
"I will raise him up on the last day." [John 6:40]
He calls the transition from material knowledge
to immaterial contemplation
a resurrection,
speaking of that knowledge after which
there is no other,
as the last day:
for our intelligence is raised up
and roused to a height of blessedness
at the time when it contemplates the Oneness
and the Unity of the Word.
But since our intelligence is made dense
and bound to earth,
it is both commingled with clay
and incapable of gazing intently in pure contemplation,
being led through adornments [-cosmon-]
cognate to its own body.

It considers the operations of the Creator,
and judges them meanwhile
by their effects,
to the end that growing little by little
it may one day wax strong enough
to approach even the actual unveiled Godhead.
This is the meaning, I think,
of the words
"My Father is greater than I," [John 14:28],
and also of the statement,
"It is not mine to give
save to those for whom
it is prepared by my Father." [Matt. 20:23]
This too is what is meant by Christ's
"delivering up the kingdom to God
even the Father," [1 Cor. 15:24];
insamuch as according to the denser doctrine
which, as I said,
is regarded relatively to us
and not to the Son Himself,
He is not the end
but the first of fruits.

It is in accordance with this view
that when His disciples asked Him
"When will you restore the kingdom of Israel?"
He replied, [Acts 1:6,7],
"It is not for you
to know the times and seasons
which the Father has put in His own power."
That is to say,
the knowledge of such a kingdom
is not for them that are bound to flesh and blood.
This contemplation
the Father has put away in His own power,
meaning by "power"
those that are empowered,
and by "His own"
those who are not held down
by the ignorance of things below.

Do not, I beg you,
have in mind times and seasons
of sense
but certain distinctions of knowledge
made by the sun
apprehended by our mental perceptions.
For our Lord's prayer must be carried out.
It is Jesus Who prayed,
"Grant that they may be one in us
as You and I are one, Father." [cf. John 17:22]
For when God, Who is One, is in each,
He makes all one;
and number is lost
in the indwelling of Unity.

This is my second attempt to attack the text.
If anyone has a better interpretation to give,
and can consistantly
with true religion amend what I say,
let him speak
and let him amend,
and the Lord will reward him for me.
There is no jealousy in my heart.
I have not approached this investigation
of these passages for strife and vain glory.
I have done so to help my brothers,
lest the earthen vessels which hold
the treasure of God
should seem to be deceived
by stony hearted and uncircumcised men,
whose weapons are the wisdom of folly.


Again, as is said through Solomon the Wise
in the Proverbs [8:22 LXX],
"He was created;"
and He is named
"Beginning of ways"
of good news,
which lead us to the kingdom of heaven.
He is not
in essence and substance
a creature,but is made a "way"
according to the economy.
Being made and being created
signify the same thing.
As He was made a way,
so He was made the door,
a shepherd,
an angel,
a sheep,
and again a High Priest
and an Apostle, [Heb. 3:1],
the names being used
in other senses.

What again would the heretics say
about God unsubjected
and about His being made sin for us? [2 Cor. 5:21]
For it is written,
"But when all things shall be subdued to Him,
then shall the Son also Himself
be subject to Him
and put all things under Him." [1 Cor. 15:28]
Are you not afraid, sir,
of God being called unsubjected?
For He makes your subjection
His own;
and because of your struggling
against goodness
He calls himself unsubjected.

In this sense too
He once spoke of Himself as persecuted.
"Saul, Saul," He says, [Acts 9:4],
"why do you persecute me?"
on the occasion when Saul
was hurrying to Damascus
with a desire to imprison the disciples.
Again, He calls Himself naked,
when any one of His brethren is naked.
"I was naked," He says, [Matt. 25:36],
"and you clothed me;"
and so when another is imprisoned,
for He Himself took away our sins
and bare our sicknesses. [Isa. 53:4, Matt. 8:17]
Now, one of our infirmities
is not being subject,
and He bore this.
So all the things that happen to us
to our hurt
He makes His own,
taking upon Him our sufferings
in His fellowship with us.


But another passage is also seized upon
by those who are fighting against God
to the perversion of their hearers:
I mean the words,
"The Son can do nothing of Himself." [John 5:19]
To me, this saying too
seems distinctly declamatory
of the Son's being of the same nature
as the Father.

For if every rational creature
is able to do anything of himself,
and the inclination which each has
to the worse and to the better
is in his own power,
but the Son can do nothing of Himself,
then the Son is not a creature.
And if He is not a creature,
then He is of one essence and substance
with the Father.

Again [on the other hand, it might be argued]
-no- creature can do what he likes.
But the Son does what He wills in heaven
and in earth.
Therefore, the Son is not a creature.

Again; all creatures are either constituted
of contraries, or receptive of contraries.
But the Son is very righteousness,
and immaterial.
Therefore, the Son is not a creature,
and if He is not a creature,
He is of once essence and substance with the Father.


This examination of the passages before us,
is, so far as my ability goes,
Now let us turn the discussion on those who attack
the Holy Spirit,
and cast down every high thing
of their intellect
that exalts itself
against the knowledge of God. [2 Cor. 11:5]

You say that the Holy Ghost is a creature.
And every creature
is a servant of the Creator
for "all are Your servants." [Ps. 18(19):1]
If then He is a servant,
His holiness is acquired;
and everything of which the holiness is acquired
is receptive to evil;
but the Holy Ghost
being holy in essence
is called, "fount of holiness." [Rom. 8:2]

Therefore, the Holy Ghost is not a creature.
If He is not a creature,
He is of one essence and substance with the Father.
How, tell me, can you give the name of servant
to Him Who through your baptism
frees you from your servitude?
"The law," it is said,
"of the Spirit of life
has made me free from the law of sin." [Rom. 1:4]
Buy you will never venture
to call His nature even variable,
so long as you have regard
to the nature of the opposing power of the enemy,
which, like lightning, is fallen from heaven,
and fell out of the true life
because its holiness was acquired,
and its evil counsels
were followed by its change.
So when it had fallen away from the Unity
and had cast from it its angelic dignity,
it was named after its character
"Devil" ["Diabolos", from "diaballein", to calumniate],
its former and blessed condition
being extinct
and this hostile power
being kindled.

Furthermore, if he calls the Holy Ghost
a creature
he describes His nature
as limited.
How then can the two following passages stand?
"The Spirit of the Lord
fills the world," [Wis. 1:7];
"Where can I go from your Spirit?" [Ps. 138(139):7]
But he does not,
it would seem,
confess Him to be simple in nature;
for he describes Him as one in number.
And, as I have already said
everything that is one in number
is not simple.
And if the Holy Spirit is not simple,,
He consists of essence and sanctification
and is therefore composite.
But who is mad enough
to describe the Holy Spirit as composite,
and not simple,
and consubstantial with the Father
and the Son?


If we ought to advance our argument yet further,
and turn our inspection to higher themes,
let us contemplate the divine nature
of the Holy Spirit
especially from the following point of view.
In Scripture we find
mention of three creations --
the first being the evolution [-paragoge-]
from non-being to being.
The second is change
from the worse to the better.
The third is the resurrection
of the dead.
In these you will find
the Holy Ghost co-operating
with the Father and the Son.

There is a bringing into existence
of the heavens.
And what says David?
"By the word of the Lord
were the heavens made
and all the host of them
by the breath of His mouth." [Ps. 32(33):6 LXX]

Again, man is created through baptism,
"if any man be in Christ
he is a new creature." [2 Cor. 5:17]
And why does the Savior say to the disciples,
"Go, therefore, and teach all nations,
baptizing them in the name
Of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost?" [Matt. 28:19]
Here too
you see the Holy Ghost
present with the Father and the Son.

And what would you say also
as to the resurrection of the dead
when we shall have failed
and returned to dust?
Dust we are and to dust we shall return.
And He will send the Holy Ghost
and create us
and renew the face of the Earth. [Ps 102(103):30]
For what the holy Paul calls resurrection
David describes as renewal.

Let us hear, once more,
him who was caught into the third heaven.
What does he say?
"You are the temple
of the Holy Ghost
which is within you." [1 Cor. 6:19]
Now every temple
is a temple of God,
and if we are the temple of the Holy Ghost,
then the Holy Ghost is God.
It is also called Solomon's temple
but this is in the sense
of his being the builder.
And if we are a temple
of the Holy Ghost in this sense,
then the Holy Ghost is God,
"He that built all things is God." [Heb. 3:4]
If we are a temple of one who is worshipped,
and who dwells in us,
let us confess Him to be God,
for, "you shall worship the Lord your God,
and Him only shall you serve." [Matt. 6:10]

Supposing them to object to the word "God",
let them learn what this word means.
God is called "God" ["Theos"]
either because He placed all things ["te-thei-kenai"]
or because He beholds all things ["theasthai"].
If he is called God because He "placed"
or "beholds" all things,
and the Spirit knows all the things of God,
as the Spirit in us knows our things,
then the Holy Spirit is God. [1 Cor. 2:10,11]

Again, if the sword of the spirit
is the word of God, [Eph. 6:17],
then the Holy Ghost is God,
inasmuch as the sword belongs
to Him of whom it is also called the word.
Is He named the right hand of the Father?
For, "the right hand of the Lord
brings mighty things to pass," [Ps. 117(118):16 LXX];
"Your right hand, O Lord,
has dashed the enemy to pieces." [Ex. 15:6]
But the Holy Ghost is the finger of God,
as it is said,
"if by the finger of God
I cast out devils," [Luke 11:20],
of which the version in another Gospel is,
"if by the Spirit of God
I cast out devils". [Matt. 12:28]
So the Holy Ghost
is of the same nature
as the Father
and the Son.


So much must suffice for the present
on the subject of the adorable
and Holy Trinity.
It is not now possible
to extend the enquiry about it further.
Take seeds from a humble person like me,
and cultivate the ripe ears for yourselves,
for, as you know,
in such cases we look for interest.

But I trust God that you,
because of your pure lives,
will bring forth fruit
thirty, sixty and an hundredfold.
For it is said,
"Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God."
And, my brethren,
entertain no other conception of the kingdom of the heavens
than that it is the very contemplation
of realities.
This the divine Scriptures call blessedness.
For "the kingdom of heaven
is within you." [Luke 17:21]

The inner man consists of nothing
but contemplation.
The kingdom of the heavens, then,
must be contemplation.
Now we behold their shadows
as in a glass;
hereafter, set free from this earthly body,
clad in the incorruptible
and the immortal,
we shall behold their archetypes,
we shall see them, that is,
if we have steered our own life's course aright,
and if we have heeded the right faith,
for otherwise none shall see the Lord.
For it is said,
into a malicious soul
Wisdom shall not enter,
nor dwell in the body
that is subject to sin. [Wis. 1:4]

And let no one urge in objection, that,
while I am ignoring what is before our eyes,
I am philosophizing to them
about bodiless and immaterial being.
It seems to me perfectly absurd,
while the senses are allowed free action
in relation to their proper matter,
to exclude mind alone
from its peculiar operation.
Precisely in the same manner
in which sense touches sensible objects,
so mind apprehends
the objects of mental perception.

This too must be said,
that God our Creator
has not included natural faculties
among things which can be taught.
No one teaches sight
to apprehend color or form,
nor hearing
to apprehend sound and speech,
nor smell
pleasant and unpleasant scents,
nor taste
flavors and savors,
nor touch,
soft and hard, hot and cold.
Nor would any teach the mind
to reach objects of mental perception;
and just as the senses
in the case of their being
in any way diseased, or injured,
require only proper treatment
and then readily fulfill their own functions;
just so the mind,
imprisoned in flesh,
and full of the thoughts that arise thence,
requires faith and right conversion
which make "its feet like hinds' feet
and set it on the high places." [Ps. 17(18):33]

The same advice is given us
by Solomon the Wise,
who in one passage [Prov. 6:6]
offers us the example
of the diligent worker ant
and recommends her active life;
and in another [Sirach 11:3]
the wise bee
in forming its cells,
and thereby suggests
a natural contemplation
wherein also
the doctrine of the Holy Trinity
is contained,
if at least the Creator
is considered in proportion
to the beauty of the things created.

But, with thanks
to the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost,
let me make an end to my letter,
for, as the proverb has it,
"Pan metron ariston --
Moderation is best in all things" [a saying of Cleobulus of Lindos].


The St. Pachomius Orthodox Library, St. Dionysius' Day, 1995.

Have mercy, O Lord, upon Thy servants the translator Blomfield and the
Friar Martin.


               THE END, AND TO GOD BE THE GLORY!