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Home > Fathers of the Church > Letters (St. Basil of Caesarea) > Letter 257

Letter 257

ST. BASIL OF CAESAREA

To the monks harassed by the Arians.

1. I have thought it only right to announce to you by letter how I said to myself, when I heard of the trials brought upon you by the enemies of God, that in a time reckoned a time of peace you have won for yourselves the blessings promised to all who suffer persecution for the sake of the name of Christ. In my judgment the war that is waged against us by our fellow countrymen is the hardest to bear, because against open and declared enemies it is easy to defend ourselves, while we are necessarily at the mercy of those who are associated with us, and are thus exposed to continual danger. This has been your case. Our fathers were persecuted, but by idolaters their substance was plundered, their houses were overthrown, they themselves were driven into exile, by our open enemies, for Christ's name's sake. The persecutors who have lately appeared, hate us no less than they, but, to the deceiving of many, they put forward the name of Christ, that the persecuted may be robbed of all comfort from its confession, because the majority of simpler folk, while admitting that we are being wronged, are unwilling to reckon our death for the truth's sake to be martyrdom. I am therefore persuaded that the reward in store for you from the righteous Judge is yet greater than that bestowed on those former martyrs. They indeed both had the public praise of men, and received the reward of God; to you, though your good deeds are not less, no honours are given by the people. It is only fair that the requital in store for you in the world to come should be far greater.

2. I exhort you, therefore, not to faint in your afflictions, but to be revived by God's love, and to add daily to your zeal, knowing that in you ought to be preserved that remnant of true religion which the Lord will find when He comes on the earth. Even if bishops are driven from their Churches, be not dismayed. If traitors have arisen from among the very clergy themselves, let not this undermine your confidence in God. We are saved not by names, but by mind and purpose, and genuine love toward our Creator. Bethink you how in the attack against our Lord, high priests and scribes and elders devised the plot, and how few of the people were found really receiving the word. Remember that it is not the multitude who are being saved, but the elect of God. Be not then affrighted at the great multitude of the people who are carried here and there by winds like the waters of the sea. If but one be saved, like Lot at Sodom, he ought to abide in right judgment, keeping his hope in Christ unshaken, for the Lord will not forsake His holy ones. Salute all the brethren in Christ from me. Pray earnestly for my miserable soul.

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Source. Translated by Blomfield Jackson. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 8. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1895.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3202257.htm>.

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