The Model Monk/Nun in the XXIst Century Through the Eyes of St. Basil

Rev. Dr. Stefan Batruch

One of the fundamental directives of Vatican II, regarding the revival of monastic life, is the encouragement to return to the founders of the monastic life and to biblical and patristic sources.[1] Written sources from the early Christian period have an exceptional significance due to their historical proximity to the apostolic period; the doctrine preached by the Fathers is in living continuation with the Gospel events. The Church continually looks to the patristic corpus, inasmuch as She is convinced that  —on account of it— She is better able to fulfill her mission. The works of the Fathers, especially St. Basil the Great, are a treasury of wisdom, which inspired whole generations of Christians to theological reflection and, after a certain period, became a treasury for the Universal Church.[2] The works of the ancient Christian writers are characterized by a special concern for fidelity to evangelical ideals. The study of St. Basil’s works in our day can aid us in finding new ways to renew monasticism and to truly become a school of a fully-developed spiritual life.[3]

St. Basil ranks among the most illustrious Christian writers of the IVth century. His articulate style, broad intellectual horizons and sound knowledge of philosophy and classical literature make him worthy of interest.[4] His works played an important role in the life of his contemporary Church. The decrees of the first Constantinopolitan Council in 381 witness to this in as much as it was based on Basil’s theological doctrine. Basil’s activity also had a pivotal influence on the establishment and development of monastic life – first in the East and over time in the West. Thus, it is not surprising that on the occasion of the 1600th anniversary of the death of Basil, Blessed Pope John Paul II published an Apostolic Letter.[5]

The extraordinary character of the Bishop of Caesarea becomes still more evident when we take into account the situation the Church found Herself in in the fourth century.[6]  After three centuries of bloody persecution, Christianity obtained many rights and privileges, along with its freedom. This fact was responsible for a great influx of people into the Church, who sadly did not have the requisite preparation. As a result, many of them kept Christian customs less strictly. The level of morality fell. In this critical time, Basil worked to ameliorate the situation. He did so by calling Christians to repentance and to live a exemplary evangelical lives.

His energies were directed toward presenting the faithful with the fundamental truths of the spiritual life in a new light and to assist them in recognizing the necessity of a radical change in their way of life towards a new model. A paradigm for the exemplary relationships between persons and a criteria for a true spiritual renewal was the first community in Jerusalem, filled with love, as mentioned by St. Paul in the Acts of the Apostles. According to the mind of the Bishop of Caesarea, the essence of an universal Christian movement, which was to encompass as many Christians as possible, was to be a return to the radicalism of the Gospel.[7]

As a priest and then as a bishop, he cared for all the faithful, but especially for the sick, travellers, the poor and the outcast. In his concern for them, he created in the suburb of Caesarea a large charitable center called the “Basiliad” –composed of a monastery, guesthouse, hospital, hospice for the poor and buildings for various trades. It was an attempt to “incarnate” the Basilian model of a Christian life.[8]

Aside from the great authority and influence that St. Basil had over his monks, one cannot consider him the founder of monasticism in the East, nor can the spread of monastic life into other regions of the East even be ascribed to him. The eremitical and coenobitic life had already spread through, not only Egypt, Palestine and Mesopotamia, but also Asia Minor.[9]

Then in what lies the contribution of this Bishop of Caesarea to monastic spirituality, if, at that time, there already flourished the eremitical life and there already existed an organized coenobitic community? Why did they acknowledge Basil as the lawgiver and patriarch of monasticism in the East? There are several reasons.

First of all, he avoided the mistakes which were made by numerous eremitic and monastic communities, who considered themselves separate from both the clergy and laity as a category of Christians. In his teaching, Basil underscored that all groups of Christians are equally obligated to fulfill the divine Commandments and all without exception are called to perfection. The difference, in the mind of this Church Father, lies only in the choice of means. This position of St. Basil helped to dispel the negative reaction of the majority of the hierarchy to the monastic movement and demonstrated the possibility of integrating it into church structures.

Secondly, Basil placed a doctrinal foundation for the monastic life of both a biblical and philosophical nature. From the Hellenistic tradition, he took all that was precious and compatible with Christ’s and the Church’s teachings.[10] Basil grounded the substance of Christian perfection in the Gospel, borrowing many concepts from Greek philosophers (Demosthenes, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle), especially from Neo-Platonism, imbued with a Christian spirit (Origen).[11] On this point, some accuse him of being guided by the ethical directives of Stoicism, which placed a mark of equality between venial and mortal sin. Because of this, some considered him to be an adherent of a certain ethical rigor.

Thirdly, he gave to the monastic life, which already existed in the Eastern part of Asia Minor, a new character.[12] In particular, he proposed the integration of the contemplative life with apostolic activity, since, in substance, Basil drew from the teachings of both the Old and New Testaments, which are united in the two main Commandments: love of God and love of neighbor.[13] Love of God is reflected in the individual’s memory, emotions and will, and opens us up to the Invisible, yet truly present God, and this, as a result, aids our release from the fetters of the passions and separates us from our past life, granting us the ability to enter into a new reality. The commandment of love of neighbour is best learned and practiced within a community, which effectively helps us in the battle against the sins of egoism and pride. It also helps in the cultivation of virtue.

Fourthly, he achieved a great authority among the monks, who were his contemporaries, on account of his fundamental knowledge, especially of Sacred Scripture, and his ability to give prudent counsel.[14] On account of all these personal traits, the monk-ascetics throughout Pontus and Cappadocia, in time of need, turned to him for advice and spiritual guidance.

The general principles that make up the fundamental model of the Christian life, St. Basil enumerated in his works as ‘rules.’ It needs to be noted, that they do not have a binding legal character, nor do they provide a normative system of monastic communal life. Their central thought is the conviction that monastic-Christian perfection is a life based on the evangelical counsels. Therefore, the central rule of life is Sacred Scripture, which has to be known well and put it into practice. St. Basil’s Rules were composed in a question-answer format. Reading his Rules, we notice that the thoughts of the author are both wise and prudent.

Old Answers for Current Issues

There are many questions that touch the substance of monasticism: What kind of person should become a monk/nun? What is the goal of the monastic life? What is the spiritual life and what are its stages? These questions are put forth by contemporary religious of various communities, looking for the way that leads to an authentic and profound spiritual life.

The question of monastic identity, which has been put forth in various historical periods, remains actual. Therefore, it is apropos to seek answers in the works of St. Basil the Great. The example of the spiritual life, which Basil proposed to his monks, is important for us today, in an age of spiritual crisis, when doubts are raised about the authenticity of the monastic vocation and a consumerist life bereft of moral principles is the model proposed.

A closer analysis allows us to see that St. Basil’s Rule creates not only a complete conception of Basilian life, but it primarily creates an evangelical model of the monastic and Christian life that offers a solution to the present crisis within the Church, manifested by a decline in moral discipline. Basil does not create a new spirituality, but rather the originality and uniqueness of his teaching is –in an equally trying time for the Church– his outlined goal for the monastic and Christian life directly based upon Sacred Scripture. He drew upon the treasure of the inspired texts and the light of wisdom, which helped him to accept anew the main aspects of the spiritual life and reformulate them into fundamental practical directives. From our research, it appears that Basil discovered the deeper meaning of the Word of God in three fields: the literal — he sought the literal sense of Sacred Scripture; the moral — he uncovered the moral sense, which flows from the content of the inspired books; the allegorical, which is the typological interpretation of the Bible. All three of these senses were used to most accurately grasp the meaning of revealed truth and apply it to the circumstances and problems of his contemporaries.

Today, in an age of relativism, it is necessary to have objective criteria to recognise theological truths, which –without a doubt– is Divine Revelation. A fundamentalist approach, which is characterised by its literal character, literally reads independent fragments of Sacred Scripture often falling into an one-sided inter­pre­ta­tion of its contents. Instead, Basil does not approach biblical texts randomly, but places separate fragments together. In this way, he places the problem in a wider context. In this manner, he resolves questions like sin, conversion, the life of virtue and knowing God, etc., from the content of many biblical texts. For him, the Bible is the objective source for his understanding of the spiritual life.

Constructing his theological reflections upon an exegesis of biblical texts, Basil attempts to actualize them in relation to concrete life situations.[15]  He uses OT and NT texts alike, which complete one another and witness to the permanent content contained in the revealed texts.

The Monastic Life as Understood by St. Basil

Basil was a person of great intellectual and spiritual culture. His advice was profound, full of prudence and peace, without eccentricity. Basil was a just and judicious person towards the members of his monastic community, even to those who did not keep to the general rules. Regarding food and dress, for example, he considered the needs of each, but especially the sick, the weak, hard laborers and travellers. Basil’s monasteries were not created as communities with a large number of monks, like those of Pachomius. His community was guided by one superior. The rules of the ascetical life were not as strict as for other cenobites. They kept them less formally and with more regard to human dignity. Basil used the principles of psychology, directing more effort to convincing and motivating. Communal life had deeper roots than those of Pachomius.

Basil not only used the Jerusalem community as an example, but also pointed to the goodness and generosity of God’s love, which needs to be emulated. In this unique approach to the human person, one can see his criteria for accepting candidates, who expressed a desire to enter into the monastery, as is noted in the tenth rule.[16] Pachomius told certain candidates to wait by the monastery gate and in various ways belittled them. Basil recommended taking into account the candidate’s worth, listening to his story and, in the case of positive progress, the candidate began a trial period. One has to underline that Basil’s counsel and directives are addressed to all faithful and not simply to monks. Everyone –no matter how he lives or what position he holds or why he accepted baptism– is obligated to desire perfection and nearness to God. The monks must keep to certain special rules, like the cloister, inasmuch as they have decided to embody the evangelical principles such as virginity, which others are not obliged to preserve. One has to admit that the Basilian community has more of an open character. Usually, it has a cloister to attain its end and achieve its goal, but its members still meet with people, take part in apostolic and charitable acts, run hospices for the poor and orphanages, and catechize. They also aid bishops. They not only speak about love of neighbor, they manifest it.

Monastic Life as Spiritual Development

The Basilian concept of the monastic life, as based upon Sacred Scripture, is: a person, free from sin, spiritually mature, integrated, virtuous, prayerful, deified and  united to God. The road to such a life passes through certain stages of the spiritual development.

Conversion

Basil points out that the monk who is just beginning should have experienced some sort of conversion in his life. This aspect has a prominent place in his works. The term “conversion,” as employed by him, means a positive internal experience that encompasses a mode of thinking and acting. Therefore, conversion touches the intellectual sphere, that is the mind’s orientation, as well as the volitional aspect of an individual. This understanding embraces the entire person. In Basil’s mind, conversion is a process of a total internal transfiguration, that is a transformation from a condition of sin to dwelling in God’s presence. As a basis for this change is the moment of awareness of one’s sin and a strong desire to be freed from this condition as from the greatest of evils. Renunciation of sin, in accordance with the teaching of Basil the Great, is a change which endures and is renewed throughout our entire lifetime. According to his doctrine, sickness of the soul weakens the ability to do good and obscures the vision of God’s beauty as revealed in creation.

Self-knowledge

Self-knowledge, which lies at the heart of spiritual change, plays an important role in a sincere and complete conversion, inasmuch as it helps one see the depth of cleansing and healing, and it leads to an understanding of the reasons for sin; then, it becomes easier to extricate oneself from this state. At this stage, the light of God’s grace helps the person. It enables an individual to conquer difficulties. A deep self-understanding in light of the Word gives birth to the conviction that sin is a destructive reality and a ruinous force. Thus, it is necessary to decisively cast sin aside, because it is an evil that ruins internal harmony, mutual relationships and also makes it difficult to approach God. A complete separation from everything that has any connection with sin is an obvious necessity in order to begin a path towards true conversion. A full release does not take place easily and is connected to a spiritual battle and external efforts. The essential elements of this struggle are a denial of the world together with all its traps, a release from the entrapment of material goods and persons. Basil understands the spiritual battle as a constant ascetical effort so that one can separate oneself from everything that inhibits union with God.

The prime source upon which founds the teaching of Basil the Great and his model of the spiritual life was, as mentioned above, Sacred Scripture. An analysis of his works shows that Basil did not say much in his own name, but all his efforts were geared to remain faithful to the rules revealed in Sacred Scripture and also the tradition and teachings of early Christian writers. With great knowledge he showed the depth and profound wisdom of the biblical texts. On account of this, his rules do not have a dry juridical character, but are full of the fresh breath of the inspired biblical text. According to his abilities Basil encouraged others to derive their external behavior from the Word of God. According to him, only by assiduously keeping the commandments of the Gospel is one able to be united with God.

The desire for perfection shows that in the monk there is a longing for a life in God’s grace. There is the witness of a consciousness change of life and the beginnings of a new life. The monk discovers the truth about God. The monk opens himself up to the truth about God and His endless love, which is the source of life. The spiritual life is characterized by a search for perfection.

A Life of Virtue

The next stage in Basilian spirituality is the desire to live a life of virtue. Faith, hope and love – are reflections of God’s characteristics and they shine forth in the monk’s life due to the action of God’s grace. These virtues are not some new sign, but –in accordance with Basil’s teaching– are an awakening of an innate strength, which was hampered in the person by temptation. God created us with the ability to live in virtue according to His commandments. The restoration of this ability to live a virtuous life is the result of conversion. Love of God and neighbour are the most important demands and signs of the spiritual life. One who is holy is entirely dedicated to God. The virtues are the criteria for a deep renewal. A proper place for the practice of the virtue of charity is the monastic community, where one can form positive relationships that are based on mutual respect, love and goodness.

To the moral virtues which characterize the monastic life are: humility, obedience, prudence, justice, fortitude, patience, temperance, purity and industrious­ness.

Basil looked after the life of many monks and noticed many discrepancies in their lives. Therefore, in his work, he especially highlights the need to look at the outward signs of an interior divine grace; for these signs manifest one’s interior maturity.[17] The virtuous life witnesses to a true conversion and convinces others more than words, because it becomes a visible sign of the presence of the invisible God.

A Participation in the Sacred Mysteries

Incessantly putting forth effort, particular virtues become stable elements or, because of neglect, they disappear. It is not that the development of virtue is ever completed, since it is a dynamic act that flourishes continually. The source of strength that aids us to live virtuously and strive towards union with God is prayer and the Holy Mysteries. Basil sees prayer and participation in the Mysteries as acts, by which the power of the Holy Spirit is made manifest. They keep one free from sin and give one strength to keep the commandments. Prayer and the Holy Mysteries, especially the Eucharist, are instruments that help to renew the ties with God and lead towards divinization. Yet prayer, just as the Mysteries, are meant to be united to daily life, aiding in all things, including growth of virtue. Just as food is necessary for the body, through which it is able to live and act, so does our spirit need spiritual food. Through this spiritual food, the soul can gain strength to overcome difficulties and struggle with temptations. Prayer is also a tool, which restores the internal harmony and feeling of solidarity with the Creator that was ruined through sin. Monks, who were changed because of their conversion, become enthusiastic, fervent and vibrant in prayer, which fills their entire life.

Union with God

An analysis of Basil’s works allows us to trace the Basilian conception of the spiritual life, whose goal is union with God. At the heart of this unification is centering prayer — a state of internal silence and peace. Basil thinks that one can attain this only having separated oneself from outward din and worry, and by freeing oneself from the cares that spring from material wealth. In brief, all ties must be rent asunder that bind us to any person or thing that would distract our minds. Only a person, free from worry and restlessness, is ready for this type of union. By keeping oneself at an appropriate distance from the world, one is freed from an unrestrained and irresponsible utilization of one’s gifts. Internal freedom allows one to maintain the appropriate hierarchy of values and gives the ability to be totally dependent upon God. This leads to a renewal of communion and complete unity with Him, which is the result of conversion, prayer and the spiritual life. The desire for fellowship with God is intimately connected with the abandonment of everything that causes dissonance between this deep interior longing and our exterior affections.

The response to God’s boundless love is to love Him. These two loves are intertwined, creating a unity of divine and human persons. In this manner, the individual, acknowledging God’s love, appropriates for himself the capability of understanding the root of his existence – that is, to see with one’s eyes the source of all beauty.

In connection with the realization of the monastic vocation to live in the constant nearness and presence of God, begins a process of understanding God’s goodness and an awareness of His love.  From that point onward, there develops an ever more fervent longing for goodness and love, whose external manifestations are the reflection of an interior fullness of God’s love. Full union with God leads to a complete divinization.

Therefore, the goal of the monastic life is blessedness, which takes place through union with God.  It, unfortunately, remains incomplete, partial, fragmented inasmuch as God, in accordance with His essence is ineffable and transcendental. Nevertheless, in spite of the limitations of understanding, this is the greatest grace one can receive in this life. Union with God does not lead to alienation, but a measure of its veracity is our deeds towards our neighbour and a life in accordance with the commandments. A constant awareness of God founds the monastic life. This is a type of contemplation in action. In his teachings, Basil unites these two issues; he does not give preeminence to one, nor stresses the other. Contemplation does not contradict action, but it is a state that allows us to see God in created things.  Contemplation and action create a whole and are a reflection of the glory of the Creator. Any kind of external action that is a reflection of love flows from a mindfulness of God. A realization of the presence of God does not negate the reality of the earthly life, but creatively helps to transform this reality in accordance with the commandments. The person who experiences divinization uncovers in himself the capability of dwelling with God regardless of place and time.

Let’s return to the question of the relevance of Basil the Great’s teaching. After immersing ourselves in his thought, we find that throughout there are many universal and timeless ideas. His works reflect his great life experience and wisdom, which is manifest when he expresses concrete directives that relate to the principles of growth in the spiritual life. His thoughts are full of life’s realism and are devoid of any peripheral or extraneous concepts. In analyzing any question, he takes into account its various aspects and treats it in its entirety. The main characteristic of his teaching is its biblical nature.

Sacred Scripture is the foundation of St. Basil’s theological reflections. It is also the criteria for understanding truth revealed in his books. Presenting various passages of Sacred Scripture, Basil demonstrates the unity of thought expressed therein. His conclusions flow from a deep and comprehensive exegesis of the Bible. He does not approach biblical texts randomly or as separate fragments. In this way, he delineates the wider context of the question that he intends to address.

Views presented in the works of Basil can be classified as biblical theology.  His reflections, without a doubt, remain relevant, although he worked and lived in a different historic-political-ecclesiastical context. They can aid those who seek perfection in the spiritual life and those who are called to the monastic life.

Contemplation and Action

Many Christians view contemplation and action as diametrically opposed principles. Thus, the question is: which of these approaches is more appropriate, more correct and closer to the Gospel? Many think that in the spirituality of the Western Church there is a characteristic accent on action, that is on apostolic work in the world. The Eastern Church instead gives deference to contemplation. In the midst of these churches, one can meet Christians, who fanatically defend one of the abovementioned positions, as the only one that is correct and worthy of propagating.

Contemplation is sometimes understood as a complete alienation from worldly issues which are an obstacle on the road towards union with God. At other times, this leads to the development of a negative view of the world – as something evil. This world view is characterized by a critical acceptance of all material things and a fear of worldly entanglements.

An adherent of contemplation attempts to remain unmoved by everything that could shake his interior quietude. He becomes cautious, suspicious and careful, avoiding all forms of social activity. The position associated with action and apostolic activity is opposed to that position which was just presented. The Christian should be “a person of action,” desiring to labour in various fields. He unites himself to the actions of others and initiates various apostolic initiatives. His fullness is absorbed into the external world. The need to change something or to better it becomes stronger and stronger.  Above all else, he values that which is accomplished in the external forum, such as love of others. Both of these positions point to the tendencies that one can see in the Christian communities of various churches. The tension arising from these two tendencies leads to polemics and confrontation.

Basil in his works unites these two positions, not stressing or ignoring either of them. Contemplation is not in opposition to action, but simply a state that allows us to see God in created things.[18] According to Basil, contemplation and action create a unified whole, reflecting the glory of the Creator. Any type of external action, which is a display of love, should be filled with an awareness and recollection of God.[19]  An awareness of God’s presence does not separate the person from the concrete reality of earthly life. It helps to creatively transform the reality in accordance with God’s commandments. Apostolic activity – is an external manifestation of the internal union with God.  Love, which is given flesh in deeds, manifests the limitless love of God for man.

Created things per se do not separate a person from God. They reveal His beauty, greatness and wisdom. The inability to see the Creator of all things, visible and invisible, the presence of Whom is manifested through His actions, is a result of sin, which causes blindness. Basil also notes that “if this life of a sinner is not destroyed, then his sin remains not only in himself, but it touches others who did not care for him.” As a result of being united with God, which is the result of being cleansed from sin, the person can look anew at his present reality. This helps him and gives him strength to express his love. In this way, we create harmony between a life in God’s presence and participation in the life of society.

According to the Bishop of Caesarea, if the apostolic measure of the monastic life is love, then it behooves us to view love as an indicator of our authenticity and conversion. Contemplation by itself, separated from action – is deprived of sense, just as authenticity that is not born of a spiritual life does not produce good fruits. Basil unites these two approaches and does so based on Sacred Scripture. Examples of which he drew from the Bible are not extracted out of context, but flow from a profound exegesis.

In Basil’s works, the connection between man and God is closely intertwined with interpersonal relationships. Contemplation, torn from action, or action, bereft of the mindfulness of God’s presence, are both extreme positions. Basil unites these two aspects. At the same time, in his works, he prudently writes about the rules of the spiritual life. Any kind of ascetical-spiritual practices are incomplete in themselves and only serve the process of sanctification.  Therefore, we must test and see if they are tools that indeed help us achieve union with God.

In this context, the model of the spiritual life expressed in the works of St. Basil, who unites contemplation of God with apostolic activity, can protect us from falling into one-sided, extreme positions. An awareness of the meaning of spiritual practices and the goal that they serve allows us not to take them too lightly, nor to give them undue weight.

Prudence — The Measure of the Spiritual Life

In various periods, monasteries have thought about how to prepare their monks to achieve a mature faith.  In our time, this question has become ever more important. First of all, it refers to the institutions which directly deal with this question, such as the monastic novitiate. As regards this matter, we can notice some stagnation.

The previous formation models do not give us the desired results. The proof of this is the lack of vocations, crises of belief in consecrated persons and also the abandonment of monastic ideals. This situation impels us to find ways of resolving the issue. There is a shortage of well-prepared formators and spiritual leaders. There is a quest for the most appropriate model that would help us in the attainment of perfection.

From one aspect there exist communities that keep tradition, ascetical and pious practices, which are for them criteria of spiritual maturity. An inordinate attraction to pious practices without counting their effect on daily life sometimes takes on extreme forms. Spiritual exercises can then become ends in themselves or forms of gaining God’s favor. Instruments which are supposed to help us attain sanctification take on a primary meaning by transposing to a secondary plan the substance of the monastic vocation – charity.  There are individuals who give precedence to a liberal approach to the spiritual life. Characteristic of such a method of thinking is a relativism regarding all pious practices and thus every model of spiritual development appears relative and unconvincing.

Basil proposes to keep to the golden middle. He warns against extreme approaches to the spiritual life. An inordinate emphasis on an aspect of human life can produce an anomaly and miss the goal, which is sanctification. For the formulation of an exemplary spiritual life, it is imperative to avoid extremes. All spiritual exercises must be subservient to the higher goal, that is, they must help in restoring unity between God and man, and the ability to live in love.

The Bishop of Cappadocia underlines the fact that sin weakens the will and the ability of self-control, on account of which the individual submits himself to inordinate desires. A return to an internal balance is made possible by temperance. The needs of the soul, the spirit and body are all important.[20]  Therefore, an inordinate spiritualism is as dangerous as an extreme attachment to bodily needs.

Basil places emphasis upon a prudent temperance and proper proportions.[21] Individual practices are useful inasmuch as they attempt to cleanse us of sin and develop the virtues necessary to attain union with God.

Following St. Basil’s directives, a realism is maintained. There is a wisdom in his approach to the formulation of a model for Christian life. His thoughts about the rules for a spiritual life can help many contemporary monks and nuns discover an appropriate hierarchy of values that are in accord with the spirit of the gospel.[22]

For an exemplary monastic existence we need a proper unity between the physical and spiritual. From there, according to Basil, development must encompass all spheres of life, while maintaining appropriate proportions. Any excessive attention to secondary elements, which are simply means, and also a disregard or neglect of one of these elements, which make up the integral unity of the individual, will not bring the desired result. A holistic approach helps us to avoid excess during the use of various means, which are necessary for the attainment of perfection. He allows us to realize the goal of the monastic life, which is the sanctification of the individual.

It is worth noting, that the works of St. Basil appeared at a time when the Church in Cappadocia was experiencing difficulties associated with its internal division. Therefore, his teaching is permeated with encouragement and a call to an authentic spiritual life whose fruit is charity. Unity with others can be attained only through a personal union with God. Sin destroys harmony, deforms the vision and understanding of God and creates a barrier within the monastic community. The road to uniting the monastic community is through individual conversion – that is, through the cleansing from sin and an openness to the action of God’s love.


[1] Unitatis reditegratio, 17.

[2] Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 5.

[3] Unitatis reditegratio, 15.

[4] An interesting and detailed study of St. Basil’s character was given by St. Gregory Nazianzus in his 43rd sermon – “In Honor of Basil, Bishop of Caesarea Cappadocia.”

[5] John Paul II, VoxPatrum 3 (1982), p. 247-272; S. Giet, “Saint Basile et le concile de Constantinople de 360,” JThS 6 (1955), pp. 94-99; И. Мейендорф (J. Meyendorf), Введение в святоотеческое ю богословие, Вильнос – Москва, 1992, р. 143-147.

[6] An excellent comment on this topic comes from one of the popes at the end of the 2nd and beginning of the 3rd centuries, who with unusual criticism approached the theological patrimony of the Eastern Fathers of the Church: “Among the Greek Fathers of the Church, Basil is called ‘Great;’ in Byzantine liturgical books; he is spoken of as “the light of piety” and “light of the Church.” He was indeed a light for the Church and is so today due to his unblemished life and wonderful teaching. The first and greatest lesson which is taught by the saints is the example of their life” (John Paul II, “On the Occasion of the 1600 Anniversary of the Death of St. Basil (Apostolic Letter),” Vox Patrum 3 (1982), p. 248).

[7] Ibid, pp. 251-252.

[8] J. Naumowicz, “Instytucje charytatywne sw. Bazylego ‘Bazyliada,’” VoxPatrum 30-31 (1996), p. 125-139; F. Bracha, Sw. Bazyli tworca zakladow dobroczynnych// “Caritas” 3 (1947), nr. 16, p. 5-9; A. Janecko, Bazyli Wielki z Cezarei Kapadockiej i jego dzialalnosc w dziedzinie szpitalnictwa i opieki spolecznej, “Zdrowie Publiczne” 93 (1982), p. 595-600.

[9] D. Amand, L’ascese monastique de saint Basile. Essai historique (Maredsous: 1948).

[10] Th. Pichler, Das Fasten Basileios dem Grossen und antiken Heidentum, Innsbruck 1955. T. Spidlik, I. Gargano, La spiritualità dei Padri greci e orientali, Roma, 1983, p. 7-18.

[11] Sw. Bazylego W. homilia 15, Mowa do mlodziencow, jak moga odniesc pozytek z czytania ksiazek poganskich, T. Sinko, pp. 213-230.

[12] J. Misiurek, Zarys historii duchowosci chrzescijanskiej (Lublin: 1992), pp. 12-14; B. Altaner, A. Studer, Patrologia (Warszawa: 1990), p. 395; J. Gorny, “Wplyw sw. Bazylego na rozwoj zycia monastycznego,” VoxP 3 (1982), p. 289-312; T. Spidlik, Bizantino, monachesimo, DIP 1973, p. 1466-1474.

[13] Gregory of Nazianzus speaks about this in his sermon in honor of Basil on the first anniversary of his death. “The solitary life and the life among people usually were in conflict and it was difficult to reconcile them… Basil wonderfully united them….” Sw. Grzegorz z Nazjanzu, Mowa 43, 62, p. 511.

[14] P. Scazzoso, “San Basilio e la Sacra Scrittura,” Aev 47 (1973), p. 210-224.

[15] T. Spidlik, I. Gargano, La spiritualita dei Padri greci e orientali, p. 159.

[16] LR 10: “We should not lose hope at once, because everything can be corrected by diligence and the fear of the Lord conquers all spiritual weaknesses. These types of individuals need to be protected during the time of their trial. If we see in them some progress and stability we can admit them among us. If not, we need to send them on, so that they will not bring harm to the community.”

[17]  SR 287: “So you will be able to lead the kind of life which the Lord expects of you, a life acceptable to him in all its aspects; showing the results in all good actions you do and increasing your knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10).

[18] LR 49: “They know how to select a place and time and a manner of asking and learning about the substance (core).  They know how to argue and without emotions to correct, to listen wisely and can succinctly for the sake of communal good decide complicated issues.”

[19] LR 5, 3: “Diligently and conscientiously accomplishing the issue according to the will of God and always remembering the Lord, we can be united with him.” Letter 22, 1: “The Christian should not be distracted nor allow anything to separate him from the awareness of God and his willful judgments.”

[20] LR 55, 3: “These are they who drown in excess and trespass intelligent boundaries…”

[21] LR 19, 1: “As much as our bodies use energy always needing to be filled (therefore it is natural to feel hungry), an intelligent rule makes allowances for the maintenance of life and compensating for loss, so that one can take care of needs using various food stuffs” (Basil the Great, Homily, 58).

[22] Homily: “Suggestions to the youth about the benefit of reading mundane literature,” 2: “Therefore, everything that I now say can be of some assistance to the attainment of a true life which we must love and strive to attain with all our strength. And everything that does not lead us to this goal must be avoided as unnecessary” (Basil the Great, Homily, 257).

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