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Thursday, 1 January 2015

Reposts on Basil for Tomorrow

Friday, 15 March 2013

DoC and Perfection: St. Basil "Ουρανοφαντωρ"

There are now over 318 posts on the Fathers of the Church and Perfection.....I have lost track myself as to how many I have written on the Eastern Fathers, as not all were labelled as such. Good luck!
Some very cool chant

I love St. Basil. I used to have a magnificent icon of him which I gave to a Basilian priest. One reason I love this Doctor of the Church so much is that he helped us to understand the Holy Spirit. Also, he wrote so much, he keeps one quite busy and, in addition, he died early. I am always astounded as to how much work these men and women accomplished; he has over 300 letters alone.


But, here is a snippet to begin a few posts on St. Basil. From Letter VIII.  My comments are in blue.

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.  Do ye take seeds from a humble person like me, and cultivate the ripe ear for yourselves, for, as you know, in such cases we look for interest.  But I trust in God that you, because of your pure lives, will bring forth fruit thirty, sixty, and a hundred fold.  For, it is said, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.1865  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.”1866

Immediately, we see the key points of perfection: 1) that only the pure in heart see God'; 2) contemplation brings about the awareness of the kingdom of heaven,; and 3) the kingdom of heaven is within us.

Perfection is possible and needed to see God, and because of the sacraments, we have the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and, therefore, the Kingdom of God within. For the modern person, the busyness of daily life impinges on the pursuit of holiness, of perfection. 

Contemplation is the thinking awareness of the attributes of God. It is not meditation on a passage of Scripture, but the direct, immediate focusing on God Himself, and where He meets one.

The inner man consists of nothing but contemplation.  The kingdom of the heaven, 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 unto sin.1867  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 colour or form, nor hearing to apprehend sound and speech, nor smell, pleasant and unpleasant scents, nor taste, flavours and savours, nor touch, soft and hard, hot and cold.  Nor would any one 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 fulfil their own functions; just so the mind, imprisoned in flesh, and full of the thoughts that arise thence, requires faith and right conversation which make “its feet like hinds’ feet, and set it on its high places.”1868  

Basil moves from an orthodox treatment on the Holy Spirit to a thoughtful contemplation of God. He is noting that the mind, the intellect, as part of the soul, is made for contemplation.

How astounding is this idea for modern men and women, who, too often, only see what is material and not what is spiritual.

What helps the mind in contemplation? Basil tells us it is faith and right conversation.

How simple this sounds and yet, how one is raised above the mindlessness of daily stress and work to be brought into the high places. 

Surround yourself with good and holy friends, people who want to be perfect as well.

The same advice is given us by Solomon the wise, who in one passage offers us the example of the diligent worker the ant,1869 and recommends her active life; and in another the work of the wise bee in forming its cells,1870 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 look here, busy lay person. Basil tells all of us that the ant and the bee thrive in work and that we too, in doing our duty, find the Holy Trinity is the simplicity of our lives. All living things have a beauty created by God and in that beauty is the natural ability to do what one must to find God.

Before I leave, here is a bit about his amazing family. He was born in 330. To be continued...

St Basil’s mother St Emilia was the daughter of a martyr. On the Greek calendar, she is commemorated on May 30. St Basil’s father was also named Basil. He was a lawyer and renowned rhetorician, and lived at Caesarea.
Ten children were born to the elder Basil and Emilia: five sons and five daughters. Five of them were later numbered among the saints: Basil the Great; Macrina (July 19) was an exemplar of ascetic life, and exerted strong influence on the life and character of St Basil the Great; Gregory, afterwards Bishop of Nyssa (January 10); Peter, Bishop of Sebaste (January 9); and Theosebia, a deaconess (January 10).

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Doctors of the Church 2:29

St. Basil wrote these words on gratitude.  I would like to describe a dear friend of mine who is full of gratitude, a forgotten virtue.

She is one of the most peaceful and gracious persons I know. I have rarely heard her complain in the long years I have known her. Sadly, as we do not live close to each other, I do not see her often, but let me describe this good, Catholic woman.

She is grateful for her entire life, including the time when she was far away from God. Her re-version to the Catholic Church began a life of gratitude.

She always praises God for all things, all the gifts in her life. She knows she has earned nothing. He has given all.

She never, never complains. She may state facts about her health, (which is not as good as one would like), just to let me know what is happening in her life, but she does not complain.

She never speaks negatively about anyone. If she must share something serious, it is always in an attitude of intercessory prayer. She does not spread gossip or negativity about anyone.

She never complains about the weather, the economy, and is positive about God working in our times, albeit through hardships.

Her attitude is one of complete gratitude to God for life, her children, her husband, her daily work.

She knows from where all good gifts come. And, she thanks God for all these.

Because of being out in the world shopping for food and other chores, I have overheard many conversations of very many unhappy people. I want to say to those who have lived in Iowa their entire lives, "Why complain about the weather? It has always been this way?"

I am convinced that complaining and a lack of gratitude come from pride-a person wants something to be or to go in a certain way, and if life does not meet the demands of that person, that person is not grateful.

We live in a time of trial, but we can even be grateful for that, as saints come out of tribulation.

St. Basil writes this:

What words can adequately describe God’s gifts? They are 
so numerous that they defy enumeration. They are so great 
that any one of them demands our total gratitude in 

Yet even though we cannot speak of it worthily, there is one gift which no 
thoughtful man can pass over in silence. God fashioned man in his own image 
and likeness; he gave him knowledge of himself; he endowed him with the ability 
to think which raised him above all living creatures; he permitted him to delight in 
the unimaginable beauties of paradise, and gave him dominion over everything 
upon earth. 

Then, when man was deceived by the serpent and fell into sin, which led to death 
and to all the sufferings associated with death, God still did not forsake him. He 
first gave man the law to help him; he set angels over him to guard him; he sent 
the prophets to denounce vice and to teach virtue; he restrained man’s evil 
impulses by warnings and roused his desire for virtue by promises. Frequently, 
by way of warning, God showed him the respective ends of virtue and of vice in 
the lives of other men. Moreover, when man continued in disobedience even 
after he had done all this, God did not desert him. 

No, we were not abandoned by the goodness of the Lord. Even the insult weoffered to our Benefactor by despising his gifts did not destroy his love for us. On 
the contrary, although we were dead, our Lord Jesus Christ restored us to life 
again, and in a way even more amazing than the fact itself, for his state was 
divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God, but emptied himself to 
assume the condition of a slave. 

He bore our infirmities and endured our sorrows. He was wounded for our sake 
so that by his wounds we might be healed. He redeemed us from the curse by 
becoming a curse for our sake, and he submitted to the most ignominious death 
in order to exalt us to the life of glory. Nor was he content merely to summon us 
back from death to life; he also bestowed on us the dignity of his own divine 
nature and prepared for us a place of eternal rest where there will be joy so 
intense as to surpass all human imagination. 

How, then, shall we repay the Lord for all his goodness to us? He is so good that 
he asks no recompense except our love: that is the only payment he desires. To 
confess my personal feelings, when I reflect on all these blessings I am 
overcome by a kind of dread and numbness at the very possibility of ceasing to 
love God and of bringing shame upon Christ because of my lack of recollection 
and my preoccupation with trivialities.