The Sacred Writings of Saint Basil – Saint Basil
The principal theological writings of Basil, bishop of Caesarea, are his De Spiritu Sancto, a lucid and edifying appeal to Scripture and early Christian tradition, and his three books against Eunomius, the chief exponent of Anomoian Arianism. He was a famous preacher, and many of his homilies, including a series of lenten lectures on the Hexaëmeron, and an exposition of the psalter, have been preserved. His ascetic tendencies are exhibited in the Moralia and Regulae, ethical manuals for use in the world and the cloister respectively. His three hundred letters reveal a rich and observant nature, which, despite the troubles of ill-health and ecclesiastical unrest, remained optimistic, tender and even playful. His principal efforts as a reformer were directed towards the improvement of the liturgy, and the reformation of the monastic orders of the East.
The Sacred Writings of Saint Basil
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The writings of Saint Basil (from wikipedia)
The principal theological writings of Basil are his On the Holy Spirit, a lucid and edifying appeal to Scripture and early Christian tradition (to prove the divinity of the Holy Spirit), and his Refutation of the Apology of the Impious Eunomius, written about in 364, three books against Eunomius of Cyzicus, the chief exponent of Anomoian Arianism. The first three books of the Refutation are his work; his authorship of the fourth and fifth books is generally considered doubtful.
He was a famous preacher, and many of his homilies, including a series of Lenten lectures on the Hexaëmeron (also Hexaëmeros, „Six Days of Creation“; Latin: Hexameron), and an exposition of the psalter, have been preserved. Some, like that against usury and that on the famine in 368, are valuable for the history of morals; others illustrate the honor paid to martyrs and relics; the address to young men on the study of classical literatureshows that Basil was lastingly influenced by his own education, which taught him to appreciate the propaedeutic importance of the classics.
In his exegesis Basil was a great admirer of Origen and the need for the spiritual interpretation of Scripture. In his work on the Holy Spirit, he asserts that „to take the literal sense and stop there, is to have the heart covered by the veil of Jewish literalism. Lamps are useless when the sun is shining.“ He frequently stresses the need for Reserve in doctrinal and sacramental matters. At the same time he was against the wild allegories of some contemporaries. Concerning this, he wrote:
„I know the laws of allegory, though less by myself than from the works of others. There are those, truly, who do not admit the common sense of the Scriptures, for whom water is not water, but some other nature, who see in a plant, in a fish, what their fancy wishes, who change the nature of reptiles and of wild beasts to suit their allegories, like the interpreters of dreams who explain visions in sleep to make them serve their own end.“
His ascetic tendencies are exhibited in the Moralia and Asketika (sometimes mistranslated as Rules of St. Basil), ethical manuals for use in the world and the cloister, respectively. There has been a good deal of discussion concerning the authenticity of the two works known as the Greater Asketikon and the Lesser Asketikon.
It is in the ethical manuals and moral sermons that the practical aspects of his theoretical theology are illustrated. So, for example, it is in his Sermon to the Lazicans that we find St. Basil explaining how it is our common nature that obliges us to treat our neighbor’s natural needs (e.g., hunger, thirst) as our own, even though he is a separate individual.
His three hundred letters reveal a rich and observant nature, which, despite the troubles of ill-health and ecclesiastical unrest, remained optimistic, tender and even playful. His principal efforts as a reformer were directed towards the improvement of the liturgy, and the reformation of the monastic institutions of the East.
Most of his extant works, and a few spuriously attributed to him, are available in the Patrologia Graeca, which includes Latin translations of varying quality. Several of St. Basil’s works have appeared in the late twentieth century in the Sources Chrétiennes collection.
(The text of the last section was taken from a Wikipedia entry and is available under the the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)
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