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[E S. DEINIOL S SERIES 
III 



ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 






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THE INSPIRATION OF PRO 
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DEATH AND THE HEREAFTER. 
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STUDY OF THE TEMPTATION. By 
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RELIGIOUS THOUGHT. By STEPHEN 
LIBERTY, M.A. 






ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

A STUDY IN EARLY MONASTICISM 



BY 



E. F. MORISON, B.D. 

SUB-WARDEN OF S. DEINIOI/S LIBRARY 
LATE SCHOLAR OF LINCOLN COLLEGE, OXFORD 



THEODORET, Ep. cxlvi. 



HENRY FROWDE 
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS 

LONDON, EDINBURGH, NEW YORK, TORONTO, MELBOURNE 



AND BOMBAY 
IQI2 



OXFORD: HORACE HART 
PRINTER TO THE UNIVERSITY 






TO 

F. HOMES DUDDEN 

THIS BOOK 

IS GRATEFULLY INSCRIBED 
BY A FORMER PUPIL 



I 



PREFACE 

SOME three years ago I was asked to read the Ascetica 
of St. Basil for the Lexicon of Patristic Greek which 
is being compiled under the auspices of the Central 
Society of Sacred Study. As the contents of these 
writings proved to have more than a philological 
interest, I have therefore ventured to summarize the 
information which they contain with regard to the 
theory and practice of Basilian monasticism. And 
I have been the more emboldened to do so from the 
fact that the subject has received but scant attention 
in this country. To foreign scholars I have acknow 
ledged my indebtedness in the bibliography appended. 
St. Basil himself l admonishes us not to pass another s 
knowledge for our own, as depraved women their 
supposititious children, but to refer it candidly to the 
true parent . And in the same passage he tells us 
not to interrupt a profitable speaker, or to desire 
ambitiously to put in a word of one s own . Hence 
my chief endeavour has been that St. Basil may tell 
his own tale. 

The Ascetica have never yet been translated into 
English, and I have therefore used my own rendering 

1 Ep. 2. 5. 



viii PREFACE 

in quotation and in the Appendix. In quoting from 
the Letters, I have used, with a few slight changes, the 
translations by Newman and Blomfield Jackson. 

My best thanks are due to the Rev. T. J. Hardy for 
some useful suggestions, and to Dr. Joyce for most 
kindly allowing this book to appear in the S. Beimel s 
Series. 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I. INTRODUCTORY AND HISTORICAL i 

II. THE RETREAT IN PONTUS .... 9 

III. ST. BASIL S ASCETIC WRITINGS ... 15 

IV. THE INSPIRATION OF THE MONASTIC LIFE . 22 
V. THE PRACTICE OF ASCETICISM . . .31 

VI. THE COMMUNITY LIFE 39 

VII. OBEDIENCE AND DISCIPLINE ... 47 

VIII. THE MONK AT PRAYER .... 58 

IX. THE MONK AT WORK 79 

X. VOCATION AND Vows 86 

XI. WOMEN, CHILDREN, AND SLAVES. . . 96 

XII. FOOD AND CLOTHING no 

XIII. HOSPITALITY AND CHARITY . . . 120 

XIV. CONCLUSION 131 

APPENDIX 

A. INTRODUCTION TO THE LONGER RULES . 137 

B. INTRODUCTION TO THE SHORTER RULES . 145 

C. THE DECREES OF THE SYNOD OF GANGRA . 146 



I 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

GARNIER (J.). S. Basilii Opera, editio altera. 3 vols. 1839 

MIGNE (J. P.). S. Basilii Opera. 4 vols. 1886 

ALLARD (P.). Saint Basile. 1903 

Julien I Apostat. 3 vols. 1900 

BAERT (F.). Vita S. Basilii, in Ada Sanctorum, June 14. 1867 

BAUMER (S.). Geschichte des Breviers. 1895 

BAYLE (M. A.). Saint Basile. 1878 
BARDENHEWER (O.). Gesch. der Altkirchlichen Literatur, Bd. 

iii. 1912 
BESSE (J. M.). Les Moines d Orient anterieurs au Concile de 

Chalcdoine. 1900 
BUTLER (C.). The Lausiac History of Palladius. 2 vols. 1898 
Art. Monasticism in Cambridge Mediaeval History, 

vol. i. 1911 

CABROL (F.). Le Livre de la Priere antique. 1900 
DE BROGLIE (J. V. A.). L Eglise et I Empire Romain au 

IV e Siecle, iv e ed. 6 vols. 1897 
FIALON (E.). Etude litttraire sur Saint Basile. 1861 
FORTESCUE (A.). The Orthodox Eastern Church. 1908 
GARNIER (J.). Vita S. Basilii in Op. vol. iii. 1839 
GLOVER (T. R.). Life and Letters in the Fourth Century. 1901 
HANNAY (J. O.). The Spirit and Origin of Christian Monas 
ticism. 1 903 
HARNACK (A.). Monasticism, its Ideals and History (trans.). 1901 
HODGSON (GERALDINE). Primitive Christian Education. 1906 
HOLL (K.). Enthusiasmus und Bussgewalt bei dem griechischen 

Monchthum. 1898 

HUNTER BLAIR (D. O.). The Rule of St. Benedict. 2nd ed. 1906 

JACKSON (B.). St. Basil. Letters and Select Works. 1895 
KRANICH (A.). Die Ascetik in ihrer dogmatischen Grundlage 

bei Basilius dem Grossen. 1896 

LADEUZE (P.). Etude sur le C&nobitisme pakhomien. 1898 

LECLERCQ(H.). Art. Cenobitisme inCabrol,Zh c*. d Arch.Chr. 1910 
LOOPS (P.). Art. Eusebius von Sebaste , in Hauck, Prot. 

Realencyclopadie. 1898 

MARIN (L ABBE). Les Moines de Constantinople (330-898). 1897 
MEYER (P.). Die Haupturkunden fur die Gesch. der Athos- 

kloster. 1894 
MORISON (E. F.). St. Basil and Monasticism in Ch. Quart. 

Rev. Oct. 1912. 1912 



xii BIBLIOGRAPHY 

NEWMAN (J. H.). Historical Sketches, vol. iii. 1873 
PARGOIRE (J.). Art. Basile de Cesaree (Saint) et Basiliens 

in Cabrol, Diet. d Arch. Chr. 1907 

SCHIWIETZ (S.). Das morgenlandische Monchthum. 1904 
SMITH (R. T.). St. Basil the Great (The Fathers for English 

Readers). 1879 

VASSON (L ABBE). St. Basile le Grand. 1894 
TILLEMONT (L.). Memoires pour servir a I Histoire eccUsi- 

astique, vol. ix. 1732 

UHLHORN (G. ). Christian Charity in the A ncient Church (trans. ). 1 88 3 

WOODHOUSE (F. C.). Monasticism, Ancient and Modern. 1896 

ZOCKLER (O.). Askese und Monchthum. 2. Aufl. 1897 



TABLE OF DATES 

A.D. 316. Birth of Basil. 
325. Council of Nicaea. 
328. Athanasius Bishop of Alexandria. Visits Monasteries of 

Pachomius. 
337. Death of Constantine. Succession of Constantius and his 

brothers Constans and Constantine. 
346. Death of Pachomius. 

350. Constantius sole emperor. Persecution of Catholic party. 

351. Basil goes to Athens. 

355. Julian at Athens. 

356. Basil returns to Caesarea. Athanasius publishes his Life 

of Anthony. 

357. Baptism of Basil. His ordination as Reader. 

358. Basil visits the Monks of Egypt and Syria and retires to 

Pontus. 
358-361. Monastic Life. Composition of Philocalia, Moralia, and 

the Rules. 
361-363. Julian emperor. Attempted revival of Paganism. 

364. Basil ordained Priest. Accession of Valentinian and 
Valens. Persecution of Catholics in the East. Revision 
of the Rules. 
370. Basil Bishop of Caesarea. 

373. Death of Athanasius. 

374. Basil writes his treatise on the Holy Spirit. 

378. Death of Valens. 

379. Death of Basil. Accession of Theodosius. 



ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

CHAPTER I 
INTRODUCTORY AND HISTORICAL 

THERE is but slight apology needed for choosing as 
a subject for investigation a chapter in the history of 
monasticism. It may seem, no doubt, at first sight, 
as if monastic and ascetic ideals could have very little 
interest for a time such as ours, which is characterized 
in no small degree by a devotion to material well-being 
and a prominent display of luxury. But our very 
remoteness from such ideals makes us, perhaps, all the 
more curious to see what attraction they can have had 
for those who lived by them, and to inquire whether 
they have any value for the world of to-day. It is 
a matter of some interest to see what remedy was 
applied by the Christianity of earlier ages to the 
disease of materialism with which we are now beset, 
and to see how far the remedy was authorized and 
adopted by the Church in her struggles, not only with 
the world outside, but also with the worldly tendencies 
within herself. 

The early Church had many difficult questions to 
face, of discipline as well as of doctrine. Almost from 
the first there had been a tendency among her members 

B 



2 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

to divide into moderate and rigorist sections. Yet as 
long as the Church was a persecuted minority there 
was not much danger of a general laxity. But when 
persecution waned and conversion to Christianity 
became almost conventional, there was great peril of 
a lowering of moral standards. Many ardent souls 
were tempted to think that there was no salvation 
for them within the ranks of a Church which was 
so rapidly becoming secularized. The Montanist, the 
Novatian, and the Donatist all alike deplored the loss 
of primitive rigour in the life and conduct of the 
Church, and abandoned her in consequence. 

The hermit who left his home for the solitude of 
the desert, although he did not expressly renounce the 
Church, yet preferred, apparently, to work out his own 
salvation apart from the corporate life of the Christian 
community. And in the doctrinal controversies of the 
fourth century men more than ever began to despair 
of rinding real religion within the rank and file of the 
ordinary adherents to Christianity. 

Were, then, the best and most earnest men to be 
lost to the Church, by inclusion in some puritanical 
sect, or by seclusion in some distant desert ? 

Was not rather this spirit of dissatisfaction with 
ordinary Church life a force which, if rightly directed 
and controlled, could be used for the lasting benefit 
of the Christian Church ? It is to the credit of St. Basil 
the Great, Metropolitan of Caesarea in Cappadocia in 
the fourth century, that he realized the value of the 
monastic movement for the Church. 

Monasticism was no new thing in the time of Basil. 



INTRODUCTORY AND HISTORICAL 3 

Although it had not as yet received official sanction 
or recognition, it was rapidly growing into a factor 
with which both Church and State must reckon. 1 The 
movement, which had at first been largely spasmodic 
and local, showed every prospect of becoming both 
permanent and universal. The example of the Fathers 
of the Desert was inspiring emulation in other lands. 
Basil himself tells us how he had seen and admired 
the monks, not only of Alexandria and Egypt, but 
also of Palestine, Coele Syria, and Mesopotamia. He 
says of them : I called these men s lives blessed, in 
that they did indeed show that they " bear about in 
their body the dying of Jesus". 2 And I prayed that 
I, too, as far as in me lay, might imitate them. 3 
The monastic endeavour was also making itself *felt 
in Cappadocia, and, on its first appearance, caused 
Basil the greatest satisfaction. 

It was all-important, however, to see what form 
the movement would assume. There were bad, as 
well as good, monks in Egypt, and Basil has to 
acknowledge that, with regard to Eustathius and 
his followers, who first introduced the monastic life 
into Asia Minor, he had been misled, and had mistaken 
the cowl for the monk. Thus he says : * So when 
I beheld certain men in my own country striving to 
copy their ways, I felt that I had found a help to my 
own salvation, and I took the things seen for proof 
of things unseen. And since the secrets in the hearts 

1 Cf. the decrees of the Synod of Gangra (given in Appendix C), 
and the persecution by Valens of the Egyptian monks, related in 
Socrates, Eccl. Hist. iv. 24. 

2 2 Cor. iv. 10. 3 Ep. 223. 2. 

B 2 



4 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

of each of us are unknown, I held lowliness of dress to 
be a sufficient indication of lowliness of spirit ; and 
there was enough to convince me in the coarse cloak, 
the girdle, and the shoes of untanned hide/ l The 
monastic movement, then, had no lack of supporters, 
but it required regulation and a proper surveillance, 
if it was to be of real permanent value to the cause of 
Christianity. It was Basil who undertook this task 
for Cappadocia, and by so doing eventually became 
both Uie^MJier-^Qi^aseni MonstiLasm 2 Jid 



powerful influence upon St. Benedict when he drew 
up his rule for the monks of the West. 

As we read the details of Basil s life we cannot help 
feeling that he was just such a man as the monastic 
movement then needed. We can endorse the state 
ment of Vasson when he says : Dieu suscita un grand 
homme, Saint Basile, pour donner a 1 ordre monastique 
une constitution definitive. 3 It is noticeable that 
SJ Basil is the only Father of the Eastern Church to whom 
the title Great has been given. The work that he 
did was fTot only of local importance, but of value 
for the whole Church of Christ. Theodoret does not 
exaggerate when he speaks of the great Basil, light 4 
of the Cappadocians, or rather of the world ; 5 or 
again, the great Basil, a light 4 of the world. 6 There 
are many things, no doubt, which have contributed to 
Basil s fame in the Church his wonderful oratory, his 
defence of the faith, and his administrative capacity 

1 Ep. 223. 3. 

2 Cf. Adeney, Greek and Eastern Churches, p. 158. 

3 St. Basile le Grand, p. 8. * quaariip. 

5 Ep. 146. 6 Eccl. Hist. iv. 



INTRODUCTORY AND HISTORICAL 5 

but his services to the monastic cause alone constitute 
a sufficient claim to greatness. 

It is well to consider for a moment what qualifica- 
_tipjasJBasJL brought to the great task which he under 
took, of giving to monasticism a lawful place within 
the thought and practice of the Christian Church. 
In the first place, he was essentially a man of distinc 
tion, whose word and example must necessarily carry 
great weight among his contemporaries. He came of 
a good Christian family, whose social position could 
command respect in Cappadocia and Pontus. He had 
wealth and education, and every prospect of succeeding 
in whatever career he might choose to adopt. Thus 
when Basil, at the instigation of his sister Macrina, 
turned his thoughts to the monastic life, he was 
called upon to sacrifice very great worldly blessings. 
Riches, honour, family position, and a considerable 
reputation for learning, were all unhesitatingly re 
nounced. Like a new Moses, says his brother, Gregory 
of Nyssa, he preferred the Hebrews to the treasures 
of Egypt. 1 But such a surrender had a very special 
value. This magnificent example of self-denial in 
a person of such distinction would inevitably bring 
the monastic movement into notice and repute. 
The new adherent to the cause could not be set 
down as a mere ignorant fanatic, unworthy of serious 
consideration. And further, the life thus dedicated 
could not be wasted, even in the mountainous wilds 
of Pontus. 

In fact, as we have said, Basil was the very man that 

1 Or. in laud. Bus. i. 



6 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

the monastic movement then required. From his own 
personal experience, as well as from his travels, he had 
a wide knowledge of his subject, his intellect enabled 
him to grasp its doctrinal implications, his judgment 
kept his enthusiasm from extravagances, while his 
authority as a prominent ecclesiastic 1 in later days 
gave to the principles which he had asserted as 
a young lector a most valuable sanction. 

Further, if Basil was to help forward the monastic 
cause by his adhesion, he could see plainly that the 
time warranted some such endeavour. The best men 
would naturally feel the evils of the day the most 
acutely. Dissatisfaction with the world as it then was 
would inevitably lead such men to look for other con 
ditions which might provide a fuller scope for the 
development of themselves and their religion. There 
was little thought of abandoning Christianity, if we 
except the meteoric paganism of the Emperor Julian, 
but only of seeking some sphere where Christian 
principles could more effectively find their proper 
application. 

The Roman Empire of that day was not such as to 
inspire patriotism in the minds of its subjects. The 
idea which we derive from Basil s writings of the 
condition of the government in the Eastern Empire 
at the time is very far from favourable. Basil himself 
often evinces a deep love for his country, for Cap- 
padocia, or for Pontus, but not for the Empire, and 
certainly there can have been little in such govern- 

1 On the influential position at this time of the bishops in the 
East, cf. Allard, Julien I Apostat, i. pp. 113 ff. 



INTRODUCTORY AND HISTORICAL 7 

ments as those of Constantius and Valens to evoke 
anything like an imperial sentiment. The social 
condition of the Eastern provinces is painted for us 
in very dark colours in Basil s Letters and Homilies. 
Bad government had resulted in the direst misery 
for the poor, and was responsible for great excess^ 
of luxury and selfishness among the rich. The monas 
tic movement was in a real sense an effort after social 
righteousness. 

Again, amid the corruptions of society, the morality 
of the Church had sunk to a very low level. In Basil s 
own diocese, for example, the chorepiscopi were found 
to have accepted money for ordinations, and to have 
ordained persons whose character had not been 
properly investigated. 1 Yet Basil never despaired of 
the Church, however far her morality might have 
fallen, or her unity be destroyed by doctrinal dissen 
sions. He endeavoured at once to establish her faith, 
to reform her abuses, and to improve the character of 
her ministers. His M or alia were written more especially 
for the edification of the clergy. Nor was he himself 
destined to spend his whole life in monastic retirement. 
His sojourn in Pontus seems not to have lasted more 
than three years. But b he never entirely forsook the 
monastic habits which he had there formed, and in 
the active life of his episcopate at Caesarea he was able 
to put into practice some of the lessons which he had 
learnt in the solitude of his retreat. The Episcopate 
of St. Basil has been well described as being remark 
able for its concentrated and accumulated sorrows, 

1 Ep. 54- 



8 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

and for the nobleness and fervour of spirit which 
confronted and endured them . 1 

That spirit we may believe was in no small degree 
the result of his monastic training. Macrina had con 
ferred a lasting benefit upon her brother, and he, in 
his turn, wished that the Church at large might profit 
by his experience. 

1 Bright, The Age of the Fathers, i. 366. 



CHAPTER II 
THE RETREAT IN PONTUS 

BASIL himself has given us an account of his con 
version if we may use the term to monasticism. 
Much time had I spent in vanity, and had wasted 
nearly all my youth in the vain labour which I under 
went in acquiring the wisdom made foolish by God. 
Then once upon a time, like a man roused from deep 
sleep, I turned my eyes to the marvellous light of the 
truth of the Gospel, and I perceived the uselessness of 
" the wisdom of the princes of this world, that come 
to naught "- 1 I_wept many tears over my miserable 
life,jajid I prayed that guidance might be vouchsafed 
me to admit me to the doctrines of true religion. 2 
He then describes how he had travelled in foreign 
countries in order that he might come into personal 
contact with those who were already leading the 
monastic life. On his return to Pontus he resolved to 
imitate the example of the men whose continence he 
so much admired. His sister Macrina and his mother 
Emmelia had taken up their abode by the river Iris, 
atjheir ancestral home of Annesi. Basil himself fixed 
his residence on the opposite bank of the river. He has 
left us a wonderful account of his place of retreat in a 
letter to his friend Gregory, whose company he desired. 

1 i Cor. ii. 6. a Ep. 223. 2. 



io ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

As a true lover of nature he dwells upon the enchanting 
beauty of the scene. After renouncing with trouble/ 
he writes, the idle hopes which I once had about you, 
or rather the dreams (for it is well said that hopes 
are waking dreams), I departed into Pontus in quest 
of a place to live in. There God has opened on me 
a spot exactly answering to my taste, so that I actually 
see before my eyes what I have often pictured to my 
mind in idle fancy. 

There is a lofty mountain, covered with thick 
woods, watered towards the north with cool and trans 
parent streams. A plain lies beneath, enriched by 
the waters which are ever draining off upon it ; and 
skirted by a spontaneous profusion of trees almost 
thick enough to be a fence ; so as even to surpass 
Calypso s Island, which Homer seems to have con 
sidered the most beautiful spot on earth. Indeed, it is 
like an island, enclosed as it is on all sides ; for deep 
hollows cut it off in two directions ; the river, which 
has lately fallen down a precipice, runs all along one 
side, and is impassable as a wall ; while the mountain, 
extending itself behind, and meeting the hollows in 
a crescent, stops up the path at its roots. There is 
but one pass, and I am master of it. Behind my abode 
there is another gorge, rising to a ledge up above, so 
as to command the extent of the plain and the stream 
which bounds it, which is not less beautiful to my taste 
than the Strymon, as seen from Amphipolis. For while 
the latter flows leisurely, and swells into a lake almost, 
and is too still to be a river, the former is the most 
rapid stream I know, and somewhat turbid, too, by 



THE RETREAT IN PONTUS n 

reason of the rock which closes on it above ; from which, 
shooting down, and eddying in a deep pool, it forms 
a most pleasant scene for myself or any one else ; and 
is an inexhaustible resource to the country people, in 
the countless fish which its depths contain. What 
need to tell of the exhalations from the earth, or the 
breezes from the river ? Another might admire the 
multitude of flowers, and singing birds ; but leisure 
I have none for such thoughts. However, the chief 
praise of the place is, that being happily disposed for 
produce of every kind, it nurtures what to me is the 
sweetest produce of all, quietness ; indeed, it is not 
only rid of the bustle of the city, but is even unfre 
quented by travellers, except a chance hunter. . . . Does 
it not strike you what a foolish mistake I was near 
making when I was eager to change this spot for your 
Tiberina, the very pit of the whole earth/ 1 

This description of the beauties of natural scenery 
comes to us as a surprise, unless we are familiar with the 
author s Hexaemeron. There we find such passages as : 
And God said, Let there be light, and this word was 
a work, whence sprang nature, than which human 
thought can imagine nothing more delightful or more 
enjoyable/ 2 Basil was not the only monastic founder 
who has been a lover of nature, and has given evidence 
of his love in the site chosen for his monastery. 3 

Although it was solitude that Basil most desired in 
his Pontic retreat, yet he did not live there in isolation 

1 Ep. 14 (Newman s translation). 2 Hex. ii. 7. 

3 Sir W. M. Ramsay by his careful topographical researches has 
made it possible to determine with approximate certainty the site 
of Basil s hermitage. Hist. Geogv. of Asia Minor, p. 326. 



12 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

from his fellows. There were already in Pont us and 
Cappadocia men who were endeavouring to lead the 
monastic life. These and others soon assembled round 
Basil, and his hermitage very quickly took on the 
appearance of a monastery. Gregory, too, in spite of 
his first refusal, now joined his friend. 

It is interesting to notice that, notwithstanding the 
jokes which Gregory had made at the expense of Basil s 
rural retreat (out of preference, no doubt, for his own 
Tiberina), yet he leaves on record his honest appreciation 
of the advantages which that retreat afforded. Thus he 
says : What I wrote before about our stay in Pontus 
was in joke, not in earnest ; what I write now is very 
much in earnest. O that one would place me as in the 
month of those former days, 1 in which I luxuriated 
with you in hard living ; since voluntary pain is more 
valuable than involuntary delight. O that one would 
give me back those psalmodies and vigils and those 
sojournings with God in prayer, and that immaterial, 
so to speak, and unbodied life. O for the intimacy 
and unity of soul in the brethren who were by you 
exalted and made divine. O for the contest and 
incitement to virtue which we secured by written 
Rules and Canons. O for the loving labour in the 
Divine Oracles, and the light we found in them by 
the guidance of the Holy Ghost. 2 

Basil also, in a long letter to his friend, describes 
with some fullness the life of the solitaries by the Iris. 
He touches on the blessings of retirement and separation 
from the world, which allow the mind to devote itself 

1 Job xxxix. 2. * Ep. 6. 



THE RETREAT IN PONTUS 13 

without interruption or distraction to the things of God. 
Let there be/ he says, such a place as ours, separate 
from intercourse with men, that the tenor of our exer 
cises be not interrupted from without. Pious exercises 
nourish the soul with divine thoughts. What state 
can be more blessed than to imitate on earth the 
choruses of angels ? to begin the day with prayer, and 
honour our Maker with hymns and songs ? As the 
day brightens, to betake ourselves, with prayer attend 
ing on it throughout, to our labours, and to season our 
work with hymns, as if with salt ? Soothing hymns 
compose the mind to a cheerful and calm state. Quiet, 
then, as I have said, is the first step in our sanctifica- 
tion ; the tongue purified from the gossip of the world ; 
the eyes unexcited by fair colour or comely shape ; 
the ears not relaxing the tone of mind by voluptuous 
songs, nor by that especial mischief, the talk of light 
men and jesters. Thus the mind, saved from dissipation 
from without, and not through the senses thrown upon 
the world, falls back upon itself, and thereby ascends 
to the contemplation of God/ 1 

In this same Letter we have a foretaste of Basil s 
later and more complete monastic directions. Besides 
insisting upon the necessity of Scripture reading, 
prayer, and meditation, he enjoins that the monk 
is to be modest, humble, and considerate of others 
in even the smallest matters of conduct and conver 
sation. The Christian monk, as Newman says, 2 is 
also to be the true Christian gentleman. We can 
imagine that the few years spent in the retreat in 

1 Ep. 2. 2. a Historical Sketches, iii. 64. 



14 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

Pontus, with the regular round of devotional exer 
cises, and the constant necessity of giving counsel 
and advice to those under his charge, formed a very 
suitable environment for the composition of ascetic 
and monastic writings. It remains now to consider 
the main features of those writings, and also to decide 
what are our authentic sources for an account of 
Basil s monastic ideas. 



CHAPTER III 
ST. BASIL S ASCETIC WRITINGS 

IT can hardly be denied that the ascetic writings 
attributed to Basil, and published under his name, are 
at first sight somewhat disappointing. The authorship 
of more than one of these works is doubtful, the 
monastic interest of many of them is very slight, while 
the most important of them are almost entirely devoid 
of anything resembling orderly arrangement or literary 
form. In general they may be said to present a most 
bewildering variety both in their character and 
contents. 

The first place in the Ascetica is occupied by three 
treatises on the monastic life. Their order is as 
follows : (i) An Introduction to the Ascetic Life, in 
which the ascetic is described and addressed under 
the figure of the Christian warrior. The army of 
Christ includes within its ranks both men and women. 
This short treatise can hardly be attributed to Basil, 
as both thought and expression are unworthy of him. 1 
(2) An Ascetic Discourse on the Renunciation of the World, 
and on Spiritual Perfection. This is a longer work, and 
contains nothing un-Basilian either in matter or 
vocabulary, while many of its expressions and senti 
ments remind us of Basil s undisputed writings. It is 
an exhortation to renounce the various distractions 

1 Cf. Batiffol, Anciennes Literatures Chrtiennes, i. 256 : homelie 
banale et apocryphe sur la vie Chretienne. 



16 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

of the world, and to live the Cross-bearing life of 
the monk , giving also certain details as to the 
monk s general behaviour in the life of a community. 
(3) A Discourse on Ascetic Discipline : How a Monk 
should adorn his Life. This last is a short treatise 
which may well belong to Basil. It resembles the 
preceding discourse in many of its recommendations, 
more especially in its exhortations to humility. 1 

There can be practically no doubt that the next 
three works in the collection, which are closely con 
nected with one another, are from Basil s pen, though 
they have unfortunately but little monastic interest. 
The treatise On the Judgment of God gives an account 
of the evil condition of the world at the time, and 
insists upon the certainty of God s judgment, which can 
only be avoided by such as walk in accordance with 
the Gospel of our blessed God, Jesus Christ, our Lord . 

The next treatise, Concerning the Faith, is a simple 
confession and declaration of our health-giving faith , 
with a passing exhortation to walk worthily of the 
Gospel of Christ, in the hope of eternal life . 

It serves, in its present position, 2 as an introduction 
to the third treatise, the Moralia, or Gospel Ethics, 
a collection of eighty precepts or rules, founded upon 
the teaching of the New Testament. Whatever, there 
fore, the author says, in scattered passages throughout 
the New Testament we have found to be forbidden or 
approved, this we have, as far as possible, endeavoured 



1 On a Latin version of this treatise current in the West in the 
fifth century see A Wilmart, Rev. Bened. xxvii. 226-233. 
* It was probably written after the Moralia. 



ST. BASIL S ASCETIC WRITINGS 17 

to collect and sum up into rules, that it may be 
the more easily understood by any who wish. l The 
Moralia seem to have special reference to the needs 
oTthe clergy, and of all those to whom the preach 
ing of the Gospel has been entrusted *. 2 They" are 
not ^specifically ascetic in tone, though it is laid 
down that even in those things which are not 
expressly commanded by Scripture a man should be 
exhorted to take the better course. . . . "He that is 
able to receive it, let him receive it." 3 Yet no one 
is to compel others to do what he fails to do himself . 4 
The Moralia are interesting, as showing how Scripture 
lies at the root of all Basil s moral theology, for 
whatsoever is not contained in Holy Scripture, being 
not of faith, is sin. 5 

The next two short Ascetic Discourses cannot possibly 
be regarded as genuine. Neither style nor diction 
is that of Basil. The ascetic life, for example, is 
described as the life of philosophy , an expression 
nowhere to be found in his authentic works. These 
two treatises were probably written at a later date 
and included among the Ascetica owing to similarity 
of subject-matter. 

We come now to the two collections of Rules, which 
are universally allowed to have been written by Basil. 
Their genuineness is confirmed by strong external 
evidence. They are obviously by one and the same 
author, and the longer Rules are expressly referred to 

1 De Fide, ad fin. * Mor. 70. i. 

3 Matt. xix. 12. Mor. 70. 8. * Ibid, chaps. 8, 9. 

8 Mor. 80. 22. 

C 



i8 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

in the shorter. Both are written in the same style, 
and employ the same vocabulary. 

Further, both sets of Rules are developments of ideas 
expressed by Basil in the letter which he wrote to his 
friend Gregory, describing the life lived by himself 
and his companions in their Pontic retreat. 1 

The Longer Rules 2 were, no doubt, written during 
that retreat, but revised on a subsequent visit to 
Pontus when the author was in either priest s or bishop s 
orders. 3 The principles of the monastic life are set 
forth in fifty-five rules or precepts, drawn up in the 
form of questions and answers and supported by 
quotations from Scripture. 

The Shorter Rules 4 are three hundred and thirteen 
in number, and their main object is the application of 
monastic principles, founded upon Scripture, to the 
daily life of the monk, living in a community. They 
deal with practically the same subjects as the Longer 
Rules, but are generally more detailed in treatment. 
They were probably composed during the years of 
retirement, but revised and published in their present 
form after Basil s ordination. 

The other Ascetica attributed to Basil cannot be con 
sidered as authentic, and are of no direct value for our 

1 Ep. 2. 

2 "Opoi Kara TrAaros, Regulae Fusius Tractatae. 

3 See Appendix A, p. 146 : Woe is unto me, if I preach not the 
Gospel. 

* - Opoi ar tmToprjv, Regulae Brevius Tractatae. 

6 See Appendix B, p. 147 : We who have been entrusted with 
the ministry of the word. Rufinus in his Latin translation reduced 
the two collections to one, containing 203 Regulae. It was in this 
form that they were known to St. Benedict. 



ST. BASIL S ASCETIC WRITINGS 19 

investigation. The Monastic Constitutions, 1 which 
obviously cannot have been written by the author 
of the Rules, have been assigned to Eustathius of 
Sebaste, but were probably composed at a later date 
in a country where both anchorites and monastic 
communities were to be found in large numbers. 2 

As sources, then, for Basil s monastic ideas we are 
entitled to use the three treatises, On the Judgment 
of God, Concerning the Faith, and the M or alia, 
together with the two collections of Rules. And 
as a matter of fact we find that these five works 
alone were considered by Photius to comprise the 
Ascetica of Basil. We shall be able to supplement 
the information obtained from these writings by the 
two treatises On Renunciation and On the Ascetic 
Discipline, both of which, as we have seen, may well 
belong to Basil. The Letters also (where genuine 3 ) 
supply us incidentally with a certain amount of useful 
material for our discussion. 

A review of these sources shows us that, while they 
leave much to be desired, yet a good deal can be 
made of what they give us. We can form a very fair 
idea of the life in a Cappadocian monastery of those 
days, even though we cannot be said to possess a 
definite and detailed Rule of St. Basil. For Basil s 
monastic writings everywhere presuppose that the 
monastic community is already in existence, while 



Ataro^fts npos rovs \v Koivofiia) KOI Karafjiovas affKovvras. 

8 The Epitimia, a detailed penitential code, are certainly not 
Basil s. Cf. Reg. Brev. 106 on the question of punishments. 

3 The authorship of Epp. 42-6, which deal with monastic topics, 
is extremely doubtful. 

C 2 



20 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

details of administration are left very largely to the 
discretion of the superior. 

The Rules, in particular, are devoid of anything 
resembling orderly or systematic arrangement. Though 
they have been described as Monastic Catechisms , 1 
yet they have scarcely enough sequence to deserve such 
a description. In their form they may not unreason 
ably be compared to the Answers to Correspondents 
in a modern religious newspaper. It is possible, how 
ever, to extract from their somewhat disjointed expres 
sions a very good idea of the principles by which their 
author was actuated. Although the questions are most 
varied in character, the answers one and all reflect the 
ardent but eminently practical devotion of their author. 
Yet the Rules are very largely impersonal in character. 
The author effaces himself, in order to show that the 
sole authority for his monastic precepts and instructions 
is Holy Scripture. The Bible is to be the foundation 
upon which all monastic legislation is to rest. Scrip 
ture itself is be the only Rule, and the life of the monk 
is to be truly evangelical . 

In this connexion the remarks of a modern biographer 
of our Saint are worth quoting. It will probably 
surprise many persons to be told that the key to 
St. Basil s asceticism is found in his devoted submission 
to the authority of Holy Scripture. He is so far from 
claiming any right to go beyond Scripture that he 
thinks it necessary to apologize for even using words 
which are not found in the Bible. Those, therefore, 
who would understand him must divest themselves 

1 Cf. Zockler, Askese und Mdnchtum, p. 287. 



ST. BASIL S ASCETIC WRITINGS 21 

in the first place of that vague association of the 
Fathers with extra-Scriptural tradition which exists 
in many minds ; and in the next place of that firm 
persuasion which many good Protestants entertain, that 
nobody ever loved the Bible or understood its value 
before the Reformation/ l 

1 R. T. Smith, St. Basil the Great, p. 212. 



CHAPTER IV 
THE INSPIRATION OF THE MONASTIC LIFE 

IN any consideration of monasticism we have to 
take into account the influence of two factors, namely, 
mysticism, or the craving of the soul for union with 
God, and asceticism, or the desire for a purification of 
the soul by renunciation and self-denial. The relation 
ship of these two factors must very largely determine 
the form of any monastic endeavour. 

It is therefore of great importance to see what 
position each of them respectively occupies in Basil s 
recommendations for the monastic life. 

As we read his writings it becomes obvious that, for 
him at least, asceticism is a means, not an end, and 
that the aim of the true Christian is union with God. 
For the attainment of such an end asceticism is neces 
sary the eye must be fixed upon the mark, and turned 
away from all else. The attention will be so firmly 
riveted upon the one idea that even the left hand 
will not know what the right hand doeth \ l But the 
degree of asceticism practised must be such as will 
further and not hinder the great end in view. 2 The 
monastic life is valuable, not primarily because of its 
renunciation, but because such renunciation allows of 

1 Reg. Brev. 197. 

a Cf. Reg. Fus. 18-19, 128. Reg. Brev. 139. 



INSPIRATION OF MONASTIC LIFE 23 

greater concentration upon the attainment of real 
blessedness. It is, in fact, the mystical element which 
predominates in Basil s treatment of the monastic 
ideal. The love of God, involving also the love of our 
neighbour, is to be the chief motive of the Christian 
life, whether in the cloister or in the world. God as 
our Creator and Benefactor demands the love of His 
creation. We love our Creator because we are made 
by Him, in whom we delight, and of whom we must 
always think, as children of their mother. The lack 
of love is for the soul the most intolerable of all evil. l 
* Wherefore should we not love God, if we receive His 
benefits with gratitude and gladness? for He is the 
Author of many and great blessings, and there is 
already in each healthy soul a disposition to love, 
implanted, as it were, by nature, and not by teaching. 2 
We owe love to God, and we have the faculty to love 
God, which was put into us as soon as we came into 
being. 3 

Furthermore, God, as being the chief Good, is the 
object of all desire. 4 God is our Creator, our Goal, and 
our End. The recognition of this fact results in 
worship, prayer, and the unreserved surrender of man 
to God. 

Even though man by the fall showed himself to be 
unworthy of the supernatural grace and distinction 
received from his Creator, yet it is still possible for 
him to attain to union with God, through the Cross of 
Christ. 

1 Reg. Fus. 2. 2. 2 Reg. Brev. 212. 

3 Reg. Fus. 2. i. 4 Ibid. 



24 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

After the first man was beguiled by the serpent, 
and was counselled in sin, and through sin met death, 
and through death misery, God did not forget him. . . . 
We are not forgotten by the goodness of God, and 
although by our insensibility towards the kindness of 
God we have sorely offended our Benefactor, yet we 
cannot efface His love for us, but we are again brought 
back from death, and again made alive by our Lord 
Jesus Christ Himself. . . . Nor did it suffice Him merely 
to call us back to life, but He has also granted us the 
dignity of His Godhead, and has prepared for us ever 
lasting rest, which in greatness of joy far exceeds all 
human thought. l 

Jhe ascetic trains himself for heaven. I long for 
one gift, says Basil, I strive after only one glory, 
the glory of the kingdom of heaven. The doctrine 
of the heavenly goal is for Basil at once the point of 
departure and the object of attainment for all ascesis. 
* Whenever this divine beauty has illuminated any of 
the saints, it has left in them an intolerable stimulus 
of desire, so that weary of this present life, they cry, 
" Woe is me, that my sojourning is prolonged ! When 
shall I come to appear before the presence of God ? " 2 
Basil is not afraid to describe the heavenly blessedness 
in the most glowing colours. But the chief joy of 
heaven will be the reward of faith, the beholding face 
to face. 3 The hope of heaven is to be a spur to our 
life here upon earth. How long shall we put off our 
obedience to Christ, who has called us to His heavenly 

1 Reg. Fus. 2. 3. * Pss. cxx. 5 ; xlii. 2. Reg. Fus. 2. i. 

8 De Asc. Disc, ad Jin. 



INSPIRATION OF MONASTIC LIFE 25 

kingdom ? This is the time of repentance, that of 
reward : this of toil and labour, that of receiving 
wages : this of patience, that of comfort. l 

On the general subject of the motives from which 
men lead a Christian life, Basil has some interesting 
remarks, which further emphasize the central position 
of the Love of God in his moral theology. 

To sum up, he says, I perceive that there are 
three different dispositions which inevitably lead us to 
obey. Either through fear of punishment we turn 
away from that which is evil, and so are of a slavish 
disposition ; or, seeking to make gain by the reward, 
we fulfil the commandments for the sake of their 
benefits, and for this reason are like men of gain ; or 
else we do good for the sake of the good itself, and 
from love of Him who gave us the law, rejoicing that 
we are thus thought worthy to serve the great and 
good God, and so we have the disposition of sons. 2 

Although Basil invokes the fear of God s judgement 
as an incentive to virtue, that we may be able to 
flee from the wrath that is to descend upon the sons 
of disobedience, 3 yet he never assigns to fear the first 
place. The expectation of the Coming of the Lord 
is a wholesome corrective to procrastination. Let us 
hearken diligently to that which is spoken, and seek 
earnestly to carry out the divine decrees, for we know 
not on what day or at what hour our Lord will come. 4 
Wherefore, in view of the shortness of the time, there is 
need of a special moral effort. 

1 Reg. Fus. Introd. i. * Ibid. chap. 3. 

8 De Jud. ad fin. 4 Reg. Fus. Introd. ad fin. 



26 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

Shall we not set before our eyes that great and 
terrible Day of the Lord ? x As in the New Testa 
ment, so also in Basil, eschatology is a strong motive 
of asceticism, but not its prime cause. 2 Again, the 
rewards of heaven are conditional upon a strictly moral 
life, the careful life of the Gospel. 3 Honours and 
crowns are for conquerors. Who would ever crown 
him who had not even stripped for the fight ? For it 
is necessary not only to conquer, but also to contend 
lawfully, according to the words of the apostle ; that 
is, not to neglect even the smallest of such things as 
have been commanded. 4 

For the true Christian, then, love is to be the domi 
nant motive for the life of virtue. As a son let him 
love God with all his heart, and strength, and mind, 
and might. 5 

With the love of God as the centre of all religious 
and moral activity, important results must necessarily 
follow. In the first place, the love of our neighbour 
is inseparably bound up with our love of God. Thus 
Basil says, It is possible, therefore, through the first 
commandment to fulfil the second also, and through 
the second to return again to the first ; and so he who 
loves the Lord, loves in consequence his neighbour. 6 
Hence, as we shall see, it is in the community life that 
the man of God is perfected. For Basil the Christian 

1 Reg. Fus. Introd. i ; see Appendix A, p. 138. 

2 On the connexion between eschatology and asceticism in the 
Gospels see an article in the Expositor, May 1911, by the present 
writer. 

3 Ibid. TTIV Atcptfaiav rov fvayye\iov. * Ibid. chap. 2. 

6 De Asc. Disc. 2. 6 Reg. Fus. 3. 2. 



INSPIRATION OF MONASTIC LIFE 27 

ascesis involves socijl_activity_as well as individual 
moral efiort. Furtfter, on the central position of this 
active love of God in the Christian ascetic life Basil also 
says, It must be known that this is only one virtue, 
but that through its efficacy all commandments are ful 
filled and included. For " he that loveth Me ", says the 
Lord, " will keep My commandments." x Finally, we 
may summarize Basil s teaching on the motive and 
aim of Christian ascesis in his words : Since for our 
works a goal and a rule is proposed, namely, that we 
fulfil the commandments in a way pleasing to God, so 
no work can be truly done except when it is fulfilled 
according to the will of the commander. Let us 
carefully endeavour, then, in every work only to do 
the will of God, and so by remembering this we shall 
attain to union with God. 2 

The great advantage of the ascetic life of renuncia 
tion is that it makes possible the uninterrupted practice 
of the presence of God and of the imitation of Christ. 
Thus the question is asked, How may we do all things 
to the glory of God ? and is answered, If we do all 
things according to God and His commandments, and 
in nothing look for the praise of men. 3 The habitual 
practice of living in the presence of God results in 
a continuous and unbroken devotion to prayer, if we 
are assured that God is ever before our eyes. 4 In 
attention is best avoided when we remember that God 
is ever in our midst, that His Holy Spirit is with us 

1 John xiv. 23 ; Reg. Fus. 2. i. 

2 Reg. Fus. 5. 3 avvdiTTfaOai TO) 6eo5. 

3 Reg. Brev. 195. * Reg. Brev. 201. 



28 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

to quicken us with His gifts, and that the holy angels 
watch over each one of us. 1 

Our thoughts will not wander if c we carry about the 
holy thought of God as an indelible seal, impressed upon 
our heart by a constant and pure memory. For thus we 
shall be partakers in the love for God which both inspires 
us to the fulfilling of the Lord s commandments, and 
is itself by them preserved evermore undisturbed. 2 

The imitation of Christ is also very necessary for 
those who would lead the true life according to the 
Gospel of Christ . 3 The virtue of humility is best 
learnt from Christ Himself. For humility is the 
imitation of Christ, and the knowledge of godliness 
is the knowledge of humility and meekness. 4 If 
the soul, says Basil, wonders at the greatness of the 
obedience and humility of Christ, that such and so 
great a one obeyed His Father even unto death, for 
the sake of our life, I believe that it is led at once 
to love God the Father, " Who spared not his own son, 
but gave him for us all ; " and also to love His only- 
begotten Son, who for the sake of our redemption and 
blessedness was obedient unto death. 5 And in general 
Basil exhorts his readers to become imitators of Christ, 
and not of antichrist, of God, and not of the enemy 
of God \ 6 Again he says, This is the goal of Chris 
tianity, the imitation of Christ in the measure of His 
humanity, as far as the vocation of each man permits. 7 

1 Reg. Brev. 306. 2 Reg. Fus. 5. 2. 

3 De Fide, 5. * De Ren. 10. 

5 Rom. viii. 32. Reg. Brev. 172. 6 De Ren. ibid. 

7 Reg. Fus. 43. This idea is much more prominent in the Monastic 
Constitutions. 



INSPIRATION OF MONASTIC LIFE 29 

We have seen, then, from BasiTs__own words that 
the inspiration for the monastic lifejs^ the love of GodL^ 
It is this which supplies the monk with his enthusiasm. 
But we are not thereby justified in emphasizing the 
points of affinity between Montanism and Monasticism, 
by which the latter is seen as a continuation of the 
Montanist spirit and purpose - 1 There is no trace of 
revivalist fanaticism in Basil s presentation of the 
careful life of the Gospel . The monk is primarily / *f^ 
one who loves God, and desires to imitate Christ. He j 
is never represented as the pneumatie . Spiritual 
fervour is to be found in fulfilling the will of God 
from love of Jesus Christ our Lord, as it is written, 
He will have great delight in his commandments . 2 
Further, the monastic life depends entirely upon the 
teaching of Scripture ; it is the life of the Gospel, and 
necessitates no new revelation, no prophet declaring 
new truths to his separatist followers. In fact Basil 
is able to show that the monastic ideal is in no way 
foreign to the true spirit of Christianity, that its life 
is no narrow sectarian Puritanism, and that its faith 
is the one, true, orthodox faith of Catholic Christendom. 

It is, indeed, most noticeable how very careful Basil 
always is that the true motive of the monastic life should 
be discerned. For him ascetic practice is inevitably 
founded upon dogmatic theory, and right conduct 
depends upon a right faith. His own training and his 
experiences as a champion of the orthodox faith con 
vinced him of the necessity of sound doctrine, and he 

1 Allen, Christian Institutions) p. 141. 
8 Ps. cxii. i. Reg. Brev. 259. 



30 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

dreaded lest the monastic movement should be associated 
with any of the heresies of the day. 1 He wished the 
monastery to be a place where the faith was both 
accurately believed and carefully put into practice. 
It might thus become a valuable bulwark of orthodoxy. 
Faith working through love is, according to Basil, 
the distinguishing mark of the Christian, 2 and it is the 
motto of all his ascetic instructions and regulations. 
Thus he says, at the end of his treatise On the Judg 
ment of God, Remembering the words of the Apostle, 
" In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any 
thing, nor uncircumcision ; but faith working through 
love," I therefore thought it both fitting and needful 
that I should first expound our godly and sound faith, 
and then add a discourse on morals. And in his 
treatise On the Faith he remarks in this connexion : 
Wherefore we choose our words carefully and with 
discernment, using always such words as may serve 
for the protection and edification of the faith at one 
time making strong resistance against those who try 
to destroy the faith by the craft of the devil, at another 
expounding the faith in a simpler and gentler fashion 
to such as would be edified therein. . . . But now our 
only task is to make a simple confession and declara 
tion of the soundness of our faith. 3 

In conclusion we may say that for Basil the soundness 
of our faith and the true manner of life are inseparable, 
for by these two things the man of God is perfected . 4 

1 Cf. Reg, Brev. 124. The company of heretics and pagans is to 
be avoided. 

8 MOY. 80. 22. 3 De Fide, 2. 

4 Reg. Brev. Introd. Cf. Ep. 295. 



CHAPTER V 
THE PRACTICE OF ASCETICISM 

WE have already remarked that according to Basil 
asceticism is a means, and not an end. The end is 
union with God, which may involve, as the means for 
its more complete attainment, separation from the 
world. The monk is he who concentrates his whole 
attention upon the things of God, and allows nothing 
to distract him from this all-absorbing purpose. He 
is prepared to give up everything, if only he may 
obtain the Pearl of great price. 

No doubt it is true that every Christian is bound 
to strive after the perfection which consists in the love 
of God and our neighbour. All men, whether they 
be monks or whether they be t married, must give 
account of their obedience to the Gospel. . . . For 
Christ, when He was proclaiming the commands of 
His Father, spoke to those who are in the world ; and 
if it happened that He was questioned privately, He 
would affirm openly, " What I say unto you, I say 
unto all." l Yet Basil makes a distinction. There is 
to be a class in which perfection is sought by special 
means and under special conditions. For this cause 
God, who loves mankind and ever cares for our 
salvation, divided the life of man into two estates, 
namely, matrimony and virginity. 2 

1 Mark xiii. 37. De Ren. 2. a Ibid. i. 




32 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

The first condition demanded is solitude, 1 namely, 
seclusion, not from our neighbour, but from the dis 
tractions of the world. Basil often enlarges upon the 
advantages of such a solitude as he had himself enjoyed 
in his retreat by the Iris. Thus in a letter to his friend 
Gregory he writes, Quiet 2 is the first step towards 
the cleansing of the soul. Solitude 3 is of the greatest 
use, inasmuch as it stills our passions, and gives room 
for principle to cut them out of the soul. 5 4 And in 
the Longer Rules, while dealing at some length with 
this question, he thus describes what he considers are 
the chief benefits to be derived from the life of solitude : 

In it we overcome our former manner of life in 
which we neglected the commandments of Christ (and 
this conflict is not light, for habit, strengthened by 
length of time, has acquired the force of nature), and 
so we are enabled to eradicate the stains of sin by 
earnest prayer and constant attention to the will of 
God ; for we cannot possibly apply ourselves to such 
contemplation and prayer amid the many things which 
distract the mind by leading it to worldly cares. And 
again he says, Each one of us must at least know 
that we cannot keep any other commandment, nor 
even fulfil the love of God and our neighbour, if we 
digress in our thoughts, now in one direction, now in 
another. 5 

Yet solitude, considered merely as physical separation 
from contact with the outer world, is not sufficient. 
4 Think not that every one within a cell is saved, whether 



1 Cf . Reg. Fus. 6 on dvayKcuov TO 

* Ep. 2. 2. 6 Reg. Fus. 6. I. 



THE PRACTICE OF ASCETICISM 33 

he be good or bad ; for it is not so. Many, indeed, 
approach the life of virtue, yet few take up its yoke. x 
Wherefore Basil further shews that those who devote 
themselves to the monastic life should adopt another 
indispensable practice, namely, Renunciation. 2 

He who would follow the Lord truly must free j 
himself from the bonds of the passions of this life ; / 
and this is done by a complete abandonment and dis- J 
regard of the old manner of life. 3 There are various i 
stages in the process of renunciation. A beginning 
is made with the discarding of all outside belongings, 
such as property, empty fame and honour, the social 
connexions and ties of this life, which are all unneces 
sary and useless things. 4 But he who renounces must 
go further than this. He must practise self-renuncia 
tion, self-denial, as well as renunciation of the world. 
* Complete renunciation is achieved when a man no longer 
loves his life, but has the sentence of death in himself, 
so that he does not trust himself. 5 This demands 
that there shall be no shrinking or holding back, but 
that every earthly good be cheerfully resigned. For if 
we keep back some earthly possession, or some tran 
sitory good, the soul, since it is, as it were, immersed 
in the mud here below, can never rise to the sight of 
God, and can never be inspired with a desire for the 
heavenly beauty and the blessings that are promised 
us, unless a strong and continuous impulse moves us 
to desire it, and makes the toil for it light. 6 

Renunciation, then, though all-important, is not an 

1 De Ren. g. 2 dirorayri. 3 Reg. Fus. 8. 

4 Reg. Fus. 8. i. 8 Ibid. 8 Ibid. 3. 

D 



34 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

-\ 
end in itself. It is rather to be considered as a 

necessary condition for the attainment of Christian, 
perfection, in that it provides freedom for the soul to 
develop that which is its highest faculty, the power 
to love God. 

The third requisite for the life of Christian perfection 
is Continence, or Temperance, 1 which may be described 
as the development and completion of renunciation. It 
keeps the soul free when once it has been liberated 
by the act of renunciation. The monk must therefore 
form the habit of continence. 

In the first place, the continent man will rise superior 
Si- to the enticements of passion and desire. He who is 
above all passion and feels none of the incitements of lust, 
or even any treacherous inclination, but behaves himself 
with courage and resolution in regard to all sensual and 
shameful pleasures, is perfectly continent. 2 Con 
tinence is that abstinence from pleasant things which 
aims at the conquest of the proud flesh and the attain 
ment of the goal of religion/ 3 

But continence affects every department of life, and 
is not only the mother of chastity and the friend of 
health , 4 but is productive of all the virtues. Thus, 
He who is continent in respect of the desire for honour, 
is also humble ; he who in respect of riches is continent,! 
fulfils the Gospel measure of poverty ; he who rules* 
his indignation and anger, is kindly. And indeed the: 
true observance of continence fixes a measure for the 
tongue, a limit for the eyes, and refrains the ears from I 

1 f^KpcLTfia. 2 Reg. Fus. 17. i. 

3 Reg. Fus. 1 6. 2. 4 Reg. Fus. 18. 



THE PRACTICE OF ASCETICISM 35 

curious hearsay. But he who does not persevere in all 
these things is incontinent and unruly. *y 

1 If a man avoids even the greatest sins, but is over 
come by one, he is not continent. 2 Continence is there 
fore a central point in the truly moral life. It is the 
suppression and negation of all evil, and the affirma 
tion of all goodness. He who is perfectly continent is 
plainly free from all sin. Continence is the main 
spring of the spiritual life, and wins for us the blessings 
of eternity. 3 

In order to illustrate the place of continence, or 
temperance, in the life of virtue Basil employs the 
scriptural analogy of the athlete and the soldier. He 
quotes St. Paul : Every man that striveth in the 
games is temperate in all things, 4 and he addresses the 
monk as thou that desirest to become a fellow-soldier of 
Christ s holy disciples , while he exhorts him to be 
instructed by the Scriptures in the art of warfare . 5 

It is, indeed, of the utmost importance always to bear 
in mind how thoroughly scriptural is Basil s treatment 
of asceticism. The ascetic life is described as walk 
ing in accordance with the Gospel of our blessed God, 
Jesus Christ our Lord . 6 The ascetic is one who prac 
tises with a view to perfection, and trains himself, byj 
means of solitude, renunciation, and continence, forl 
the attainment of the one great prize, union with God. 
Christian continence is no Stoic apathy, 7 and Basil does 



Kal aKo\aaTOs. Reg. Fus. 16. 3. 2 Reg. Fus. 17. 2. 

3 Ibid. 2 Tim. ii. 5. Reg. Fus. 16. i, 18. i. 

6 De Ren. 2. e De j ud 3 

7 In Ep. 4, however, Basil playfully describes himself as an 
admirer of Zeno, Cleanthes, and Diogenes . 

D 2 



36 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

not speak of the ascetic life as the life of philosophy \ l 
Further, monastic morality is in no sense Manichaean. 
Matter is not in itself evil, and Basil has a Homily 
to the effect that God is not the Author of Evil . 2 
Elsewhere he says, Nothing, if it were bad in itself, 
would have been created by God. " For every creature 
of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it be 
received with thanksgiving." So also the command 
ment of the Lord does not teach us to avoid or cast 
away possessions as things evil in themselves, but to 
dispense them rightly. 3 

The degree of asceticism to be practised is to be 
such as will not unfit the monk for his work. The 
question is asked, Whether he who would practise 
continence beyond his strength, so that he is prevented 
from fulfilling that which is commanded him, should 
be encouraged . To this the reply is as follows : This 
question does not seem to me to be rightly propounded. 
For continence does not consist in mere abstention 
from food, which results in the " severity to the body " 
condemned by the apostle, but in the perfect abandon 
ment of our own private wishes. 4 Thus Basil lays 
down that with regard both to fasting and work the 
universal rule holds good, Do all to the glory of 
God. 5 

The competitive asceticism, as we may call it, of the 
Egyptian hermits had resulted in a considerable degree 
of spiritual pride. Hence it is that Basil so often 

1 As does the author of the Monastic Constitutions. 

2 Horn. 9. 

3 Reg. Brev. 92 ; Reg. Fus. 18 ; i Tim. iv. 4. 

* Col. ii. 23 ; Reg. Brev. 128. 5 Reg. Brev. 139 ; i Cor. x. 31. 



THE PRACTICE OF ASCETICISM 37 

insists upon the necessity of humility. One of the 
greatest advantages of the community life is that it 
provides opportunity for the practice of this virtue. 
We even get the stipulation made in Basil s Rules that 
there is to be no scramble for the last place at table. 1 
Humility itself may breed contention, if it be not 
regulated. 

Fialon has not inaptly remarked of Basil s asceticism, 
Cetait la rigueur de 1 ascetisme oriental qui se pliait 
a P indulgence grecque. 2 Continence indeed was the 
avoidance of all excess, whether of indulgence or absti 
nence. The asceticism which Basil required aimed at 
bodily training, not bodily extinction, at a discipline, 
and not an abnegation of the will. And, as we have 
seen, the mystical element, the craving for union with 
God, was never submerged in the ascetic desire for 
purification by self-denial. 

It is interesting in this connexion to notice the 
remarks of a modern writer on the question of the 
place and motive of asceticism : 

The adjective "ascetic" is applied to conduct 
originating on diverse psychological levels, which I 
might as well begin by distinguishing from one another, 
(i) Asceticism may be a mere expression of organic 
hardihood, disgusted with too much ease ; (2) temper 
ance in meat and drink, simplicity of apparel, chastity, 
and non-pampering of the body generally, may be 
fruits of the love of purity, shocked by whatever 

1 Reg. Fus. 21. 

2 Etude litUvaive sur Saint Basile, p. 178. Cf. Basil, Ep. 207. 2, 
We, in comparison with the perfect (i. e. the monks of Egypt), 
are children. 



38 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

savours of the sensual ; (3) they may be also fruits 
of love, that is, they may appeal to the subject in the 
light of sacrifices which he is happy in making to 
the Deity whom he acknowledges. l 

In the case of Basil the ascetic practices which he 
recommended were essentially c fruits of love . 

1 William James, Varieties of Religious Experience, pp. 296 f. 



CHAPTER VI 
THE COMMUNITY LIFE 

IT remains now to consider how Basil put his 
monastic principles into practice. Monasticism had 
already found many forms of expression. The first 
endeavours seem to have been entirely eremitical in 
character, but it was not long before the individual 
ascetics were brought together into communities. In 
Egypt monasticism developed along two lines, the 
Antonian and the Pachomian. When Anthony with 
drew to the desert and lived a life of complete seclusion, 
many serious Christians, inspired by his example, came 
and settled near his retreat. After twenty years of 
life as a hermit, Anthony was induced to come forth 
and undertake the direction and organization of the 
numbers of monks who were now living around him. 
But such organization would seem to have been very 
loose and almost entirely voluntary. Thus Palladius 
tells us with regard to the monks of Nitria, In Mount 
Nitria there are five thousand monks following different 
manners of life, each according to his power and desire ; 
so that any one may live alone, or with another, or with 
several companions. He also says, They assemble at 
the church only on Saturday and Sunday. 

Although the eremitical form of monasticism tended 
to die out, yet the Antonian monk still had much of 



40 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

the hermit s independent solitude, and his life may not 
incorrectly be called semi-eremitical. 

But about this same time Pachomius, a young monk 
who had been trained by the hermit Palaemon, founded 
his first monastery at Tabennesi, near Denderah, by 
the Nile. Palladius visited a Pachomian monastery 
at Panopolis, and has left us a very vivid picture of ) 
the life in that community. It appears to have been \ 
a life of the most varied activity. There was a fixed \?J 
routine of Church services, Bible reading, and manual 
labour. All kinds of trades and occupations were 
pursued for the general good of the monastery and 
the benefit of the poor. Each monk had his own 
special task allotted to him and a place of residence 
according to his particular occupation. A minimum 
of ascetic practice was enjoined, but individual efforts 
after severer self-denial were encouraged. The funda 
mental idea of St. Pachomius Rule was to establish 
a moderate level of observance which might be obli 
gatory upon all ; and then leave it open to each 
and indeed to encourage each to go beyond the 
fixed minimum, according as he was prompted by his 
strength, his courage, and his zeal. Thus some of the 
monks, Palladius tells us, ate only every second day, 
others only every third day, and some every fifth day. 
As in the Antonian system, there was a large element 
of voluntariness, of individual effort, while as yet there 
was no full and proper idea of a corporate monastic 
life. 1 

We have seen how for Basil monastic regulation 

1 See Butler, Lausiac History of Palladius, i. pp. 233 ff. 



THE COMMUNITY LIFE 41 

invariably depends upon dogmatic considerations. 
Hence we are not surprised that he gives at some 
length the principles illustrated as always by scrip 
tural quotations which led him to prefer the coeno- 
bitical form of monasticism. I have learned/ he says, 
that a life lived in common with others is more useful 
for many purposes. In the first place, even in the 
matter of bodily needs, no man is sufficient to himself, 
but we require each other s aid in the provision of such 
things as are necessary to life. ... In the solitary life 
what we have is useless to any one else, and what we 
ourselves want cannot be supplied. . . . And further, 
the law of the love of Christ does not permit each one 
of us to regard his own things alone. For "Charity 
seeketh not her own ", 1 The life of complete seclu 
sion has only one aim, that each may serve his own 
needs. But this is plainly opposed to the law of charity 
which the Apostle fulfilled, who sought not his own 
profit, but the profit of many, that they might be 
saved. 

Moreover, it is not easy for one who lives alone to 
discover his own faults, since he has no one to reprove 
him, or correct him in gentle and kindly fashion. For 
the reproof even of an enemy will oftentimes implant 
a desire for amendment in a man of good sense, but 
a fault is only properly amended by one who loves 
sincerely. For He that lo veth instructeth diligently ". 2 
And in solitude, when a man has no companionship 
in his life, it is impossible to find such an adviser. 
Wherefore it happens to him as it is written, " Woe 

1 i Cor. xiii. 5. a Prov. xiii. 24. 



42 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

to him that is alone, for if he falleth, there is none to 
raise him up." 1 

Again, there are many commandments which can 
easily be performed by many gathered together, but 
not by one man alone, for in performing one we are 
hindered from fulfilling the rest. Thus the visitation 
of the sick will hinder a man from receiving guests, 
and the dispensing and distribution of the necessaries 
of life (especially when much time is spent upon such 
service), will hinder him from a zealous attention to 
his customary work, and so a great and salutary com 
mandment is broken, since neither is the hungry fed 
nor the naked clothed. Who, then, would choose to 
live this inactive and unfruitful life rather than that 
which is fruitful and in accordance with our Lord s 
commandment ? 

And if all who are called in one hope of their calling 
are one body in Christ, have Him for their head, and 
are members one of another, how can we be so, except 
through union in one body by the Holy Spirit ? . . . 

Further, since no one man is sufficient in himself 
to receive the gifts of the Spirit, but according to the 
measure of each man s faith the Spirit is granted to 
him, 2 in the common life each man s gift becomes the 
common property of his fellows. . . . 

But there are other dangers in the solitary life 
besides those we have already described. The first and 
greatest danger is that of self-complacency. 3 For if 
a man has no one to examine his actions, he will think 
that he has already achieved the perfect fulfilment of 

1 Eccles. iv. 10. 8 Rom. xii. 6. 3 avrapfffKcia. 



THE COMMUNITY LIFE 43 

the commandments, and, since his conduct is never 
tested, he neither notices his shortcomings, nor per 
ceives any progress which he may have made, for the 
very reason that he has deprived himself of all oppor 
tunity for fulfilling the commandments. 

For how will he practise the virtue of humility, if 
there is no one to whom he may show himself humble ? 
How will he show pity, if he is cut off from the society 
of others ? Or how will he show forbearance, if there 
is no one to oppose his wishes ? But if some one say 
that instruction in the Holy Scriptures is sufficient for 
right conduct, he is like one who learns how to weave, 
but never weaves anything, or is taught the smith s 
art, but never deigns to put into practice what he has 
learnt. To such a man the Apostle would say, " Not 
the hearers of a law are just before God, but the doers 
of a law shall be justified/ * For we see that our Lord 
Himself, from His exceeding great kindness, did not rest 
content with words or precepts, but expressly set before 
us an example of humility in the perfection of His 
love. For indeed He girded Himself and washed His 
disciples feet. Whose feet will you wash ? To whom 
will you be a servant ? Among whom will you be the 
last of all, if you live alone by yourself ? How can 
that good and joyful thing, the dwelling together of 
the brethren, which is likened by the Holy Spirit to the 
precious ointment that ran down from the high-priest s 
head, be accomplished in the life of the solitary ? 

The dwelling together of the brethren is indeed a field 
for the contest of athletes, a noble path of progress, 

1 Rom. ii. 13. 



44 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

a continual training, and a constant meditation upon 
the commandments of the Lord. It has for its one 
aim and end the glory of God, according to the com 
mandment of our Lord Jesus Christ, who says, "Let 
your light so shine before men that they may see your 
good works, and glorify your Father which is in 
heaven." l Such a life bears the same stamp as that of 
the saints of whom we read in the Acts, " And all that 
believed were together, and had all things common." 2 
And again : "And the multitude of them that believed 
were of one heart and soul : and not one of them said 
that aught of the things which he possessed was his 
own : but they had all things common." 3 

These remarks upon the theoretical and practical 
superiority of the community life have been quoted 
at length with a view to showing how careful Basil 
always is that his monastic scheme shall be at once 
scriptural in principle and practicable in application. 
Life in common is declared to be a following of the life 
of the Apostles, and the best realization of the corporate 
fellowship described by St. Paul under the simile of 
the body and its members. The love of God and 
neighbour can find its fullest expression in the monastic 
congregation, where all co-operate in their endeavour 
after perfection. 

In this connexion it is interesting to read a letter 
addressed by Basil to a community of monks. He 
thus writes : I do not think that I need further 
commend you to God s grace, after the words that 

1 Matt. v. 1 6. 2 Acts ii. 44. 

8 Acts iv. 32 ; Reg. Fus. 7. 



THE COMMUNITY LIFE 45 

I addressed to you in person. I then bade you adopt_ 
the life in common, after the manner of living of the 
Apostles. This you accepted as wholesome instruction, 
and gave God thanks for it. Thus your conduct was 
due, not so much to the word I spoke, as to my instruc 
tions to put them into practice, conducive at once to 
your advantage who accepted, to my comfort who 
gave you the advice, and to the glory and praise of 
Christ, by whose name we are called. For this reason 
I have sent to you our well-beloved brother, that he may 
rouse you from your sloth, and may bring report to me 
of opposition . For great is my desire to see you all united 
in one body, and to hear that you are not content to 
live a life without witness ; but have undertaken to 
be both watchful of each other s diligence, and wit 
nesses of each other s success. Thus will each of you 
receive a reward in full, not only on his own behalf, 
but also for his brother s progress. And, as is fitting, 
you will be a source of mutual profit to one another 
in both word and deed, as the result of constant 
intercourse and exhortation. x 

This enthusiasm of Basil for the common life induced 
him not only to recommend solitary ascetics to come 
together and form communities, but led him also to 
construct cells in the neighbourhood of his monasteries 
for such as persisted in the solitary life. Gregory 
Nazianzen, in his Panegyric on Basil, thus speaks of 
his friend s activity in this direction : He reconciled 
and united most excellently the solitary and the com 
munity life. These had been in many respects at 

Ep. 295. 




46 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

variance and dissension, while neither of them was in 
absolute and unalloyed possession of goo d or evil ; the 
one being more calm and settled, tending to union 
with God, yet not free from pride, inasmuch as its 
virtue lies beyond the means of testing or comparison ; 
the other, which is of more practical service, being not 
free from the tendency to turbulence. 1 He founded 
cells for ascetics and hermits, but at no great distance 
from his coenobitic communities, and, instead of dis 
tinguishing and separating the one from the other, as 
if by some intervening wall, he brought them together 
and united them, in order that the contemplative spirit 
might not be cut off from society, nor the active life 
be uninfluenced by the contemplative, but that, like 
sea and land, by an interchange of their several gifts, 
they might unite in promoting the one object, the 
glory of God. 2 Yet in spite of this reconciliation of 
which Gregory speaks with such admiration, Basil 
himself in his own writings leaves us in no doubt as 
to his preference for the community life as the best 
means for the attainment of Christian perfection. In 
later days we find that the life of the monk was often 
considered as being merely preparatory to the life of the 
hermit, but there is no suggestion of any such idea in 
Basil s monastic scheme. He asserts plainly and with 
out qualification that the solitary life is both difficult 
and dangerous . 3 

1 TO 6opv@a>8s ov <pevyovros. 2 Orat. 43. 62. 

3 Reg. Fus. 7, ad init. on 5vffKo\ov o/*ov Kal cntKivdwov T 



CHAPTER VII 
OBEDIENCE AND DISCIPLINE 

IN the community life the virtues of humility and 
obedience acquired a new meaning. We have already 
remarked how the life of the hermit tended to spiritual 
arrogance. The Christian athlete who had merely 
himself to consider was bent on making records in 
ascetic austerities. Such men often took great pride 
in their performances, while they also became objects 
of popular admiration. Pilgrimages were made to the 
abodes of many of the most famous ascetics. Men 
visited them, however, not merely from curiosity, but 
for counsel and advice. A notable hermit might 
thus exercise a great and far-reaching influence for 
good. Being independent of all worldly considerations, 
he was able to speak with the utmost freedom and 
courage. Yet such publicity might, in many cases, only 
further increase the egotism which a life of solitude had 
produced. 

Again, one of the crying needs of the day was a 
respect for authority, whether ecclesiastical or civil. 
As we read Basil s letters we can see that the imperial 
government was not such as to inspire feelings of a 
loyal and ready obedience. The sons of Constantine, 
by their vices and their weakness, had lost the esteem 
and affection of their people. There were, no doubt, 



48 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

individual governors of whom Basil could speak in 
friendly terms, but they seem to have been the excep 
tion rather than the rule, and we cannot always tell how 
far he is merely using the language of diplomacy. In the 
Church also doctrinal dissensions and moral laxity had 
done much to bring her rulers into disrespect. Men 
sought ordination who had no vocation for the Christian 
ministry in many cases to avoid military service. 
The ranks of the episcopate were not infrequently 
recruited from the lowest of the people. More than 
once Basil complains, They have brought shame upon 
the poor name of bishop. He even goes so far as to 
say, Exalted office is now publicly known as the reward 
of impiety. The result is that the worse a man blas 
phemes, the fitter the people think him to be a bishop. 
Clerical dignity is a thing of the past/ l 

Of the want of discipline and obedience in the Church 
of his day Basil speaks very forcibly in his treatise, 
On the Judgment of God. He there says : And when 
I had spent long time in diligently seeking for the 
cause of these evils, I remembered the Book of Judges, 
which tell how each man did that which was right in 
his own eyes, and gives the reason in these words, 
" In those days there was no king in Israel/ And as 
I remembered this, I determined that it was true of 
the present state of things, even though such an 
assertion may seem both strange and horrible. For, 
indeed, it would appear as if the great disagreement 
and strife which now prevails within the Church is 
due to the rejection of the one, great, true, and only 

i Epp.-92, 239. 



OBEDIENCE AND DISCIPLINE 49 

universal King and God. For each man deserts the 
teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of his own 
authority sets up his own opinions and interpretations, 
choosing rather to rule in opposition to Christ, than 
to be ruled by Christ Himself. ... If, therefore, order 
and concord is only to be found among those who all 
answer to one summons and obey one king, it follows 
that discord and dissension is a proof that a ruler is 
wanting. And so, by the same reasoning, the dissension 
which is now to be found among us, the disputes with 
ourselves and with the commands of the Lord, are all 
a convincing proof that the true King has left us/ 1 

There must have been many good Christian men and 
women who, tired of the doctrinal strife, and feeling the 
need of some central and definite authority 2 which they 
could respect, welcomed gladly the regular and ordered 
life of the monastic community, which provided strict 
discipline and necessitated the most implicit obedience. 

We have already seen how, according to Basil, 
f Humility is the imitation of Christ/ 3 and it is notice 
able that the duty of obedience is also grounded by 
trim upon Christ s example. In answer to the question 
as to the limits of obedience, Basil asserts, The 
Apostle has shown us, by setting before us the obedience 
of the Lord, " who became obedient unto death, yea, 
the death of the cross/ As also he says before, " Let 
this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus "/ 4 

Obedience consists in the submission of our ownwis hes 

1 De Jud. 2. 

2 Ci.De BrogMetL ^gliseet I Empire Romain,v. 166: c est la fatigue 
de dissensions, le besoin de la soumission, 1 instinct de 1 autorite. 

J De Ren. 10 ; cf. supra, p. 20. * Phil. ii. 5,8; Reg. Brev. 1 16. 

E 



50 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

and desires to the will of God, after the pattern of Jesus 
Christ . For since our Lord has said, I came down from 
heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him 
that sent me," every judgment of our own wills is 
dangerous. And this David well knew when he said, 
" I have sworn, and am steadfastly purposed to keep 
thy righteous judgements," not my own wishes. l 
But obedience is also a social virtue, and is a proof of 
love towards our neighbour, no less than of our love 
towards God. Even as the Apostle says, " Through 
the love of the Spirit be ye servants one to another." 2 
Further, the monk is not to be ashamed of accepting 
obedience from his brother. He is to receive such 
ministrations as a servant from his master, with the 
humility which the Apostle Peter showed, when the 
Lord ministered to him : from whom also we learn 
the danger of refusing such service . We are fully 
convinced that God is the author and perfecter of 
every blessing, and we receive these benefits as from 
the minister of God s goodness. 3 

But while this mutual obedience is to be practised 
by all the members of the community, yet there is 
also to be one fixed centre of authority, one fountain- 
head from which all order and discipline proceed. 
Though there may be great variety of activity in the 
community life, there must at the same time be unity 
of administration. The tendency to turbulence , 
which Gregory Nazianzen notes as one of the dangers 
to which the coenobitical form of monachism is most 

1 John vi. 38 ; Ps. cxix. 106 ; Reg. Brev. 137. 

2 Gal. v. 13 ; Reg. Brev. 115. 3 Ibid. 161 ; Reg. Fus. 31. 



OBEDIENCE AND DISCIPLINE 51 

prone, is to be carefully eliminated. As there is one aim 
for all the members of the brotherhood, so also there 
must be one source of authority, namely, the Superior. 1 

The high position of this official in Basil s scheme 
calls for some remark. It seems as if the great 
Saint, who by his own personal example had done so 
much to further the monastic cause, can never say 
enough about the importance for the community of 
a good superior. Basil knew how many had been led 
to embrace a life of asceticism through the personal 
influence of some great ascetic. The hermits of Egypt 
often had companions and disciples who came to them 
to be trained in the life of perfection. But such 
disciples, though they might be bound to their masters 
by the very closest ties of affection, could only profess 
a voluntary obedience. A hermit and his disciple might 
separate at a moment s notice, sometimes as the result 
of some trivial altercation. It was only in the com 
munity life, in the brotherhood presided over by its 
superior, that compulsory discipline and obedience 
could be possible. 

Pachomius, in one of his visions, had seen the angels 
assisting the superiors of his monasteries. The most 
implicit obedience was required from all his monks. 
The insubordinate, if they persisted, were sent to the 
infirmary until they should repent of their obstinacy. 
No doubt it was often difficult to persuade those who had 
been accustomed to the free and independent life of the 
hermit to submit to the quasi-military regulations of a 
community administered by an all-powerful superior. 

1 6 
E 2 



52 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

In Basil s recommendations for the conduct of the 
monastic life we find, as we have said, that the superior 
occupies a most important place. But it is essential 
to notice at the outset that although the superior is the 
supreme head of the monastery, yet, owing apparently^ 
to the moderate dimensions of the community under 
his charge, he never loses contact with each of the 
brethren. All the secrets of the heart are to be dis 
closed to him. 1 He is to be an ensample to them that 
believe , 2 and to love his brethren even as a nurse 
cherisheth her own children . 3 He is also to be a 
physician of the soul, who will have the proper remedy 
at hand for each man s malady. 4 

Basil lays down as a duty for all who enter upon the 
monastic life, that they should attach themselves to 
some man of stern and inflexible morality, to whom 
they must render entire and unquestioning obedience. 
Seek out , he says, with much care and thought 
a man who will be a safe guide to thee in thy manner 
of life, who knows well how to lead such as are journey 
ing towards God, who is rich in virtues, showing forth 
by his works his love for God, and being wise in the 
Holy Scriptures. ... If thou canst find such a man, 
give thyself to him. Spurn and cast aside every wish 
of thine own, that thou mayest be found as a clean 
vessel, keeping ever pure to the praise and glory of 
God the virtues that are put in thee. . . . And if thou 
thus give thyself to a man of many virtues, thou shalt 

1 Reg. Fus. 26. 2 i Tim. iv. 12 ; Reg. Fus. 43. 

3 i Thess. ii. 7 ; Reg. Brev. 98 ; Reg. Fus. 25. 
* Reg. Fus. 52. 



OBEDIENCE AND DISCIPLINE 53 

become heir to the goodness that is in him, and shalt 
be blessed above others in the sight of God and man. 
But if, to spare thy body, thou shouldst seek a master 
who will condescend, or rather degrade himself, to 
thy passions, then thou hast endured the conflict of 
renunciation all in vain. ... If, therefore, by the grace 
of God thou canst find a teacher of good works, keep 
him ever by thee, and do nothing without his counsel. 
For all that is done apart from him is but as theft 
and sacrilege, leading to destruction and not to use 
fulness, even though it appear to thee to be good. 1 
We see from this exhortation what an important place 
is given to personal influence in Basil s representation 
of the monastic life. In fact, we may safely say that 
the whole welfare of the monastery depended upon the 
man in charge. 

The superior was to be elected by the senior brethren 
of the community. 2 A man with the necessary qualifi 
cations being difficult to find, it is better, says Basil, 
to have only one community and one superior in each 
village. In this way all rivalry and partisanship will be 
avoided. Yet elsewhere he expresses the wish that 
the various communities and their superiors should co 
operate with one another in the unity of the Spirit and 
the bond of peace . 3 If the superior should be guilty 
of wrong-doing, he is to be admonished by the senior 
brethren of the community. And thus if there be 
anything in him that require amendment, we shall 
be of use to our brother, and through him to ourselves, 
by leading back into the right way him who, as being 

1 De Ren. 2-4. 2 Reg. Fus. 43. 3 Reg. Fus. 35. 



54 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

himself the rule of our life, should by his virtues 
correct our perversity/ l But the rule of the superior 
is in every respect monarchical, and there is no hint 
of an aristocratic government by a senate of elders 
such as was to be found among some of the monks of 
the desert. 2 It is interesting also to notice that in the 
absence of the superior a second-in-command is to be 
chosen lest a democratic state of things prevail in the 
brotherhood . 3 

But although this one man is to have the supreme 
control of the brotherhood, he must not in the exercise 
of his autocratic powers forget his responsibility. The 
superior must not be unduly exalted by his office, lest he 
fail to obtain the blessing that is promised to the humble, 
or by his pride fall into the condemnation of the Devil ; 
but rather let him be assured that the charge of the 
many is the service of the many. 4 

It is interesting to observe how often in the Rules 
the superior is compared to a physician. We know 
that Basil himself, owing partly to his constant ill- 
health, had made some study of medicine. Hence 
the simile would come naturally to him. Thus, in 
answer to the question How are the faults of sinners 
to be corrected ? he lays down the rule : Correc 
tion should be applied to the wrong-doer after the 
manner of the physician, who is not angry with 
his patient, but fights against the disease. Thus 
the vice must be attacked, and the infirmity of the! 

1 Reg. Fus. 27 ; cf. Reg. Brev. 103. 2 Cf. Reg. Brev. 104. 

3 Reg. Fus. 45. i. Certain functions, e. g. the distribution of food 
and clothing, may be delegated. Reg. Brev. 148. 

4 Reg. Fus. 30. Cf. Benedict, Regula, ii. 



OBEDIENCE AND DISCIPLINE 55 

soul corrected, if necessary, by a somewhat severe, 
regimen. For example, pride will be corrected by 
ordering the practice of humility : foolish talking 
by silence : immoderate sleep by wakefulness in 
prayer : slothfulness by work : greediness by absti 
nence from food : discontent by separation from the 
rest of the brethren. 1 The punishments inflicted by* 
the superior are to be considered as remedial, and 
endured without murmuring. As then we have 
determined that the superior is to apply remedies 
without flinching to those who are ailing : so also 
those who are thus treated should not receive their 
punishments in enmity, or consider as a tyranny the 
kindly care which is directed to the salvation of their 
souls/ 2 

The superior, if he neglect to remind the sinner of 
his faults, will be liable to severe condemnation. He 
who is entrusted with the charge of all must remember 
that he is to give an account of each. For if one of the 
brethren fall into sin, and is not told by the superior of 
God s judgment, or if he persist in his error, and is not 
instructed in the way of amendment by him, his blood 
will be required of him. 3 The principles by which 
the superior is to be guided in the performance of 
his office are thus summed up by Basil in one of the 
Shorter Rules : Before God he will be as a minister 
of Christ, and a steward of the mysteries of God, 
fearing always lest he should say or do anything 

1 Reg. Fus. 51. 

2 Reg. Fus. 52. No curiosity concerning the reasons for his com 
mands is to be shown : Reg. Fus. 48. 8 Reg. Fus. 25. 



56 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

contrary to the will of God, and so be found a false 
witness of God, or be guilty of sacrilege either by 
introducing that which is against the teaching of the 
Lord, or by omitting that which is pleasing to God. 
In his dealings with the brethren, " even as a nurse 
cherisheth her own children," so he will be eager to 
give to each one not only the Gospel of God, but even 
his own life, that thereby God may be pleased and the 
whole community benefited, according to the com 
mandment of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, who 
said : "A new commandment I give unto you, that 
ye love one another, even as I have loved you." 
" Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay 
down his life for his friends." 1 

Punishments, which, as we have seen, are to be 
remedial, and proportionate to the crime, will be 
administered in the same spirit of love. Persistent 
disobedience, however, is to be punished with separa 
tion from the society of the brethren. Thus Basil 
lays down that, He who fails in his obedience to the 
commandments of the Lord is at first to be treated 
by all with compassion as an ailing member, and 
the superior by his own exhortations will endeavour 
to restore him to health. But if he persist in his 
disobedience, and refuse correction, he must be more 
severely rebuked before the whole brotherhood, and 
every remedy of exhortation must be applied. And if, 
after much reproof, he still remains obdurate, and does 
not amend either himself or his ways, being, in the words 
of the proverb, " his own ruin," it will be necessary, with 

1 John xiii. 34 ; xv. 13 ; Reg. Brev. 98. 



OBEDIENCE AND DISCIPLINE 57 

much grief and sorrow, to regard him as a decayed 
and useless limb, and to cut him off from the rest of 
the body/ x Disobedience is not merely an offence 
against the discipline of the community, but a sign of 
grave moral defects. Insubordination and defiance 
are the proofs of a multitude of sins, of tainted faith, 
of doubtful hope, of proud and overweening conduct/ 2 
We have thus seen, from Basil s own words, how 
the community life with its common rule of discipline 
and its one centre of authority was to be a field for 
the cultivation of what was then a much-needed virtue, 
obedience. 

1 Reg. Fus. 28. i. On the various degrees of punishment cf. Reg. 
Brev. 44 and 122, which mention (a) deprivation of blessing, fv\oytav 
1$ \a0etv, (b) deprivation of food, aairia, (c) separation, 

2 Reg. Fus. 28. 2. 



CHAPTER VIII 
THE MONK AT PRAYER 

As we might naturally expect, Basil very strongly 
insists upon the necessity of prayer for the true Chris- 
tian, and more especially for the monastic community. 
Prayer, however, is not to be merely a spasmodic effort 
or an occasional expedient. It is to be constant and ; 
continuous, and for the devout Christian prayerfulness 
must become a natural and spontaneous habit of mind. 
There is a passage of great beauty on this subject in 
one of Basil s Homilies. 1 

Ought we to pray without ceasing ? Is it possible 
to obey such a command ? These are questions which 
I see you are ready to ask. I will endeavour, to the 
best of my ability, to prove my case. Prayer is 
a petition for good addressed by the pious to God. 
But we do not rigidly confine our petition to words. 
Nor yet do we imagine that God requires to be reminded 
by speech. He knows our needs even though we do 
not ask Him. 

What do I say then ? I say that we must not think 

that our prayer consists only in syllables. The strength 

of prayer lies rather in the purpose of our soul, and in 

deeds of virtue affecting every part and moment of our 

1 Horn, in Marty tent Julittam, 3-4. 



THE MONK AT PRAYER 59 

life. " Whether ye eat," it is said, " or drink, or whatever 
ye do, do all to the glory of God." 1 As thou takest thy 
seat at table, pray. As thou liftest the loaf, offer thanks 
to the Giver. When thou sustainest thy bodily 
weakness with wine, remember Him who supplies thee 
with this gift, to make thy heart glad and comfort thy 
infirmity. Has thy need for food passed away ? Let 
not the thought of thy merciful Benefactor pass away 
too. As thou art putting on thy tunic, thank Him 
who gave it thee. As thou wrappest thy cloak about 
thee, feel yet greater love to God, who alike in summer 
and winter has given us clothing convenient for us, 
both to cover what is unseemly and to preserve our life. 
Is the day over ? Thank Him who has given us the 
sun for the service of our daily work, and has provided 
us with fire to brighten the night, and to serve for 
the other needs of life. 

Let night also afford other suggestions of prayer. 
When thou lookest up to heaven, and seest the beauty 
of the stars, pray to the Lord of all things visible, the 
great Artist of the universe, who " in wisdom hath made 
them all". 2 And when thou seest all nature sunk in 
sleep, then again worship Him who even against our 
will releases us from the continuous strain of toil, 
and by a short respite restores us once again to 
the vigour of our strength. Let not night herself 
be altogether the special property of sleep. Let not 
half thy life be useless in the dull torpor of slumber, 
but divide the time of night between sleep and prayer. 
And let thy very slumbers be exercises of piety ; for 

1 i Cor. x. 31. 2 Ps. civ, 24. 



6o ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

the dreams of our sleep are wont to be for the most 
part the reflections of our thoughts by day. 1 As have 
been our conduct and pursuits, so will of necessity 
be our dreams. Thus mayest thou pray without 
ceasing, not in words, but by the whole conduct of 
thy life, so uniting thyself to God that thy life is one 
long, unceasing prayer. 

It was perhaps the greatest advantage of the 
monastery that there, if anywhere, continuity in 
prayer was possible. The undistracted life 2 provided 
ample opportunity for a close communion with God 
in prayer and worship. In the quiet life of solitude 
we overcome our former manner of life in which we 
neglected the commandments of Christ, and so have 
power to eradicate the stains of sin by ceaseless 
prayer and constant attention to the will of God ; for 
we cannot hope to apply ourselves to such con 
templation and prayer amid the many things which 
distract the mind by leading it to worldly cares . 3 
Basil tells us that it is possible for the monk with his 
constant round of prayer and meditation to imitate 
on earth the choruses of the angels . 4 

Assiduity in prayer is achieved through the practice 
of the presence of God, by being fully certain that 
God is before our eyes. For if when we see a prince 
or ruler, and converse with him, we keep our eyes 
fixed upon him, how much more shall he who prays 
to God keep his mind fixed upon Him who searcheth 

1 Cf. Reg. Brev. 32. 

2 6 ourcpiairaaTos /3tos. Cf. Reg. Brev. 34, De Ren. I. 

3 Reg. Fus. 6. i. * Ep. 2. 2. 



THE MONK AT PRAYER 61 

the heart and reins, and so fulfil the Scripture, " Lifting 
up holy hands without fear and doubting." l 

It is perhaps surprising that Basil does not in his 
instructions make some mention of the duty of inter 
cession. In modern times we have come to think of 
intercessory prayer as one of the chief functions which 
the monastic community is able to fulfil. We can only 
suppose that Basil treated this subject in the unwritten 
rules 2 which he is said to have delivered by word of 
mouth to his monks. In his Letters he frequently 
asks his friends to remember him in their prayers, 
both in private and public. There is one Letter 
which is of special interest in this connexion, where 
Basil asks an assessor of taxes to exempt some monks 
from the general taxation. He pleads their poverty, 
and also adds, Men living such lives you will, I know, 
regard with special reverence ; nay you will wish to 
secure their intervention, since by their life in the 
Gospel they are able to prevail with God. 3 

Another passage is perhaps worth quoting : Be" 
mindful therefore of God, he writes. Keep the fear 
of Him in your heart and enlist all men to join with 
you in your prayers, for great is the aid of them that 
are able to move God by their importunity. 4 

Among the hermits of the Desert this desire for 
continuous prayer had led to strange excesses. The 
task was indeed beyond the limits of human capacity. 
The individual worshipper, however great might be 

1 i Tim. ii. 8 ; Reg. Brev. 201. 

2 Cf. Greg. Naz. Orat. 43, 34 vojjioOcoiai novaarlav Zyypcupoi TC KOI 
aypa<f>oi. 

3 Ep. 284; cf. Praev. Inst. Asc. i. * Ep. 174, To a widow. 



62 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

his devotion, could not entirely disregard the needs 
of his physical nature. Accordingly we find that when 
monastic communities were formed various schemes 
were devised by means of which some such laus 
perennis should be practicable. Gregory of Nyssa 
tells us that in the convent over which Macrina 
presided there was a perpetual sequence of prayer 
and praise. 1 But this perpetuity was by no means 
a general rule. The Pachomian monks, for example, 
had their fixed hours of common prayer, though 
each individual was left free to continue his private 
devotions at his own discretion. 

Basil also, while encouraging and indeed demanding 
private prayer, orders that there shall be certain defi 
nite times at which the community will assemble for 
Divine service. No doubt it is true that for prayer 
and praise all times are fitting , and that even in the 
midst of our work we can fulfil the duties of prayer , 2 
yet none the less we must not neglect the appointed 
times of prayer which we have chosen for the brethren . 3 
Further, the services are to be varied as much as 
possible so as to avoid inattention. 

We are told very little as to the actual form of 
these services, though we can infer that they con 
sisted of psalms, prayers, and readings 4 from Scripture. 
Suitable persons are to be chosen to lead both the 
singing and the prayers. 5 Each service is to have its 
own peculiar significance and associations. 

1 Vita S. Macrinae, Op. iii. 970. 

2 Reg. Fus. 37. 2. 3 Ibid. 3. 

4 Cf . Horn, in Ps. lix rd 0ia \uyia . . . KaQ ticaarov avA\oyov vwava- 

5 Reg. Brev. 307. 



THE MONK AT PRAYER 63 

Basil s account of the times of prayer which the 
monasteries are to observe is of no small interest, and 
is well worth translation. 

1. Each hour of prayer brings its own special 
remembrance of God s benefits to us. We must pray 
in the early morning, in order that the first motions 
of the soul and mind may be dedicated to God, and 
that we may take nothing in hand until we have been 
gladdened by the contemplation of God, as the Scrip 
ture says, " I remembered God and was glad," 1 
nor apply ourselves to any work until we have done 
that which is written, " Unto thee will I make my 
prayer, O Lord. My voice shalt thou hear betimes. 
Early in the morning will I direct my prayer unto 
thee, and will look up." 2 

2. Again at the third hour prayer is to be made 
and the brethren assembled, even though they be 
already dispersed to their various tasks. For, remem 
bering the gift of the Holy Spirit which was given 
to the Apostles at the third hour, we must all 
worship together with one accord, in order that we 
too may be worthy to receive His sanctification. And 
we must also ask for His direction and instruction 
according to our needs, as the Psalmist says, " Make 
me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit 
within me. Cast me not away from thy presence, and 
take not thy holy Spirit from me. O give me the com 
fort of thy help again, and stablish me with thy free 3 
Spirit." 4 Or again, " Let thy loving Spirit lead me 

1 Ps. Ixxvii. 3 (LXX). 2 ,.Ps. v. 4-5. 

3 LXX, Trvevfjiari rjyffjioviKw. 4 Ps. li. 12, 13. 



64 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

forth into the land of righteousness." 1 We shall then 
return to our labours. 

And even though some few of the brethren be 
absent owing to work, or their distance from home, 
they must nevertheless perform without shrinking the 
obligations of the community. " For where two or 
three are gathered together in my name, there am I 
in the midst of them." 2 

3. .At the sixth hour also we have decided that 
prayer must be made, following the example of 
the saints, as it is written, " In the evening, and 
morning, and at noonday will I tell and proclaim; 
and he shall hear my voice." 3 And that we may 
be delivered from calamity and from the demon of 
the noonday, let the ninetieth 4 Psalm be recited at 
this hour. 

4. The ninth hour, too, is a fitting time of 
prayer, as we learn from the Apostles in the Acts, 
where it is said that Peter and John went up to 
the temple " at the hour of prayer, being the ninth 
hour ". 5 

5. Moreover, when the day is finished there must be 
a thanksgiving for benefits received and good deeds 
done during the day, and also a confession of sins. 
And whether the fault be voluntary or involuntary, or 
secret and forgotten, whether it be by word, or deed, 
or in the thoughts of the heart, we must seek to appease 
God for them all by our prayers. For an examination 
of our past misdeeds is of great help to prevent us 

1 Ps. cxliii. 10. 2 Matt, xviii. 20 ; cf. Reg. Brev. 143. 

3 Ps. Iv. 1 8. * E. V. xci. 6 Actsiii. i. 



THE MONK AT PRAYER 65 

from falling once again into the same faults. Wherefore 
it is said, " For what ye say in your hearts, feel com 
punction upon your beds." 1 

6. And again, as night begins, we must pray that 
our rest may be blameless, and free from fantasies, 
while at this hour also we repeat the ninetieth Psalm. 2 

7. That midnight also is a fitting time of prayer 
is proved by the example of Paul and Silas, as is recorded 
in the Acts, when it is said, " But at midnight Paul 
and Silas were praising God." 3 And the Psalmist says, 
" At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee, 
because of thy righteous judgements." 4 

8. Again it is right to prevent the dawn by rising to 
prayer, lest the break of day find us asleep in our beds, 
as it is written, " Mine eyes prevented the dawn, that 
I might meditate upon thy sayings." 5 

None of these times of prayer are to be neglected 
by those who are resolved diligently to live for the 
glory of God and His Christ. And I am of opinion that 
diversity and variety in the prayers and psalms of the 
appointed hours are useful, and for this reason, that 
a want of variety often produces slothfulness in the 
mind, so that it becomes inattentive, 6 while by changing 
and varying the psalms and the reading 7 at each office 
our fervour may be rekindled and our attention 
renewed. 8 

No less than eight separate services are mentioned as 
being obligatory for the monk under all circumstances. 

1 Ps. iv. 4 (LXX). 2 E.V. xci. 3 Acts xvi. 25, ad sens. 

* Ps. cxix. 62. 5 Ps. cxix. 148. 

6 dffi?5{? fj fax?) at dironfTcupi^erai. 7 rov ircpl tKaarrjs upas \6yov* 
8 Reg. Fus. 37. 3-5. 



66 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

We shall see that, in the order in which they are 
presented, they correspond to Prime, Terce, Sext, 
None, Vespers, Compline, Nocturns and Lauds. It 
is something of a surprise to find such explicit 
mention of the Canonical Hours at this early date, 
and Basil s account of these services calls for careful 
investigation, as being of great value for the history 
of the Divine Office. 

1. In the first place we have what apparently is 
a reference to Prime. This has been much disputed, 
and some would see in Basil s words merely a description 
of Lauds. Further, Cassian claims that he himself 
was the first to introduce the service of Prime. 1 But 
in that case it is hard to see why we should here have 
two separate accounts of one and the same meeting 
for morning prayers. It is more probable that Lauds 
was an adjunct of the night office, and that the monks 
were allowed a few hours rest after it. But in order that 
they should not sleep on until Terce, another service, 
namely Prime, was inserted. We cannot argue from 
Basil s quotations that Pss. v and Ixxvii were recited 
at this office. 

2. The express reference to the Holy Spirit in the 
account given of Terce is to be noted. It was more 
usual to associate the Passion of Christ with this hour. 2 
But Basil prefers to mention that at this hour the 
Holy Spirit was given to the Apostles, 3 and so all are 

1 De Inst. Coen. iii. 4 hanc matutinam . . . canonicam functionem 
nostro tempore in nostroque monasterio primitus institutam. 

2 Cf. Canons of Hippolytus, 27 quia illo tempore Sal vat or 
voluntarie crucifixus est. Baumer, Gesch. des Breviers, p. 52. 

3 Cf . also Cyprian, De Or. Dom. 34 super discipulos hora tertia 
descendit Spiritus sanctus. 



THE MONK AT PRAYER 67 

to worship together with one accord, that they may 
be found worthy of the Spirit s sanctification. As the 
great defender of the Godhead of the Holy Spirit, he 
is the more insistent upon this point. Any service in 
which special honour was paid to the Third Person of 
the Trinity would be of special value in those days 
of controversy. 

3. With regard to the sixth hour, or Sext, we have 
again to observe that there is no reference to the Cruci 
fixion, 1 but the Psalms are quoted in support of the 
practice of noonday prayer. It is interesting to note 
that Basil makes use of the reference to the demon 
of the noonday in the ninety-first Psalm, which he 
orders to be recited both at this hour and at Compline. 

4. At the ninth hour, or None, the example of the 
Apostles Peter and John is quoted to prove the ancient 
observance of this hour as a time of prayer. Again we 
miss the association with the Death of Christ. 2 It is 
noticeable that Basil has three Day-hours. Others 
made four, by dividing the midday office, and so com 
pleted the Seven Hours. 3 

5. In the case of the evening prayers, or Vespers, we 
have a much fuller notice. The service being of very 
early origin needed no justification, and so Basil merely 
gives us some idea of its actual contents. There is 

1 Cf. Can. Hippol. ibid. quia ilia hora universa creatura pertur- 
bata est propter facinus scelestum a ludaeis perpetratum. Cf. also 
(Pseud. Bas) Serm. Asc. i. 4 rj 5 \vvo.rr] rov SeairoriKov iraOovs karl 



3 Can. Hippol. ibid, quia ilia hora Christus oravit et tradidit 
spiritum in manus Patris sui. 

8 Cf. Serm Asc. I. 5 eiretSfi <prjaiv 6 AajQi S, cm ETTT&KIS . . . r 



F 2 



68 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

to be both thanksgiving and confession. The latter is 
described in some detail, and it is perhaps possible to 
detect the words of a formal confession-prayer. 1 

In the treatise on the Holy Spirit we have a further 
reference to this service of Vespers. It seemed , he 
says, fitting to our fathers not to receive the gift of 
the light at eventide in silence, but, on its appearing, 
immediately to give thanks. Who was the author of 
these words of thanksgiving at the lighting of the lamps, 
we are not able to say. The people, however, utter 
the ancient form, and no one has ever reckoned 
guilty of impiety those who say We praise Father, 
Son, and God s Holy Spirit V 2 Basil here shows 
that in his day a hymn of some antiquity, men 
tioning the Holy Spirit as Divine, was sung at the 
service of Vespers. The practice of the Church thus 
bears out the statement which was inserted into the 
Creed that the Holy Ghost together with the Father 
and the Son is worshipped and glorified . 

6. We now come to a much-discussed passage in 
which Basil apparently refers to a service resembling 
Compline and recited before retiring for the night. It 
used to be asserted that until the time of Benedict the 
office of Compline was unknown. 3 But it is hard not 
to see in this passage a description of some such 
service, even though it may not have been in a very 
highly developed form. 4 It is quite probable that 

1 ciTf fftovffiov, fire attovaiov, fire irov KOI \av0avov KT\. 
1 De Spiv. Sanct. 73. 

3 e.g. Batiffol, Hist, of the Roman Breviary, p. 36. Baumer, op. cit., 
p. 178. 

4 Cf. Pargoire, Rev. d histoire et de literature religieuse (1898) 



THE MONK AT PRAYER 69 

Basil was the first to introduce this office, 1 and that 
Benedict in later days gave it a formal liturgical 
character and arrangement. It is not unlikely that 
the office of Compline originated from the primitive 
custom of reciting a prayer before sleep. 

We note that Basil orders the recitation of the 
ninety-first Psalm, which is also included by Benedict 
in his service of Compline. The petition for deliverance 
from fantasies is to be found in the hymn used at 
this service in later days. 2 

7. Basil next mentions the midnight prayers, or 
Nocturns, quoting the example of Paul and Silas, and 
giving a reference to Psalm cxix. 148. 

On the general subject of night prayers he thus 
writes in a letter to Gregory : What dawn is to some, 
midnight is to athletes of piety ; then the silence of 
night gives leisure to their soul ; no noxious sounds 
or sights intrude upon their hearts ; the mind is alone 
with itself and God, correcting itself by the remembrance 
of its sins, recalling holy precepts as a help against evil, 
and imploring aid from God for the fulfilment of its 
yearnings. 3 But he gives us no information as to 
the actual composition of the midnight service. In 
another letter, 4 however, written in the year 375 to 
the clergy of Neocaesarea, he gives an account in 
some detail of the way in which his own people of 

in. 281-88, 456-67. Vandepitte, Saint Basile et 1 origine de com 
plies, Rev. Augustinienne (1903), n. 258-64. 

1 It cannot be proved that Pachomius ordered it in his Rule ; 
cf. however, Besse, op. cit. p. 345. 

Procul recedant somnia et noctium phantasmata. 

3 Ep. 2. 6. * Ep. 207. 3. 



70 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

Caesarea under his direction conducted their vigils. 1 
c Now as to the charge (i. e. of innovation) relating 
to the singing of psalms, whereby my calumniators scare 
more especially the simpler folk, my reply is this. The 
customs which here obtain are agreeable to those of all 
the Churches of God. Among us the people go at night 
to the house of prayer, and in distress, affliction, and 
continual tears, making confession to God, at last rise 
from their prayers and begin to sing psalms. And now, 
divided into two parts, they sing antiphonally with 
one another, thus at once confirming their study of 
the Gospels, and at the same time producing for 
themselves a heedful temper and a heart free from 
distraction. 2 Afterwards they again commit the prelude 
of the strain to one, and the rest take it up ; and so, 
after passing the night in various psalmody, praying 
at intervals as the day begins to dawn, all together, as 
with one heart and voice, raise the psalm of confession 3 
to the Lord, each forming for himself his own 4 expres 
sions of penitence. 

The midnight office of the monks would doubtless 
be modelled upon the practices of the Vigil thus 
portrayed. 

But it is easy to see that in Basil s writings we have 
clear signs of the emergence of the three Night-hours, 
Vespers, Nocturns, and Lauds, from the primitive 
all-night Vigil. Otherwise we should not have had 
separate mention of the meetings for prayer to be 

1 Cf. also Horn, in Ps. cxiv. for an account of a night spent in 
prayer by the people. 2 TO aptrtupiOTov. 

3 Ps. li. 4 No set formula, contr. Vespers. 



THE MONK AT PRAYER 71 

held respectively at evening, midnight, and early 
morning. 

8. In the account of Lauds there is little that 
requires comment, except that special attention seems 
to be called to the very early hour at which the service 
was held. Prime is the morning service which inaugu 
rates the work of the day, whereas Lauds is to be said at 
a time when the day has not yet dawned. It is possible 
also to see in one of Basil s Letters a reference to these 
two services. He there writes : What state can be more 
blessed than to imitate on earth the choruses of angels ? 
to begin the day 1 with prayer, and to honour our Maker 
with hymns and songs ? Then, as the day brightens, 2 
to betake ourselves, with the constant accompaniment 
of prayer, to our labours, and to season our work with 
hymns, as though with salt ? 3 

We can now leave the discussion of Basil s treatment 
of monastic prayers. It could be wished that he had 
left us more definite information on this subject, though 
he has given us enough to see the influence which 
monastic requirements exercised upon the formation 
of the Divine Office. 

It is hardly necessary to state that for Basil prayer 
is not confined to petition. Thus he frequently asserts 
the need for meditation, in which the mind ascends 
to the contemplation of God. 4 The private reading 
of Scripture is recommended as a devotional exercise. 
The study of Holy Scripture is the chief way of 



1 cvOvs fjifv apxofjifvrjs rj/J-epas (is 

2 flra fj\iov xaQapus Sia\&f^avTOs. 

3 Ep. 2. 2. * Ibid. 



72 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

finding our duty, for in it we find not only instruction 
as to right conduct, but also the lives of the blessed 
saints which are set before us as breathing images of 
godly living, that we may imitate their good works. 
Hence, in whatever respect each one feels himself 
to be deficient, by devoting himself to the imitation 
of such men, he finds, as from some dispensary, the 
due medicine for his ailment. l It was for this 
purpose, no doubt, that the M or alia, or Gospel Ethics 
were composed. We learn also that the novice was 
required not merely to read Scripture, but to learn 
passages from it by heart, that he may have full 
assurance in his piety, and may not form his conduct 
according to the traditions of men. 2 

We are not told by Basil whether the monks had any 
other reading. It is very doubtful, indeed, whether 
he would have addressed his Homily Ad adolescentes , 
delegendis libris Gentilium, to his monks, even though 
he there makes the remark, with regard to Socrates, 
Where conduct, as in this case, is so much on a level 
with Christian conduct, I maintain that it is well worth 
our while to copy these great men. 3 While it is 
quite possible that the monks had their appointed 
times of sacred study, yet the idea that the monas 
tery should promote divine learning is nowhere 
made prominent in Basil s ascetic writings. Scrip 
ture is regarded as providing a practical rule of life, 
and is to be obeyed rather than investigated. 4 Yet 
it is important to remember that Basil and his 

1 Ep. 3. 2 Reg. Brev. 95. 3 Chap. 5. 

4 Cf. Reg. Brev. 235 d avptytpti iro\\d tKnavOavtiv c 



THE MONK AT PRAYER 73 

friend Gregory in their monastic retreat composed the 
Philocalia, or selection from the writings of Origen, 
a work requiring a high degree of learned and careful 
study. 1 

Besides meditation frequent reference is made to 
the duty of thanksgiving, and we know that it 
formed a considerable element in the prayers and 
praises of the monastic offices. Basil has also a Homily 
on the subject, 2 while in his M or alia he gives reasons 
from Scripture to prove that we should not keep 
silence as to God s benefits, but should give thanks for 
them . 3 In his Longer Rules he affirms that the 
Apostolic command to give thanks in everything 
is proved by both reason and experience, and that 
the various hours of prayer are so many occasions 
of thanksgiving. 4 

But joined together with the duty of thanksgiving 
is the need for frequent confession of sin. A general 
acknowledgement of transgressions was made, as we 
have already seen, both in the morning and evening. 
But such confession was by no means adequate for 
all cases. Thus Basil lays down that the monk is not 
to conceal his sins from his brother or from himself. 
Every sin must be made known to the superior, 5 
either by the sinner himself, or by those who know of 



1 Cf. R. T. Smith, p. 24 : Origen was the most suggestive 
writer upon Bible subjects then accessible ; certainly not the author 
who would have been chosen if the friends had been losing their 
intellectual vigour or spirit of free inquiry in a dull asceticism. 

2 De Gvatiavum Actione, Op, ii. 4. 

3 Mor. 55. 2. 

* Reg. Fus. 37. 3. 6 



74 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

/it, if they cannot themselves apply a remedy, accord- 
jing to the commandment of the Lord. For the evil 
that is kept secret is like some hidden sickness in the 
soul. As then we should not consider it a kindness if 
some one were to fasten up a deadly disease in our 
body, but rather be grateful to any one who would, 
even at the cost of a painful operation, expose the 
disease, and so either expel it by an emetic, or 
discover some other means of remedy. In the 
same way to conceal a sin, is to help the sinner to 
his death. For it is written, " The sting of death 
is sin." 1 And " Better is open rebuke than secret 
love." 2 Wherefore, a man should neither hide his 
sin from his neighbour, lest he become his brother s 
murderer instead of being his friend, nor indeed from 
himself. For he who doth not amend his ways is 
brother to him that destroy eth him. 3 

Confession, however, is not to be made to any one at 
random, and great care must be exercised in the choice 
of a confessor. 4 For just as men do not expose their 
diseases to every one, but only to those who are skilled at 
applying remedies, so also confession of sins should be 
made to those who can give a remedy, as it is written, 
"Ye that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the 
weak," that is, to remove them by your diligent care. 5 
Elsewhere in the Rules it is laid down that sins are 
to be confessed to those who have been entrusted with 

1 i Cor. xv. 56. 2 Prov. xxvii. 5. 

3 Prov. xviii. 9 (LXX). 

4 When the sisters make their confessions an elder sister is always 
to be present. Reg. Brev. no. 

5 Rom. xv. i ; Reg. Brev. 229; cf. Reg. Fus. 26. 



THE MONK AT PRAYER 75 

the dispensation of the mysteries of God. 1 For so those 
who were repentant are found to have confessed their 
sins to John the Baptist ; and in the Acts, to the 
Apostles, by whom they had all been baptized. 2 It 
has been remarked that this passage is noteworthy as 
being the most explicit evidence in favour of sacramental 
confession preserved for us in the monuments of primi 
tive monastic tradition. 3 There can be no reasonable 
doubt that Basil expected such confession to be made 
to priests. The reference to * the dispensation of the 
mysteries and to the sacrament of baptism would 
seem to be quite conclusive. The prevailing practice 
of the Church in his day was that when confession \ 
was made to an individual it should be made to either 
a bishop or a priest. That the clergy who were to hear 
confessions should be chosen with extreme care is only 
what we should expect. On the other hand there is 
some evidence to show that in certain quarters confession 
to other than priests had been allowed and encouraged. 
Clement of Alexandria, for example, does not confine 
the power of hearing confessions to the priesthood, 
but to the gnostic , or pneumatic . 4 Origen also 
insists very strongly upon the necessity of ~a skilled 
physician for the healing of the soul, though his 
testimony in this matter is far from conclusive. 5 And 
it does not follow that Basil would care to imitate the 
precedent set by Clement. 

1 Cf. i Cor. iv. i. 2 Reg. Brev. 286. 3 Besse, op. cit., p. 209. 

* Cf. Quis dives salvetur, c. 41 ; Strom. 6. 13, &c. 

6 Cf. Horn. ii. in Ps. xxxvii eruditum medicum and satis 
perito medici illius consilio ; but contr. Horn. ii. in Lev. c. 4 
cum non erubescit sacerdoti Domini indicare peccatum suum. 



76 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

Nor was there any reason why the monks of Cappa- 
docia should copy this peculiarity of the Christian 
gnostics of Alexandria. We have already shown that 
monasticism, as adopted for the Church by Basil, was 
not, as had been the case with Montanism, a pneumatic 
movement. 1 

The existence of a charismatic ministry, entitled 
to hear confessions and pronounce absolution, in 
the Basilian monastery, requires further evidence than 
has yet been brought forward. 2 The common prac 
tice of the Church favoured sacerdotal absolution, 
and the monks would be most unwilling to incur 
a reputation for irregularity in their administration 
of the sacrament of penance. 3 The practice which 
arose in the Eastern Church in later times that monks, 
whether in priests orders or not, might hear the con 
fessions of the people was due to an exaggerated 
reverence for the monastic order, and does not prove 
anything as to the practices observed by the monks 
of Basil s day within their monasteries. 4 

There must have been some few priests available, 

1 v.s., p. 2g. 

2 Holl, in his Enthusiasmus und Bussgewalt beim griech. Mdnch- 
thum, pp. 264 f ., argues for the existence of such lay-confessors. But 
his arguments are not convincing and are vitiated by his erroneous 
conception of Basilian monasticism. Although the Monastic Con 
stitutions more than once speak of the spiritual brotherhood , 
rj TrvfVfjLciTiK}) dSeX^oTT/s, Kotvuvia, or avvcupfia, yet such expressions never 
occur in Basil s authentic works. 

3 Jerome says plainly that the power of the keys distinguishes 
the priest from the monk. Ep. 14. 

4 Marin, Les Moines de Constantinople, p. 96, shows that in early 
days the superiors were almost invariably priests. It is probable that 
Basil intended his superiors to be in priests orders, for he ordained 
his brother Peter and set him over the community by the Iris. 



THE MONK AT PRAYER 77 

not only for sacramental confession, but also for the 
celebration of the Eucharist. There are not many 
references to the Eucharist in the Rules, but there 
is enough evidence to show that the monks did not 
neglect the sacrament. Thus Basil discusses the question 
With what fear, or with what assurance, or in what 
frame of mind ought we to partake of the Body and 
Blood of Christ. 1 He also lays down the rule that there 
is to be no celebration in private houses. 2 

But elsewhere he speaks more definitely of the value 
and necessity of the Eucharist for the Christian life. 
In the Moralia he is at some pains to collect the pas 
sages from the New Testament which bear upon this 
question. 3 And in one of his Letters 4 he shows plainly 
with what great reverence he regarded the sacrament, 
and how much he valued frequent participation. The 
Letter is also valuable as showing us the custom of 
the Egyptian solitaries in this matter. Basil writes 
as follows : It is good and beneficial to communicate 
every day, and to partake of the holy body and blood 
of Christ. For He distinctly says, " He that eateth my 
flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life." 5 And 
who doubts that to share frequently in life, is the same 
thing as to have manifold life. I, indeed, communicate 
four times a week, on the Lord s day, on Wednesday, 
on Friday, 6 and on the Sabbath, 7 and on the other 

1 Reg. Brev. 172 ; cf. Reg. Brev. 309. 

2 Reg. Brev. 310 ct XP% tisKowbv olnov -npoffKOfj.i5^v ( = dva(j)opa.v} yivaOai. 

3 Mor. 21. * Ep. 93. 6 John vi. 34. 

6 The Station days ; cf. Tertull. De Oratione, 14. 

7 Cf . Apost. Constit. vii. 27, &c. Duchesne remarks that the Synaxis 
of Saturday was peculiar to the East. Cf. Christian Worship, p. 232. 
The Pachomian monks received communion on Saturdays, v.s., p. 39. 



78 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

days if there is a commemoration of any Saint. It is 
needless to point out that for any one in times of 
persecution to be compelled to take the communion 
in his own hand without the presence of a priest or 
minister is not a serious offence, as experience and 
long custom sanction such conduct. All the solitaries 
in the desert, where there is no priest, keep the com 
munion at home and there partake of it themselves. 
And at Alexandria and in Egypt, each one of the laity, 
for the most part, keeps the communion at his own 
house, and partakes of it when he wishes/ 

Thus we see that, though the monk was a mystic in 
the sense that his one great desire was for union with 
God, yet his mysticism did not lead him to neglect 
the ordinary means of grace as used by the Church 
at large. In the monastic scheme both prayer and 
sacrament 1 could find their rightful place. 

1 With regard to the Liturgy of St. Basil it is difficult to decide 
in what exact measure it is the work of Basil himself, and the ques 
tion does not concern a discussion of his Ascetica. Brightman, in 
his Eastern Liturgies, pp. 522, 525, gives some interesting parallels 
between the Liturgy and Reg. Fus. ii. 3-4, a passage on the reasons 
for our love of God. 



CHAPTER IX 
THE MONK AT WORK 

IDLENESS is a charge that has very frequently been 
brought against the monk. It is therefore important 
to notice that the duty of work is most strongly 
insisted upon by Basil in his monastic instructions and 
recommendations. Although, as we have seen, the 
life of the monk is to be quiet and without distraction 
from the outside world, yet it will demand a certain 
degree of strenuous activity. It is not the aim of the N 
Christian athlete to live a life of ease and repose, but 
of vigorous training and toilsome exercise. Thus Basil 
says, All excuse of idleness is excuse of sin : for we 
must manifest our zeal, as also our endurance, even 
unto death. And it is plain from our Lord s own 
words that the slothful man is convicted of wickedness, 
as well as sloth, for He says, " Thou wicked and sloth 
ful servant ". l 

We have no need to speak of the great evil of 
idleness, for the Apostle plainly asserts that " he who 
does not work, neither shall he eat ". As then each of 
us requires his daily sustenance, so also he must work 
according to his strength. 2 

The hejrnit Q the desert had been inclined to 

7 1 Matt. xxv. 26 ; Reg. Brev. 69. 
2 2 Thess. iii. 10 ; Reg. Fus. 37. 2. 



80 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

consider work as either a mortification of the flesh, or 
a necessity imposed upon him solely by his own bodily 
requirements. In either case it was merely a self- 
regarding obligation. Anthony, however, had set the 
example of work undertaken from other and higher 
motives the duty of providing hospitality for visitors, 
and above all of ministering to the poor. Basil also 
adopts a similar attitude towards work. 

Work, he says, is to be undertaken, not merely 
for the sake of keeping the body under subjection, but 
from love of our neighbour, in order that through us 
God may provide a sufficiency for those of the brethren 
who are in want, after the manner set forth by the 
Apostle in the Acts, when he says, In all things 
I gave you an example, how that so labouring ye 
ought to help the weak." x 

Further, although the Gospel bids us take no 
thought for the necessaries of life, we are not on that 
account to desist from all work. For both our Lord s 
words and those of the Apostle teach us that we are 
not to take thought for ourselves, or to work merely 
for ourselves : but by our Lord s own command it is 
right and fitting to take thought for the wants of our 
neighbour, and so to work with greater diligence. 2 
For thus we shall not be accused of self-love, but shall 
obtain the blessing of the Lord, who says, " Inasmuch 
as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these 
least, ye did it unto me." 3 

The demands made upon the monk s time by prayer 
and devotion are to be fully satisfied, but not at the 

1 Reg. Fus. 37. i. 2 Reg. Brev. 207. 3 Reg. Fus. 42. i. 



THE MONK AT WORK 81 

expense of work. The day is to be so ordered that both 
work and prayer may have their proper place. They 
are not, however, prohibitive of each other. 

Since under pretext of prayer or praise men are 
wont to avoid their work, it must be known that, 
although with regard to certain matters the saying of 
the Preacher, " To everything there is a season," l is 
true, yet for prayer and praise, as for many other 
things, all times are fitting. For while our hands are 
engaged in work, we may with our voices, if it be 
possible, or rather if it serve to the edification of the 
faith, sing praises to God ; or if not, we may praise 
Him in our hearts with " psalms and hymns and 
spiritual songs ", 2 and thus in the midst of our work 
fulfil our duties of prayer. 3 

But granted the necessity and the desirability of 
work, the next question to be asked is, what kinds 
of work, what trades and professions, are most suitable 
for the monk. The general rule is laid down that only 
those occupations are to be allowed which do not 
interfere with or distract the ordered quietude of the 
monastic life. Their materials must be easily procur 
able, and their products such as may be sold without 
undue trouble, so that it will not be necessary for the 
monk to come into frequent or harmful contact with 
either men or women in the outside world. 4 

The labour of the Basilian monk was to be pro 
ductive , in the sense that it was to minister to the 
wants of the community or the needs of the poor, and 

1 Eccles. iii. i. 2 Col. iii. 6. 

3 Reg. Fus. 37. 2. 4 Reg. Fus. 38. 



82 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

not to the luxuries of the individual. In every kind 
of work the same rule of simplicity, utility, and cheap 
ness must hold good. Thus we find that weaving and 
shoe-making are only to be pursued for the sake of 
providing such apparel as is absolutely essential. 
Building, carpentering, smith s work, and agriculture 
are spoken of with favour, as being necessary to the 
conduct of life, and are not to be rejected except when 
they are the cause of disturbances among the brethren, 
or interfere with the regular life of the community, by 
keeping them from their prayers and other religious 
exercises. Agriculture is specially recommended in 
that it provides the necessaries of life, and does not 
involve long journeys from one place to another. 1 

Basil and Gregory, when in Pontus they first em 
braced the monastic life, gave themselves to manual 
labour, and in particular to agriculture. Gregory recalls 
to his friend s mind their struggles with c the garden 
which was no garden and had no vegetables , and 
complains that his neck and hands still bear the traces 
of their labours which they endured in drawing that 
mountainous wagon . 2 But as numbers increased and 
a regular monastery was established by the bank of 
the Iris, it would become necessary to arrange a proper 
system of work for the members of the brotherhood. 
We can gather what were the main principles of that 
system from incidental references in the Rules. 

It is interesting to notice that Pachomius also at first 
gave himself to gardening and other forms of manual 
labour, in order that the monks under his charge might 

1 Reg. Fus. 38. 2 rfiv yfdu\o(pov cifjiaav, Greg. Naz. Ep. 5. 



THE MONK AT WORK 83 

keep their time entirely free for spiritual things. But as 
his followers became more numerous he too was obliged 
to organize the work of his communities. Thus we find 
that there were various houses arranged according to 
trades and presided over by masters who were respon 
sible to the superior of the whole monastery. 

The Pachomian community was thus a kind of labour 
colony in which every variety of work was carried on. 
But in these very large establishments it is possible 
that the tendency to turbulence to which we have 
already referred was in some degree a result of their busy 
industrial life. Hence it is that Basil so strongly and 
emphatically asserts that the labour of the monks 
shall not be such as will endanger the devotional life 
of the monastery. We must give the preference to 
those occupations which do not disturb us, or pre 
vent us from " attending upon the Lord without 
distraction ". l 

In his choice of work the monk was not to be left 
to the mere caprice of his own wishes. The virtue 
of obedience, says Basil, is to be shown by a cheerful 
acceptance of the allotted task. Even if a man be 
specially skilled in some one craft, he is to put obedience 
before all else and do the work that is assigned to him 
by the superior. 2 He is also commanded to keep care 
fully any tools or implements which may be entrusted 
to him, and to remember that although he has the use of 
them, yet they are the common property of the brother 
hood, and are consecrated to the service of God. 3 

1 i Cor. vii. 35 ; Reg. Fus. 38. 

2 Reg. Fits. 41 ; Reg. Brev. 123, 142. 3 Reg. Brev. 143, 144. 

G 2 



84 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

So, too, with regard to women s work, the wool 
which is used for weaving is to be regarded as a sacred 
trust and impartially distributed to the sisters by their 
superior. 1 

It is obvious that since work was obligatory upon 
all, production must often have exceeded the simple 
requirements of the community. The monks did 
not consume all the fruits of their assiduous labour. 
It became necessary, therefore, after due allowance 
had been made for the claims of chanty and hospi 
tality, to dispose of the surplus by sale. This would 
naturally involve occasional contact with the outside 
world. In the coenobitic life, however, the individual 
member was relieved from this responsibility, inasmuch 
as certain persons were officially appointed for the 
purpose. Basil is very careful that all commerce shall 
be under proper supervision. All goods are to be sold, 
if possible, within the confines of the monastic settle 
ment, even at the risk of some pecuniary loss. But 
if it should be necessary to go outside, both customers 
and markets are to be carefully selected. Those who 
are chosen to sell the products of the community are 
to lodge together and not to separate from one another, 
that so they may be protected from association with 
undesirable company, and may join together both by 
night and day in their regular devotional exercises, 
in spite of their absence from the monastery. 2 The 
fairs and markets which are held at the shrines of 
the martyrs are to be avoided, and the monks are 
not to assist in perpetuating such abuses, for our Lord 

1 Reg. Brev. 153. 2 Reg. Pus. 39. 



THE MONK AT WORK 85 

Himself in great indignation cleansed the temple of its 
traffic. 1 

In the conduct of the community life there was 
opportunity for other labour besides that of the field 
or the workshop. There was the obligation of service, 
of domestic duties within the monastery, which would 
afford occupation for a number of persons. The work 
of the kitchen, of attendance at table, and other such 
menial tasks, seem to have been undertaken by all the 
brethren in course. Thus we read : In thy turn of 
service, both by thy bodily toil and thy words of 
comfort show thy love for those upon whom thou 
waitest, that thy service may be acceptable, as being 
seasoned with salt. Suffer not another to perform thy 
task, that thy reward be not taken from thee and 
given to another, and he boast himself in thy riches, 
while thou art humbled. Perform all the duties of thy 
service with carefulness and decency, as serving Christ. 
For " Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord 
negligently". 2 And avoid, as if God Himself were 
thine overseer, the careless neglect which proceeds from 
arrogance and disdain, even though the task before 
thee be but of small account. For serving is a noble 
work, and will procure for thee the kingdom of heaven. 
It is like a net, full of all the virtues, and containing 
within itself every precept of God. 3 

Thus in the Basilian community work was essential 
and obligatory, regulated and organized, dignified, and, 
above all, unselfish. 

1 Reg. Fits. 40 : cf. Reg. Brev. 152. - Jcrem. xlviii. 10. 

3 DC Ren. 9. 



CHAPTER X 
VOCATION AND VOWS 

IN any consideration of the monastic life we must 
necessarily concern ourselves with such questions 
as those of admission, profession, novitiate, and vows. 
When once the rule of life and conduct has been 
formulated, and a practical scheme of administration 
and discipline evolved, the problem which next presents 
itself is, on what terms may applicants be received, 
and is such reception irrevocable, as involving 
a lifelong obligation on the part of the individual 
contracting. It must first be remarked that no one, 
however fervent might be his desire to enter upon the 
monastic life, was allowed to take such a step simply 
and solely on his own responsibility. He was free to 
become a hermit or solitary, whenever he wished, and 
wherever conditions were favourable for such an 
existence. But to become a monk, he must enter 
a community, become a member of a body, and it 
rested with the other members of that body to decide 
whether he should be admitted or refused. 

And so we find that Basil in his Shorter Rules pre 
scribes that all the brethren are to be present at the 
reception of the postulant. The superior has no 
power to receive him without the knowledge and consent 
of the community. 1 But admission was a gradual 



1 Reg. ttrcv. 112. 



VOCATION AND VOWS 87 

process, and required time for its completion. The 
applicant had to be examined and to undergo a period 
of probation before he could be admitted to full 
membership in the brotherhood. In this preliminary 
period there was much to be done : the novice must 
become familiar with the routine of prayer and work. 
He must also learn the full meaning of the renunciation 
which he had made, and of the obligations which he 
had undertaken in his adoption of the religious life. 

In any early monastic endeavour such as that of Basil, 
we shall be disappointed if we look for precise and 
elaborate rules as to the character and duration of the 
novitiate. Monasticism was still, to some extent, in 
its experimental stage, and detailed regulations could 
not as yet be formulated. Experience, however, had 
decided that there should be a very strict investigation 
followed by a considerable time of testing and pro 
bation. Pachomius, for example, made it a rule that 
all applicants must wait seven days as suppliants at 
the door of the monastery, and endure a probation of 
no less than three years. Basil tells us very little as 
to the actual regulations for novices in the monasteries 
of Cappadocia. He gives directions that applicants 
are gladly to be welcomed. Since our Saviour Jesus 
Christ has said, Come unto me, all ye that labour and 
are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, 1 it is dangerous 
to reject those who desire by means of us to draw near 
unto the Lord, and to take upon themselves His easy 
yoke and the burden of His commandments which raises 
us to heaven. 2 But yet they are to submit to careful 

1 Matt. xi. 28. 3 Reg. Fus. 10. 



88 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

examination and a time of rigorous probation before 
they can be received into the ranks of the brethren. 
Inquiry must be made into their past life ; they are to 
make full confession of their sins, and their vocation is 
to be very carefully tested. If a man who has acquired 
some distinction in the outside world desires to be 
admitted to the monastery, he is to be given the most 
menial tasks, in order that he may give full proof of 
his humility. Only when he has passed all the tests 
applied by such as are skilled in these matters is he 
to be included in the number of those who have 
dedicated themselves to the Lord . 1 

Basil lays down, as we have already seen, that the 
novice is to learn by heart passages from the Holy 
Scriptures, as a means of education and training. 2 He 
is also to keep silence, 3 and only to do such work as the 
superior approves. 4 In this connexion it is interesting 
to read what Basil advises in one of his letters, 5 written 
from Caesarea during his presbyterate : 

A certain man, as he alleges, on condemning the 
vanity of this life, and perceiving that its joys are ended 
here, since they only provide material for the eternal 
fire and then quickly pass away, has come to me with 
the desire of separating from the life of misery and 
wickedness, being resolved to abandon the pleasures 
of the flesh, and for the future to tread the road which 
leads to the mansions of the Lord. Now if he is 
firm and sincere in this truly blessed purpose, and has in 

1 Reg. Fus. 10 ; cf. Reg. Brev. 107. 

2 Reg. Brev. 95 ; cf. Reg. Brev. 235-6. 

3 Reg. Fus. 13. 4 Reg. Brev. 105. 
8 Ep. 23, entitled HapaOeriKr) npus p.ova^ovra. 



VOCATION AND VOWS 89 

his soul this glorious and laudable passion, loving the 
Lord his God with all his heart, with all his strength, 
and with all his mind, it is necessary for your reverence 
to show him the hardships and distresses of the 
straight and narrow way, and to establish him in the 
hope of the good things which are as yet unseen, but 
are laid up in promise for all that are worthy of the Lord. 
I therefore write to entreat your incomparable perfection 
in Christ, if possible yourself to mould his character, 
so that, without any help from me, you may bring about 
his renunciation as may be pleasing to God. 

See too that he receive elementary instruction 1 in 
accordance with what has been decided by the Holy 
Fathers, and set forth by them in writing. You will 
take care also that all such things as are essential for 
true discipline may be put before him, that so he may 
be admitted to the ascetic life, having already of his own 
free will entered upon the contests of piety. For thus, 
having subjected himself to the easy yoke of the Lord, 
and by his conduct imitating Him who " for our sakes 
became poor " 2 and took flesh, he may run without 
fail to the goal of his calling, and receive the approbation 
of the Lord. Though he is anxious to receive here in 
this place the crown of his love for God, yet I have 
put him off, because I wish in conjunction with your 
reverence, to train him 3 for such contests, and to 
appoint over him as trainer 4 him whom he may 
select from among you. For such a man will exercise 
him well, 5 and by his constant and blessed care make 



2 2 Cor. viii. 9. 3 dAeffeu avruv 

KO.\&S 



90 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

him a tried wrestler, who will wound and overthrow 
the prince of the darkness of this world, and the 
spiritual powers of wickedness, with whom, as the 
blessed Apostle says, " is our wrestling." l What I had 
wished to do in conjunction with you, let your love in 
Christ do without me/ 

This Letter is important, as showing the great pains 
which Basil took that the vocation of each applicant 
should be tried and tested, and that he should be 
carefully grounded by some elder monk 2 in the duties 
and requirements of the monastic life. Nor is this by 
any means the only place where the need of training 
for the novice is mentioned. In one of the Shorter 
Rules, for example, Basil describes How those who 
have laboured long in the work of God may help those 
who have but recently entered upon it . 3 And in 
his treatise On Renunciation he has a long passage 
addressed to the novice, in which he says, If thou thus 
give thyself to a man of many virtues, thou shalt be 
come heir to the goodness that is in him, and thou shalt 
be blessed above all others in the sight of God and man/ 4 

On the termination of his novitiate the postulant 
was to be admitted to the brotherhood after a formal 
profession, and Basil gives orders that this profession 
is to be made in the presence of reputable witnesses. 5 
The reception of the new brother is to be an occasion 
for joyous thanksgiving and fervent prayer. 6 When 
the youth who has been educated in the monastery 

1 Eph. vi. 12. 

3 The choice is left to the applicant himself. 

3 Reg. Brev. 200. 4 DC Ren. 2-4. 

Reg. Fus. 15. 4. 6 Reg. Brev. 212. 



VOCATION AND VOWS 91 

makes his profession Basil requires that among the 
witnesses of his reception there shall be certain chiefs 
of the Church .* Are we to suppose, then, that the 
clergy played a part at this solemn function ? It is 
quite possible that Basil wished to have the official 
sanction of the Church conferred upon the act of 
profession through which the novice was said to 
dedicate himself as an offering to God . 2 It would 
seem that the ceremony began with a series of questions 
which were put to the novice, after which he made his 
profession in set terms by word of mouth. 3 Hence it is 
probable that a definite formula was used. 

In reply to the question, What kind of profession 
should those who wish to live together the Godlike 
life demand from one another ? the answer is thus 
given : That which the Lord has appointed for all 
them that would draw near to Him, saying, " If 
any man would come after me, let him deny himself, 
and take up his cross, and follow me." 4 These words 
may very well have constituted the actual formula of 
reception to which the novice was required to give 
his assent. 

We have now to consider the character and implica 
tions of the monastic vow. Did Basil intend it to be 
merely a temporary engagement, revocable at the 
wish of him who made it, or was it not rather to be an 
irrevocable and lifelong obligation ? His opinion on 
the subject is clear enough. In his Longer Rules we can 

1 TOW? irpotffTuras TWV tKK\rjffioaf. Reg. Fus. 15. 4. a Ibid. 

3 Ep. 199. Can. 19. 6fio\oyiav evapyf]. 

4 Matt. xvi. 24. Keg. Brcv. 2. 



92 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

read his decision Concerning those who have devoted 
themselves to God, and then try to set aside their 
profession . Any one/ he says, who has been 
received into the brotherhood, and then sets aside his 
profession, must be regarded as sinning against God 
Himself, before whom and to whom he has made his 
vows in profession ; even as it is said, But if a man 
sin against the Lord, who shall entreat for him ? 1 For 
he who has given himself as an offering to God, and 
then betakes himself to another kind of life, is guilty 
of sacrilege, by stealing away himself, and so robbing 
God of His offering. On such a man the brothers will 
do right to close their doors, even if he return for 
shelter after only a short absence. For the rule of the 
Apostle is plain, which bids us separate ourselves from 
him that is disorderly, and have no company with 
him, that he may be ashamed. 2 

It is often asserted that Basil introduced the practice 
of irrevocable vows into the monastic life. 3 It would 
certainly seem that he did his utmost to render the 
obligation contracted by the monk or nun as binding as 
possible, and that he is conscious of introducing a new 
rigour into the practice of the Church in this matter. 
We have only to read his Canonical Letters together 
with the passage above quoted to be convinced that 
this is so. Whatever earlier Fathers of the Church 
may have decreed from kindness and compassion, the 

1 i Sam. ii. 25. 2 Reg. Fus. 14. 

3 So De Broglie, Helyot, Bulteau, and Montalembert. R. T. 
Smith, op. cit. y p. 223, takes the same view. Blomfield Jackson, 
however, doubts whether Basil s rule included formal vows of 
perpetual obligation in the more modern sense , St. Basil, p. lii. 



VOCATION AND VOWS 93 

virgin, says Basil, is to be regarded as the bride of 
Christ, and a chosen vessel dedicated to the Lord. 
If, therefore, she breaks her vow, she is to be punished 
as though convicted of adultery. 1 This principle is ex 
tended to men also. 2 In the early days of monasticism, 
however, before the intervention of the State, it would 
be difficult to enforce such vows. But yet every 
thing is done to impress upon the monk the fact that 
before God his vow is inviolable. He is bound by the 
laws and enactments of the Church, by the force of 
public opinion, and by his own conscience, even though 
the arm of the law cannot reach him. And indeed so 
far as the monastery itself was concerned, the vows made 
by the monk at his profession could not be recalled. 3 

As we have already seen, inclusion in the monastic 
order involved renunciation, continence, and sub- 
\ mission to authority. It is true, then, to say that it 
\\ necessitated poverty, chastity, and obedience. 

A certain degree of stability was also required 
\ of the monk. Basil lays down that he is not to leave 
the community into which he has been received, except 
for some very good reason. If, for example, the evil 
conduct of the brothers in the monastery renders the 
practice of virtue impossible, he has the right to go 
elsewhere. But before he does so, he is to open the 
eyes of the guilty brethren, and more particularly of 
the superior, to the peril of their case. In the event 
of such warning being of no avail, he leaves the society, 
not of brethren, but of strangers. 4 

1 Ep. 199. 18. 2 Ibid. 19. 3 Reg. Fus. 14. 

4 Reg. Fus. 36; cf. Matin, op. cit. pp. 126-7. 



94 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

When once the monastery has been entered, the monk 
is kept closely confined within its precincts. Egress is 
only possible with the express permission of the 
superior, 1 and only those monks are to be allowed 
to leave the monastery whose character is above all 
suspicion. They are to travel in companies, that they 
may the better avoid the temptations of the outer 
world. As they journey, they are to recite the psalms 
and prayers prescribed by their rule. 1 On their return, 
they are to be closely questioned by the superior as to 
the experiences they have met with on their travels. 
The example of the Apostle Peter, and of Paul and 
Barnabas, who gave the Church of Jerusalem an 
account of their doings, is quoted in justification of 
this requirement. 2 

Thus the monk is to have as little contact as pos 
sible with the world and its affairs. Even his own 
parents and relations are not to be allowed to visit 
him. 3 No one is to converse with the brethren, unless 
we are assured that his conversation is for the edifica 
tion and perfection of the soul/ He is only to be 
answered by those monks who are specially chosen for 
the purpose. 4 

The impression produced by these stringent regula 
tions, as also by the irrevocable intention of profession, 
is that Basil wished it to be understood by the monk 
himself, by the Church, and by the world at large, 
that the adoption of the monastic life was a matter 
of the utmost conceivable seriousness. 

1 Reg. Brev. 120. 2 Reg. Fus t 39; Reg. Brev. 311. 

3 Reg. Fus. 32. i. 4 Ibid. 2. 



VOCATION AND VOWS 95 

In fact the monk was to be a man who would take 
seriously both his religion and his vocation. Rome, 
it has been written, died laughing. * But early 
monasticism was so deeply impressed with the wide 
prevalence of sin and misery in the world that it was 
compelled to take a very solemn view of life. Thus Basil, 
who himself possessed a very keen sense of humour, 
gives the order : Seeing that our Lord has condemned 
them that laugh, it is quite plain that for the faithful 
no occasions of laughter are permissible, more especially 
since there is such a multitude of those who through 
their transgression of the law dishonour God, and by 
their sins give themselves over to death. For such 
men we should mourn and lament/ And elsewhere 
he reminds us that although our Lord Himself was, 
as very Man, susceptible to all human emotions, yet 
we are nowhere told that He ever laughed. Joy, but 
not laughter, is the characteristic of the Christian. In 
accordance with this idea the Eastern monks in later 
days are often spoken of as penitents . 2 Monasticism, 
indeed, was an attempt to re-awaken a proper serious 
ness and sense of responsibility in human life and 
conduct. 

1 Salvian, De Gubernatione Dei, vii. 24 populus Romanus moritur 
et ridet. 

2 (AtravoovvTes. Cf . Benedict, Regula, xlix omni tempore vita 
monachi Quadragesimae debeat observationem habere , the life of 
a monk ought at all times to have about it a Lenten character. 



CHAPTER XI 
WOMEN, CHILDREN, AND SLAVES 

IT is needless to say that monasticism was never 
thought of as being a matter which concerned men 
only, but rather as including women, and, in some 
degree, children within its scope. Christianity had 
done much for both women and children, and the 
monastic movement could not leave them out of account. 
In fact Gibbon, when he wishes to sneer at monasticism, 
says that its influence acted most forcibly on the 
infirm minds of children and females . But in the 
same paragraph he mentions that the movement was 
recruited from millions, of either sex, of every age, 
and of every rank , so that his criticism is not really 
worth considering. 1 The fact is that the monastic 
ideal was independent of sex, and, to a large extent, 
of age as well. 

And so we find that Basil s monastic regulations 
and admonitions apply equally well to both men and 
women. In the Longer Rules we have also some 
mention of the relations which are to exist between 
the two sexes in their separate endeavours to lead the 
religious life, while reference is made to the opportunities 
provided by the monastic community for the education of 
children. Some of the Shorter Rules are concerned with 

1 Decline and Fall, chap, xxxvii. 



WOMEN, CHILDREN, AND SLAVES 97 

women only, but their recommendations are not in 
any way contrary to the regulations for men. 

Basil, it is to be remembered, was induced to adopt 
the religious life by a woman, his sister Macrina, so that 
he was not likely to underestimate the monastic value 
of womankind. And in some sense it can be main 
tained that woman was first in the field with regard to 
the celibate and definitely religious life. Before the 
custom of addicting themselves for religious purposes 
to an unmarried life had made much progress in the 
Christian Church among men, it was already in 
vogue amongst women. In the first three centuries 
we find frequent mention of virgins in the Church, 
though they did not form a distinct order until 
early in the fourth century. The order of virgins 
was singled out for special attack by the Emperor 
Julian in his persecution of the Christian Church. 
His assault, however, did not permanently affect the 
popularity of the institution ; for in Basil s second 
Canonical Letter we read that by God s grace the 
Church grows mightier as she advances, and the order 
of virgins is becoming more numerous . l It seems, how 
ever, that there were still many such women who lived 
amongst their families and friends without any other 
obligations than that of chastity, though there was 
a gradual tendency towards incorporation into com 
munities. The life of the monastic sisterhood offered a 
more complete seclusion than was possible amid a secular 
environment. Hence we find that there were many com 
munities of women in Egypt. The sister of St. Anthony 

1 Ep. 219. 19. 
H 



g8 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

presided over one of them, and Pachomius, at Taben- 
nisi, allowed his sister Maria to establish a convent 
of nuns on the opposite bank of the Nile. Discipline 
was sometimes a serious difficulty amongst these 
sisterhoods. Palladius tells us how Dorotheus, the 
superintendent of a convent, used to sit at an upper 
window from whence he could see the inmates and stop 
their quarrellings. 1 The female followers of Eustathius, 
Bishop of Sebaste, gave great offence to the Church 
by their behaviour, while what we may call the Strange 
Case of Glycerius and his Virgins , of which we read in 
Basil s Letters, is not by any means an edifying story. 

A very different picture is presented by the convent 
which Macrina, Basil s sister, had founded at Annesi. 
St. Gregory of Nyssa has left us a very glowing account 
of Macrina and her nuns. Her community included 
her widowed mother, Emmelia, 2 the family servants, 
and many women from the best families in Cappadocia 
and Pontus. Her young brother, Peter, the future 
Bishop of Sebaste, was brought up in the solitude of 
this retreat. 3 

It was Macrina also who persuaded Basil to found his 
monastery on the opposite bank of the Iris, and the two 
separate but adjacent communities became the model 
for his monastic regulations. He had no intention of 
instituting any form of double monastery , and he is 
most careful that, in their relations with the monks, the 

1 Laus. Hist., chap. 32. 

2 It is to be noted that the convents of women were recruited 
both from virgins and widows. Even married women might be 
admitted with the consent of their husbands. Reg. Fus. 12. 

3 Vita S. Macrinae, Op. iii. 971. 



WOMEN, CHILDREN, AND SLAVES 99 

sisters should be under very strict supervision. But 
yet the women are not to be deprived of the advantages 
afforded by the spiritual ministrations of men. Pacho- 
mius had been no less careful in this matter of sex, 
and had ordered that the waters of the Nile must flow 
between his monastery and Maria s convent. Basil 
too_was separated from his sister by the river Iris, but 
his directions are in some respects less stringent than 
those of Pachomius. He gives orders, however, that " 
the monks are not to converse singly with the sisters. 
There must never be less than two persons on either side, 
nor more than three. 1 All occasion of offence must"- 
be avoided, and the concourse must be such as serves 
to the edification of faith. Reason itself tells us that 
it is not fitting for one person to converse singly with j 
another. For it is written, " Two are better than one," 2 
and indeed more trustworthy. " And woe to him that 
is alone ; for if he falleth, there is none to raise him 
up. " 3 

It was sometimes necessary to entrust certain monks 
with the temporal interests of the nuns. This task, how 
ever, was only to be given to men of advanced years, 
of tried character, and of grave aspect, who could 
dispense their words with judgement . 4 

The superior himself must always exercise the greatest 
discretion. He must never on any account enter into 
any conversation, however edifying, with a nun with 
out the presence of her own superior. 5 His interviews 

1 Reg. Fus. 33. 2 Eccles. iv. 9. 

3 Ibid. v. 10 ; Reg. Brev. 220. 

* 2teg. Fus. 33. Cf. Reg. Brev. 154. Reg. Brev. 108. 

H 2 



ioo ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

with the superior of the convent are to be as short and 
infrequent as possible. 1 He is not to override her 
authority by his directions. If he does so, she has 
every right to complain. 2 The great care which Basil 
took that the relations between the monastery and the 
convent should be above all suspicion is exemplified 
in his enactment that when a sister makes her confession 
one of the elder sisters must be present. 3 That there 
was need for such caution is obvious, especially when 
we consider that monasticism was still on its trial, 
and must be most careful of its reputation with both 
Church and world. But yet Basil insists that the 
monastic vocation is open to women no less than men, 
and that the adoption of the monastic life by certain 
of the women of his country is a matter for deep thank 
fulness. In a Letter to the Clergy of Neocaesarea he 
thus writes : 

And if women also have chosen to live the life of 
the Gospel, preferring virginity to marriage, leading 
captive the lust of the flesh, and living in the mourn 
ing which is pronounced blessed, they are blessed 
in their choice, in whatsoever part of the world they 
may be found. 

We, however, have few instances of this to show, 
for with us people are still in an elementary stage 
and are being gradually brought to piety. If any 
charges of disorderliness are brought against the life 
of our women, I do not undertake to defend them. 
One thing, however, I do plainly assert, and that is, 

1 Reg. Brev. 109. 2 Reg. Brev. in. 

8 Reg. Brev. no. 



WOMEN, CHILDREN, AND SLAVES 101 

that these men, with their shameless minds and 
unbridled tongues, are ever in their fearless audacity 
uttering what Satan, the father of lies, has never yet 
dared to say. But I would have you know that we 
rejoice to have assemblies of both men and women, 
"whose conversation is in heaven," "who have crucified 
the flesh with the affections and lusts thereof." They 
take no thought for food or raiment, but ever remain 
undisturbed beside their Lord, continuing night and 
day in prayer. Their lips speak not of the deeds of 
men, but they sing hymns to God without ceasing, 
working with their own hands, that they may have 
to distribute to them that need. 1 

It would be difficult to find a more eloquent eulogy 
of the monastic life, as it applies both to men and 
women, than is here set forth. 

With regard to children and their education it will 
be best to give Basil s own words on the subject, and 
then add any comments which may be necessary. 
In the Longer Rules the question is raised as to the 
age at which professions should be received, and inci 
dentally a good deal of information is given us about 
the educational work of the monastery : Sinte our 
Lord has said, " Suffer the little children to come unto 
me," 2 and the Apostle praises him who from a babe 
had learned the sacred writings, 3 and orders us to 
bring up our children " in the nurture and admonition 
of the Lord", 4 we are of opinion that every age, even 
the very earliest, is suitable for their admission. And 

1 Phil. iii. 20; Gal. v. 24 ; Ep. 207. 2. z Mark x. 14. 

3 2 Tim. iii. 15. * Eph. vi. 4. 



102 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

thus such children as have lost their parents we adopt 
of our own free will, being desirous, after the example 
of Job, to become fathers to the orphans. But those 
who are under the authority of their parents we admit 
in the presence of many witnesses, so as not to give 
occasion to those that seek an occasion against us, but 
rather to stop the mouth of them who speak evil of us. 
And they are to be admitted in the following manner. 
They will not be received at once into the membership 
of the brotherhood, lest they fail in their purpose and 
so bring reproach upon the life of piety. We shall train 
them rather in all godliness, as the common children of 
the brotherhood, assigning them, whether they be boys 
or girls, separate lodging and a separate table. In this 
way they will not show undue boldness or assurance 
before their elders, but rather, by not often meeting 
with them, will preserve a due respect for them. Nor 
when the elder members of the brotherhood are punished 
for the neglect of their duties, as may sometimes happen, 
will the juniors be the more prompted to sin, or feel 
that secret pride in their hearts which may very likely 
come from seeing elder men fail where they themselves 
have succeeded. For he that is young in mind is no 
different from him that is young in age. And so it is 
not to be wondered at if the same sins are often to be 
found in both old and young. Nor is it right that those 
things which older men may do with propriety should 
prematurely and improperly be attempted by the young, 
as the result of too frequent intercourse with their elders. 
And indeed, for this reason, as well as for the preserva 
tion of the general discipline, it is advisable that the chil- 



WOMEN, CHILDREN, AND SLAVES 103 

dren and the regular monks should be housed separately. 
For so the monastery will suffer no disturbance from 
such sounds as may arise from the training and 
teaching of the young. But the prayers which we have 
appointed to be said by day will be common to both 
children and elders. For children often feel compunction 
when they see the zeal of their elders and betters, 
while these may receive no slight help in their prayers 
from little children. But in matters of sleep, vigils, 
times of meals, quantity and quality of food, it is 
fitting that the children should have their own rules 
and customs. And let a monk, well advanced in years, 
and of greater experience than the rest, who has given 
proof of his powers of patience, be set over them, so 
that he may by his fatherly kindness and instructive 
discourse correct the faults of his young pupils, applying 
to each offence its proper remedy ; for thus the fault 
will be duly punished, while at the same time the soul 
will be trained in habits of obedience. Examples of such 
punishments, made to meet the crime, are then described. 
Basil next proceeds to give an outline of the course 
of studies to be pursued : The study of letters must 
also be such as befits the end in view. The children 
will become familiar with the words of Scripture, and 
instead of fables, they will be told true stories of mar 
vellous deeds, and be instructed in the wise sayings 
of the Book of Proverbs. 1 Prizes will be offered for 

1 Cf . Miss Hodgson, Primitive Christian Education, p. 20 : Mr. 
Quick once called the Book of Proverbs an " early treatise on 
education " ; and unusual though the view may be, there is much 
in that wonderful collection of wise sayings to recommend the 
remark as just and justifiable . 






104 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

those who can best remember both words and subjects, 
that our end may be attained with ease and pleasure 
to the children, and without any pain or unpleasantness. 

Those who are educated in this way will soon become 
attentive, and acquire habits of concentration, if they 
are constantly asked by their teachers where their 
attention is, and what they are thinking about. For 
youth, by reason of its simplicity and innocence, and 
of its incapacity for falsehood, will readily confess the 
innermost secrets of the heart. And thus, in order 
to avoid frequent detection in wrongdoing, the child 
will refrain from foolish thoughts and will constantly 
recall his attention from them, because he fears the 
shame of public reprimand. l 

The discussion upon education here ends, and the 
further question of profession is introduced. When 
the children have attained to years of discretion, 2 they 
are to decide whether they wish to embrace the monastic 
life. They are to be under no compulsion in the matter, 
but are to make their own decision. If they wish to be 
professed, their profession must be made in the presence 
of creditable witnesses. At the same ceremony also those 
who have no desire for the monastic life will be solemnly 
dismissed. 3 

On the general subject of education Basil was well 
entitled to give an opinion. According to his friend 
Gregory, he was a most learned and accomplished 
scholar. His galleon was laden with all the learning 

1 Reg. Fus. 15. 1-3. 

2 In the case of girls, at the age of sixteen or seventeen, Ep.igg.i8. 

3 Reg. Fus. 15. 4. 



WOMEN, CHILDREN, AND SLAVES 105 

attainable by the nature of man. l His earliest educa 
tion had been undertaken by his grandmother Macrina. 
He had then gone to school at Caesarea, and had passed 
from thence to the University of Athens. He was 
afterwards invited by the people of Neocaesarea to 
take charge of the education of their young, and he 
tells us himself how he refused their eager solicitations. 2 
It is therefore a fact of great significance that such 
a man should have seen in the monastic community a 
powerful medium of Christian education. 

It is to be remembered that the Church was not the 
only educational force in the time of Basil. Of the 
Roman Empire of that day the remark is true that 
Grammar schools were to be found everywhere, and 
every township of any importance possessed also 
teachers of rhetoric \ 3 Julian, in his propaganda 
against Christianity, drew attention to the fact that 
Christians did not always receive a specifically Christian 
education. He passed an edict forbidding Christians 
to teach ancient literature, unless they first proved 
their honesty and piety by sacrificing to the gods. 4 
This edict was to produce one or both of two results, 
either young Christians must grow up without classical 
education, which was not likely to be their choice, or 
they must go to the schools of the heathen, who would, 
if they did their duty, give them a bias towards 
Hellenism/ 5 It would seem that Basil was quite 
content that the youth in his monasteries should be 

1 Orat. 43. 24. 2 Ep. 210. 2. 

3 Bigg, The Church s Task under the Roman Empire, p. 4. 

4 Julian, Ep. 42. 

5 Glover, Life and Letters in the Fourth Century, p. 69. 



io6 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

brought up without any kind of classical education. 1 
x Their instruction was to be moral and scriptural, 
but no mention is made of the ancient Greek literature. 
This is the more surprising when we remember the 
tone of his Homily on pagan literature, 2 and his own 
exceptional proficiency in classical learning. We can 
only say that, in his ardent devotion to the monastic 
cause, he seems to have set himself in complete revolt 
against both the education and morals of the day. And 
we have also to remember that the scholars in his 
monastery schools were either orphans whose education 
was undertaken from motives of charity, 3 or in many 
cases children who had been admitted in order that they 
might be trained with a view to the monastic life. 

In the latter case it was perhaps natural that pagan 
learning was omitted from the curriculum. It is, 
however, a matter for deep regret that the education 
advocated by Basil should have been so severely 
and exclusively scriptural. Some years later we find 
St. Chrysostom writing to a Christian father as to 
the relative advantages of the public school and the 
monastery as places of education. He acknowledges 
that a classical training is of some value, and that both 
philosophy and rhetoric may be put to good use, while 
he also admits that for the Christian scholar the society 
of his equals in rank and fortune may often prove highly 
beneficial. But at the same time he most strongly insists 
that there are other and more important questions to be 
considered. The true father is he who cares for his son s 



1 Cf. Reg. Brev. 292 ef XP ) ^ aScA^or^Tt iraiStcov PIQJTIKWV civai 
Si5daKa\ov. 2 Op. ii. 22. 

3 It was a free education ; cf. Reg. Brev. 304. 



WOMEN, CHILDREN, AND SLAVES 107 

soul. Though parents are right in desiring that their 
sons should excel in intellectual attainments, yet they 
are not worthy of the name of parent unless they also pro 
vide for the moral education of their children. We may 
choose one of two alternatives, the public school and 
proficiency in worldly knowledge, or the solitude of the 
monastery and the edification of the soul. If the two 
things could be united, I should much prefer it, but 
as this cannot be, let us see that we choose the more 
precious. 1 It was the fear of the bad moral influence of 
pagan literature which tended to alienate the minds 
of serious Christians from such studies, and the Fathers 
of the Church were more anxious for the purity of faith 
and morals than for the cultivation of literature. 

As to the pedagogic methods which Basil recom 
mends, there is little that calls for comment. It is 
interesting, however, to note that great stress is laid 
upon the need of attentiveness 2 in the pupils, just as 
inattention was also to be carefully guarded against 
in the devotions of the monk. 3 Further, it is possible 
that the insistence upon proportionate punishment 4 
and the offering of prizes as a stimulus to industry are 
a reflection upon the harsh punishments in vogue in 
the public schools of the day. 5 

Whatever was the educational value of the monastic 
school at this time, there can be but little doubt that it 

1 Adv. Oppugnatores Vitae Monast. iii. 12-13. 
- 6 TOV /jir) fjUTeupifccrOai eOiff^s. 

3 Reg. Brev. 201-2 TO ap.erf(i)piarov. 

4 Cf. Reg. Fus. 53 and the similar system of punishment for monks 
in Reg. Fus. 51 and Reg. Brev. 81. v.s., p. 55. 

5 Cf. Ausonius, Ep. 22, and Chrysostom, Horn, in i Tim. vi. 



io8 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

must have formed an important recruiting-ground for 
the monastic movement. Many of the children who had 
been thus educated in the monasteries would be attracted 
by the quiet devotional life of the monks, and would 
desire to be professed. 

We have now seen how monasticism included both 
women and children within its scope. But besides 
being independent of sex and also, very largely, of age, 
it showed itself to be superior to all class distinctions. 
Both bond and free 1 were to be admitted to the 
monastic life. Yet the reception of slaves must often 
have raised questions of great difficulty. In his treat 
ment of the problem Basil adopts the same line as 
St. Paul had taken with regard to the slave Onesimus. 
Thus if a runaway slave presents himself at the 
monastery gates, he is to be admonished and sent 
back to his master with a recommendation to mercy. 
As a general rule slaves are not to be admitted without 
their masters consent. 

But there may arise occasions when the obligations 
of morality and the service of Christ take prece 
dence of duty towards an earthly master. If the 
master is a bad man, and gives an order which is 
contrary to law, and so compels the slave to break 
the commandments of his true Master, our Lord 
Jesus Christ, we must endeavour that the name of 
God be not blasphemed through the performance by 
the slave of some action which is displeasing to God. 
And we shall do this either by encouraging the slave 
to bear patiently whatever punishment may fall to 

1 Col. iii. ii. 



WOMEN, CHILDREN, AND SLAVES 109 

him for obeying God rather than man , l or by 
assuring those who have received him that the trials 
which they may endure because of him are well- 
pleasing to God/ 2 The monastic movement, while it 
allowed the slave, under certain conditions, 3 to avail 
himself of the religious life, must also have helped to 
lighten the lot of such slaves as were compelled to remain 
with their masters. It is probable that the monastic 
life, with its insistence upon the universal duty of 
manual labour, did much to raise the position both of 
the working man and the slave. And we can feel sure 
that Basil felt the same horror for the institution of 
slavery which is expressed in the words of his brother 1 
Gregory, How can any one buy and sell him who has 
been made in the image of God ? 4 When the Eastern 1 
monk showed himself to be the friend of the slave he 
was acting according to the true spirit of Christianity. 5 

1 Acts v. 29. 2 Reg, Fus. u. 

3 Mutual consent was also required in the case of married persons. 
Reg. Fus. 12. 

4 Greg. Nyss. Horn, in Eccles. ii. 7. 

5 The Eastern monasteries, unlike those of the West, never 
themselves owned slaves ; cf. Theodor. Cantuar. Poenitentiale, 
viii. : Graecorum monachi servos non habent, Romani habent. 



CHAPTER XII 
FOOD AND CLOTHING 

THOUGH the monk, as a true Christian, was not to 
be over-anxious as to food or raiment, we find that 
a good deal of attention is paid to these subjects in 
most ascetic and monastic writings. And indeed the 
question was one of no small importance. If any degree 
of asceticism was to be attempted, it was necessary that 
both the quantity and quality of food and clothing 
should be carefully regulated in accordance with ascetic 
principles. Hence we find that in Basil s Rules there is 
frequent mention of these matters. But his directions 
are one and all actuated by his ideas as to the place 
and value of ascetic practices in the monastic life. In 
Basil s scheme the monk did not live to abstain, but 
abstained to live. He subordinated the physical to 
exalt the spiritual. In other words, asceticism, as we 
have already had frequent occasion to affirm, was a 
means, not, an end. 



With regard both to food and clothing it is ordered 
that the monks must be guided by the principles of 
necessity, utility, and simplicity. 1 Both self-indulgence 
and ostentation are to be avoided, and the mean is 
carefully to be observed. While excessive abstention, 

1 Cf. Reg. Brev. 70 TTJS xP n * ** T " Utrpov T) airapairrjTos dvayrcrj rrjs 



FOOD AND CLOTHING in 

such as was often practised by the Fathers of the Desert, 
is deprecated, an austere frugality is recommended. 
Yet Basil s directions in these matters, as in all others, 
are characterized by great breadth of outlook. Fasting, I 
for example, is not to be a matter of private enterprise, 
encouraging competition, but an observance to be \ 
regulated by authority as best befits the welfare of the 
whole community. 1 In its purpose and meaning it is 
to be regarded as an exercise of continence or a proof 
of penitence, and not as a mere test of physical 
endurance, or an attempt to gain merit. 

If fasting be carried to such extremes as to make a 
man unfit for the regular work of the monastery it 
is to be condemned as being nothing better than 
selfishness. 2 In all questions of abstinence individual 
circumstances are to be taken into account. There is 
no one rule to include all who practise piety. 3 Age, 
health, work, must all be considered. The superior 
is to see that each has his due share, and is to make 
special regulations where necessary. Sickness and the 
fatigue occasioned by overwork or long journeys 
must be treated with leniency. Each is to receive with 
thankfulness the food assigned to him. 4 

In response to the question Whether all such things 
as are set before us are to be tasted , the answer is 
given : We must insist that for those who strive 
after piety, continence, (or temperance), is indispensable 
for the complete subjection of the body. For " Every 
man that striveth in the games is temperate in all 

1 Reg. Brev. 129, 138. 2 Reg. Brev. 128. 

3 Reg. Fits. 19. * Reg. Fus. 19. 



H2 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

things ". 1 But that we may not be included amongst 
the enemies of God, whose conscience is seared with 
a hot iron, so that they abstain from meats, which 
God hath created to be received with thanks by the 
faithful, all things, as occasion offers, are to be tasted 
by us. Thus all who see us will know that " unto the 
pure all things are pure " 2 and that " every creature 
of God is good, and nothing is to be refused, if it be 
received with thanksgiving. For it is sanctified by the 
word of God and prayer ". 3 And the aim of continence 
is best secured when we use the cheaper kinds of food, 
and such as are necessary to sustain life, and so avoid 
both the sin of gluttony and of eating for pleasure. . . . 
Continence shows us the man who has died with 
Christ, and has mortified his members which are upon 
the earth. We know also that continence is the mother 
of chastity, the friend of health, and the great conqueror 
of all that hinders us from showing forth the fruit of 
good works in Christ. 4 

We gather from the foregoing that eating is to be 
regarded as a necessity and not as a pleasure, and that 
food is to be sustaining but inexpensive. Elsewhere 
we are told that those foods are to be preferred which 
may be found close at hand, and can easily be prepared. 
The example of our Lord is quoted, who fed the multi 
tudes from such small supplies as the disciples could 
procure in the desert place . 5 

The object of food is to make us better workmen for 
God. 6 Excessive eating, no less than excessive absti- 

1 i Cor. ix. 25. a Tit. i. 15. 3 i Tim. iv. 4-5. 

* Reg. 1 us. 1 8. 6 Reg. Fus. 19. 2. b Reg. Brcv. 196. 



FOOD AND CLOTHING 113 

nence, will render the monk unfit for his work, and that 
which was intended to sustain the body will prove to 
be its destruction. 1 In his Letters Basil gives us some 
interesting details as to monastic fare. For a man in 
good health bread will suffice, and water will quench 
thirst ; such dishes of vegetables may be added as 
best serve to strengthen the body for the exercise of 
its functions. 2 Grace is to be said before and after 
meat. There must be a fixed hour for the repast when 
all will assemble. One meal a day was apparently the 
rule. Thus Basil writes : Let there be one fixed hour 
for taking food, always the same in regular course, 
that of all the four-and-twenty hours of the day and 
night barely this one may be spent upon the body. 3 
At meals there was to be reading, which must be 
listened to with greater pleasure than that with which 
we eat and drink, so that our mind may seem in no 
way to be distracted by bodily pleasure, but rather 
to rejoice in the words of the Lord, even as he who 
found them sweeter than honey and the honeycomb. 4 
Voracious eating is condemned, as being both an 
offence to the brethren and also a transgression of the 
Apostle s command, Whether, therefore ye eat, or 
drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 5 
Though in his requirements Basil does not show the 
same rigour as some of his predecessors, yet his ruling 
in these matters cannot be described as lenient. No 
doubt he was conscious that his practice was much 

1 Reg. Fus. 19. 2. 2 Ep. 2. 6. 

3 Ibid.; cf. Reg. Brev. 136. * Ps. xviii. n ; Reg. Brev. 180. 

5 i Cor. x. 31 ; Reg. Brev. 72. 

I 



U4 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

less austere than that of the Egyptian or Palestinian 
monks. In comparison with the perfect, 1 he says, 
we are but children/ x Yet, when all allowances are 
made, it cannot be said that his regulations are other 
than severe. 

A frugal meal once a day would seem to satisfy all 
the demands of a rigorous asceticism. Experience 
showed that such abstinence was for some of the 
monks a great hardship. Although in the case of 
Egypt it is not unreasonable to urge that the warm 
climate made it possible to exist on very little food, 
yet the Cappadocian winter can never have given much 
encouragement to ascetic practices. Nor can it be 
said that the native of Cappadocia or Pontus did not 
know what comfort was, and so could easily dispense 
with it. Basil s Homilies reveal a very different state 
of things. Some of the monks and nuns were drawn 
from the leisured classes, and the change from a life 
of luxurious ease and plenty to the austerity and 
extreme frugality of the monastery would often prove 
to be a matter of some difficulty. 

In this connexion it is interesting to read the long 
diatribe against gluttony which occurs in the treatise 
On Renunciation. From Adam onwards the cunning 
snare of food has been the Devil s chief stratagem. 
The man who eats secretly, 2 and is addicted to 
snacks 3 is singled out for special reprobation. I 
have seen many who were rescued from the power of 
sin and restored to health, but not one of them was 
a secret eater or a glutton. These either deserted the 

1 Ep. 207. 2. * o \a0po(f>dyos. 8 fuitpq. ycvatt. 



FOOD AND CLOTHING 115 

life of continence, or endeavoured to remain undetected 
amongst their brethren, where by their indulgence they 
proved themselves to be the fellow-soldiers of the 
Devil. * 

We learn from the Rules that the supply and dis 
tribution of food was presided over by an official 
specially appointed for the purpose. Though the 
superior was the ultimate source of authority in all 
other matters, yet in this department he delegated his 
powers to the cellarer, or steward. 2 Mention is made 
more than once of this official, whose task was of no 
small importance, inasmuch as he was responsible, 
not only for the physical comfort, but also for the 
temporal prosperity of the community. Directions are 
given that he is not to exercise his powers arbitrarily, 
but to do his work with a loving consideration for the 
brethren, attending equally to the wants of all without 
any suspicion of partiality. 3 He is to be given an assis 
tant who will take his place, should need arise. 4 The 
duties of the cellarer are not to be undertaken by the 
monks in turn, as was the case with certain tasks of 
less responsibility. 5 Basil s description of the cellarer 
is very closely followed by Benedict in his Rule. 6 
The office must have required a man who could 
combine a high degree of business capacity with a 
kindly and impartial sympathy for those under his 
care. Such men, if they did their duty, would form 

1 De Ren. 6. 

2 6 7re/>t T& epyov rov Kf\\apiov. Reg. Brev. 147. 6 oiKovopwv Reg. 
Brev. 149. 

3 Reg. Fus. 34. 2. Reg. Brev. 156. 
5 Ibid. 6 chap. xxxi. 

I 2 



7 



n6 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

at once an admirable example for the Church, 1 and an 
agreeable contrast to the officials of the imperial 
government. 

On the subject of clothing it is first to be noticed that 
Basil decides in favour of a distinctive dress for the 
monk. In doing so he could not claim to be original, 
since some form of monastic habit would seem to be 
as old as monasticism itself. And in Asia Minor the 
monks of Eustathius were distinguished by the 
coarse cloak, the girdle, and the shoes of untanned 
hide , as Basil himself tells us. 2 In writing to his 
friend Gregory he also gives us a description in some 
detail of what he considers to be the proper clothing 
for the monk. From the humble and submissive 
spirit comes an eye sorrowful and downcast, appear 
ance neglected, hair rough, dress dirty ; so that the 
demeanour which mourners are at pains to assume may 
seem to be our natural condition. The tunic should be 
fastened to the body by a girdle, the belt 3 not going 
high above the waist, like a woman s, nor left slack, so 
that the tunic flows loose, like an idler s. The one aim 
of dress is that it should be a sufficient covering alike 
in summer and winter. As to colour, avoid brightness, 
and in material, that which is soft and delicate. To aim 
at bright colours in dress is to be like those women 
who try to beautify themselves by giving their cheeks 
and hair an unnatural hue. The tunic ought to be 
thick enough not to want other help to keep the body 

1 At the Council of Chalcedon it was ordered that every bishop 
should appoint a steward for the management of Church property. 
Can. 26. 

2 Ep. 223. 3 Cf. Reg. Fus. 23 Uepl rrjs 



FOOD AND CLOTHING 117 

warm. The shoes should be cheap but serviceable. In 
a word, what one has to regard in dress as in food is the 
necessary/ 1 This agrees with what is said in the Rules, 
though they are somewhat more moderate in tone, 
possibly as the result of some years of experience. In 
answer to the question, What is the modest apparel 
prescribed by the Apostle ? Basil replies as follows : 
That which best and most properly answers to the needs 
of each, and takes into account season, locality, persons, 
and circumstances. For reason itself demands that 
there should be different clothing in summer and winter, 
and that the workman should not wear the same kind 
of clothes as he who is not working, or the server as he 
who is served, or the soldier as the civilian, or the man 
as the woman/ 2 

The monk is not allowed to have one garb for work 
and another for show. The same clothing will serve 
both for night and day. Since all the brethren 
have one end in view, namely, the religious life, uni 
formity in dress is desirable. 3 In each monastery 
there is to be an official whose special duty it will be 
to dispense clothing to the members of the community. 4 
He is entitled to give out warm clothing if the rigours 
of the winter so require. No member is allowed to 
dispose with his old garments on his own authority. 5 
Clothing which is made of hair is only to be worn as 
a penance. 6 Basil makes the subject of misfits an 
occasion for a short exhortation. If the garment is 

1 Ep. 2. 6. 2 Reg. Brev. 210. 

3 Reg. Fus. 22. 1-2. * Reg. Brev. 87. 

6 Ibid. Reg. Brev. go. 



nS ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

too small or too large for the wearer, let him make 
known his wants with becoming modesty. But if 
his complaint be that it is too poor, or not new enough, 
let him remember the words of the Lord, " The 
workman " and not every man " is worthy of his 
sustenance." l And let him ask himself whether he has 
done any work which is worthy of the commandments 
of the Lord, or of His promises, and then he will not ask 
for other clothing, but will be anxious lest he is receiving 
that which is beyond his deserts. For what has already 
been said with regard to food must be regarded as 
a rule in all things that concern our bodily needs. 2 
Elsewhere it is ordered that the monk is not to aim at 
a becoming simplicity in his apparel. 3 

The picture of the monk with his ragged and dirty 
habit, worn both by night and day, is very far from 
attractive to the modern reader. But we have to 
remember that this very unattractiveness had its uses. 
It testified to the sincerity of the monk who was 
content to discard all ornament and dispense with 
every comfort as a protest against the luxurious habits 
of the day. 

We are told that the Emperor Julian by the affected 
filthiness of his personal appearance wished to show 
his admiration for the old philosophers. 4 So too by his 
dress and demeanour the monk was to be a living 
advertisement for the Christian philosophic life . 
Thus Basil remarks in his directions as to the monastic 

1 Matt. x. 10. 2 Reg. Brev. 168. 

3 TO (VT(\f?) Iva. irpeirri aura). 

* Pullan, Church of the Fathers, p. 266. 



FOOD AND CLOTHING 119 

\\ 

habit : t{ This peculiarity of dress is of great use, inas 
much as it proclaims the wearer, and testifies to his 
profession of the Godlike life. For indeed, those we 
meet will require from us such behaviour as is congruous 
with our habit. For improper or unseemly conduct is 
not so noticeable in an ordinary individual as in one 
who makes great pretensions. Thus when some common 
or quite unknown person engages in street brawls, or 
gives vent to bad language, or passes his time in 
taverns, or misbehaves himself in some such way, no 
one takes much notice, but regards these things as 
merely the natural events of everyday life. But suppose 
that a man who has undertaken the life of perfection 
commits some small blunder, all notice it at once, 
and reproach him with it, as it is written, " they will 
turn again and rend you." l In this way the special 
habit of the professed is in itself a means of education 2 
for the weaker brother, since it keeps him from mischief 
even against his will. And just as the soldier, the 
senator, and others each have their own particular 
uniform from which we can tell their rank, so also the 
.^.Christian ought to have his own special dress/j It 
would seem, then, that although the cowl could not 
make the monk, 4 it might help to keep him constant 
to his ideal. 

1 Matt. vii. 9. a ircuSaycafia TK Ian. 

3 Reg. Fus. 22. 3. * v.s. p. 3. 



CHAPTER XIII 
HOSPITALITY AND CHARITY 

IN his material requirements the monk had not only 
himself to consider. It was natural that from time 
to time he should have visitors, while the poor would 
be sure to come to him for help in their necessities. 
Hence we find that hospitality and charity are ques 
tions to which early monastic writers gave considerable 
attention. 

To the Oriental hospitality was not so much a virtue as 
an instinct. To the Christian it was a duty sanctioned 
both by the practice and precept of Holy Scripture, 
being illustrated by the Old Testament, and directly 
commanded in the New. To the monk it was an 
obligation faithfully to be observed, but at the same 
time regulated and controlled in accordance with 
the monastic ideal of undistracted devotion to God. 
Basil, as we might expect, attaches great importance 
to a proper practice of hospitality. In the Moralia he 
gives the Scriptural reasons why we should receive 
guests with frugality and without disturbance . Our 
Lord used only five loaves and two small fishes when 
He fed the multitudes, while He rebuked Martha for 
her much serving .* In the Rules he treats the 
subject at some length. It is only necessary to give 

1 Mor. 38. 



HOSPITALITY AND CHARITY 121 

the substance of his remarks. It must be noticed that 
he is always most anxious for the reputation of his 
monasteries. Visitors, for example, are not to go away 
with an impression that the monks live in luxury. 1 If a 
guest does not care for the entertainment provided, he 
need not come again. Suppose that a stranger comes to 
us. If he is a brother, and leads the same life, he will not 
object to having the same table. For he will only find 
what he has left at home. . . . But if he is of the world, 
he will learn from our deeds that which words could not 
teach him, and will see a practical example of frugality 
with contentment. He will go away with a recollection 
of true Christian fare, and of poverty endured without 
shame for Christ s sake. If, however, he is not thus 
impressed, but is disposed to ridicule our doings, he 
will not trouble us a second time. 2 

The entertainment of guests is the affair of the 
community, and not of the individual. It is, therefore, - 
necessary that the superior himself shall receive them. 
In his absence another monk is to be chosen to fulfil 
this duty. The superior will conduct the conversations 
with the visitors, and will answer any questions that 
they may ask. No brother is to be allowed to correct 
the superior in his answers, but may make suggestions 
to him in private. 3 The arrival of a visitor is not to 
interrupt the work or devotions of the monastery, 
except in cases of the most urgent necessity. 4 All 
guests, whether monks or laymen, are to be invited 
to share in the prayers of the community. The 

1 Reg. Fus. 20. 1-2. 2 Ibid. 

* Reg. Fus. 45. * Reg. Brev. 313. 



122 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

only stipulation made is that they shall be c friends 
of God . l Monastic hospitality may not always have 
been entirely disinterested, and the reception of 
visitors would often prove an effective method of 
propaganda. Thus in the Shorter Rules the question 
is discussed Whether anyone who wishes to avail 
himself of the monastery only for a short time, is to 
be allowed admission ? Basil s decision is as follows : 
It is right to give him admission, even though the 
result may be doubtful. For perhaps he will be 
benefited by his short stay, as not infrequently 
happens, and become completely enamoured of our 
life, when he has made full proof of our discipline, and 
has found it to be very different from what he had 
suspected. 2 In all ages the invitation to come and 
see may often prove the most satisfactory refutation 
of the opponents of monasticism. 

Our Lord Himself has shown us that the highest 
form of hospitality is to bid the poor, the maimed, 
the lame, the blind . 3 From the very first the monk 
recognized the duty of such care for the poor. He 
claimed to lead the Apostolic life , and both the teach 
ing and example of the Apostles encouraged him in 
his charitable intentions. It might of course be urged 
that one who had vowed himself to poverty had 
nothing to give, but the great object of his renunciation 
had been that it might enable him to give to the 
poor . 4 The needs of the brotherhood and its various 
communities had, of course, to be considered, but they 

1 Reg. Brev. 312. a Reg. Brev. 97. 

3 Luke xiv. 13. * Mark x. 21. 



HOSPITALITY AND CHARITY 123 

were not the only consideration. We have already 
noticed, in our discussion on monastic labour, 1 that 
Basil requires the monk to work, not merely as a cure 
for idleness, but also that he may have whereof to give 
to him that hath need . 2 The monk was not to escape 
the ordinary obligation of the Christian to deeds of 
charity, but rather to make his love of the poor a proof 
of his great devotion to God. The Church had already 
set him a grand example in her practice of almsgiving, 
and the poor were still, no doubt, the Altar of the 
Church . 3 But yet we find in Basil s Homilies many 
signs of a tendency in certain quarters to neglect 
this duty. He complains of the rich that they cover 
the bareness of their walls with tapestries, and do 
not clothe the nakedness of men. They adorn their 
horses with rich and costly trappings, and despise their 
brothers who are in rags/ 4 In fact his denunciations 
are so severe that he has been claimed as a Socialist 
who denied all rights of property. 5 Though such a 
claim is made quite wrongly, 6 yet Basil s forcible 
language does show that a strong reminder of the 
duty of charity was needed. The monastery might 
well seek to remedy the shortcomings of ordinary 
Churchmen in this matter. 

Further, the economic conditions of life under the 
imperial administration always left a large scope for 
private charity. And it would seem that in Basil s ^\ 

1 v.s. p. 59. a Eph. iv. 28 ; Reg. Fus. 37. i. 

8 Polycarp, Ep. ad Phil. 4, of the widows supported by the Church. 
4 Horn, in Divites, 4. 6 So Nitti, Catholic Socialism, p. 67. 

6 Cf . Reg. Brev. 92 ; where he points out it is not the mere posses 
sion of goods which is wrong but their abuse. 



124 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

time there was more than ordinary necessity to come 
to the help of the poor. Though free labour was largely 
on the increase and there was a corresponding shrinkage 
in the number of slaves, yet the condition of the working 
classes was very far from prosperous. Taxation and 
usury both sent their victims to swell the ranks of the 
destitute. There was need of some exceptional effort 
to remedy this state of things. The Emperor Julian 
endeavoured to relieve the prevailing distress by means 
of legislation, and converted Church custom into civil 
law, complaining that humanity and philanthropy 
were only to be found amongst Christians. Valens 
also attacked the difficult question of taxation, but 
the problem was beyond his powers. As bishop, Basil 
had to undertake the care of the poor in his diocese, 
and we frequently find him intervening in cases of 
excessive taxation. In time of famine also he came 
to the rescue of the distressed, so that Gregory calls 
him a second Joseph \ l But the ordinary diocesan 
administration of relief was probably insufficient for 
the mass of poverty which was everywhere to be found. 
Hence it was to the monks, with their vows of poverty 
and their obligation to charity, that men looked for some 
help in the solution of this problem. The monastery did 

r indeed offer one way out of the difficulty. To the rich 
man who embraced the monastic life it gave an escape 
from * the deceitfulness of riches , while his money and 
possessions could be devoted to a worthy cause. It is 
probable that the insecurity of property at this time 
would in some cases make the renunciation of worldly 

1 Or. 43. 36. 



HOSPITALITY AND CHARITY 125 

goods less irksome. A man of business also might 
welcome the peace and rest of a monastery after the 
bustle and uncertainty of industrial life. 1 To the 
struggling working classes the monastery offered a 
secure and quiet life such as they could not enjoy 
elsewhere. To the slave, on the other hand, it could 
give the opportunity for free labour, in addition to 
the blessings of independence and social equality. But 
all this presupposes the definite profession of the 
monastic life. It may, therefore, be objected that the 
monastic movement attempted to cure economic evils 
by running away from them, and that the monk s 
cell provided a last refuge for those who had despaired 
of the state . This is very far from the case. The 
monastic movement, besides being in itself a social 
experiment on strictly communistic lines, made an 
honest endeavour to correct in the world at large the 
results of an economic system which it could not alter. 
The monasteries became recognized centres for the 
distribution of relief. Nor was it always necessary to 
embrace the monastic life in order to help on this social 
work. The gifts and bequests of the faithful would be 
welcomed gladly by the monasteries, who could dis 
tribute them to those who were in real need. The 
bishop 2 had hitherto been the official guardian of the 
poor, but the monks were better able to give time and 

1 Cf. Ep. 2. 2, on the trials of men in the world with their mis 
fortunes in trade, quarrels with neighbours, lawsuits, the risks of 
the merchant, the toil of the farmer. Each day as it comes darkens 
the soul in its own way . 

2 The bishop s methods were too often those of the imperial 
largesse. 



126 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

care to the matter. We find that Basil lays down certain 
definite principles which are to guide the monks in their 
administration of charity. The individual monk was 
not to be allowed to give anything to the poor on his 
own responsibility. A special official was to be appointed 
to preside over the distribution. There was to be 
no indiscriminate giving, but carefully organized 
charity. 1 Basil s words on this subject are worth 
quoting, Since our Lord has declared that "it is not 
good to take the children s bread, and cast it to the 
dogs ", and yet has also approved the saying " even the 
dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master s 
table ", 2 the brother who has been appointed for the 
purpose will distribute only after careful investigation. 
And let any one who does anything contrary to his 
decision be punished as disturbing the discipline of 
the community/ 3 

We can also gather what was Basil s teaching on 
this matter from the letter of a friend, in which 
4 the very godly bishop is described as uttering 
the following sentiments : Experience is needed in 
order to distinguish between cases of genuine need 
and those of mere greedy begging. For whoever gives 
to the afflicted gives to the Lord, and from Him shall 
have his reward ; but he who gives to every vagabond 
casts to a dog, a nuisance indeed from his importunity, 
but deserving no pity for his plea of poverty. 4 

But besides the relief of the poor there was another 
sphere in which Basil wished the monastery to show its 

1 Reg. Brev. 101. 298. 2 Matt. xv. 26-27. 3 Reg. Brev. 100. 
4 Bas. Ep. 1 50 : entitled A/-i</>tA.ox<V &s napa Hpaic\ci5ov. 



HOSPITALITY AND CHARITY 127 

usefulness, namely, the care of the sick. Basil himself, 
as a chronic invalid, would have great sympathy with 
such a work. In his youth he had acquired some 
proficiency in medical science, and would so be able 
to take a professional interest in the matter. In 
his Longer Rules he is at some pains to prove that 
4 the practice of medicine is in accordance with the aim 
of piety . 1 Various arts and sciences, he declares, 
have been given to man by God out of sympathy for 
his weakness. Agriculture, for example, was granted 
him to supply his bodily needs after the Fall. So too, 
medicine was given to lighten the effects of his curse. 
But medical treatment must be as simple as possible, 
and only used when need so requires. We are not to 
put our whole trust in medicine. Christ Himself some 
times healed immediately, at other times mediately ; 
so we also may be healed sometimes suddenly and 
invisibly , but at other times by material means. 
Disease may be either a punishment or a temptation 
at Satan s request. St. Paul was afflicted to prevent 
him from being more than human, as is shown by the 
incident of the Lycaonians. 2 We must not think that 
medicine is the prime cause of restored health, but 
rather the goodness of God. But just as we use agri 
culture, though it is God who gives the increase , 
so also though it is only God Himself who can heal, 
we may still make use of the science of medicine. 

We are not here concerned with the origin of hospitals 
as charitable institutions for the reception of the sick 
or infirm. It would seem that by the time of Julian 

1 Reg. Fus. 55 ; cf. Reg. Brev. 140. * Acts xiv. 12. 



128 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

the Christian Church was well known for her activities 
in this direction, and the restored paganism was to 
imitate the impious Galileans by the erection of 
numerous hospitals. 1 We possess a good deal of 
information as to the hospital which Basil as bishop 
built for his people at Caesarea. Gregory describes it 
as the new city , 2 while Sozomen speaks of the 
Basileias, that most celebrated hospice for the poor, 
founded by Basil from whom it received the name which 
it still bears . 3 We are also told by Gregory that Basil 
himself frequently visited his hospital, and that there 
were many lepers among its inmates. 4 He received much 
assistance from the monks who came to the support 
of their bishop in this great charitable work. It would 
seem that there were other such hospitals in his 
diocese, 5 and we know also that Eustathius had a 
similar institution at Sebaste, presided over by Aerius, 
the famous heretic. 6 It is probable that from the very 
first the monastery and the hospital were very closely 
connected no doubt to their mutual advantage. In 
one of the Shorter Rules reference is made to the 
care which was taken of the sick by the monks. Some 
of the patients, it appears, were men of doubtful 
character and inclined to be unruly. Thus the question 
is asked, Since we who minister to the sick in the 

1 Cf. Sozomen, EccL Hist. v. 16. Julian, Ep. 49. 

2 Or. 43. 63. Ramsay, The Church and the Roman Empire, p. 264, 
says that the new city caused the gradual concentration of the 
entire population of Caesarea round the ecclesiastical centre, and 
the abandonment of the old city . 

3 Eccl. Hist. vii. 34. * Or. 43 ; ibid. 
5 Presided over by Chorepiscopi, Epp. 142, 143. 

8 Epiphanius, Adv. Haer. 75. 



HOSPITALITY AND CHARITY 129 

hospital are taught to treat them as brethren of 
the Lord, how ought we to treat one who is not 
of such a character . Basil briefly answers that 
he is to be admonished by the Superior, and if he 
persists in his evil conduct he is to be expelled from 
the hospital . 1 

From this short review of the charitable activities 
of the Basilian monks we are justified in maintaining 
that Basil did not mean the monastic life to be one of 
devout selfishness. It cannot be said that the monk 
was not intended to make himself either agreeable 
or useful in this world \ 2 He was to be not only 
the Christian gentleman, 3 but also the Christian 
philanthropist. 

Finally, it is to be noticed that in the midst of such 
zealous care for the material welfare of the sick and 
poor, their spiritual needs were not forgotten. The 
poor had the Gospel preached unto them 4 in this 
re-awakening of Christian energies. The monk by his 
freedom from worldly cares was well equipped for such 
apostleship . Basil himself set an admirable example 
in the matter, for we read that through his missionary 
efforts in a short space of time the face of the 
whole province was changed . 5 In fact the monastic 

1 Reg. Brev. 155 ; cf. also Reg. Brev. 286, as to whether a sick 
monk is to be received into hospital (tis vo8ox*iov) . The Hospital 
at Caesarea is spoken of as TO TTTojxorpo^fiov, with its jwvj^"?, cr chapel. 
Epp. 150, 176. 

2 Gibbon, Decline and Fall, chap, xv, of the Early Christians. 

3 v. s., p. 4. * Matt. xi. 5. 

5 Rufinus, Eccl. Hist. ii. 9 Basilius Ponti urbes et rura circumiens 
. . . ita brevi permutata est totius provinciae facies, ut in arido 
campo videretur seges fecunda, ac laeta vinea surrexisse. 

K 



130 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

movement was provided with every possible method 
of evangelization. The education of children, the 
exercise of hospitality, the relief of the poor, the care of 
the sick, were all so many outlets through which the 
quickening of the devotional life might make a lasting 
impression upon the world at large. 



CHAPTER XIV 
CONCLUSION 

WE have now briefly to consider the results of our 
investigation. The first observation to be made is that 
what seems to be the most striking characteristic of 
Basil s scheme is its comprehensiveness. The monastic 
ideal is set before us in all its fullness, and with all its 
implications. Basil would have us see that the subject 
is neither unimportant nor uninteresting. He himself 
realized that the appearance of the monastic movement 
was a matter of great moment for the Christian Church. 
Hence in his writings he examines the whole question 
of monastic theory and practice with great care. He 
investigates the doctrinal basis of the monastic ideal, 
and finds it to be scriptural both in origin and intention. 
He fixes the centre of the monastic life in the religious 
instinct, in the love of man for God, and the desire for 
union with Him. The method for the attainment of 
such union is the ascetic way of renunciation and 
self-denial, involving also discipline and obedience, 
work and prayer. The best environment for the 
purpose is that of the community. The scope of 
the monastic life includes all classes, both sexes, and, 
in some degree, all ages. Its great obligations are not 
to be undertaken without a most sure conviction of 
vocation, while its principles extend to every depart - 

K 2 



132 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

ment of life and conduct, even to small details of food 
and clothing. Further, the monastic ideal is social 
in implication, and involves the exercise of both 
hospitality and charity. We cannot but acknowledge 
that this is a grand picture of the religious life in all its 
varied activities which Basil sets before us. We have, 
however, to ask the question, has it ever been realized ? / 

The evidence. of history is ..at j&rst^ight. unsatisfactory. 
Though Eastern monasticism is everywhere Basilian 
in name and form, so that there are no separate 
monastic orders in the East, and the modern Orthodox 
monasteries are very little different from those of 
the fourth century, yet in spirit it is, in most cases, very 
far from the Basilian ideal. The Eastern monk would 
seem to have reverted to the monasticism of the Fathers 
of the Desert. 1 There is much prayer and recitation of 
immoderately long offices, and also much fasting, but 
the claims of both industry and charity have been 
neglected. Though monasticism holds a very important 
place in the Orthodox Church, since all the higher 
clergy are recruited from its ranks, yet it appears to be 
stagnant and ineffective. The Eastern monk claims 
that, like the great Father, he leads the Gospel life, 2 
but none the less he is not the power for righteousness 
that Basil intended him to be. The fact is that the 
monks of the East, while they have throughout 
their history professed Basilian principles, and have 
everywhere adopted, amplified, and interpreted his 

1 Cf. Fortescue, The Orthodox Eastern Church, p. 354. 

2 Ibid. p. 355 : They all follow the rule of St. Basil, but they 
are indignant if one calls them Basilians. They do not belong to 
St. Basil s order, they explain, but St. Basil belonged to theirs. 



CONCLUSION 133 

Rule, 1 have not been true to the whole of his teaching. 
They have forgotten his warnings against laziness and 
selfishness, and have failed to see with their master 
that the monastic ideal is social as well as devotional, 
practical as well as contemplative. It is lawful to 
conjecture that, had they been more truly Basilian, 
they would have done more for their Church, though it 
would be difficult to maintain that she would have been 
better without them. 

But both West and East have felt the influence of 
Basil. Benedict advises his monks to read the Rule 
of our holy Father Basil , and includes it amongst 
the instruments whereby well-living and obedient 
monks may attain to virtue/ 2 And as we read Benedict 
we see how much he owed to his predecessor in the 
composition of his Rule. It was through him that Basil 
proved to be a light , not only of Cappadocia and the 
East but also of the whole world . 3 And in a sense 
it was the monks of the West who most fully carried 
out Basil s ideals. Monasticism, like Christianity 
itself, has had its origins in the East and its finest 
developments in the West. The Western monks had 
to apply Basilian principles to the conversion of new 
nations. This saved them from a stagnation such as 
befell their Eastern brethren. It was thus in the struggle 
with the pagan barbarism of the West that the spirit 
of Basil found its truest expression. 

This is not the place to discuss at any length the 
general question of the value of the monastic life, with 

1 e.g. the Constitutiones of Theodore, and the Novellae of Justinian. 

2 Regula LXXIII. 



134 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

its mystical aim and ascetic practice. But it is necessary 
in any treatment of a subject which concerns asceticism 
to remember that what is not of value for all may yet 

J be of value for some. The Gospel theory of asceticism, 
which Basil followed, was that the special renunciation 

^/of the ascetic life is for him only who can receive it > . 1 
It is manifestly unfair to condemn the ascetic ideal 
off-hand, merely because it is not capable of universal 
J application. 2 It need hardly be said that, if the race 
of men is to continue, all cannot be monks or nuns. 
But to argue, therefore, that no one ought ever to 
embrace the monastic life is illogical and absurd. 

y To regard monasticism as the only serious form of 
Christianity is entirely foreign to the true Christian 
spirit, and the attempt to force the ascetic ideal upon 

^ the whole clergy of the Church was not only a failure 
but a disaster. Yet we cannot on that account refuse 
the monastic life a place within the Church. It is true, 
indeed, that all real Christianity involves in some 
degree the practice of asceticism, for the Gospel 
teaches us that self-realization is achieved only through 
self-denial and self-sacrifice. 3 But that is not all. There 
may be some who feel called to devote themselves 
to the service of God, and find that such service is 
only possible for them in the monastic life. There must 
always be men of violence 4 who will take the Kingdom 
of God by storm, when other methods are of but 

1 Matt. xix. 12. 

2 Cf. H. Black, Culture and Restraint, chap, viii, The Failure of 
the Ascetic Ideal. 

3 Mark viii. 35 : Whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and 
the gospel s, the same shall save it. * Matt. xi. 12 (R.V.). 



CONCLUSION 135 

little avail. That there have been many such men and 
women in the past, the history of monasticism plainly 
shows. They have been saints whose example and 
influence has leavened the whole Church. And we 
cannot maintain that the need for them has passed 
away. It is doubtful, indeed, whether any Church in 
any age can dispense with the services of the monk. 
Monasticism would seem to be a permanent element 
in Catholic Christianity. The Church of England, in 
particular, has been reproached with a cultivation of 
the gentilities to the neglect of a deeper spirituality 
and devotion. But the revival in this country of the 
community-life has done much already to increase 
devotion and to help on the work of evangelization. 
There are some who tell us that the true salvation 
of our Church lies in a proper concentration of her 
energies, and that revival and reinvigoration can be 
brought about only by such means. 1 Monasticism 
may then come to the aid of the Church, not merely 
as an ascetic reaction against luxury and worldliness, 
but rather as a serious attempt to provide certain 
definite centres of enthusiastic devotion from which 
the true Christian spirit of love and self-denial may 
permeate both Church and nation. But by whatever 
me:ns revival may come, if we are not once again to 
close the doors upon enthusiasm, we shall need another 
Basil to secure for it a welcome and a home within 
our Church. 

1 Cf. Hobhouse, The Church and the World in Idea and History, 
pp. 15, 310, 340. 



APPENDIX 
A 

Introduction to the Longer Rules. 

i. BY the grace of God, in the name of our Lord Jesus 
Christ, we who have set before ourselves one and the self 
same end, namely, the life of piety, are met together in 
one place. And while you indeed are plainly desirous 
to learn somewhat of the things that pertain to salvation, 
I for my part must proclaim the judgements of God, 
remembering night and day the words of the Apostle, 
By the space of three years I ceased not to admonish 
every one night and day with tears .* And the present 
time is most convenient for us, and this place provides quiet 
and a release from the tumult of the outside world. 

Wherefore, let us pray together one with another, both 
that we may give to our fellow-servants their due measure 
of seed, and that you who receive the word may, like the 
good ground, bring forth the perfect and manifold fruit 
of righteousness, even as it is written. 2 

I beseech you, therefore, through the love of our Lord 
Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that we now 
take thought for our souls, that we lament the vanity of 
our past life, and that we strive for the future to the glory 
of God, and of His Christ, and of the holy and adorable 
Spirit. Let us not remain in this careless ease, ever neglecting 
through our slothfulness the present, and putting off to the 
morrow or the far future the first beginning of our works, 
lest, being found all unready with good works by Him 
who demands of us our souls, we be cast forth from the joy 
of the bride-chamber, weeping uselessly and in vain, and 
1 Acts xx. 31. 2 Matt. xiii. 23. 



138 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

lamenting our ill-spent life, when repentance can no longer 
avail. Now is the acceptable time/ says the Apostle, now 
is the day of salvation. 1 This is the time of repentance, 
that of reward : this of toil and labour, that of receiving 
wages : this of patience, that of comfort. Now God is the 
helper of such as turn from the evil way ; then He will be 
the terrible examiner of all men s thoughts, words, and 
actions. Now we enjoy His long-suffering ; then we shall 
know His justice, when we shall rise again, some to eternal 
punishment, others to eternal life, and each one of us 
receive according to his works. How long shall we put off 
our obedience to Christ, who has called us to His heavenly 
kingdom ? Shall we not rouse ourselves ? Shall we not 
recall ourselves from our accustomed manner of life to 
the careful life of the Gospel ? Shall we not set before our 
eyes that great and terrible day of the Lord, on which 
those who by their good works have drawn near to the Lord 
shall be received into the kingdom of heaven, but those who 
by their lack of good works have been set on the left hand 
shall be enveloped in the fire of Gehenna and everlasting 
darkness ? There, as it is said, shall be the weeping and 
gnashing of teeth. 2 

2. Although we profess to desire the kingdom of heaven, 
yet we have no care for those things by which it may be 
gained. And though we undertake no labour which the 
Lord commands yet we imagine in the folly of our heart 
that we shall receive equal honours with those who have 
resisted against sin even unto death. Who has ever at 
the time of sowing remained at home idle or asleep, and 
then, when harvest has come, filled his bosom with sheaves ? 
Who has ever gathered grapes from vine that he has not 
planted and cared for ? Those who have laboured receive 
the fruits : honours and crowns are for conquerors. Who 
would ever crown him who had not even stripped for the 

1 2 Cor. vi. 2. a Matt. xxv. 30. 



APPENDIX, A 139 

fight ? For it is necessary not only to conquer, but also 
to contend lawfully, according to the words of the Apostle ; 1 
that is, not to neglect even the smallest of such things as 
are commanded, but rather to perform each thing as we have 
been ordered. For it is said, Blessed is that servant, whom 
his Lord when he cometh shall find, 2 not doing anywise, but 
so doing . And If thou hast offered aright, but hast not 
divided aright, thou hast sinned. 3 

But we, thinking perhaps that we have fulfilled one 
commandment, nor indeed should I say fulfilled, for all 
the commandments are joined one to another according 
to the sound and proper meaning of Scripture, so that if 
one be broken, the others are of necessity also broken, do 
not expect the wrath of God for those which we have 
transgressed, while for the keeping of one commandment 
we dare to look for honours and rewards. 

He who from the ten talents entrusted to him has retained 
one or two, and has restored the others, is not declared to 
be honest, because he has restored the greater part, but is 
shown to be both wicked and covetous because he has 
kept back the rest. Why do I say kept back ? For he 
that was entrusted with one talent, and gave it back whole 
and unharmed as he had received it, was nevertheless 
condemned because he had not added anything to that 
which was given him. He that has honoured his father 
for ten years, and then strikes him but one blow, is not 
honoured as a benefactor, but is condemned as a parricide. 
Go ye/ said the Lord, and make disciples of all the nations 
teaching them not to observe some things, and neglect 
others, but to observe all things whatsoever I command 
you. 4 And the Apostle writes in like manner, Giving 
no occasion of stumbling in anything, that our ministration 
be not blamed ; but in everything commending ourselves 

1 2. Tim. ii. 5. 2 Luke xii. 43. 

3 Gen. iv. 7 (LXX). * Matt, xxviii. 19-20. 



140 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

as ministers of God/ 1 For if all these things had not 
been necessary for the attainment of our salvation, all 
the commandments would not have been written : nor 
would they all have been declared necessary for our 
observance. 

What do my other virtues profit me, if, through calling 
my brother a fool, I am to be condemned to Gehenna ? 
For what profit has he who is free from the multitude of 
sins, if he by one single sin be brought into slavery ? 
For it is said, Every one that committeth sin is the bond 
servant of sin . 2 And what gain has he who is free from 
many diseases, if his body be afflicted with some sore 
disease ? 

3. So, then, some one will say, is it not folly for the 
multitude of Christians who keep not all the commandments 
to keep any of them ? And, therefore, it is good to remember 
the blessed Peter, who, though he had done so many good 
deeds, and had received such great blessings, yet for his 
one fault was told, If I wash thee not, thou hast no 
part with me . 3 And I need not say that he had shown no 
sign of negligence or contempt, but had rather given proof 
of his reverence and devotion. 

And yet some one may say that it is written, whosoever 
shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved, 4 as 
though the very calling upon the name of the Lord was 
enough to save him that called. Let him rather hearken to 
the Apostle who says, How shall they call upon him in 
whom they have not believed ? 5 And even if thou 
believest, hear our Lord who says, Not every one that 
saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of 
heaven ; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is 
in heaven . 6 For indeed he who does the will of God, 

1 2. Cor. vi. 3-4. 2 John viii. 34. 

8 John xiii. 8. * Joel ii. 32. 

6 Rom. x. 14. 6 Matt. vii. 2. 



APPENDIX, A 141 

but not as God wills, nor from the love which he has 
towards God, his zeal for good works is fruitless, according to 
the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, who says, This they do 
that they may be seen of men : verily I say unto you, They 
have received their reward f .* Wherefore Paul was taught 
to say, And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and 
if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it 
profiteth me nothing . 2 And, to sum up, I perceive that 
there are three different dispositions which inevitably lead 
us to obey. Either through fear of punishment we turn 
away from that which is evil, and so are of a slavish 
disposition ; or, seeking to make gain by the reward, we 
fulfil the commandments for the sake of their benefits, and 
for this reason are like men of gain ; or else we do good for 
the sake of the good itself, and from love of Him Who 
gave us the law, rejoicing that we are thus thought worthy 
to serve the great and good God, and so we have the 
disposition of sons. Nor will he who keeps the command 
ments from fear, and is always expecting the penalty of 
sloth, obey some orders, and neglect others, but he will 
have always the same dread of the judgement which comes 
upon all disobedience. 

And, therefore, he is pronounced blessed who fears always 
with reverence. And he stands firm in the truth, for he 
can say, I have set God always before me, for he is on my 
right hand, therefore I shall not fall/ 3 as never choosing 
to neglect anything that is right. And, Blessed is the 
man that feareth the Lord . For what reason ? Because 
he hath great delight in his commandments . 4 Wherefore 
it is not possible for those who fear to neglect any of God s 
orders, or to perform them carelessly. 

Nor, indeed, will the man of gain choose to neglect or 
transgress any of the commandments. For how will he 

1 Matt. vi. 5. 2 i Cor. xiii. 3. 

3 Ps. xvi. 8. Ps. cxii. i. 



142 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

win the reward of his labour in the vineyard, if he does not 
fulfil that to which he agreed ? For if he come short in 
even one thing that is needful, he makes himself useless to 
his master. And who will pay a reward to him that has 
done wrong ? 

The third service is that of love. Who, then, that seeks 
to please the Father, and in great things wins His favour, 
will choose to grieve Him in that which is least ? But let 
him much more remember the Apostle, who says, Grieve 
not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom ye were sealed . 1 

4. Where, then, shall we put those who transgress most 
of the commandments ? They neither worship God as 
Father, nor believe in Him as the Promiser of great things, 
nor serve him as Master. If, then, I be a father/ He says, 
1 where is mine honour ? and if I be a master, where is my 
fear ? 2 For He that feareth the Lord hath great delight 
in his commandments \ 8 But by thy transgression thou 
dishonourest God .* And how, if we prefer the life of 
pleasure to the life of obedience to the commandments, 
can we expect for ourselves a life of blessedness, fellow- 
citizenship with the saints, and joy among the angels in 
the presence of Christ ? Truly these are the imaginations 
of a foolish mind. For how shall I be with Job, if I have 
not received even light affliction with thankfulness ? Or 
how shall I be with David, if I have not shown myself 
patient with my enemies ? Or how with Daniel, if I have 
not sought after God with constant abstinence and careful 
prayer ? Or how with any of the saints, if I have not 
followed in their steps ? Who is so unjust an arbiter of 
the games as to judge him who has never even contended 
to be worthy of the same crown as the victor ? What 
general ever gives an equal portion of the spoils to those 
who have been victorious and to those who have never even 

1 Eph. iv. 30. * Mai. i. 6. 

3 Ps. cxii. i. * Rom. ii. 23. 



APPENDIX, A 143 

appeared in the battle ? God is good, but He is also just. 
And it is the nature of the just to recompense worthily, as 
it is written, Do well, O Lord, unto those that are good 
and true of heart. As for those such as turn back unto their 
own wickedness, the Lord shall lead them forth with the 
evildoers * He is merciful, but He is also a Judge. For 
He says, The Lord loveth mercy and judgment . 2 And, 
therefore, it is said, I will sing of mercy and judgment 
unto thee, O Lord . 3 And we have learnt who it is that 
receive mercy, for He says, Blessed are the merciful, for 
they shall obtain mercy . 4 Thou canst see with what dis 
cernment He uses mercy. He is neither unjustly merciful, 
nor mercilessly unjust. For God is both merciful and just. 
Let us not then half know God, nor make His kindness 
an occasion of sloth. For this cause are His thunders 
and lightnings, that His goodness may not be despised. 
He that maketh the sun to rise, also punishes with blindness. 
He that giveth the rain, also rains fire. Those show His 
goodness, these His severity. Let us then either love Him 
for those, or fear Him for these, that it be not said to 
us, Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and for 
bearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness 
of God leadeth thee to repentance ? but after thy hardness 
and impenitent heart treasurest up for thyself wrath in the 
day of wrath . 5 Since then neither can they be saved, who 
do not those works which are according to the will of God, 
nor is it without danger to neglect any precept for it is 
the height of arrogance to make ourselves the judges of 
our Lawgiver, and to approve some of His laws and reject 
others we who endure the conflict of piety and lead the 
life of calm and rest, regarding such a life with honour, as 
being our fellow worker in the keeping of the Gospel decrees, 
must one and all take careful heed that no command- 

1 Ps. cxxv. 4-5. Ps. xxxiii. 5. 3 Ps. ci. i. 

* Matt. v. 7. 5 Rom. ii. 4-5. 



144 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

ment escape us. For if the man of God must be perfect 
as it is written, and as our words have already shown it 
is before all things necessary that he be made clean and 
perfect in every commandment, according to the measure 
of the stature of the fulness of Christ ; 1 for by the Divine 
law even the clean beast, if he had any blemish, was not 
accepted as a sacrifice to God. 

If, therefore, any one think that he be lacking in any 
thing, let him bring it forth that all may examine it in 
common. For it is easier through the careful scrutiny 
of the many to find out that which is hidden, seeing that 
God allows us to find that for which we seek, by means of 
the teaching and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Since, then, 
necessity is laid upon me, and woe is unto me, if I preach 
not the Gospel , 2 so also there is equal danger for you, if you 
are slothful in your search, or if you show yourselves careless 
and negligent in the keeping of tradition, or in fulfilling 
it by good works. Wherefore the Lord says, The word 
that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day . 3 
And, That servant which knew not his Lord s will, and did 
things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes ; 
but he that knew, and did not, neither made himself ready 
according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes . 4 

Let us pray then that I may blamelessly dispense the 
word, and that the teaching may bear fruit in you. And 
since then we know that the words of Divine Scripture will 
rise up before us at the judgement-seat of Christ For I 
will reprove thee, He says, and set before thee thy sins 5 
let us hearken diligently to that which is spoken, and seek 
earnestly to carry out the Divine decrees ; for we know not 
on what day or at what hour the Lord will come. 

1 Eph. iv. 13. 2 i Cor. ix. 16. 3 John xii. 48. 

4 Luke xii. 47-48. 5 Ps. 1. 21. 



APPENDIX 
B 

Introduction to the Shorter Rules 

THE good God, that teacheth man knowledge/ 1 gives 
command by his Apostle to those who are entrusted with 
the gift of teaching that they should continue in their 
teaching. 2 And those who desire the edification of holy 
doctrine He exhorts by Moses, saying, Ask thy father, 
and he will show thee ; thy elders, and they will tell thee. 3 
Wherefore it behoves us who have been entrusted with the 
ministry of the word, always to be zealous for the perfecting 
of your souls. But though sometimes we must needs bear 
witness publicly before the whole Church, yet often we must 
allow ourselves to be consulted privately by any one who 
may come to question us concerning that which belongs to 
sound faith and right conduct according to the Gospel of 
our Lord Jesus Christ ; for by means of these two things 
the man of God is perfected. And you too must allow 
nothing to pass fruitless and unheeded, but besides that 
which you hear in public, must also ask privately concerning 
those things that are convenient, and so order aright all the 
quiet hours of your life. Seeing, then, that God has 
brought us here together, and that we have much freedom 
from the troubles that are without, let us not turn aside 
to any other work, or give ourselves again to sleep, but 
rather pass the hours of the night which remain in careful 
thought and in searching out that which is needful, fulfilling 
the words of the blessed David, In the law of the Lord 
will he meditate day and night. 4 

1 Ps. xciv. 10. 2 2 Tim. iv. 2. 

8 Deut. xxxi. 7. * Ps. i. 2. 



APPENDIX 



Decrees of the Synod of Gangra, 340 A.D. 

THE Synodal Letter of Gangra, written to the Bishops 
of Armenia, gives the following reason for the calling of 
the council : The most sacred Synod of the Bishops has 
assembled on account of certain necessities of the Church, 
and for investigation of the affair of Eustathius ; and 
having found that many improprieties have been com 
mitted by his followers, it has, therefore, determined to 
remove the evils which Eustathius has brought about. 

The causes of complaint are first enumerated and the 
text of the decrees then follows : 

Canon i. If any one despises wedlock, abhorring and 
blaming the woman who sleeps with her husband, even 
if she is a believer and devout, as if she could not enter 
the kingdom of God, let him be anathema. 

Canon 2. If any one condemns him who eats meat, 
though he abstains from blood, things offered to idols, 
and things strangled, and is faithful and devout, as though 
by his partaking he has no hope of salvation, let him be 
anathema/ 

Canon 3. If any one teaches a slave, under pretext of 
piety, to despise his master, to forsake his service, and not 
to serve him with goodwill and all respect, let him be 
anathema. 

Canon 4. If any one maintains that when a married 
priest offers the sacrifice, no one should take part in the 
service, let him be anathema. 

Canon 5, If any one teaches that the house of God is 



APPENDIX, C 147 

to be despised, and likewise the assemblies l there held, 
let him be anathema. 

Canon 6. If any one, avoiding the churches, holds 
private meetings, and in contempt of the Church performs 
that which belongs to her alone, without the presence 
of a priest with authority from the bishop, let him be 
anathema. 

Canon 7. If any one appropriates to himself the tithes 
of produce which belong to the Church, 2 or distributes 
them outside the Church, without the consent of the bishop, 
or of one appointed by him, and will not act according to 
the bishop s wishes, let him be anathema. 

Canon 8. If any one gives or receives such offerings 
without the will of the bishop, or of one appointed by him 
for the administration of it, both giver and receiver shall 
be anathema. 

Canon 9. If any one lives unmarried or practises 
continence, avoiding marriage with abhorrence, and not 
because of the beauty and holiness of virginity, let him be 
anathema. 

Canon 10. If any one of those who for the Lord s sake 
remain unmarried exalts himself above those who have 
married, let him be anathema. 

Canon n. If any one despise those who in faith observe 
the agape, and for the honour of the Lord invite their 
brethren, and refuses to take part in these invitations because 
he lightly esteems the matter, let him be anathema. 

Canon 12. If any one from pretended asceticism 3 
wears the philosopher s cloak, 4 and as if he were thereby 
made righteous, despises those who wear ordinary coats 5 
and make use of other such clothing as is everywhere 
customary, let him be anathema. 



6 TOVS ftrjpovs <[>opovvTwv. 

L 2, 



148 ST. BASIL AND HIS RULE 

Canon 13. If a woman from pretended asceticism alters 
her dress, and instead of the customary female dress 
assumes male attire, let her be anathema. 

Canon 14. If a woman leaves her husband and would 
separate herself through abhorrence of marriage, let her be 
anathema. 

Canon 15. If any one forsakes his children, and does 
not educate them, and, as far as he can, train them in 
fitting habits of piety, but neglects them under pretext of 
asceticism, let him be anathema. 

Canon 16. If children, especially those of the faithful, 
forsake their parents under pretext of piety, and do not 
shew them due honour, on the plea of esteeming piety as 
the higher duty, let them be anathema. 

Canon 17. If a woman from supposed asceticism cuts 
off her hair, which has been given her by God to remind 
her of her subjection, and thus renounces the command 
of subjection, let her be anathema. 

Canon 18. If any one from supposed asceticism fasts 
on Sunday, let him be anathema. 

Canon 19. If an ascetic without bodily necessity but 
from pride neglects the fasts which are observed by the 
whole Church, as though he possessed full understanding, 1 
let him be anathema. 

Canon 20. If any one out of pride regards with abhor 
rence the assemblies 2 of the martyrs and the services 3 
there held, or the commemorations of the martyrs, let him 
be anathema. 

See Mansi II, 418-421, and Hefele, History of the Church 
Councils, II, pp. 326-339, whose translation, with some 
slight changes, is here used. 

1 airottvpovvTos \v avrca T\etou Xoyia^iov, perfecta in eo residente 
ratione. 

8 TO.S ffvvaeis. 3 \firovpyias. 



INDEX 



Aerius, 128. 
Agriculture, 82 f., 127. 
Allen, A. V., 29. 
Annesi, 9. 

Anthony, 39, 80, 97. 
Antiphonal chanting, 70. 
Apostolic life, 44 f., 122. 
Athens, University of, 105. 
Athlete, Christian, 35, 43, 47. 
Authority, desire for, 49. 

Basileias, the, 128. 
Benedict, 4, 18, 115, 133. 
Besse, 75. 
Bigg, 105. 
Bright, 8 f. 
Butler, 40. 

Cassian, 66. 
Cellarer, 1 1 5 f . 
Chrysostom, John, 106 f. 
Church, condition of, 7, 48 f. 
Clement of Alexandria, 75. 
Clergy, 7, 17, 48, 76. 
Coenobitical monachism, 40-6. 
Communion, frequency of, 77. 
Communism, 44, 125. 
Compline, 68. 
Confession, 52, 73-6. 
Contemplation, 13, 46. 
Continence, 34 f., 114, 147. 

Domestic duties, 85. 
Donatism, 2. 
Dorotheus, 98. 
Double monastery, 98. 
Dreams, 60, 69. 

Education, 102-8. 

Egypt, Monks of, 2, 3, 36, 47, 

61, 77, 97, in, H4, 132. 
Emmelia, 9, 98. 
Eschatology, 25 f., 138, 144. 
Eucharist, 77, 147. 



Eustathius, 3, 19, 98, 116, 128, 

146. 
Evangelization, 129 f. 

Fairs, to be avoided, 84. 
Fall, the, 23. 
Fasting, in, 148. 
Fialon, 37. 

Gangra, Synod of, 3, 146. 
Gentleman, Christian, 13, 129. 
Gibbon, 96, 129. 
Glover, 105. 
Gluttony, 112, H4f. 
Glycerins, 98. 
Grammar Schools, 105. 
Gregory of Nazianzen, 9, 12, 18, 

32, 45 f., 50, 82, 104, 128. 
Gregory of Nyssa, 5, 62, 98, 109. 

Habit, monastic, 119. 
Heaven, 24. 
Hexaemeron, n. 
Hodgson, 103. 
Holl, 76. 

Holy Spirit, 66 f., 68. 
Hospitals, 127-9. 
Humility, 28 f., 43, 49. 

Idleness, 79. 
Imitation of Christ, 27 f. 
Inattention, 28, 62, 65, 104, 107. 
Intercession, 61. 

James, W., quoted, 37 f. 
Julian, 97, 105, 118, 124, 127 f. 

Kitchen work, 85. 

Lauds, 71. 

Laughter, 95. 

Laus perennis, 62. 

Liturgy of St. Basil, 78. 

Love of God, 23, 25, 27, 38, 44, 

78, 131, 141 f. 
Love of neighbour, 26 f., 42, 44. 



150 



Macrina, 5, 8, 9, 98, 99- 

Marin, 76. 

Marriage, 31, 146, 148. 

Materialism, i, 135. 

Meals, 1 1 3 f . 

Medicine, 54, 127. 

Monastic Constitutions, 28, 36, 76. 

Montanism, 2, 29, 76. 

M or alia, 17 f., 72, 120. 

Mysticism, 3, 22, 37, 78, 134. 

Nature, beauty of, iof., 59. 

Newman, 13. 

Nitria, 39. 

Nocturns, 69. 

None, 67. 

Novatianism, 2. 

Novice, 72, 88-91. 

Order, Basilian, 132 f. 
Organization of Charity, 124-6. 
Origen, 73, 75. 
Orphans, 102. 
Orthodoxy, 29 f . 

Pachomius, 39, 40, 51, 62, 69, 

82 f., 87, 98 f. 
Pagan learning, 72, 105-7. 
Palladius, 39 f., 98. 
Pedagogy, 107. 
Penitents, monks as, 95. 
Peter of Sebaste, 98. 



INDEX 

Quiet, 13, 32. 



Philocalia, 73. 
r, L: 
147 



Philosophy, Life of, 17, 36, n8, 



Photius, 19. 
Poor, 123 f., 129. 
Postulants, 86 f. 
Presence of God, 27, 60. 
Prime, 66. 

Profession, 90 f., 101. 
Property, 1 24 f . 
Proverbs, Book of, 103. 
Punishment, 54, 56 f., 107. 



Ramsay, n, 98, 128. 
Renunciation, 5, 33 f. 
Riches, 5, 33, 123. 
Roman Empire, 6 f., 48, 95, 

123 f- 

Rufinus, 18, 129. 
Rule, Basilian, 19 f-> I3 2 - 

Saturday, 39, 77- 

Scripture, 13, 17, 18, 20 f., 35, 

40, 44, 88, 106, 131. 
Self-complacency, 42. 
Self-denial, 33. 
Sext, 67. 

Sick, care of, 127 f. 
Slavery, 108-9, 146. 
Smith, R. T., 20 f., 73. 
Socialism, 123. 
Soldier, Christian, 15, 35. 
Solitude, u, 32. 
Stability, 93- 
Station Days, 39, 77- 
Stoicism, 35. 
Superior, the, 50-6. 

Taxation, 124. 
Temperance, 34 f., 37, in f. 
Terce, 66. 
Thanksgiving, 73. 
Theodoret, 4. 
Tiberina, u, 12. 

Valens, 3, 7. 
Vasson, 4. 
Vespers, 67 f. 
Vigil, 70. 
Virginity, 31. 
Virgins, 97- 
Vows, 91-3. 

Western Monasticism, 4, 16, 133. 



MORISON 



St. Basil and his rule 



.M6?