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“Basil the Great - The Longer Rules

Extracts from question and response 7 about the importance of living in community.

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Click here to read at earlychurchtexts.com in the original Greek (with dictionary lookup links). The English translation below is from Ayer, A Source Book for Ancient Church History  and (latter part of section 4) W. K. Lowther Clarke, The Ascetic Works of St Basil,  pp. 163-6.

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Relevant books
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TEXTS & TRANSLATIONS

St. Basil the Great on the Holy Spirit

(David Anderson - translator)

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Anna Silvas
The Asketikon of St Basil the Great
(Oxford Early Christian Studies)

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On The Human Condition: St Basil the Great (St. Vladimir's Seminary Press "Popular Patristics" Series)

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Georges Barrois:
The Fathers Speak: St Basil the Great, St Gregory of Nazianzus, St Gregory of Nyssa

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Basil: The Letters, Volume I, Letters 1-58 (Loeb Classical Library No. 190):
Roy J. Deferrari (Translator)

(Search also for other 3 volumes of Basil's letters.)

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On Social Justice: St. Basil the Great (Popular Patristics):

C. Paul Schroeder

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Monica Wagner, trans., Basil of Caesarea: Ascetical Works, Fathers of the Church 9

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Letters, Volume 2 (186-368) [The Fathers of the Church, Volume 28]

Translated by Agnes Clare Way.

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On the Value of Greek Literature (Greek and English Edition)

N.G. Wilson

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STUDIES

P.J. FEDWICK: Basil of Caesarea: Christian, Humanist, Ascetic

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ROBERT C. GREGG: Consolation Philosophy: Greek and Christian Paideia in Basil and the Two Gregories (Patristic Monograph Series of the North American Patristic Society, 3)

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Stephen M Hildebrand:

The Trinitarian Theology of Basil of Caesarea: A Synthesis of Greek Thought and Biblical Faith

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Augustine Holmes:

A Life Pleasing to God:

The Spirituality of the Rule of Saint Basil (Cistercian Studies)

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Andrew Radde-Gallwitz:
Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Transformation of Divine Simplicity
(Oxford Early Christian Studies)

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Philip Rousseau:
Basil of Caesarea
(Transformation of the Classical Heritage)

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Questio VII.

Since your words have given us full assurance that the life [i. e., the cenobitic life] is dangerous with those who despise the commandments of the Lord, we wish accordingly to learn whether it is necessary that he who withdraws should remain alone or live with brothers of like mind who have placed before themselves the same goal of piety.

Responsio I. I think that the life of several in the same place is much more profitable. First, because for bodily wants no one of us is sufficient for himself, but we need each other in providing what is necessary. For just as the foot has one ability, but is wanting another, and without the help of the other members it would find neither its own power strong nor sufficient of itself to continue, nor any supply for what it lacks, so it is in the case of the solitary life: what is of use to us and what is wanting we cannot provide for ourselves, for God who created the world has so ordered all things that we are dependent upon each other, as it is written that we may join ourselves to one another [cf. Wis. 13: 20]. But in addition to this, reverence to the love of Christ does not permit each one to have regard only to his own affairs, for love, he says, seeks not her own [I Cor. 13: 5]. The solitary life has only one goal, the service of its own interests. That clearly is opposed to the law of love, which the Apostle fulfilled, when he did not in his eyes seek his own advantage but the advantage of many, that they might be saved [cf. I Cor. 10: 33]. Further, no one in solitude recognizes his own defects, since he has no one to correct him and in gentleness and mercy direct him on his way. For even if correction is from an enemy, it may often in the case of those who are well disposed rouse the desire for healing; but the healing of sin by him who sincerely loves is wisely accomplished. . . . Also the commands may be better fulfilled by a larger community, but not by one alone; for while this thing is being done another will be neglected; for example, by attendance upon the sick the reception of strangers is neglected; and in the bestowal and distribution of the necessities of life (especially when in these services much time is consumed) the care of the work is neglected, so that by this the greatest commandment and the one most helpful to salvation is neglected; neither the hungry are fed nor the naked clothed. Who would therefore value higher the idle, useless life than the fruitful which fulfils the commandments of God?....

3. . . . Also in the preservation of the gifts bestowed by God the cenobitic life is preferable. . . . For him who falls into sin, the recovery of the right path is so much easier, for he is ashamed at the blame expressed by so many in common, so that it happens to him as it is written: It is enough that the same therefore be punished by many [II Cor. 2:6]. . . . There are still other dangers which we say accompany the solitary life, the first and greatest is that of self-satisfaction. For he who has no one to test his work easily believes that he has completely fulfilled the commandments. . . .

4. For how shall he manifest his humility, when he has no one to whom he can show himself the inferior? How shall he manifest compassion, cut off from the society of many? How will he exercise himself in patience, if no one opposes his wishes? If a man says he finds the teaching of the divine Scriptures sufficient to correct his character, he makes himself like a man who learns the theory of building but never practises the art, or who is taught the theory of working in metals but prefers not to put his teaching into practice. To whom the apostle says: ‘Not the hearers of the law are just with God, but the doers of the laws shall be justified.’ (Rom 2. 13). For, behold, the Lord for the greatness of his love of men was not content with teaching the word only, but that accurately and clearly he might give us a pattern of humility in the perfection of love he girded himself and washed the feet of the disciples in person. Whose feet then wilt thou wash? Whom wilt thou care for? In comparison with whom wilt thou be last if thou livest by thyself? How will that good and pleasant thing, the dwelling of brethren together, which the Holy Spirit likens to unguent flowing down from the High Priest’s head, be accomplished by dwelling solitary? So it is an arena for athletics, a method of travelling forward, a continual exercise and practising in the Lord‘s commandments, when the brethren dwell together....


 

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original Greek text
Basil on monastic life
the communal life of a monk
ascetic life in community
the superiority of the conventual life over the spiritual life
the longer rules
Basil asceticon
asketikon
Basil longer rules
Migne Greek Text
Patrologiae Graecae Cursus Completus
Patrologia Graeca

 

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