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St. Basil the Great, From his Letters

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Page 66

 Letter 284, To the assessor in the case of monks


CONCERNING the monks, your excellency has, I believe, already rules in force, so that I need ask for no special favour on their behalf. It is enough that they share with others the enjoyment of your general beneficence; still I feel it incumbent upon me too to interest myself in their case. I therefore submit it to your more perfect judgment, that men who have long since taken leave of this life, who have mortified their own bodies, so that they have neither money to spend nor bodily service to render in the interests of the common weal, should be exempted from taxation. For if their lives are consistent with their profession, they possess neither money nor bodies; for the former is spent in communicating to the needy; while their bodies are worn away in prayer and fasting.

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.
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 Letter 293, To Julianus


HOW fare you this long while? Have you altogether recovered the use of your hand ? And how do other things prosper? According to your wishes and my prayers ? In accordance with your purposes ? Where men are readily disposed to change, it is only natural that their lives are not well ordered: but where their minds are fixed, steadfast and unalterable, it follows that their lives should be conformable to their purposes. True, it is not in the helmsman's power to make a calm when he wishes; but with us. it is quite easy to render our lives tranquil by stilling the storms of passion that surge within, by rising superior to those that assail us from without. The upright man is touched by neither loss, nor sickness, nor the other ills of life; for he walks in heart with God. keeps his gaze fixed upon the future, and easily and lightly weathers the storms that rise from earth.

Be not troubled with the cares of earth. Such men are like fat birds, in vain endowed with flight, that creep like beasts upon the ground. But you--for I have witnessed you in difficulties--are like swimmers racing out at sea. A single claw reveals the whole lion: so from a slight acquaintance I think I know you fully. And I count it a great thing, that you set some store by me, that I am not absent from your thoughts, but constantly in your recollection. Now writing is a proof of recollection; and the oftener you write, the better pleased I am.

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