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St Basil the Great Concerning the Perfection of the Monastic Life 1

There are many things set forth in the divinely inspired Scriptures which must be
observed by those who are earnestly endeavoring to please God. But at this time I
wish to explain, necessarily briefly, as I understand them from the divinely inspired
Scripture itself, only those points which have been questioned among you at
present. I am therefore leaving behind me the easily comprehended evidence on
each such point, so that those may take note who are engaged in reading and who
also will be capable of informing others.
The Christian ought to think thoughts befitting his heavenly calling 2 and to live a life
worthy of the Gospel of Christ.3 The Christian should not exalt himself,4 nor be
drawn away by anything from the remembrance of God and His will and judgments.
The Christian, transcending in all things righteousness merely according to law, 5
ought neither to swear nor to lie. He must not speak evil, 6 act despitefully, nor
quarrel,7 nor avenge himself,8 nor render evil for evil,9 nor give way to anger.10 He
should be patient,11 enduring anything whatsoever, and should rebuke 12 the evildoer at an opportune moment, not indeed in a passion of personal vengeance, but
with a desire of a brother's correction,13 according to the command of the Lord. He
should say nothing against an absent brother with the intention of slandering him, 14
since, indeed, it is slander even if the remarks are true. He must turn away from the
slanderer of his brother. 15
The Christian should not engage in repartee, 16 nor laugh, nor tolerate jesters. 17 He
must not indulge in idle conversations, talking of things which are neither for the
benefit of those listening nor for any purpose that is necessary and permitted to us
by God.18 Consequently, the laborers will strive to work as much as possible in

silence, and they who have been entrusted, after due trial, with directing others for
the upbuilding of their faith will stimulate the workers with good discourses in order
that the Holy Spirit of God may not be grieved. Visitors should not freely approach
or talk with any of the brothers before those who have been entrusted with the care
of the general discipline have examined what before God is best for the common
good. He ought not to be a slave to wine, nor passionately fond of meat, 19 nor In
general a lover of any food or drink, for everyone in a contest abstains from all
things.20
No one should keep or reserve as his own anything that has been given to him for
his use,21 but, devoting himself to the care of everything as belonging to the Lord,
he should not neglect anything, even that which may have been cast aside or left
uncared for. He should not be his own master, but should so think and act 22 in all
things as one handed over by God into servitude to his like-minded brethren; 'but
each in his own turn.'23
The Christian should not murmur24 either because of the meagre care of his needs
or because of fatiguing labors, since those entrusted with authority in these matters
have the final decision over each. There should be no outburst, nor any angry
demonstration or commotion,25 nor should there be any distraction of mind from the
realization of the presence of God. 26 The Christian ought to control his voice
according to circumstances. He should neither give retort nor act boldly or
contemptuously,27 but in everything show moderation 28 and respect toward all 29 He
should not wink his eye slyly,nor use any other posture or gesture which grieves
his brother or shows disdain. 30
The Christian should not make a display of dress or shoes, as this is indeed idle
ostentation.31 He should use inexpensive clothing for his bodily needs. He should not
spend anything beyond actual necessity or for mere extravagance. This is an abuse.
He should not seek honor nor lay claim to the first place. 32 Each one ought to prefer
all others to himself. 33 He ought not to be disobedient.34 He who is idle, although
able to work, should not eat;35 moreover, he who is occupied with some task which
is rightly intended for the glory of Christ ought to hold himself to a pursuit of work
within his ability.36 Each one, with the approval of his superiors, should, with reason
and certainty, so do everything, even to eating and drinking, as serving the glory of
God.37 He should not change from one work to another without the approval of
those who have been charged with the regulation of such matters, unless, perhaps,
an unavoidable necessity should summon one unexpectedly to the aid of a helpless
brother. Each one ought to remain at whatever work has been assigned him,
without overstepping his own bounds to go on to tasks not prescribed, unless those
entrusted with these matters judge that someone needs help. No one should be
found going from one workshop to another. He should do nothing through rivalry or
strife.

The Christian should not envy another's good repute, nor rejoice at the faults of
anyone.38 He must, in the love of Christ, be grieved and afflicted at the faults of his
brother and rejoice at his virtuous deeds. 39 He should not be indifferent toward
sinners, neither should he tolerate them in silence. 40 He who reproves should do so
with all compassion in fear of God and with the view of correcting the sinner. 41 The
one reproved or rebuked ought willingly to accept the correction, recognizing the
benefit to himself. When one is accused, another ought not, before him or any
others, to contradict the accuser. But, if at any time a charge should seem
unreasonable to anyone, he ought in private to question the accuser and either
convince him or be himself fully convinced.
Each one should conciliate, as far as he is able, anyone at variance with him. He
should not hold past wrongs against the repentant sinner, but from his heart should
pardon him.42 He who says that he repents of his sin should not only feel remorse
for the sin which he has committed, but should also bring forth fruits befitting
repentance.43 If he who has been corrected for his first sins and has been deemed
worthy of pardon again falls, he prepares for himself a more wrathful judgment. 44 He
who after the first and second admonition 45 remains in his fault should be reported
to the superior, that perhaps he may be ashamed when further rebuked. But, if he
does not even in this case correct himself, he must be cut off from the rest as a
cause of scandal, and be looked upon as a heathen and a publican, 46 this for the
safety of those zealous for obedience, according to the saying: 'When the impious
fall, the just become fearful47 But, all must also mourn for him as if a limb had been
cut off from the body.
The sun must not go down on the wrath of a brother,4 8 lest, perchance, the night of
death come between the two and leave an inevitable charge for the day of
judgment. He must not put off the time for his amendment, 49 because there is no
certainty concerning the morrow, and because many, planning, have not reached
the morrow. He must not be deluded by a full stomach, which often produces
nightmares. He must not engage in excessive toil, achieving beyond sufficiency,
according to the words of the Apostle: 'But having food and sufficient clothing, with
these let us be content,50 because an abundance which exceeds the need presents
an appearance of covetousness, but covetousness has the condemnation of
idolatry.51 He must not be fond of money,52 nor treasure useless things which he
does not need. He who draws nigh to God should welcome poverty in all things and
be penetrated with the fear of God, according to him who said: Pierce thou my flesh
with thy fear, for I am afraid of thyjudgments.' 53 The Lord grant that you may
receive with full confidence what I have said, and for the glory of God show forth
fruits worthy of the Spirit, according to the will of God and with the assistance of our
Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
NOTES

1) This letter shows how completely St. Basil follows the Holy Scriptures in. his
ideal of the religious life. He re identified the monastic with the ideal Christian
life. The date of the letter is probably 364.
2) Cf. Heb. 3.1.
3) Cf. Phil. 1.27.
4) Cf. Luke 12.29,
5) Cf. Matt. 5.20.
6) Cf. Titus 3.2
7) Cf. 2 Tim. 2.24.
8) Cf. Rom. 12.19.
9) Cf. Rom. 12.17.
10)
Cf. Matt. 5.22.
11)
Cf. James 5.8.
12)
Cf. Titus 2.15.
13)
Cf. Matt. 18.15.
14)
Cf. 1 Peter 2.1.
15)
Cf. James 4.11.
16)
Cf. Eph. 5.4.
17)
'This charge is probably founded on Luke 6.21 and 25, and James 4.9
Yet our Lord's promise that they who hunger and weep "shall laugh" admits of
fulfillment in the kingdom of God on earth. Cheerfulness is a note of the
Church, whose members, if sorrowful, are yet always rejoicing. (2 Cor. 6.10)'
Jackson.
18)
Cf. Eph. 5.4.
19)
Cf. Rom. 14.21.
20)
1 Cor. 925.
21)
Cf. Acts 4 32.
22)
Cf. 1 Cor. 9.19.
23)
1 Cor 15.23.
24)
Cf. 1 Cor. 10 10.
25)
Cf. Eph. 4.31
26)
Cf. Heb. 4.13
27)
Cf. Titus 3 2.
28)
Cf. Phil. 4.5.
29)
Cf. Rom. 2.10; 1 Peter 2 17.
30)
Cf. Rom. 14.10.
31)
Cf. Matt. 6.29; Luke 12.27.
32)
Cf Mark. 9.54.
33)
Cf Phil. 2.3.
34)
Cf. Titus 1.10.
35)
Cf. 2 Thess. 3.10.
36)
Cf. 1 Thess. 4.1 L
37)
Cf. 1 Cor. 10.31.
38)
Cf. 1 Cor. 13.6.
39)
Cf. 1 Cor. 12.26.
40)
Cf. 1 Tim 5.20.
41)
Cf. 2 Tim. 4.2.
42)
Cf. 2 Cor. 2.7.
43)
Cf. Luke 3.8.

44)
Cf. Heb. 10.26-27.
45)
Cf. Titus 3.10.
46)
Cf. Matt. 18.17.
47)
Prov. 29.16. The translation from the Latin Vulgate seems to be that of
a somewhat different wording; St. Basil followed the Greek Septuagint.
48)
Cf. Eph. 4.26.
49)
Cf. Luke 12.40.
50)
1 Tim. 6.8.
51)
Cf. Col. 3.5.
52)
Cf. Mark 10.23-24; Luke 18 24.
53)
Ps. 1 19.120.