Godly Living

From Letter 2 (ca. 374-379)

The best guide for discovering the way to conduct our life is the thorough study of Scripture. Here are to be found not only instruction about conduct appropriate for a Christian, but also, in the stories of holy men and women, vital images of godly living which invite our imitation. In whatever respect any of us may feel deficient, by devoting ourselves to this process, we will discover as if from a pharmacy, appropriate medicine for our sickness.

Those who seek temperance will discover the story of Joseph. From him they will learn the virtue of chaste conduct, finding him not only steadfast in the face of seduction, but habitually virtuous. Those who seek courage will learn from Job, who remained faithful, his nobility of soul unimpaired, when the circumstances of life conspired against him. Once rich, suddenly one day he finds himself destitute and once the father of fair children, he becomes childless. Yet he remained the same, keeping the disposition of his soul uncrushed through it all, not even being stirred to anger against the friends who came to comfort him, and trampled on him, and aggravated his troubles.

Those who ask how to be at once meek and great-hearted, hearty against sin, meek towards others, will find David noble in warlike exploits, meek and unruffled in exacting revenge on his enemies. Such, too, was Moses, rising up courageously against those who had sinned against God, but with meek soul bearing their evil-speaking against himself.

Painters, when they are copying other pictures, constantly look at the model, and do their best to transfer its lineaments to their own work. So too must he who desires to be perfect in all branches of excellency, keep his eyes turned to the lives of the saints as though to living and moving statues, and make their virtue his own by imitation.

St. Basil the Great (330-379) was Bishop of Caesarea and a devoted advocate of Nicene Christology, traditionally acclaimed as one of the four Eastern Doctors of the Church. A rule written by him is the basis of communal monastic life in the Eastern Church, and he founded the first major Christian hospital. Letter 2 was written to his lifelong friend, Gregory of Nazianzus. His feast day is June 14.



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