Letter IX.—An Invitation.
It is not the natural wont of spring to shine forth in its radiant beauty all at once, but there come as preludes of spring the sunbeam gently warming earths frozen surface, and the bud half hidden beneath the clod, and breezes blowing over the earth, so that the fertilizing and generative power of the air penetrates deeply into it. One may see the fresh and tender grass, and the return of birds which winter had banished, and many such tokens, which are rather signs of spring, not spring itself. Not but that these are sweet, because they are indications of what is sweetest. What is the meaning of all that I have been saying? Why, since the expression of your kindness which reached us in your letters, as a forerunner of the treasures contained in you, with a goodly prelude brings the glad tidings of the blessing which we expect at your hands, we both welcome the boon which those letters convey, like some first-appearing flower of spring, and pray that we may soon enjoy in you the full beauty of the season. For, be well assured, we have been deeply, deeply distressed by the passions and spite of the people here, and their ways; and just as ice forms in cottages after the rains that come in—for I will draw my comparison from the weather of our part of the world 2191 ,—and so moisture, when it gets in, if it spreads over the surface that is already frozen, becomes congealed about the ice, and an addition is made to the mass already existing, even so one may notice much the same kind of thing in the character of most of the people in this neighbourhood, how they are always plotting and inventing something spiteful, and a fresh mischief is congealed on the top of that which has been wrought before, and another one on the top of that, and then again another, and this goes on without intermission, and there is no limit to their hatred and to the increase of evils; so that we have great need of many prayers that the grace of the Spirit may speedily breathe upon them, and thaw the bitterness of their hatred, and melt the frost that is hardening upon them from their malice. For this cause the spring, sweet as it is by nature, becomes yet more to be desired than ever to those p. 533 who after such storms look for you. Let not the boon, then, linger. Especially as our great holiday 2192 is approaching, it would be more reasonable that the land which bare you should exult in her own treasures than that Pontus should in ours. Come then, dear one, bringing us a multitude of blessings, even yourself; for this will fill up the measure of our beatitude.
For the climate, cf. Sozomen, H. E. vi. 34: “I suppose that Galatia, Cappadocia, and the neighbouring provinces contained many other ecclesiastical philosophers at that time (i.e. reign of Valens). These monks, for the most part, dwelt in communities in cities and villages, for they did not habituate themselves to the tradition of their predecessors. The severity of the winter, which is always a natural feature of that country, would probably make hermit life impracticable.”533:2192
For such invitations, cf. Greg. Naz. Epist. 99, 100, 102.