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Letter LVII. 2208

To Meletius, Bishop of Antioch2209

If your holiness only knew the greatness of the happiness you cause me whenever you write to me, I know that you would never have let slip any opportunity of sending me a letter; nay, you would have written me many letters on each occasion, knowing the reward that is kept in store by our loving Lord for the consolation of the afflicted.  Everything here is still in a very painful condition, and the thought of your holiness is the only thing that recalls me from my own troubles; a thought made more distinct to me by my communication with you through that letter of yours which is so full of wisdom and grace.  When, therefore, I take your letter into my hand, first of all, I look at its size, and I love it all the more for being so big; then, as I read it, I rejoice over every word I find in it; as I draw near the end I begin to feel sad; so good is every word that I read, in what you write.  The overflowing of a good heart is good.  Should I, however, be permitted, in answer to your prayers, while I live on this earth, to meet you face to face, and to enjoy the profitable instruction of your living voice, or any aids to help me in the life that now is, or that which is to come, I should count this indeed the best of blessings, a prelude to the mercy of God.  I should, ere now, have adhered to this intention, had I not been prevented by true and loving brothers.  I have told my brother Theophrastus 2210 to make a detailed report to you of matters, as to which I do not commit my intentions to writing.



Placed in the year 371.


This letter, the first of six to Meletius of Antioch, is supposed to be assigned to this date, because of Basil’s statement that the state of the Church of Cæsarea was still full of pain to him.  Basil had not yet overcome the opposition of his suffragans, or won the position secured to him after his famous intercourse with Valens in 372.  Meletius had now been for seven years exiled from Antioch, and was suffering for the sake of orthodoxy, while not in full communion with the Catholics, because of the unhappy Eustathian schism.


This Theophrastus may be identified with the deacon Theophrastus who died shortly after Easter a.d. 372.  (cf. Letter xcv.)  The secret instructions given him “seem to refer to Basil’s design for giving peace to the Church, which Basil did not attempt to carry out before his tranquilization of Cappadocia, but may have had in mind long before.”  Maran, Vit. Bas. chap. xvi.

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