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Sketch of the Life and Works of Saint Basil the Great

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Page 121

VIII.--Writings Mentioned, But Lost.

A book against the Manichaeans (Augustine, c. Julian. i. 16-17). Tillemont (Art. cxlv. p. 303) mentions authors in which lost fragments of St. Basil are to be found, and (Art. cxxxvii. p. 290) refers to the lost Commentary on the Book of Job.

IX.--Additional Notes on Some Points in St. Basil's Doctrinal and Ecclesiastical Position.

It has been claimed with reason that the doctrinal standpoint of St. Basil is identical with that of the English Church, with the one exception of the veneration of relics and the invocation of saints. [702]

In confirmation of this view, the following points may be noted:

1. The Holy Eucharist. The remarkable passage on the spiritual manducation of the elements in Letter VIII. is commented on on p. 118. His custom as to frequent communion and his opinion as to the reserved sacrament are remarked on on p. 179.

A significant passage is to be found in the Moralia, Rule XXI., that participation in the Body and Blood of Christ is necessary to eternal life. John vi. 54, is then quoted. That no benefit is derived by him who comes to communion without consideration of the method whereby participation of the Body and Blood of Christ is given; and that he who receives unworthily is condemned. On this John vi. 54 and 62, and 1 Cor. xiii. 27, are quoted. By what method (poi& 251; logo) we must eat the Body and drink the Blood of the Lord, in remembrance of the Lord's obedience unto death, that they who live may no longer live unto themselves, but to Him who died and rose again for them. In answer, the quotations are Luke xxii. 29, 1 Cor. xi. 23, 2 Cor. v. 14, and 1 Cor. x. 16.

2. Mariolatry. Even Letter CCCLX., which bears obvious marks of spuriousness, and of proceeding from a later age, does not go beyond a recognition of the Blessed Virgin as Theotokos, in which the Catholic Church is agreed, and a general invocation of apostles, prophets, and martyrs, the Virgin not being set above these. The argument of Letter CCLXI. (p. 300) that "if the Godbearing flesh was not ordained to be assumed of the lump of Adam, what need was there of the Blessed Virgin?" seems quite inconsistent with the modern doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Of any cultus of the Virgin, St. Basil's writings shew no trace.

3. Relations to the Roman Church.

In order to say something under this head, Ceillier, the Benedictine, is driven to such straits as to quote the application of the term "Coryphaeus" to Damasus in Letter CCXXXIX. Certainly St. Basil saw no reason to congratulate the Westerns on their "Coryphaeus," so far as intelligent interest in the East was involved. Fialon [703] sees the position more clearly, so far as Basil is concerned, though he assumes the Councils to have given more authority to the patriarch of the ancient capital than was in fact conceded. "Si Basile ne va pas, comme la majorite du Concile de Constantinople, jusqu'a traiter l'Occident comne etranger; s'il ne pretend pas que 1'empire appartienne a l'Orient, parce que l'Orient voit naitre le Soleil, et que c'est en Orient que Dieu brilla dans une enveloppe charnelle, [704] ne voudrait il pas, dans l'ordre religieux, l'union independante, qui, depuis Constantin, rattache, dans l'ordre politique, ces deux parties du monde Romain? A ses yeux l'Orient et l'Occident ne sont ils pas deux freres, dont les droit sont egaux, sans suprematie, sans ainesse?"

In truth Basil appealed to Damasus as Theodoret to Leo, and as Chrysostom to Innocent, not as vassal to liege lord, but as brother to brother. In Basil's case, even the brotherhood was barely recognised, if recognised at all, by the western prelate.

[702] cf. Dr. Travers Smith, St. Basil, p. 125.

[703] Etude Hist. p. 133.

[704] Xenon gar estin, hos horo, nun he dusis, Kai ton logismon, hos epainetos skopei, Dein gar sunallesthai heli& 251; ta pragmata, Enteuthen archen lambanont' hothen Theos ,'Elampsen hemin sarkiko problemati. Greg. Naz., Carm.

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