January 2, 2016

"What Would Saint Basil the Great Do if He Lived in our Era?" (St. Paisios the Athonite)

By St. Paisios the Athonite

(First Epistle to a Beginner on the Path Towards Monasticism)

It is most important for a beginner, while still in the world, to find a spiritual father who will be a friend of monasticism, because most of the spiritual fathers in our times are monomachoi ("monk-fighters") and war against monasticism in many different ways. In waging their war they even make use of the Fathers of the Church who were involved in important social work, such as Saint Basil the Great and his Vasileida.*

I don't wish to refer to the life of Saint Basil the Great before he began the Vasileiada, but simply express my thought: What would Saint Basil the Great do if he lived in our era? I am of the opinion that he would again retreat to a cave with his prayer rope watching the flame of love (of the social work of other holy fathers) being spread everywhere; not only to the faithful but even to the unfaithful, who all together constitute Social Providence, which also looks after members of the Spiritual Charity Association (although only by granting a certificate of pauperism). In other words, social welfare is shouting every day: "Holy Fathers of our times, leave charity to us, the lay people, who are not in a position to do something else, and look to concern yourselves with something more spiritual."

Unfortunately, however, some clergymen not only do not follow this exhortation, since they do not understand it, but they also prevent those who do understand it and want to dedicate themselves entirely to Christ, feeling intensely the inclination to depart from the world. That is to say, as if it weren't enough that a beginner monk has to hear this from laymen; he has to hear plenty from the clergymen as well, who even make the unreasonable demand that monks leave the desert and come to the world to take up the social work and the philanthropy.

* Vasileiada refers to the complex instituted by Saint Basil in his Episcopal See that centered on social and philanthropic work.

From Epistles published by the Holy Monastery "Evangelist John the Theologian", Souroti, Thessaloniki, Greece, 2002, p. 31.