St. Basil the Great: “Homily About Ascesis – How a Monk Should be Adorned”

St. Basil of Caesarea, also called Saint Basil the Great (330 – January 379), was a bishop of Caesarea Mazaca in Cappadocia (modern-day Turkey). He was an influential theologian who supported the Nicene Creed and opposed the heresies of the early Christian church. Together with Pachomius, he is remembered as a father of communal (coenobitic) monasticism in Eastern Christianity. Basil, together with his brother Gregory of Nyssa and his friend Gregory of Nazianzus, are collectively referred to as the Cappadocian Fathers.

“The monk, above all, must not possess anything in his life. He must have bodily isolation, proper clothing, a moderate tone of voice, and discipline speech; he must not cause a ruckus about the food and drink and he must eat in silence; he must be silent before his elders and be attentive to wiser men; he must love his peers and advise those junior in a loving way; he must move away from the immoral and the carnal and the sophisticated; he must think much and say less; he must not become impudent in his words, nor gossip and not be amenable to laughter; he must be adorned with shame, directing his gaze to the ground and his soul upward; he must not object with words of contention but rather be compliant; he must work with his hands and always keep in remembrance the end of this age; he must rejoice with hope, endure sadness, pray unceasingly and thank God for everything; he must be humble towards all and hate pride; he must be vigilant in keeping his heart pure of any evil thought; he must gather treasures in Heaven by keeping the commandments, examine himself for his thoughts and actions each day and not be involved in vain things of life and in idle talk; he must not examine inquisitively the life of idle people, but imitate the lives of the Holy Fathers; he must be happy with those who achieve virtue and not be envious; he must suffer with those suffering and weep with them and be sorry for them, but not criticise them; he must not reproach one who returns from his sin and never justify himself. Above all else he must confess before God and the men that he is a sinner and admonish the unruly, strengthen the faint-hearted, minister unto the sick and washed the feet of the saints; he must attend to hospitality and brotherly love, to be at peace with those who have the same faith and abhor the heretics; he must read the canonical books and not open even a single one of the occult; he must not talk about the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, but think and confess the uncreated and consubstantial Trinity with courage, and tell those who ask that there is the need of to be baptised, as we have received it from the tradition, to believe, as we have confessed it according to our baptism, and to glorify God, as we have believed.”

~ from: The Monastic Rule of St. Basil the Great

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  1. #1 by johnbholt on April 18, 2023 - 1:28 PM

    This homily is an inspiring meditation to be embraced with thanksgiving. Indeed, it is a spiritual rainbow of the beautiful spirit-filled and disciplined life revealed and blessed by the light of Truth.

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