60. I am afraid that, in avoiding the imputation of indifference at the hands of those who desire to know all that can be said about him, I shall incur a charge of prolixity from those whose ideal is the golden mean. For the latter Basil himself had the greatest respect, being specially devoted to the adage "In all things the mean(108) is the best," and acting upon it throughout his life. Nevertheless, disregarding alike those who desire undue conciseness or excessive prolixity, I proceed thus with my speech. Different men attain success in different ways, some applying themselves to one alone of the many forms of excellence, but no one, of those hitherto known to me, arriving at the highest eminence in all respects; he being in my opinion the best, who has won his laurels on the widest field, or gained the highest possible renown in some single particular. Such however was the height of Basil's fame, that he became the pride of human kind. Let us consider the matter thus. Is any one devoted to poverty and a life devoid of property, and free from superfluity? What did he possess besides his body, and the necessary coverings of the flesh? His wealth was the having nothing, and he thought the cross, with which he lived, more precious than great riches. For no one, however much he may wish, can obtain possession of all things, hut any one can learn to despise, and so prove himself superior to, all things. Such being his mind, and such his life, he had no need of an altar and of vainglory, nor of such a public announcement as "Crates(109) sets Crates the Theban free." For his aim was ever to be, not to seem, most excellent. Nor did he dwell in a tub,(110) and in the midst of the market-place, and so by luxuriating in publicity turn his poverty into riches: but was poor and unkempt, yet without ostentation: and taking cheerfully the casting overboard of all that he ever had, sailed lightly across the sea of life.
61. A wondrous thing is temperance, and fewness of wants, and freedom from the dominion of pleasures, and from the bondage of that cruel and degrading mistress, the belly. Who was so independent of food, and, without exaggeration, more free from the flesh? For he flung away all satiety and surfeit to creatures destitute of reason, whose life is slavish and debasing. He paid little attention to such things as, next to the appetite, are of equal rank, but, as far as possible, lived on the merest necessaries, his only luxury being to prove himself not luxurious, and not, in consequence, to have greater needs: but he looked to the lilies and the birds,(111) whose beauty is artless, and their food casual, according to the important advice of my Christ, who made Himself poor(112) in the flesh for our sakes, that we might enjoy the riches of His Godhead. Hence came his single coat and well worn cloak, and his bed on the bare ground, his vigils, his unwashedness (such were his decorations) and his most sweet food and relish, bread, and salt, his new dainty, and the sober and plentiful drink, with which fountains supply those who are free from trouble. The result, or the accompaniment, of these things were the attendance on the sick and practice of medicine, our common intellectual pursuit. For, though inferior to him in all other respects, I must needs be his equal in distress.
62. A great thing is virginity, and celibacy, and being ranked with the angels, and with the single nature; for I shrink from calling it Christ's, Who, though He willed to be born for our sakes who are born, by being born of a Virgin, enacted the law of virginity, to lead us away from this life, and cut short the power of the world, or rather, to transmit one world to another, the present to the future. Who then paid more honour to virginity, or had more control of the flesh, not only by his personal example, but in those under his care? Whose are the convents, and the written regulations, by which he subdued every sense, and regulated every member, and won to the real practice of virginity, turning inward the view of beauty, from the visible to the invisible; and by wasting away the external, and withdrawing fuel from the flame, and revealing the secrets of the heart to God, Who is the only bridegroom of pure souls, and takes in with himself the watchful souls, if they go to meet him with lamps burning and a plentiful supply of oil?(113) Moreover he reconciled most excellently and united the solitary and the community life. These had been in many respects at variance and dissension, while neither of them was in absolute and unalloyed possession of good or evil: the one being more calm and settled, tending to union with God, yet not free from pride, inasmuch as its virtue lies beyond the means of testing or comparison; the other, which is of more practical service, being not free from the tendency to turbulence. He founded cells(114) for ascetics and hermits, but at no great distance from his cenobitic communities, and, instead of distinguishing and separating the one from the other, as if by some intervening wall, he brought them together and united them, in order that the contemplative spirit might not be cut off from society, nor the active life be uninfluenced by the contemplative, but that, like sea and land, by an interchange of their several gifts, they might unite in promoting the one object, the glory of God.
63. What more? A noble thing is philanthropy, and the support of the poor, and the assistance of human weakness. Go forth a little way from the city, and behold the new city,(115) the storehouse of piety, the common treasury of the wealthy, in which the superfluities of their wealth, aye, and even their necessaries, are stored, in consequence of his exhortations, freed from the power of the moth,(116) no longer gladdening the eyes of the thief, and escaping both the emulation of envy, and the corruption of time: where disease is regarded in a religious light, and disaster is thought a blessing, and sympathy is put to the test. Why should I compare with this work Thebes(117) of the seen portals, and the Egyptian Thebes, and the walls of Babylon, and the Carian tomb of Mausolus, and the Pyramids, and the bronze without weight of the Colossus, or the size and beauty of shrines that are no more, and all the other objects of men's wonder, and historic record, from which their founders gained no advantage, except a slight meed of fame. My subject is the most wonderful of all, the short road to salvation, the easiest ascent to heaven. There is no longer before our eyes that terrible and piteous spectacle of men who are living corpses, the greater part of whose limbs have mortified, driven away from their cities and homes and public places and fountains, aye, and from their own dearest ones, recognizable by their names rather than by their features: they are no longer brought before us at our gatherings and meetings, in our common intercourse and union, no longer the objects of hatred, instead of pity on account of their disease; composers of piteous songs, if any of them have their voice still left to them. Why should I try to express in tragic style all our experiences, when no language can be adequate to their hard lot? He however it was, who took the lead in pressing upon those who were men, that they ought not to despise their fellowmen, nor to dishonour Christ, the one Head of all, by their inhuman treatment of them; but to use the misfortunes of others as an opportunity of firmly establishing their own lot, and to lend to God that mercy of which they stand in need at His hands. He did not therefore disdain to honour with his lips this disease, noble and of noble ancestry and brilliant reputation though he was, but saluted them as brethren, not, as some might suppose, from vainglory, (for who was so far removed from this feeling?) but taking the lead in approaching to tend them, as a consequence of his philosophy, and so giving not only a speaking, but also a silent, instruction. The effect produced is to be seen not only in the city, but in the country and beyond, and even the leaders of society have vied with one another in their philanthropy and magnanimity towards them. Others have had their cooks, and splendid tables, and the devices and dainties of confectioners, and exquisite carriages, and soft, flowing robes; Basil's care was for the sick, and the relief of their wounds, and the imitation of Christ, by cleansing leprosy, not by a word, but in deed.
64. As to all this, what will be said by those who charge him with pride and haughtiness? Severe critics they are of such conduct, applying to him, whose life was a standard, those who were not standards at all. Is it possible that he who kissed the lepers, and humiliated himself to such a degree, could treat haughtily those who were in health: and, while wasting his flesh by abstinence, puff out his soul with empty arrogance? Is it possible to condemn the Pharisee, and expound the debasing effect of haughtiness, to know Christ, Who condescended to the form of a slave, and ate with publicans, and washed the disciples' feet, and did not disdain the cross, in order to nail my sin to it: and, more incredible still, to see God crucified, aye, along with robbers also, and derided by the passers by, impassible, and beyond the reach of suffering as He is; and yet, as his slanderers imagine, soar himself above the clouds, and think that nothing can be on an equality with him. Nay, what they term pride is, I fancy, the firmness and steadfastness and stability of his character. Such persons would readily, it seems to me, call bravery rashness, and the circumspect a coward, and the temperate misanthropic, and the just illiberal. For indeed this philosophic axiom is excellent, which says that the vices(118) are settled close to the virtues, and are, in some sense, their next-door neighbours: and it is most easy, for those whose training in such subjects has been defective, to mistake a man for what he is not. For who honoured virtue and castigated vice more than he, or showed himself more kind to the upright, more severe to the wrong doers? His very smile often amounted to praise, his silence to rebuke, racking the evil in the secret conscience. And if a man have not been a chatterer, and jester, and gossip, nor a general favourite, because of having pleased others by becoming all things to all men,(119) what of that? Is he not in the eyes of sensible men worthy of praise rather than of blame? Unless it is a fault in the lion that he is terrible and royal, and does not look like an ape, and that his spring is noble, and is valued for its wonderfulness: while stage-players ought to win our admiration for their pleasant and philanthropic characters, because they please the vulgar, and raise a laugh by their sounding slaps in the face. And if this indeed be our object, who was so pleasant when you met him, as I know, who have had the longest experience? Who was more kindly in his stories, more refined in his wit, more tender in his rebukes? His reproofs gave rise to no arrogance, his relaxation to no dissipation, but avoiding excess in either, he made use of both in reason and season, according to the rules of Solomon, who assigns to every business a season.(120)
65. But what are these to his renown for eloquence, and his powers of instruction, which have won the favour of the ends of the world? As yet we have been compassing the foot of the mountain, to the neglect of its summit, as yet we have been crossing a strait, paying no heed to the mighty and deep ocean. For I think that if any one ever has become, or can become, a trumpet, in his far sounding resonance, or a voice of God, embracing the universe, or an earthquake of the world, by some unheard of miracle, it is his voice and intellect which deserve these titles, for surpassing and excelling all men as much as we surpass the irrational creatures. Who, more than he, cleansed himself by the Spirit, and made himself worthy to set forth divine things? Who was more enlightened by the light of knowledge, and had a closer insight into the depths of the Spirit, and by the aid of God beheld the things of God? Whose language could better express intellectual truth, without, as most men do, limping on one foot, by either failing to express his ideas, or allowing his eloquence to outstrip his reasoning powers? In both respects he won a like distinction, and showed himself to be his own equal, and absolutely perfect. To search all things, yea, the deep things of God(121) is, according to the testimony of S. Paul, the office of the Spirit, not because He is ignorant of them, but because He takes delight in their contemplation. Now all the things of the Spirit Basil had fully investigated, and hence he drew his instructions for every kind of character, his lessons in the sublime, and his exhortations to quit things present, and adapt ourselves to things to come.
66. The sun is extolled by David for its beauty, its greatness, its swift course, and its power, splendid as a bridegroom, majestic as a giant;(122) while, from the extent of its circuit, it has such power that it equally sheds its light from one end of heaven to the other, and the heat thereof is in no wise lessened by distance. Basil's beauty was virtue, his greatness theology, his course the perpetual motion reaching even to God by its ascents, and his power the sowing and distribution of the Word. So that I will not hesitate to say even this, his utterance went out into all lands,(123) and the power of his words to the ends of the world: as S. Paul says of the Apostles,(124) borrowing the words from David. What other charm is there in any gathering to-day? What pleasure in banquets, in the courts, in the churches? What delight in those in authority, and those beneath them? What in the hermits, or the cenobites? What in the leisured classes, or those busied in affairs? What in profane schools of philosophy or in our own? There is one, which runs through all, and is the greatest-his writings and labours. Nor do writers require any supply of matter besides his teaching or writings. All the laborious studies of old days in the Divine oracles are silent, while the new ones are in everybody's mouth, and he is the best teacher among us who has the deepest acquaintance with his works, and speaks of them and explains them in our ears. For he alone more than supplies the place of all others to those who are specially eager for instruction.
67. I will only say this of him. Whenever I handle his Hexaemeron, and take its words on my lips, I am brought into the presence of the Creator, and understand the words of creation, and admire the Creator more than before, using my teacher as my only means of sight. Whenever I take up his polemical works, I see the fire of Sodom,(125) by which the wicked and rebellious tongues are reduced to ashes, or the tower of Chalane,(126) impiously built,(127) and righteously destroyed. Whenever. I read his writings on the Spirit, I find the God Whom I possess, and grow bold in my utterance of the truth, from the support of his theology and contemplation. His other treatises, in which he gives explanations for those who are shortsighted, by a threefold inscription on the solid tablets of his heart, lead me on from a mere literal or symbolical interpretation to a still wider view, as I proceed from one depth to another, calling upon deep(128) after deep, and finding light after light, until I attain the highest pinnacle. When I study his panegyrics on our athletes, I despise the body, and enjoy the society of those whom he is praising, and rouse myself to the struggle. His moral and practical discourses purify soul and body, making me a temple fit for God, and an instrument struck by the Spirit, to celebrate by its strains the glory and power of God. In fact, he reduces me to harmony and order, and changes me by a Divine transformation.
68. Since I have mentioned theology, and his most sublime treatises in this science, I will make this addition to what I have already said. For it is of great service to the community, to save them from being injured by an unjustifiably low opinion of him. My remarks are directed against those evil disposed persons who shelter their own vices under cover of their calumnies against others. In his defence of orthodox teaching, and of the union and coequal divinity of the Holy Trinity, to use terms which are, I think, as exact and clear as possible, he would have eagerly welcomed as a gain, and not a danger, not only expulsion from his see, in which he had originally no desire to be enthroned, but even exile, and death, and its preliminary tortures. This is manifest from his actual conduct and sufferings. For when he had been sentenced to banishment on behalf of the truth, the only notice which he took of it was, to bid one of his servants to take his writing tablet and follow him. He held it necessary, according to the divine David's advice, to guide his words with discretion,(129) and to endure for a while the time of war, and the ascendency of the heretics, until it should be succeeded by a time of freedom and calm, which would admit of freedom of speech. The enemy were on the watch for the unqualified statement "the Spirit is God;" which, although it is true, they and the wicked patron of their impiety imagined to be impious; so that they might banish him and his power of theological instruction from the city, and themselves be able to seize upon the church, and make it the starting point and citadel, from which they could overrun with their evil doctrine the rest of the world. Accordingly, by the use of other terms, and by statements which unmistakably had the same meaning, and by arguments necessarily leading to this conclusion, he so overpowered his antagonists, that they were left without reply, and involved in their own admissions,-the greatest proof possible of dialectical power and skill. His treatise on this subject makes it further manifest, being evidently written by a pen borrowed from the Spirit's store. He postponed for the time the use of the exact term, begging as a favour from the Spirit Himself and his earnest champions, that they would not be annoyed at his economy,(130) nor, by clinging to a single expression, ruin the whole cause, from an uncompromising temper, at a crisis when religion was in peril. He assured them that they would stiffer no injury from a slight change in their expressions, and from teaching the same truth in other terms. For our salvation is not so much a matter of words as of actions; for we would not reject the Jews, if they desired to unite with us, and yet for a while sought to use the term "Anointed" instead of "Christ:" while the community would suffer a very serious injury, if the church were seized upon by the heretics.
69. That he, no less than any other, acknowledged that the Spirit is God, is plain from his often having publicly preached this truth, whenever opportunity offered, and eagerly confessed it when questioned in private. But he made it more clear in his conversations with me, from whom he concealed nothing during our conferences upon this subject. Not content with simply asserting it, he proceeded, as he had but very seldom done before, to imprecate upon himself that most terrible fate of separation from the Spirit, if he did not adore the Spirit as consubstantial and coequal with the Father and the Son. And if any one would accept me as having been his fellow labourer in this cause, I will set forth one point hitherto unknown to most men. Under the pressure of the difficulties of the period, he himself undertook the economy, while allowing freedom of speech to me, whom no one was likely to drag from obscurity to trial or banishment, in order that by our united efforts our Gospel might be firmly established. I mention this, not to defend his reputation, for the man is stronger than his assailants, if there are any such; but to prevent men from thinking that the terms found in his writings are the utmost limit of the truth, and so have their faith weakened, and consider that their own error is supported by his theology, which was the joint result of the influences of the time and of the Spirit, instead of considering the sense of his writings, and the object with which they were written, so as to be brought closer to the truth, and enabled to silence the partisans of impiety. At any rate let his theology be mine, and that of all dear to me! And so confident am I of his spotlessness in this respect, that I take him for my partner in this, as in all else: and may what is mine be attributed to him, what is his to me, both at the hands of God, and of the wisest of men! For we would not say that the Evangelists are at variance with one another, because some are more occupied with the human side of the Christ, and others pay attention to His Divinity; some having commenced their history with what is within our own experience, others with what is above us; and by thus sharing the substance of their message, they have procured the advantage of those who receive it, and followed the impressions of the Spirit Who was within them.
70. Come then, there have been many men of old days illustrious for piety, as lawgivers, generals, prophets, teachers, and men brave to the shedding of blood, Let us compare our prelate with them, and thus recognize his merit. Adam was honoured by the hand of God,(131) and the delights of Paradise,(132) and the first legislation:(133) but, unless I slander the reputation of our first parent, he kept not the command, Now Basil both received and observed it, and received no injury from the tree of knowledge, and escaped the flaming sword, and, as I am well assured, has attained to Paradise. Enos first ventured to call upon the Lord.(134) Basil both called upon Him himself, and, what is far more excellent, preached Him to others. Enoch was translated,(135) attaining to his translation as the reward of a little piety (for the faith was still in shadow) and escaped the peril of the remainder of life, but Basil's whole life was a translation, and he was completely tested in a complete life. Noah was entrusted with the ark,(136) and the seeds of a new world committed to a small house of wood, in their preservation from the waters. Basil escaped the deluge of impiety and made of his own city an ark of safety, which sailed lightly over the heretics, and afterwards recovered the whole world.
71. Abraham was a great man, a patriarch, the offerer of the new sacrifice,(137) by presenting to Him who had given it the promised seed, as a ready offering, eager for slaughter. But Basil's offering was no slight one, when he offered himself to God, without any equivalent being given in his stead, (for how could that have been possible?) so that his sacrifice was consummated. Isaac was promised even before his birth,(138) Basil promised himself, and took for his spouse Rebekah, I mean the Church, not fetched from a distance by the mission of a servant,(139) but bestowed upon and entrusted to him by God close at home: nor was he outwitted in the preference of his children, but bestowed upon each what was due to him, without any deception, according to the judgment of the Spirit. I extol the ladder of Jacob,(140) and the pillar which he anointed to God, and his wrestling with Him, whatever it was; and, in my opinion, it was the contrast and opposition of the human stature to the height of God, resulting in the tokens of the defeat(141) of his race. I extol also his clever devices and success in cattle-breeding, and his children, the twelve Patriarchs, and the distribution of his blessings, with their glorious prophecy of the future. But I still more extol Basil for the ladder which he did not merely see, but which he ascended by successive steps towards excellence, and the pillar which he did not anoint, but which he erected to God, by pillorying the teaching of the ungodly; and the wrestling with which he wrestled, not with God, but, on behalf of God, to the overthrow of the heretics; and his pastoral care, whereby he grew rich, through gaining for himself a number of marked sheep greater than that of the unmarked, and his illustrious fruitfulness in spiritual children, and the blessing with which he established many.
72. Joseph was a provider of corn, ((142) ) but in Egypt only, and not frequently, and of bodily food. Basil did so for all men, and at all times, and in spiritual food, and therefore, in my opinion, his was the more honourable function. Like Job, the man of Uz,(143) he was both tempted, and overcame, and at the close of his struggles gained splendid honour, having been shaken by none of his many assailants, and having gained a decisive victory over the efforts of the tempter, and put to silence the unreason of his friends, who knew not the mysterious character of his affliction. "Moses and Aaron among His priests."(144) Truly was Moses great, who inflicted the plagues upon Egypt,(145) and delivered the people among many signs and wonders, and entered within the cloud, and sanctioned the double law, outward in the letter, and inward in the Spirit. Aaron was Moses' brother,(146) both naturally and spiritually, and offered sacrifices and prayers for the people, as the hierophant of the great and holy tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.(147) Of both of them Basil was a rival, for he tortured, not with bodily but with spiritual and mental plagues, the Egyptian race of heretics, and led to the land of promise(148) the people of possession, zealous of good works;(149) he inscribed laws, which are no longer obscure, but entirely spiritual, on tables ((150) which are not broken but are preserved; he entered the Holy of holies,(151) not once a year, but often, I may say every day, and thence he revealed to us the Holy Trinity; and cleansed the people, not with temporary sprinklings, but with eternal purifications: What is the special excellence of Joshua?(152) His generalship, and the distribution of the inheritance, and the taking possession of the Holy Land. And was not Basil an Exarch?(153) Was he not a general of those who are saved by faith?(154) Did he not assign the different inheritances and abodes, according to the will of God, among his followers? So that he too could use the words, "The lot is fallen unto me in pleasant places;(155) and "my fortunes are in Thy hands,"(156) fortunes more precious than those which come to us on earth, and can be snatched away.
73. Further, to run over the Judges, or the most illustrious of the Judges, there is "Samuel among those that call upon His Name,"(157) who was given to God before his birth,(158) and sanctified immediately after his birth, and the anointer with his horn of kings and priests.(159) But was not Basil as an infant consecrated to God from the womb, and offered with a coat(160) at the altar, and was he not a seer of heavenly things, and anointed of the Lord, and the anointer of those who are perfected by the Spirit? Among the kings, David is celebrated, whose victories and trophies(161) gained from the enemy are on record, but his most characteristic trait was his gentleness,(162) and, before his kingly office, his power with the harp, able to soothe even the evil spirit. Solomon asked of God and obtained breadth of heart,(163) making the furthest possible progress in wisdom and contemplation, so that he became the most famous man of his time. Basil, in my opinion, was in no wise, or but little inferior, to the one in gentleness, to the other in wisdom, so that he soothed the arrogance of infuriated sovereigns; and did not merely bring the queen of the south from the ends of the earth, or any other individual, to visit him because of his renown for wisdom, but made his wisdom known in all the ends of the world. I pass over the rest of Solomon's life. Even if we spare it, it is evident to all.
74. Do you praise the courage of Elijah(164) in the presence of tyrants, and his fiery translation?(165) Or the fair inheritance of Elisha, the sheepskin mantle, accompanied by the spirit of Elijah?(166) You must also praise the life of Basil, spent in the fire. I mean in the multitude of temptations, and his escape through fire, which burnt, but did not consume, the mystery of "the bush,"(167) and the fair cloak of skin from on high, his indifference to the flesh. I pass by the rest, the three young men bedewed in the fire,(168) the fugitive prophet praying in the whale's belly,(169) and coming forth from the creature, as from a chamber; the just man in the den, restraining the lions' rage,(170) and the struggle of the seven Maccabees,(171) who were perfected with their father and mother in blood, and in all kinds of tortures. Their endurance he rivalled, and won their glory.
75. I now turn to the New Testament, and comparing his life with those who are here illustrious, I shall find in the teachers a source of honour for their disciple. Who was the forerunner of Jesus?(172) John, the voice of the Word,(173) the lamp of the Light,(174) before Whom he even leaped in the womb,(175) and Whom he preceded to Hades, whither he was despatched by the rage of Herod,(176) to herald even there
Him who was coming. And, if my language seems audacious to anyone, let me assure him beforehand, that in making this comparison, I neither prefer Basil, nor imply that he is equal to him who surpasses all who are born of women,(177) but only show that he was stirred to emulation, and possessed to some extent his striking features. For it is no slight thing for the earnest to imitate the greatest of men, even in a slight degree. Is it not indeed manifest that Basil was a copy of John's asceticism? He also lived in the wilderness, and wore in nightly watchings a ragged garb, during his shrinking retirement; he also loved a similar food, purifying himself for God by abstinence; he also was thought worthy to be a herald, if not a forerunner, of Christ, and there went out to him not only all the region round about,(178) but also that which was beyond its borders; he also stood between the two covenants, abolishing the letter of the one by administering the spirit of the other, and bringing about the fulfilment of the hidden law through the dissolution of that which was apparent.
76. He emulated the zeal of Peter,(179) the intensity of Paul, the faith of both these then of name and of surname, the lofty utterance of the sons of Zebedee, the frugality and simplicity of all the disciples. Therefore he was also entrusted with the keys of the heavens,(180) and not only from Jerusalem and round about unto Illyricum,(181) but he embraces a wider circle in the Gospel; he is not named, but becomes, a Son of thunder; and lying upon the breast of Jesus, he draws thence the power of his word, and the depth of his thoughts. He was prevented from becoming a Stephen,(182) eager though he was, since reverence stayed the hands of those who would have stoned him. I am able to sum up still more concisely, to avoid treating in detail on these points of each individual. In some respects he discovered, in some he emulated, in others he surpassed the good. In his many-sided virtues he excelled all men of this day. I have but one thing left to say, and in few words.
77. So great was his virtue, and the eminence of his fame, that many of his minor characteristics, nay, even his physical defects, have been assumed by others with a view to notoriety. For instance his paleness, his beard, his gait, his thoughtful, and generally meditative, hesitation in speaking, which, in the ill-judged, inconsiderate imitation of many, took the form of melancholy. And besides, the style of his dress, the shape of his bed, and his manner of eating, none of which was to him a matter of consequence, but simply the result of accident and chance. So you might see many Basils in outward semblance, among these statues in outline, for it would be too much to call them his distant echo. For an echo, though it is the dying away of a sound, at any rate represents it with great clearness, while these men fall too far short of him to satisfy even their desire to approach him. Nor was it a slight thing, but a matter with good reason held in the highest estimation, to chance to have met him or done him some service, or to carry away the souvenir of something which he had said or done in jest or in earnest: as I know that I have myself often taken pride in doing; for his improvisations were much more precious and brilliant than the laboured efforts of other men.
78. But when, after he had finished his course, and kept the faith,(183) he longed to depart, and the time for his crown was approaching,(184) he did not hear the summons: "Get thee up into the mountain and die,"(185) hut "Die and come up to us." And here again he wrought a wonder in no wise inferior to those mentioned before. For when he was almost dead, and breathless, and had lost the greater part of his powers; he grew stronger in his last words, so as to depart with the utterances of religion, and, by ordaining the most excellent of his attendants, bestowed upon them both his hand and the Spirit: so that his disciples, who had aided him in his priestly office, might not be defrauded of the priesthood. The remainder of my task I approach, but with reluctance, as it would fall more filly from the mouths of others than from my own. For cannot philosophise over my misfortune, even if greatly longed to do so, when I recollect that the loss is common to us all, and that the misfortune has befallen the whole world.
79. He lay, drawing his last breath, and awaited by the choir on high, towards which he had long directed his gaze. Around him poured the whole city, unable to bear his loss, inveighing against his departure, as if it had been an oppression, and clinging to his soul, as though it had been capable of restraint or compulsion at their bands or their prayers. Their suffering had driven them distracted, all were eager, were it possible, to add to his life a portion of their own. And when they failed, for it must needs be proved that he was a man, and, with his last words "Into thy Hands I commend my spirit,"(186) he had joyfully resigned his soul to the care of the angels who carried him away; not without having some religious instructions and injunctions for the benefit of those who were present-then occurred a wonder more remarkable than any which had happened before.
80. The saint was being carried out, lifted high by the hands of holy men, and everyone was eager, some to seize the hem of his garment,(187) others only just to touch the shadow,(188) or the bier which bore his holy remains (for what could be more holy or pure than that body), others to draw near to those who were carrying it, others only to enjoy the sight, as if even this were beneficial. Market places, porticos, houses of two or three stories were filled with people escorting, preceding, following, accompanying him, and trampling upon each other; tens of thousands of every race and age, beyond all previous experience. The psalmody was overborne by the lamentations, philosophic resignation sank beneath the misfortune. Our own people vied with strangers, Jews, Greeks, and foreigners, and they with us, for a greater share in the benefit, by means of a more abundant lamentation. To close my story, the calamity ended in danger; many souls departed along with him, from the violence of the pushing and confusion, who have been thought happy in their end, departing together with him, "funeral victims," perhaps some fervid orator might call them. The body having at last escaped froth those who would seize it, and made its way through those who went before it, was consigned to the tomb of his fathers, the high priest being added to the priests, the mighty voice which rings in my ears to the heralds, the martyr to the martyrs. And now he is in heaven, where, if I mistake not, he is offering sacrifices for us, and praying for the people, for though, he has left us, he bus not entirely left us. While I, Gregory, who am half dead, and, cleft in twain, torn away from our great union, and dragging along a life of pain which runs not easily, as may be supposed, after separation from him, know not what is to be my end now that I have lost my guidance. And even now I am admonished and instructed in nightly visions, if ever I fall short of my duty. And my present object is not so much to mingle lamentations with my praises, or to portray the public life of the man, or publish a picture of virtue common to all time, and an example salutary to all churches, and to all souls, which we may keep in view, as a living law, and so rightly direct our lives as to counsel you, who have been completely initiated into his doctrine, to fix your eyes upon him, as one who sees you and is seen by you, and thus to be perfected by the Spirit.
81. Come hither then, and surround me, all ye members of his choir, both of the clergy and the laity, both of our own country and from abroad; aid me in my eulogy, by each supplying or demanding the account of some of his excellences. Regard, ye occupants of the bench, the lawgiver; ye politicians, the statesman; ye men of the people, his orderliness; ye men of letters, the instructor; ye virgins, the leader of the bride; ye who are yoked in marriage, the restrainer; ye hermits, him who gave you wings; ye cenobites, the judge; ye simple men, the guide; ye contemplatives, the divine; ye cheerful ones, the bridle; ye unfortunate men, the consoler, the staff of boar hairs, the guide of youth, the relief of poverty, the steward of abundance. Widows also will, I imagine, praise their protector, orphans their father poor men their friend, strangers their entertainer, brothers the man of brotherly love, the sick their physician, whatever be their sickness and the healing they need, the healthy the preserver of health, and all men him who made himself all things to all that he might gain the majority, if not all.82. This is my offering to thee, Basil, uttered by the tongue which once was the sweetest of all to thee, of him who was thy fellow in age and rank. If it have approached thy deserts, thanks are due to thee, for it was from confidence in thee that I undertook to speak of thee. But if it fall far short of thy expectations, what must be our feelings, who are worn out with age and disease and regret for thee? Yet God is pleased, when we do what we can. Yet mayest thou gaze upon us from above, thou divine and sacred person; either stay by thy entreaties our thorn in the flesh, given to us by God for oar discipline, or prevail upon us to bear it boldly, and guide all our life towards that which is most for our profit. And if we be translated, do thou receive us there also in thine own tabernacle. that, as we dwell together, and gaze together more clearly and more perfectly upon the holy and blessed Trinity, of Which we have now in some degree received the image, our longing may at last be satisfied, by gaining this recompense for all the battles we have fought and the assaults we have endured. Such are our words on thy behalf: who will there be to praise us, since we leave this life after thee, even if we offer any topic worthy of words or praise in Christ Jesus our Lord, to Whom be glory forever? Amen.