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Home > Fathers of the Church > Letters (St. Basil of Caesarea) > Letter 299

Letter 299

ST. BASIL OF CAESAREA

To a Censitor.

I was aware, before you told me, that you do not like your employment in public affairs. It is an old saying that those who are anxious to lead a pious life do not throw themselves with pleasure into office. The case of magistrates seems to me like that of physicians. They see awful sights; they meet with bad smells; they get trouble for themselves out of other people's calamities. This is at least the case with those who are real magistrates. All men who are engaged in business, look also to make a profit, and are excited about this kind of glory, count it the greatest possible advantage to acquire some power and influence by which they may be able to benefit their friends, punish their enemies, and get what they want for themselves. You are not a man of this kind. How should you be? You have voluntarily withdrawn from even high office in the State. You might have ruled the city like one single house, but you have preferred a life free from care and anxiety. You have placed a higher value on having no troubles yourself and not troubling other people, than other people do on making themselves disagreeable. But it has seemed good to the Lord that the district of Ibora should not be under the power of hucksters, nor be turned into a mere slave market. It is His will that every individual in it should be enrolled, as is right. Do you therefore accept this responsibility? It is vexatious, I know, but it is one which may bring you the approbation of God. Neither fawn upon the great and powerful, nor despise the poor and needy. Show to all under your rule an impartiality of mind, balanced more exactly than any scales. Thus in the sight of those who have entrusted you with these responsibilities your zeal for justice will be made evident, and they will view you with exceptional admiration. And even though you go unnoticed by them, you will not be unnoticed by our God. The prizes which He has put before us for good works are great.

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Source. Translated by Blomfield Jackson. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 8. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1895.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3202299.htm>.

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