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Historical Sketches: Volumes 1 To 3 -Blessed John Henry Newman

“What I wrote before, concerning your Pontic abode, was in jest, not in earnest; but now I write very much in earnest. ‘Who shall make me as in months past, as in the days’ when I had the luxury of suffering hardship with you? since voluntary pain is a higher thing than involuntary comfort. Who shall restore me to those psalmodies, and vigils, and departures to God through prayer, and that (as it were) immaterial and incorporeal life? or to that union of brethren, in nature and soul, who are made gods by you, and carried on high? or to that rivalry in virtue and sharpening of heart, which we consigned to written decrees and canons? or to that loving study of divine oracles, and the light we found in them, with the guidance of the Spirit? or, to speak of lesser and lower things, to the bodily labours of the day, the wood-drawing and the stone-hewing, the planting and the draining? or to that golden plane, more honourable than that of Xerxes, under which, not a jaded king, but a weary monk did sit?—planted by me, watered by Apollos (that is, your honourable self), increased by God, unto my honour; that there should be preserved with you a memorial of my loving toil, as Aaron’s rod that budded (as Scripture says and we believe) was kept in the ark. It is very easy to wish all this, not easy to gain it. Do you, however, come to me, and revive my virtue, and work with me; and whatever benefit we once gained together, preserve for me by your prayers, lest otherwise I fade away by little and little, as a shadow, while the day declines. For you are my breath, more than the air, and so far only do I live, as I am in your company, either present, or, if absent, by your image.”—Ep. 6.

From this letter it appears that Basil had made up for Gregory’s absence by collecting a brotherhood around him; in which indeed he had such success that he is considered the founder of the monastic or cœnobitic discipline in Pontus,—a discipline to which the Church gave her sanction, as soon as her establishment by the temporal power had increased the reasons for asceticism, and, increasing its professors, had created the necessity of order and method among them. The following letter, written by Basil at the time of the foregoing letters of Gregory, gives us some insight into the nature of his rule, and the motives and feelings which influenced him: it is too long to do more than extract portions of it.

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