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Meditation On the Love of God and Our Neighbour
St. Basil the Great, Bishop and Doctor
Translated by M.F. Toale, D.D.
(PG 32, Sermon III, col. 1147.  One of twenty four sermons compiled from 
the works of St. Basil by Simeon Logotheta; principally from the first 
exposition of the Longer Rules, letters, and the homilies of the Hexaemeron.)
1. They who have removed themselves from the cares of this world should watch over their own heart with all carefulness, so that they may not at any time deprive it of the thought of God, or defile the remembrance of His wonders with the images of earthly vanities. Rather, let the hallowed thought of God, impressed like a seal upon the soul, through the pure and continuous remembrance of Him, be ever borne about with us. For it is in this way that the love of God will come to us, urging us on to the daily task of keeping the Lord’s commandments, and preserved in turn by them from failing or going astray. He who is strongly possessed by an ardent desire to follow Christ, is no longer able to turn his mind to anything related to this life, not even to the love of parents and kindred, should this be in any way opposed to the precepts of the Lord. That this is so, we know from the words: If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, he cannot be my disciple (Lk. xiv. 26). 

And this the holy Disciples of the Lord also teach us; James and John, who with one mind left their father Zebedeus, and even the boat on which their whole livelihood depended. And Matthew also, leaving his booth, followed our Lord; and not only did he leave the profits of his calling, he also thought nothing of the dangers that threatened both him and his family, from the civil powers, for leaving without notice the task given him by the public authorities. To Paul also the whole world was crucified, and he to the world (Gal. vi. 14). For when the love of God fills the soul it makes nothing of every kind of contest; and even should all men shoot their darts at it because of Him it loves, they would delight rather than torment it. For if we have a natural affection and gratitude towards those who have been good to us, and will suffer any hardship to repay them the good they have done us, what words can fittingly describe the gifts of God? So great is their number, we cannot count them; so great, so wondrous that even for one of them we should never cease to give thanks to our Benefactor. 

But He is so good, so kind, that He seeks nothing in return, content that we love Him for what He has given us. And at the thought of all His goodness, if I may reveal my own mind to you, I am full of dread and of fearful anxiety, lest through failing in watchfulness of soul, or because of absorption in vain things, I may fall away from the love of God and become a reproach to Christ. For in reproach to the Lord the devil will pride himself on our contempt for God, on our indifference. And he who neither created us nor suffered for us, will yet hold us up as partners in his own disobedience, in his own neglect to obey the commandments of God. Such an insult, offered to the Lord, and that we should give cause to the enemy of Christ to mock Him Who died for us and rose again, is to me more grievous than the pains of hell. 

2. For we must love the Lord God with all the power to love that is in us. And we must also love our neighbour; and we must love even our enemies, that we may be perfect; imitating the kindness of our Father Who is in heaven, Who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad (Mt. v. 45). And it is an evil thing to waste the power of love on other things. And if the good of charity is limited to the name of charity, it is a ridiculous thing to pick one here and one there, and give a share of charity to these only and exclude endless others from the favour of our common love. But if the friendship we make with evil men, who accept it, should lead to evil under the pretext of friendship, we should then consider with whom we have joined ourselves. For if the Beloved Son of God is hated, what wonder if we too are hated by those in whom hate is supreme? 

No building can stand if its joinings collapse; neither can the church grow and increase if it is not bound together by the bonds of peace and love. Nothing is so in accord with our nature as to live in peace with one another, to need one another, to love our kind. And we need each one of us the help of one another more than one hand needs the other. When I consider these bodily members of ours, that no one of them suffices of itself, how can I regard myself as sufficient for my own life? One foot cannot move in safety, unless supported by the other; nor will one eye see a thing well, without the company of the other, and applied with it to the thing we see. And we hear more accurately when the sound comes through the passages of both ears, and the grip of the hand is stronger when the fingers are joined together. In short, nothing done by nature, nothing that is done of our own free will is done outside the concord of those members which are of the same kind. Even our prayer is weaker than when we pray in common. Consider the natural common affection of the night-birds (bats), how they cling together like a garland, and do not regard a life that is single and solitary as more to be esteemed than a life united by peace and love. Nothing separates us from each other, unless we wish it ourselves. For we have one Lord, one faith, the same hope. If you think of yourselves as the head, the head cannot say to the feet: I have no need of you (I Cor. xii. 21). Or if you think of yourselves in another relationship, you cannot say to us who have been placed with you in the same body: We have no need of you. For one hand needs the other, and one foot steadies the other, the eyes see more clearly and distinctly through seeing together. 

Do not let a thought such as this take hold of you: ‘We are apart from the common miseries, and so what need have we to mingle with others?’ For the Lord Who separated the islands from the continent by the sea has joined the island dwellers with those of the continent by charity. What divides the flatterer from the friend is principally this: the flatterer speaks only to please, the friend will not pass over in silence what is displeasing. Do you know what you should do for your neighbour? That which you wish others would do to you. Do you know what evil is? It is that which you do not choose to suffer from another. Since you heard from God the words: By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another (Jn. xiii. 35), and since the Lord, about to complete the work of His Incarnation, left as a parting gift His peace to His Disciples; by saying: Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you (Jn. xiv. 27), I cannot say that, without love towards others, and without, as far as in me lies, peace towards all men, I am worthy to be called a disciple of Christ. 

3.  And so our charity should be the same to all men and common to all; as a man naturally will have a care for each of his members, desiring that all his body shall be equally healthy; since pain in one member afflicts the whole body. For he who loves one member of his company more than another reveals by this the imperfection of his own charity. Likewise, two things are unprofitable in company or in a family: Unseemly quarrelling and particular affections. For enmities arise from strife, and envy and suspicion because of particular friendships. For wherever there is a deprivation of equality, you have a cause and a beginning, among those deprived, of envy and hate. And just as the good God has bestowed His light equally on all, and makes His sun to rise on good and bad alike (Mt. v. 45), so those who imitate God, pour out on all alike the warm rays of their charity. For where charity fails and disappears, beyond any doubt hate will take its place. And if as John says, God is love (I Jn. iv. 16), it then must follow that the devil is hate. He therefore who has charity within him, has God within him; so he who cherishes hate within him, cherishes the devil within him. 

And because this is the nature of charity, we must show the same charity and equal charity to all men; and show likewise to all men the honour and respect that is due to each. And just as in our bodies the pain in one single member affects the whole body, and this too though some members are more important than others (for we are not equally injured by a hurt to the toes as by one to the eyes: though the pain be the same in both), in the same way we should show equal love and sympathy to all alike with whom we live together; while nevertheless showing, as is befitting, greater esteem to those who are the more deserving of it. And also among those joined to one another by the bond of a common spiritual life, let there be no greater affection between them because of bodily kinship; not even if one is the full brother of the other, or the son, or the daughter. For whoever in this follows the impulse of nature, such a person is not yet perfectly withdrawn from the natural affections, but rather is still ruled by the flesh.  To God be glory for all ages and ages.  Amen.