The irresistible thirst which God inspires in the soul

It is natural to look for beauty and to love it, even though the idea of what is beautiful varies between one person and another.

Now, what is more marvellous than the divine beauty?  What can you think of that is more likely to give pleasure than the magnificence of God?  What desire could be more ardent, more irresistible than the thirst which God inspires in the soul when once it has been purified of every vice and cries out: I am sick with love. (Song of Songs 2:5)

The divine beauty is beyond description in words. We could compare its brilliance to the light of the morning star or the moon or the sun. But we should be as far from a true description as midday is from the dead of night.

This beauty is invisible to the eyes of the body; only the soul and the mind can perceive it.  Every time it illumines the saints, it leaves in them a sting, a nostalgia so strong as to wring from them the cry: Woe is me, that I am in exile still. (Psalm 120:5)

By our nature we human beings aspire to what is beautiful and love it.  But what is beautiful is also good.  God is good.  Everyone looks for the good, therefore everyone looks for God.

Who is Saint Basil the Great?

Bishop of Caesarea   (330 – 375 A.D.)

St. Basil was born in Caesarea, Asia Minor, and received his education in Constantinople and Athens. He joined the University of Athens in 351 where he studied philosophy and the great classical works for five years. There he did very well in his studies and lived as an ascetic. He returned to Caesarea in 35S to teach at the university. He then traveled extensively in Syria and Egypt, where he visited the great hermits in the monasteries of the Eastern and Western Deserts of Egypt. He was deeply influenced by the life of the Egyptian monks and their great devotion to the worship of God. He was attracted to monasticism as a result of his visit to the Egyptian monasteries. He retired for study and contemplation at the bank of the River Iris, in Pontus. There he devoted his life completely to spiritual meditation in solitude until a number of followers gathered around him.

As a monk. St. Basil was influenced by St. Pachomius (A.D. 290) of Egypt who called for combatting idleness among monks and advocated a unique rganization of the monastic order which earned him the title "The Father of Monastic Communities". This inspired St. Basil the monk to build a house for the elderly and the disabled, as well as a hospital adjacent to one of the Orthodox monasteries at the outskirts of the city of Caesarea. St. Basil later became the founder of an important eastern monastic order, the Basilian Order.

St. Basil was a very close friend of St. Gregoryn the Bishop of Nazianzus – Constantinople. Together they wrote an outstanding work, The Philocalia, a collection of articles dealing with Origen (A.D. 185), the great Alexandrian theologian.

St. Basil became Bishop of Caesarea in the year 370 A.D. One of the greatest contributions of St. Basil to the Christian faith was his opposition to Arianism. Arianism was a movement which took place in the first third of the Mth century. Arius, the chief representative of the movement claimed that God, the Father, created Christ in time as His son, similar to Him but not completely equal to Him. In this Arius was attacked and proven totally wrong by a great number of the fathers of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt. One of those fathers with whom St. Basil collaborated in the fight against Arius was St. Athanasius (A.D. 296-373) Patriarch of Alexandrian who at the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) ably defended the doctrine of Christ's Divinity by proclaiming and proving beyond any doubt that Christ existed in eternity as God, and was and is and has always been consubstan- tial with God the Father in every aspect. It was St. Athanasius who formulated the Athanasian Creed, also known as the Orthodox Creed.

Quick Facts

+ The Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great is the one most commonly used year around in the Coptic Church. The Basilian Liturgy was established at the end of the 4th Century, it drew heavily from that of St. Mark the Evangelist, the founder of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt. The Basilian Liturgy is addressed to God the Father.

+ St. Basil the Great, the champion of Eastern Orthodox, was born at Caesarea, the capital of Cappodcia in 330 A.D. of wealthy and noble Christian parents. He was deeply influenced by the life of the Egyptian monks and became attracted to monasticism as a result of his visit to the Egyptian monasteries.

+ As a monk, St. Basil was influenced by St. Pachomius (A.D. 290) of Egypt. St. Basil became Bishop of Caesarea in the year 370 A.D. Among his great contributions to the Christian faith is his collaboration with St. Athanasius (296-373 A.D.), the 20th Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt in fight against Arianism and in defending the doctrine of Christ's Divinity.

On the Psalms and Agpeya

Any part of the Scriptures you like to choose is inspired by God. The Holy Spirit composed the Scriptures so that in them, as in a pharmacy open to all souls, we might each of us be able to find the medicine suited to our own particular illness. Thus, the teaching of the Prophets is one thing, and that of the historical books is another.

And, again, the Law has one meaning, and the advice we read in the Book of Proverbs has a different one. But the Book of Psalms contains everything useful that the others have. It predicts the future, it recalls the past, it gives directions for living, it suggests the right behavior to adopt. It is, in short, a jewel case in which have been collected all the valid teachings in such a way that individuals find remedies just right for their cases. It heals the old wounds of the soul and gives relief to recent ones. It cures the illnesses and preserves the health of the soul.

Every Psalm brings peace, soothes the internal conflicts, calms the rough waves of evil thoughts, dissolves anger, corrects and moderates profligacy. Every Psalm preserves friendship and reconciles those who are separated. Who could actually regard as an enemy the person beside whom they have raised a song to the one God? Every Psalm anticipates the anguish of the night and gives rest after the efforts of the day.  it is safety for babes, beauty for the young, comfort for the aged, adornment for women. Every Psalm is the voice of the Church.

Gratitude for the Lord’s Goodness

What words can adequately describe God’s gifts? They are so numerous that they defy enumeration. They are so great that any one of them demands our total gratitude in response.

Yet even though we cannot speak of it worthily, there is one gift which no thoughtful man can pass over in silence. God fashioned man in his own image and likeness; he gave him knowledge of himself; he endowed him with the ability to think which raised him above all living creatures; he permitted him to delight in the unimaginable beauties of paradise, and gave him dominion over everything upon earth.

Then, when man was deceived by the serpent and fell into sin, which led to death and to all the sufferings associated with death, God still did not forsake him. He first gave man the law to help him; he set angels over him to guard him; he sent the prophets to denounce vice and to teach virtue; he restrained man’s evil impulses by warnings and roused his desire for virtue by promises. Frequently, by way of warning, God showed him the respective ends of virtue and of vice in the lives of other men. Moreover, when man continued in disobedience even after he had done all this, God did not desert him.

No, we were not abandoned by the goodness of the Lord. Even the insult we offered to our Benefactor by despising his gifts did not destroy his love for us. On the contrary, although we were dead, our Lord Jesus Christ restored us to life again, and in a way even more amazing than the fact itself, for his state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God, but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave.

He bore our infirmities and endured our sorrows. He was wounded for our sake so that by his wounds we might be healed. He redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse for our sake, and he submitted to the most ignominious death in order to exalt us to the life of glory. Nor was he content merely to summon us back from death to life; he also bestowed on us the dignity of his own divine nature and prepared for us a place of eternal rest where there will be joy so intense as to surpass all human imagination.

How, then, shall we repay the Lord for all his goodness to us? He is so good that he asks no recompense except our love: that is the only payment he desires. To confess my personal feelings, when I reflect on all these blessings I am overcome by a kind of dread and numbness at the very possibility of ceasing to love God and of bringing shame upon Christ because of my lack of recollection and my preoccupation with trivialities.