Saturday Salutations - to see more letters, click on the "Saturday Salutations" tag in the sidebar menu labeled "Topics"
(Painting: "Letter Rack," by Cornelius Norbertus Gysbrechts, 1675)
Third Letter to Basil, in response to Basil's Letters 5 & 6
I was saddened to hear of the tragic loss of Nectarius’ son (Letters V-VI). It’s clear from the way you write that you are a good and loyal friend, and I’m pleased to count you among my friends as well. I’ve been blessed in that I’ve never yet had to face such a devastating blow as that in my own life. On the other hand, though, the life of a modern American Christian such as myself is often so free of loss as to make the fight for virtue a rather artificial and difficult path. I’m not sure that I would trade my cushy life for a more naturally virtue-forming existence, but I’ve certainly noticed in others the patience, perseverance, and grace that the Holy Spirit forms in those faithful believers who walk through shadowy vales with Him. I trust, as you do, that God “knows how He dispenses to each that which is best for him, and for what reason He sets for us unequal terms of life.” And, as you remind us, tragedies like that—the loss of our loved ones—are simply the early arrival of the fate that awaits us all; and not only us, but all living things, the earth, the stars, the universe. Put in such a perspective, the sorrows we go through here and the struggles we undertake—though still truly sorrows and struggles—seem somehow smaller than when they are considered in themselves. As you instruct us, “Do not measure your suffering by itself.” It’s pretty hard, when caught in the middle of some tragedy or conflict, to see beyond it, but I think you’re right in the end: suffering will consume our entire lives if we look only to the suffering itself. We all need, as you say, “to play the martyr’s role through patience.” I face many small battles in pursuit of virtue, and have been spared many of the larger ones…but some days it still does feel like a martyrdom nonetheless. God grant that I will remain faithful in it. Pray for me, Basil.