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St. Basil’s Letters of Condolence

CHURCH FATHERS: Letter 5 (St. Basil)

Who could be so stony-hearted, so truly inhuman, as to be insensible to what has occurred, or be affected by merely moderate grief? He is gone; heir of a noble house, prop of a family, a father’s hope, offspring of pious parents, nursed with innumerable prayers, in the very bloom of manhood, torn from his father’s hands…. But yesterday it seemed that you had only little to trouble you, and that your life’s stream was flowing prosperously on. In a moment, by a demon’s malice, all the happiness of the house, all the brightness of life, is destroyed, and our lives are made a doleful story. …

2. But we mean—do we not?— to bring out the gift which God has stored in our hearts; I mean that sober reason which in our happy days is wont to draw lines of limitation round our souls, and when troubles come about us to recall to our minds that we are but men, and to suggest to us, what indeed we have seen and heard, that life is full of similar misfortunes, and that the examples of human sufferings are not a few. Above all, this will tell us that it is God’s command that we who trust in Christ should not grieve over them who are fallen asleep, because we hope in the resurrection; and that in reward for great patience great crowns of glory are kept in store by the Master of life’s course. Only let us allow our wiser thoughts to speak to us in this strain of music, and we may perhaps discover some slight alleviation of our trouble.  … We have not lost the lad; we have restored him to the Lender. His life is not destroyed; it is changed for the better. He whom we love is not hidden in the ground; he is received into heaven. Let us wait a little while, and we shall be once more with him. The time of our separation is not long, for in this life we are all like travellers on a journey, hastening on to the same shelter. While one has reached his rest another arrives, another hurries on, but one and the same end awaits them all. He has outstripped us on the way, but we shall all travel the same road, and the same hostelry awaits us all. 

CHURCH FATHERS: Letter 6 (St. Basil)

When first you were made a mother, and saw your boy, and thanked God, you knew all the while that, a mortal yourself, you had given birth to a mortal. What is there astonishing in the death of a mortal? But we are grieved at his dying before his time. Are we sure that this was not his time? We do not know how to pick and choose what is good for our souls, or how to fix the limits of the life of man.

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