Babette’s Feast: Basil the Great

June 24, 2010 — Leave a comment

With this post, I’m offering a new item on the Snacks menu: Babette’s Feast. Named in honor of the generous, graceful cook in Isak Dinesen’s “Babette’s Feast”, this item will highlight followers of Jesus through history, the faithful and sometimes forgotten or unsung saints who are part of the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ mentioned in Hebrews 11 and 12. These fellow followers faced many of the challenges and stresses we face today and their example can serve as a rich encouragement for us as we plug away. [If you haven’t read Dinesen’s short story or seen the movie based on it, I highly recommend it.]

Now for Basil the Great [who wrote so eloquently on community in the last post]:
Born around 330 AD in what is now Turkey, Basil the Great was well-educated and raised in a Christian family. He lived the monastic life for five years until his bishop asked him to help defend orthodox Christianity in an increasingly hostile environment. Basil was a leader in promoting the full divinity of Jesus Christ, in contrast to people who were teaching that Jesus was not equal to God the Father. He also upheld the full divinity of the Holy Spirit. He wrote several books as well as a rule for monastic life which became the foundation for Benedict’s rule. But he is also known for caring for the poor and for building hospitals to relieve the suffering of the sick and destitute.

When the Emperor’s number-two man, the ill-named Modestus, threatened Basil with confiscation, exile, torture and death, Basil replied:

Well, in truth, confiscation means nothing to a man who has nothing, unless you covet these wretched rags and a few books; that is all I possess.

As to exile, that means nothing to me, for I am attached to no particular place. That wherein I live is not mine, and I shall feel at home in any place to which I am sent. Or rather, I regard the whole earth as belonging to God, and I consider myself as a stranger wherever I may be.

As for torture, how will you apply it? I have not a body capable of bearing it, unless you are thinking of the first blow you give me, for that will be the only one in your power.

As for death, this will be a benefit to me, for it will take me the sooner to the God for whom I live.


If you want to learn more about Basil the Great

Earlier Babette’s Feast posts:

Isobel Kuhn

Today’s silent saints

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