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NPNF2-08. Basil: Letters and Select Works
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Letter LIV.21992199    Placed at the same time as the foregoing.

To the Chorepiscopi.

I am much distressed that the canons of the Fathers have fallen through, and that the exact discipline of the Church has been banished from among you.  I am apprehensive lest, as this indifference grows, the affairs of the Church should, little by little, fall into confusion.  According to the ancient custom observed in the Churches of God, ministers in the Church were received after careful examination; the whole of their life was investigated; an enquiry was made as to their being neither railers nor drunkards, not quick to quarrel, keeping their youth in subjection, so as to be able to maintain “the holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.”22002200    Heb. xii. 14.  This examination was made by presbyters and deacons living with them.  Then they brought them to the Chorepiscopi; and the Chorepiscopi, after receiving the suffrages of the witnesses as to the truth and giving information to the Bishop, so admitted the minister to the sacerdotal order.22012201    The Ben. note runs, “Ministros, sive subdiaconos, sacratorum ordini ascribit Basilius.  Synodus Laodicena inferiores clericos sacratorum numero non comprehendit, sed numerat sacratos a presbyteris usque ad diaconos, ἀπο πρεσβυτέρων ἕως διακόνων, can. 24, distinguit canone 27, ἱερατικοὺς, ἢ κληρικοὺς ἢ λαικοὺς, sive sacratos, sive clericos, sive laicos.  Et can. 30.  Οτι οὑ δεῖ ἱερατικὸν ἢ κληρικὸν ἢ ἀσκητὴν ἐν βαλανειῳ μετὰ γυναικῶν ἀπολούεσθαι, μηδὲ πάντα Χριστιανὸν ἢ λαϊκόνNon oportet sacratum vel clericum aut ascetam in balneo cum mulieribus lavari. sed nec ullum Christianum aut laïcum.  Non sequuntur hujus synodi morem ecclesiastici scriptores.  Basilius, epist. 287, excommunicato omne cum sacratis commercium intercludit.  Et in epist. 198,  ἱερατεῖον intelligit cœtum clericorum, eique ascribit clericos qui epistolas episcopi perferebant.  Athanasius ad Rufinianum scribens, rogat eum ut epistolam legat ἱερατεί& 251· et populo.  Gregorius Nazianzenus lectores sacri ordinis, ἱεροῦ ταγματος, partem esse agnoscit in epist. 45.  Notandus etiam canon 8 apostolicus, ει τις ἐπίσκοπος ἢ etc. πρεσβύτερος ἢ διάκονος ἢ ἐκ τοῦ ἱεραρικοῦ καταλόγον, etc.  Si quis episcopus vel presbyter vel diaconus, vel ex sacro ordine.  Hæc visa sunt observanda, quia pluribus Basilii locis, quæ deinceps occurrent, non parum afferent lucis.”  The letter of the Council in Illyricum uses ἱερατικὸν τάγμα in precisely the same way.  Theod., Ecc. Hist. iv. 8, where see note on p. 113.  So Sozomen, On the Council of Nicæa, i. 23.  Ordo, the nearest Latin equivalent to the Greek τάγμα, was originally used of any estate in the church, e.g. St. Jerome, On Isaiah v. 19, 18.
   On the testing of qualifications for orders, cf. St. Cyprian, Ep. lxviii.
  Now, however, you have quite passed me over; you have not even had the grace to refer to me, and have transferred the whole authority to yourselves.  Furthermore, with complete indifference, you have allowed presbyters and deacons to introduce unworthy persons into the Church, just any one they choose, without any previous examination of life and character, by mere favoritism, on the score of relationship or some other tie.  The consequence is, that in every village, there are reckoned many ministers, but not one single man worthy of the service of the altars.  Of this you yourselves supply proof from your difficulty in finding suitable candidates for election.  As, then, I perceive that the evil is gradually reaching a point at which it would be incurable, and especially at this moment when a large number of persons are presenting themselves for the ministry through fear of the conscription, I am constrained to have recourse to the restitution of the canons of the Fathers.  I thus order you in writing to send me the roll of the ministers in every village, stating by whom each has been introduced, and what is his mode of life.  You have the roll in your own keeping, so that your version can be compared with the documents which are in mine, and no one can insert his own name when he likes.  So if any have been introduced by presbyters after the first appointment,22022202    μετὰ τὴν πρώτην ἐπινέμησιν.  ᾽Επινέμησις is in later Greek the recognized equivalent for “indictio” in the sense of a period of fifteen years (Cod. Theod. xi. 28. 3).  I have had some hesitation as to whether it could possibly in this passage indicate a date.  But ἐπινέμησις does not appear to have been used in its chronological sense before Evagrius, and his expression (iv. 29) τοὺς περιόδους τῶν κύκλων καλουμένων ἐπινεμήσεων looks as though the term were not yet common; ἐπινέμησις here I take to refer to the assignment of presbyters to different places on ordination.  I am indebted to Mr. J. W. Parker for valuable information and suggestions on this question. let them be rejected, and take their place among the laity.  Their examination must then be begun by you over again, and, if they prove worthy, let them be received by your decision.  Drive out unworthy men from the Church, and so purge it.  For the future, test by examination those who are worthy, and then receive them; but do not reckon them of the number before you have reported to me.  Otherwise, distinctly understand that he who is admitted to the ministry without my authority will remain a layman.


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