St Basil: Are You Purging Your Soul by Nourishing It with Divine Thoughts?

Feast of St Paul the Confessor, Patriarch of Constantinople

Basil_Square_7.jpegTHE DISCIPLINE of piety nourishes the soul with divine thoughts. What then is more blessed than to imitate on earth the anthems of angels’ choirs; to hasten to prayer at the very break of day, and to worship our Creator with hymns and songs; then, when the sun shines brightly and we turn to our tasks, prayer attending us wherever we go, to season our labors with sacred song as food with salt? For that state of the soul in which there is joy and no sorrow is a boon bestowed by the consolation of hymns.

The very beginning of the soul’s purgation is tranquility, in which the tongue is not given to discussing the affairs of men, nor the eyes to contemplating rosy cheeks or comely bodies, nor the ears to lowering the tone of the soul by listening to songs whose sole object is to amuse, or to words spoken by wits and buffoons—a practice which above all things tends to relax the tone of the soul. For when the mind is not dissipated upon extraneous things, nor diffused over the world about us through the senses, it withdraws within itself, and of its own accord ascends to the contemplation of God. Then when it is illuminated without and within by that glory, it becomes forgetful even of its own nature; no longer able to drag the soul down to thought of sustenance or to concern for the body’s covering, but enjoying leisure from earthly cares, it transfers all its interest to the acquisition of the eternal goods—how it may achieve temperance and fortitude, justice and prudence, and all the minor virtues, subordinate to these, the major ones, which prompt the good man to perform as he should the several duties of life.

~St Basil the Great, Letter II to St Gregory the Theologian

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