Feast of the Holy Prophet Isaiah
MY WELL-BELOVED and most honorable brother Amphilochios: I applaud your love of learning and your diligence in study. Indeed, I am amazed by the care and sobriety of your thoughts, particularly when you say that none of the words used to describe God should be passed over without exact examination, no matter what their context. You have profited from the Lord’s exhortation, “Every one who asks, receives, and he who seeks, finds” (Lk. 11.10). It seems to me that your eagerness to learn would move even those who are reluctant to share what they know. But what I admire most about you is that your questions reflect a sincere desire to discover the truth, not like many these days who ask questions only to test others. There is certainly no lack nowadays of people who delight in asking endless questions just to have something to babble about, but it is difficult to find someone who loves truth in his soul, who seeks the truth as medicine for his ignorance. Just as the hunter hides his traps, or an ambush of soldiers camouflages itself, so these questioners spew forth elaborately constructed inquiries, not really hoping to learn anything useful from them, because unless you agree with them and give them the answer they want, they imagine that they are fully entitled to stir up a raging controversy.
But if “Wisdom shall be given to a fool who seeks after wisdom” (Prov. 17.28, LXX), how great is the price at which we should value the “wise hearer,” whom the Prophet places in the company of those who share his zeal, who labor with him in all things, as he presses forward to perfection. Those who are idle in the pursuit of righteousness count theological terminology as secondary, together with attempts to search out the hidden meaning in this phrase or that syllable, but those conscious of the goal of our calling realize that we are to become like God, as far as this is possible for human nature. But we cannot become like God unless we have knowledge of Him, and without lessons there will be no knowledge. Instruction begins with the proper use of speech, and syllables and words are the elements of speech. Therefore to scrutinize syllables is not a superfluous task. Just because certain questions seem insignificant is no reason to ignore them. Hunting truth is no easy task; we must look everywhere for its tracks. Learning truth is like learning a trade; apprentices grow in experience little by little, provided they do not despise any opportunity to increase their knowledge.
—St Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit