I want to speak on Saint Basil, but I don’t want to say what is commonly told by those who write about this truly “Great” saint. Especially some theologians who are educated by the Franks, who don’t care at all about his holiness or his wisdom according to God, but rather his “classical” wisdom, his knowledge of Greek letters, of rhetoric, and the other ephemeral and outward ornaments of his deep soul, forgetting what the Apostle Paul writes about worldly wisdom, which he calls “foolish according to God”.
For these people, philosophy is revered, even more so than religion, as much as they would like to hide this; education is more persuasive than faith, the ancients a more important coat of arms than Christianity. For this reason, they measure everything by these standards. The worth of the Holy Fathers isn’t in their holiness, but about how much they were strong speakers, strong communicators, strong in mind, in one short word, how they had that which was and is honored by a sinful world and all that is considered superfluous by the Christian, or even harmful, according to the Gospels.
I dare say the Gospels! These teachers of the people don’t ask anything, but they go to the tune of their own melody. Paul, who said a thousand times in a thousand ways how language skills, that is rhetoric, is fake and Christ does not want it, these same, suffice it to say, with force, proclaim him “great orator”, he who said: “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied” (1 Cor. 1:17); and who said to the Colossians: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (2:8). Those however who explain to the laity the Holy Scriptures are deaf and blind, and they pretend that they don’t hear and don’t see; even he who said that philosophy is “vain deceit” they proclaim a great philosopher, thinker, a clever brain “after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ”. They want to make him “a rival of the ancient philosophers which glorified mankind”, in order for Christianity to have great temples and not only the poor in spirit, the impoverished, the unlearned Apostles, the simple ascetics, and the easy-believing martyrs and saints. These pseudo-christians are eaten by pride, worldly vainglory, because they are those whom the same Paul says are “vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind” (Col. 2:18), and are “of the flesh”, and honor the flesh, wanting to “please God” (Rom. 8:8).
The Paul who spoke these fearful words, “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23), with their unreasonable minds, they brought him down to their level, making him a verbose orator, philosopher, sociologist, politician, organizer, psychologist, educator, opportunist, because this is what they understand, and these are the greatest titles which they can imagine. No voice could have said these things with stronger, clearer, livelier and more jarring words, except that of Paul, and still the new Scribes did not take notice. May his words be as hammers which pound on their hard skulls, they are: mortar and pestle.
Listen to how Paul speaks about ancient wisdom: “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness…” (1 Cor. 1:21-23). Therefore, behold what Paul says and [to the contrary] what the exegetes of the Gospels and of the same Paul teach, that is the wisdom of fools, which regards the teaching of Christ as foolishness.
I have shown great perseverance in this matter, because those who want to debase the pristine waters of the Gospel, “the living water springing up into everlasting life” (Jn. 4:14), with the marshy waters of knowledge and ancient philosophy which the wretched drank in those days, “as those without hope” (1 Thess. 4:13), without being quenched, these therefore are blind guides who twist the world, and with their theories become responsible for many youth falling into unbelief, because souls that thrive off of “vain deceit”, will fall into the plight of atheism, confessed or unconfessed.
All this comes from disfigured Christianity which is taught to all those who are educated in the universities of the West, which is the homeland of rationalism and humanism, and then they bring this rationalistic Christianity to us. Why are we cursed to learn all that is ours from foreigners, even the ancient language?
I turn again to Paul, to take from him other God-inspired words which are removed by the deceivers, the Frankish-educated humanistic pseudo-christians. I take all the words of Paul, for to this saint they reveal their greatest honor, because, by the measure which they judge him, they find in him greater worldly knowledge, sociological activity, rhetorical skill, methodology, psychological sharpness, and a whole bunch of other such things with which many honor him, without the God-blinded being able to see how Paul is the greatest and most vehement enemy and critic of their twisted perceptions they have of the christian religion.
The God-tongued Paul therefore writes and asks: “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Cor. 1:20). It’s as if he is saying: “Which of the wise of this world, among the philosophers and clever debaters, with their dialectic, will be able to discuss, or even understand the things we the foolish say, we who do not recognize the masterful turns of dialectics, we the uneducated easterners, and not us deep down, but those things which the Holy Spirit says with our mouths?”
Further down he writes: “We speak wisdom among those who are perfect, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing” (1 Cor. 2:6). Who are the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing, as well as the philosophers and orators and other so-called masters of worldly literature, which their darkened lights the christian needs, so say the blind teachers of the people, as if the light of the Gospel is not enough, which says: “If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matt. 6:23).
Therefore, according to the spirit of this age which is “coming to nothing”, they are also celebrating and glorifying Saint Basil, not as a saint and struggler of the true religion, but as an author of “elegant writings”, “a wise moralist and educator, adorer of Greek wisdom”.
But how consistent is the Saint with those who glorify his Greek-learning and the honor he had for ancient wisdom, is revealed in the words below which he wrote to Eustathius the bishop of Sebastea:
“Much time had I spent in vanity, and had wasted nearly all my youth in the vain labor which I underwent in acquiring the wisdom made foolish by God. Then once upon a time, like a man roused from deep sleep, I turned my eyes to the marvellous light of the truth of the Gospel, and I perceived the uselessness of ‘the wisdom of the rulers of this world, that come to nothing.’ I wept many tears over my miserable life and I prayed that guidance might be vouchsafed me to admit me to the doctrines of true religion. First of all was I minded to make some mending of my ways, long perverted as they were by my intimacy with wicked men. Then I read the Gospel, and I saw there that a great means of reaching perfection was the selling of one’s goods, the sharing of them with the poor, the giving up of all care for this life, and the refusal to allow the soul to be turned by any sympathy to things of earth. And I prayed that I might find some one of the brethren who had chosen this way of life, that with him I might cross life’s deep and troubled strait” [Letter 223].
But who gives importance to what Saint Basil says? We have made our own Christianity, a convenient, humane and reasonable Christianity, as the Grand Inquisitor of Dostoevsky says, because the Christianity which Christ taught is inapplicable, inhumane. We, instead of ascending towards Christ, Who says: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (Jn. 12:32), have pulled Him down to our level in which we are found, and have made a Christianity which is in agreement with our weaknesses, with our passions, with our secular ambitions, and have given the saints the skills our materialism honors and admires, making them philosophers, orators, politicians, psychologists, sociologists, educators, etc. The Grand Inquisitor, as Christ was going before him (he had commanded that Christ be caught, because He returned to the earth and the people followed Him), told Him: “The time You came into the world You brought to the people a harsh religion, impractical and inhumane. We made it convenient and humane. Why did You return to the earth again? To ruin it for us once we have put it in place? For this reason we order You to be burned in Your name, as a heretic!”
A convenient and humane Christianity, this human construct, is the present deformation that has happened to the Gospel by the cunning materialism of our flesh.
 το γουδί το γουδοχέρι is a Greek slang term literally translated “mortar and pestle”, but denotes a similar English saying “the same story over again”.
From the book by Photios Kontoglou titled Humble Giants published by ΑΚΡΙΤΑΣ in 1992.
Translated by John Sanidopoulos