Basil of Caesarea, also called Saint Basil the Great, was a brilliant 4th century theologian who was also well known for his care of the poor and marginalized. His influence on the development of Christian monasticism (ascetic yet communal living) continues to impact the global Church, both East and West.
In his “Longer Rules” for monastic living, he argues for the blessing of the communal life as opposed to the solitary life. I pray the quote below is an encouragement to you and to your Neighborhood Parishes this week. Notice how constantly his thoughts grow out of Scripture, and notice how his argumentation climaxes with gospel truth:
If all who are called in one hope of their calling are one body in Christ, have Him for their head, and are members one of another, how can we be so, except through union in one body by the Holy Spirit?
But there are other dangers in the solitary life... The first and greatest danger is that of self-complacency. For if a man has no one to examine his actions, he will think that he has already achieved the perfect fulfilment of the commandments, and, since his conduct is never tested, he neither notices his shortcomings, nor perceives any progress which he may have made, for the very reason that he has deprived himself of all opportunity for fulfilling the commandments.
For how will [the solitary man] practise the virtue of humility, if there is no one to whom he may show himself humble? How will he show pity, if he is cut off from the society of others? Or how will he show forbearance, if there is no one to oppose his wishes? But if some one say that instruction in the Holy Scriptures is sufficient for right conduct, he is like one who learns how to weave, but never weaves anything, or is taught the smith’s art, but never deigns to put into practice what he has learnt. To such a man the Apostle would say, "Not the hearers of a law are just before God, but the doers of a law shall be justified” (Romans 2:13).
For we see that our Lord Himself, from His exceeding great kindness, did not rest content with words or precepts, but expressly set before us an example of humility in the perfection of His love. For indeed He girded Himself and washed His disciples feet. Whose feet will you wash? To whom will you be a servant? Among whom will you be the last of all, if you live alone by yourself? How can that good and joyful thing, the dwelling together of the brethren, which is likened by the Holy Spirit to the precious ointment that ran down from the high-priest’s head, be accomplished in the life of the solitary? The dwelling together of the brethren is indeed a field for the contest of athletes, a noble path of progress, a continual training, and a constant meditation upon the commandments of the Lord. It has for its one aim and end the glory of God, according to the commandment of our Lord Jesus Christ, who says, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."