Pope Benedict XVI- General Audiences
On 3 Lessons From St. Basil
"Only If We Are Open to God Can We Build a Just World"
H.H. Benedict XVI
August 16, 2007
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
After this three-week break, we are continuing with our Wednesday
meetings. Today, I would simply like to resume my last Catechesis, whose
subject was the life and writings of St Basil, a Bishop in present-day
Turkey, in Asia Minor, in the fourth century A.D. The life and works of
this great Saint are full of ideas for reflection and teachings that are
also relevant for us today.
First of all is the reference to God's mystery, which is still the most
meaningful and vital reference for human beings. The Father is "the
principal of all things and the cause of being of all that exists, the
root of the living" (Hom. 15, 2 de fide: PG 31, 465c); above all, he is
"the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ" ("Anaphora Sancti Basilii").
Ascending to God through his creatures, we "become aware of his goodness
and wisdom" (Basil, "Adversus Eunomium" 1, 14: PG 29, 544b).
The Son is the "image of the Father's goodness and seal in the same
form" (cf. "Anaphora Sancti Basilii"). With his obedience and his
Passion, the Incarnate Word carried out his mission as Redeemer of man
(cf. Basil, "In Psalmum" 48, 8; PG 29, 452ab; cf. also "De Baptismo" 1,
2: SC 357, 158).
Lastly, he spoke fully of the Holy Spirit, to whom he dedicated a whole
book. He reveals to us that the Spirit enlivens the Church, fills her
with his gifts and sanctifies her.
The resplendent light of the divine mystery is reflected in man, the
image of God, and exalts his dignity. Looking at Christ, one fully
understands human dignity.
Basil exclaims: "[Man], be mindful of your greatness, remembering the
price paid for you: look at the price of your redemption and comprehend
your dignity!" ("In Psalmum" 48, 8: PG 29, 452b).
particular, conforming their lives to the Gospel, recognize that all
people are brothers and sisters; that life is a stewardship of the goods
received from God, which is why each one is responsible for the other,
and whoever is rich must be as it were an "executor of the orders of God
the Benefactor" (Hom 6 de avaritia: PG 32, 1181-1196). We must all help
one another and cooperate as members of one body (Ep 203, 3).
And on this point, he used courageous, strong words in his homilies.
Indeed, anyone who desires to love his neighbour as himself, in
accordance with God's commandment, "must possess no more than his
neighbour" ("Hom. in divites": PG 31, 281b).
In times of famine and disaster, the holy Bishop exhorted the faithful
with passionate words "not to be more cruel than beasts ... by taking
over what people possess in common or by grabbing what belongs to all ("Hom.
tempore famis": PG 31, 325a).
Basil's profound thought stands out in this evocative sentence: "All the
destitute look to our hands just as we look to those of God when we are
Therefore, Gregory of Nazianzus' praise after Basil's death was
well-deserved. He said: "Basil convinces us that since we are human
beings, we must neither despise men nor offend Christ, the common Head
of all, with our inhuman behaviour towards people; rather, we ourselves
must benefit by learning from the misfortunes of others and must lend
God our compassion, for we are in need of mercy" (Gregory Nazianzus, "Orationes"
43, 63; PG 36, 580b).
These words are very timely. We see that St Basil is truly one of the
Fathers of the Church's social doctrine.
Furthermore, Basil reminds us that to keep alive our love for God and
for men, we need the Eucharist, the appropriate food for the baptized,
which can nourish the new energies that derive from Baptism (cf. "De
Baptismo" 1, 3: SC 357, 192).
It is a cause of immense joy to be able to take part in the Eucharist
(cf. "Moralia" 21, 3: PG 31, 741a), instituted "to preserve unceasingly
the memory of the One who died and rose for us" ("Moralia" 80, 22: PG
The Eucharist, an immense gift of God, preserves in each one of us the
memory of the baptismal seal and makes it possible to live the grace of
Baptism to the full and in fidelity.
For this reason, the holy Bishop recommended frequent, even daily,
Communion: "Communicating even daily, receiving the Holy Body and Blood
of Christ, is good and useful; for he said clearly: "He who eats my
flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life' (Jn 6: 54). So who would
doubt that communicating continuously with life were not living in
fullness?" (Ep. 93: PG 32, 484b).
The Eucharist, in a word, is necessary for us if we are to welcome
within us true life, eternal life (cf. "Moralia" 21, 1: PG 31, 737c).
Finally, Basil was of course also concerned with that chosen portion of
the People of God, the youth, society's future. He addressed a Discourse
to them on how to benefit from the pagan culture of that time.
He recognized with great balance and openness that examples of virtue
can be found in classical Greek and Latin literature. Such examples of
upright living can be helpful to young Christians in search of the truth
and the correct way of living (cf. "Ad Adolescentes" 3).
Therefore, one must take from the texts by classical authors what is
suitable and conforms with the truth: thus, with a critical and open
approach -- it is a question of true and proper "discernment" -- young
people grow in freedom.
With the famous image of bees that gather from flowers only what they
need to make honey, Basil recommends: "Just as bees can take nectar from
flowers, unlike other animals which limit themselves to enjoying their
scent and colour, so also from these writings ... one can draw some
benefit for the spirit. We must use these books, following in all things
the example of bees. They do not visit every flower without distinction,
nor seek to remove all the nectar from the flowers on which they alight,
but only draw from them what they need to make honey, and leave the
rest. And if we are wise, we will take from those writings what is
appropriate for us, and conform to the truth, ignoring the rest" ("Ad
Basil recommended above all that young people grow in virtue, in the
right way of living: "While the other goods ... pass from one to the
other as in playing dice, virtue alone is an inalienable good and
endures throughout life and after death" ("Ad Adolescentes" 5).
Dear brothers and sisters, I think one can say that this Father from
long ago also speaks to us and tells us important things.
In the first place, attentive, critical and creative participation in
Then, social responsibility: this is an age in which, in a globalized
world, even people who are physically distant are really our neighbours;
therefore, friendship with Christ, the God with the human face.
And, lastly, knowledge and recognition of God the Creator, the Father of
us all: only if we are open to this God, the common Father, can we build
a more just and fraternal world.
[The Pope then greeted the people in several languages. In English he
I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today's Audience,
including groups from Iceland, Japan, Canada and the United States of
America. I extend a special welcome to the musicians present and to the
large group from Cherry Hill, Colorado. May the peace and joy of Our
Lord Jesus Christ be with you and may God bless you all!
I greet the group of European Scouts, who with their presence this
morning desire to reaffirm their membership in the Church, after
renewing their scout promise which binds them to doing their duty to God
and serving others generously. My thoughts also turn to all the scouts
and guides in the world who are renewing their promise this very day,
the centenary of the Scout movement, founded on 1 August 1907 with the
first scout camp in history on Brownsea Island. I warmly hope that this
educational movement, which was born from the profound insight of Lord
Robert Baden Powell, will continue to bear fruit in the spiritual and
civil formation of human beings in all countries in the world.
Lastly, as usual I would like to greet the young people, the sick and
the newly-weds, and to express to them the wish that enlivened by
Christ's charity they will lead a life that sets an example for all. May
Jesus sustain you in your hope, dear young people, in your suffering,
dear sick people, and in your fruitful love, dear newly-weds.
my Blessing to you all.
[After greeting the faithful, the Holy Father said:]
At the end of the General Audience, I would like to record some good
news about Iraq which has sparked an explosion of popular joy throughout
the Country. I am referring to the victory of the Iraqi football team,
which won the Asian Cup and for the first time has become the football
champion of Asia. I was happily impressed by the enthusiasm that
infected all the inhabitants, driving them out onto the streets to
celebrate the event. Just as I have so often wept with the Iraqis, on
this occasion I rejoice with them. This experience of joyful sharing
shows a people's desire to have a normal, quiet life. I hope that the
event may help in building in Iraq a future of authentic peace with the
contribution of all, in freedom and reciprocal respect. Congratulations!
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