Basil of Caesarea’s On the Holy Spirit

I recently read through Basil of Caesarea’s classic work On the Holy Spirit.  Basil is one of the Cappadocian fathers and this work on the Holy Spirit was hugely influential in the Council of Constantinople’s editing and affirmation of the Nicene Creed, including stronger language on the deity of the Spirit.  This work is also one of those works that I believe any Christian interested in learning about the Holy Spirit, reading some Christian classics, or simply reading something that will help them grow in their faith, could read and enjoy.

Below are some quotes that I found most thought-provoking:

“Testify to every man who is confessing Christ and denying God, that Christ will profit him nothing; to every man that calls upon God but rejects the Son, that his faith is vain; to every man that sets aside the Spirit, that his faith in the Father and the Son will be useless, for he cannot even hold it without the presence of the Spirit. For he who does not believe the Spirit does not believe in the Son, and he who has not believed in the Son does not believe in the Father. For none “can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost,” and “No man hath seen God at any time, but the only begotten God which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” – Basil of Caesarea. (1895). The Book of Saint Basil on the Spirit. In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), B. Jackson (Trans.), St. Basil: Letters and Select Works (Vol. 8, pp. 17–18). New York: Christian Literature Company.

For it is impossible to worship the Son, save by the Holy Ghost; impossible to call upon the Father, save by the Spirit of adoption.” – Basil of Caesarea. (1895). The Book of Saint Basil on the Spirit. In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), B. Jackson (Trans.), St. Basil: Letters and Select Works (Vol. 8, p. 18). New York: Christian Literature Company.

“And in the creation bethink thee first, I pray thee, of the original cause of all things that are made, the Father; of the creative cause, the Son; of the perfecting cause, the Spirit; so that the ministering spirits subsist by the will of the Father, are brought into being by the operation of the Son, and perfected by the presence of the Spirit.”– Basil of Caesarea. (1895). The Book of Saint Basil on the Spirit. In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), B. Jackson (Trans.), St. Basil: Letters and Select Works (Vol. 8, p. 23). New York: Christian Literature Company.

“If on the other hand they suppose the subnumeration to benefit the Spirit alone, they must be taught that the Spirit is spoken of together with the Lord in precisely the same manner in which the Son is spoken of with the Father. “The name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost” is delivered in like manner, and, according to the co-ordination of words delivered in baptism, the relation of the Spirit to the Son is the same as that of the Son to the Father. And if the Spirit is co-ordinate with the Son, and the Son with the Father, it is obvious that the Spirit is also co-ordinate with the Father.” –  Basil of Caesarea. (1895). The Book of Saint Basil on the Spirit. In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), B. Jackson (Trans.), St. Basil: Letters and Select Works (Vol. 8, p. 27). New York: Christian Literature Company.

There is one God and Father, one Only-begotten, and one Holy Ghost. We proclaim each of the hypostases singly; and, when count we must, we do not let an ignorant arithmetic carry us away to the idea of a plurality of Gods “- Basil of Caesarea. (1895). The Book of Saint Basil on the Spirit. In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), B. Jackson (Trans.), St. Basil: Letters and Select Works (Vol. 8, p. 28). New York: Christian Literature Company.

For we do not count by way of addition, gradually making increase from unity to multitude, and saying one, two, and three,—nor yet first, second, and third. For “I,” God, “am the first, and I am the last.” And hitherto we have never, even at the present time, heard of a second God. Worshipping as we do God of God, we both confess the distinction of the Persons, and at the same time abide by the Monarchy. We do not fritter away the theology4 in a divided plurality, because one Form, so to say, united in the invariableness of the Godhead, is beheld in God the Father, and in God the Only begotten. For the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son; since such as is the latter, such is the former, and such as is the former, such is the latter; and herein is the Unity. So that according to the distinction of Persons, both are one and one, and according to the community of Nature, one. How, then, if one and one, are there not two Gods? Because we speak of a king, and of the king’s image, and not of two kings. The majesty is not cloven in two, nor the glory divided. The sovereignty and authority over us is one, and so the doxology ascribed by us is not plural but one;6 because the honour paid to the image passes on to the prototype. Now what in the one case the image is by reason of imitation, that in the other case the Son is by nature; and as in works of art the likeness is dependent on the form, so in the case or the divine and uncompounded nature the union consists in the communion of the Godhead. One, moreover, is the Holy Spirit, and we speak of Him singly, conjoined as He is to the one Father through the one Son, and through Himself completing the adorable and blessed Trinity. Of Him the intimate relationship to the Father and the Son is sufficiently declared by the fact of His not being ranked in the plurality of the creation, but being spoken of singly; for he is not one of many, but One. For as there is one Father and one Son, so is there one Holy Ghost. He is consequently as far removed from created Nature as reason requires the singular to be removed from compound and plural bodies; and He is in such wise united to the Father and to the Son as unit has affinity with unit.”– Basil of Caesarea. (1895). The Book of Saint Basil on the Spirit. In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), B. Jackson (Trans.), St. Basil: Letters and Select Works (Vol. 8, p. 28). New York: Christian Literature Company.

The way of the knowledge of God lies from One Spirit through the One Son to the One Father”– Basil of Caesarea. (1895). The Book of Saint Basil on the Spirit. In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), B. Jackson (Trans.), St. Basil: Letters and Select Works (Vol. 8, p. 29). New York: Christian Literature Company.

“For what our Lord says of the Father as being above and beyond human conception, and what He says of the Son, this same language He uses also of the Holy Ghost.” – Basil of Caesarea. (1895). The Book of Saint Basil on the Spirit. In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), B. Jackson (Trans.), St. Basil: Letters and Select Works (Vol. 8, p. 34). New York: Christian Literature Company.

“Let us then examine the points one by one. He is good by nature, in the same way as the Father is good, and the Son is good; the creature on the other hand shares in goodness by choosing the good. He knows “The deep things of God;” the creature receives the manifestation of ineffable things through the Spirit. He quickens together with God, who produces and preserves all things alive,3 and together with the Son, who gives life. “He that raised up Christ from the dead,” it is said, “shall also quicken your mortal bodies by the spirit that dwelleth in you;” and again “my sheep hear my voice, … and I give unto them eternal life;”5 but “The Spirit” also, it is said, “giveth life,” and again “the Spirit,” it is said, “is life, because of righteousness.”7 And the Lord bears witness that “it is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing.” How then shall we alienate the Spirit from His quickening power, and make Him belong to lifeless nature? Who is so contentious, who is so utterly without the heavenly gift,9 and unfed by God’s good words, who is so devoid of part and lot in eternal hopes, as to sever the Spirit from the Godhead and rank Him with the creature?” – Basil of Caesarea. (1895). The Book of Saint Basil on the Spirit. In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), B. Jackson (Trans.), St. Basil: Letters and Select Works (Vol. 8, p. 36). New York: Christian Literature Company.

whenever we have in mind the Spirit’s proper rank, we contemplate Him as being with the Father and the Son, but when we think of the grace that flows from Him operating on those who participate in it, we say that the Spirit is in us. And the doxology which we offer “in the Spirit” is not an acknowledgment of His rank; it is rather a confession of our own weakness, while we shew that we are not sufficient to glorify Him of ourselves, but our sufficiency is in the Holy Spirit. Enabled in, [or by,] Him we render thanks to our God for the benefits we have received, according to the measure of our purification from evil, as we receive one a larger and another a smaller share of the aid of the Spirit, that we may offer “the sacrifice of praise to God.” – Basil of Caesarea. (1895). The Book of Saint Basil on the Spirit. In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), B. Jackson (Trans.), St. Basil: Letters and Select Works (Vol. 8, pp. 39–40). New York: Christian Literature Company.

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