Boast only of the Lord – St. Basil

Basil asks if boasting is ever appropriate and answers yes — we are to boast only of the Jesus Christ crucified, finding our righteousness in Jesus.

The wise man must not boast of his wisdom, nor the strong man of his strength, nor the rich man of his riches. What then is the right kind of boasting? What is the source of man’s greatness? Scripture says: The man who boasts must boast of this, that He knows and understands that I am the Lord. Here is man’s greatness, here is man’s glory and majesty: to know in truth what is great, to hold fast to it, and to seek glory from the Lord of glory. The Apostle tells us: The man who boasts must boast of the Lord. He has just said: Christ was appointed by God to be our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written, a man who boasts must boast of the Lord.

Boasting of God is perfect and complete when we take no pride in our own righteousness but acknowledge that we are utterly lacking in true righteousness and have been made righteous only by faith in Christ.

Paul boasts of the fact that he holds his own righteousness in contempt and seeks the righteousness in faith that comes through Christ and is from God. He wants only to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and to have fellowship with his sufferings by taking on the likeness of his death, in the hope that somehow he may arrive at the resurrection of the dead.

Here we see all overweening pride laid low. Humanity, there is nothing left for you to boast of, for your boasting and hope lie in putting to death all that is your own and seeking the future life that is in Christ. Since we have its first fruits we are already in its midst, living entirely in the grace and gift of God.

It is God who is active within us, giving us both the will and the achievement, in accordance with his good purpose. Through his Spirit, God also reveals his wisdom in the plan he has preordained for our glory.

God gives power and strength in our labours. I have toiled harder than all the others, Paul says, but it is not I but the grace of God, which is with me.

God rescues us from dangers beyond all human expectation. We felt within ourselves that we had received the sentence of death, so that we might not trust ourselves but in God, who raises the dead; from so great a danger did he deliver us, and does deliver us; we hope in him, for he will deliver us again.

This excerpt from St. Basil the Great’s homily on Humility and Pride (Hom. 20 De humiliate, 3: PG 31, 530-531) is used in the Roman Catholic Office of Readings for Monday of the third week of Lent with the accompanying biblical reading taken from Exodus 24:1-18. . This homily was originally preached around 375 AD.

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St. Basil the Great

Life: Born around 330AD, St. Basil the Great received the best education in pagan and Christian culture available in his day, studying in his native Cappadocia, Constantinople, and Athens.  Yet St. Basil’s life changed course decidedly when he forsook a worldly career to embrace the monastic life.  He lived a life of prayer and tranquility, far from the turbulence of city life until his bishop, Eusebius, called upon St. Basil in 364 to help defend orthodox Christianity against the Arian emperor, Valens.  In 370 Basil was chosen to succeed Eusebius as bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia.  Here he found himself in the thick of the fray between those Orthodox, Catholic Christians who confessed Christ’s full divinity, and the various Arian parties who taught that Jesus was not equal to God the Father.  He soon was also engaged in battling those called “Pneumatomachi” (“fighters against the spirit”) who denied the full divinity of the Holy Spirit.  Yet he also is famous for his care for the poor, and build a series of hostels and hospitals around Caesarea to relieve their suffering.

St. Basil the Great was one of the most influential of the Greek Fathers of the Church during the “Golden Age of the Fathers” (the 4th and 5th Centuries).  St. Basil, his brother, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and his best friend, St. Gregory of Nazianzen, are known as “the Cappadocian Fathers” after the region of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) from which they came.  His rule for monks set the tone for religious life in the East and his book On the Holy Spirit laid the groundwork for the clarification of the Spirit’s full divinity that was defined by the first Council of Constantinople in 380AD.  Together with his friend, St. Gregory of Nazianzen, St. Basil compiled the “Philocalia,” a selection from the works of Origen which grew to be a spiritual classic of Eastern Christianity.  His three “Books Against Eunomius” are also important for their doctrine on Christ’s full divinity.  His Monastic Rule forms to this day the basis of virtually all religious life in the Eastern Churches and the liturgy named after him is one of the principal liturgies of the Byzantine tradition.  St. Basil the Great died in 379AD, the year before the First Council of Constantinople finished the Creed we now recite each Sunday.  (Bio by Dr. Italy)