Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sermon of St. Basil the Great: The degrees of wisdom

The main thing taught by the Book of Proverbs is wisdom. Wisdom is the knowledge of the divine and human things and of their causes. Those who give themselves to the study of God learn wisdom, as St. Paul says: There is, to be sure, a wisdom which we make known among those who are fully grounded; but it is not the wisdom of this world, or of this world's rulers, whose power is to be abrogated. What we make known is the wisdom of God, his secret, kept hidden till now; so, before the ages, God has decreed, reserving glory for us.

The wise shall win renown. Thus it is that this Book encourages the soul to desire the good things promised. It enables the child to fear the punishments due to sinners and to desire the rewards prepared for the just.

The wise may be the wiser for hearing. Holy scripture ascribes great value to this Book: its teachings are more lofty than those of the sages, and greater than the science which they possess. Other masters have the ignorant for their disciples, while those who listen to the teaching of Proverbs are wise. The word "wise" has two meanings: it designates the wise of this world and also all those who have received by faith the true Wisdom, our Lord Jesus Christ. Holy scripture promises to the wise who have not the faith, and who study the wholesome doctrines of this Book, that they will become wiser still: they will then despise idle knowledge and will reserve their admiration for truth. Moreover, even among those who deserve the title of sage, there are some who only aspire to wisdom, while others have gone some way in the study of it, and others again possess it perfectly. If then a man in one of the first two categories listens to Proverbs he will acquire further wisdom, and he will understand the things of God more fully, while also learning much about the things of men. This Book combats evil and incites to virtue in many ways. It restrains unjust speech, it teaches the eye to turn from evil sights, it forbids the hands to strike unjustly, it chases away idleness, it represses evil desires, it forms the judgement, it gives strength, it develops a healthy moral life. If anyone learns this wisdom, if he feels a solid contempt for evil, if he searches for good as an eager warrior, he is already a wise man through his own efforts, but the full perfection of the teaching he receives will make him wiser still.

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