Making a humorous but still pointed apology for a long sermon, St. Basil tells his congregation that the longer he keeps them there, the longer they stay out of trouble. Unless your leisure is also filled with love of the Lord, it’s easy to fall into the pit of vice.
I’m ashamed to see that my sermon has gone on longer than usual. If I consider the abundance of matters on which I have just discoursed to you, I feel that I am getting carried away; but when I reflect on the inexhaustible wisdom shown in the works of creation, I seem to be but at the beginning of my story.
Nevertheless, I have not detained you so long without profit. For what would you have done until the evening? You are not pressed by guests or expected at banquets. Let me then employ this bodily fast to rejoice your souls. You have often served the flesh for pleasure, today persevere in the ministry of the soul. “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
Do you love riches? Here are spiritual riches. Do you love enjoyment and pleasures? Behold the oracles of the Lord, which, for a healthy soul, are “sweeter than honey and drippings of the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10).
If I dismiss this assembly, some will run to the dice, where they will find bad language, sad quarrels, and the pangs of avarice. What good is bodily fasting when you’re filling the soul with innumerable evils? He who does not play spends his leisure elsewhere. What frivolities come from his mouth! What follies strike his ears! Leisure without the fear of the Lord is, for those who do not know the value of time, a school of vice. I hope that my words will be profitable; at least by keeping you here they have prevented you from sinning. Thus the longer I keep you, the longer you are out of the way of evil.
–St. Basil, Hexameron, 8.8
IN GOD’S PRESENCE, CONSIDER . . .
When I have a spare moment, what will I be doing?
Will it lead me toward or away from God?
Lord, show me how to do what you want me to do. Teach me to do your will, and heal me when I have sinned against you.
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