To anyone cognizant of St. Basil's importance in the life of Eastern Christendom, the appearance of this book is an important event. No claim is made that this is a straightforward biography of the man; rather, it is an examination of the central elements of his development and ministry, an attempt to discern his personality, his concept of what it meant to be a bishop in a time when the role of the episcopacy was still immature and fluid. There are many elements of St. Basil's life that claim our attention-- his extraordinary family, his foundational role in the formation of cenobitic monasticism, his contribution to the final defeat of Arianism and the formulation of Trinitarian orthodoxy, his devotion to the Church's participation in relieving the plight of the poor-- and Rousseau does not fail to enlarge our understanding of any of them. Garth Fowden has said it well: ''In this new portrait of Basil of Caesarea... rudition does not blunt perceptiveness: we are brought close to the heart of a man who struggled to reconcile the high calling of his faith with the appalling demands that a fast-changing world imposed on its leaders.''
An Eighth Day View:
Basil of Caesarea is thought of most often as an opponent of heresy and a pioneer of monastic life in the eastern church. In this new biographical study, however, controversy is no longer seen as the central preoccupation of his life nor are his ascetic initiatives viewed as separable from his pastoral concern for all Christians. Basil's letters, sermons, and theological treatises, together with the testimonies of his relatives and friends, reveal a man beset by doubt. He demanded loyalty, but gave it also, and made it a central feature of his church. In Rousseau's portrait, Basil's understanding of human nature emerges as his major legacy.