Sf-IoanCasianIt is well for us to be sure that although we practise every virtue with unceasing efforts, yet with all our exertions and zeal we can never arrive at perfection.

Neither is mere human diligence and toil of itself sufficient to deserve to reach the splendid reward of bliss, unless we have secured it by means of the co-operation of the Lord, and His directing our heart to what is right.

And so we ought every moment to pray and say with David “Order my steps in thy paths that my footsteps slip not:” and “He has set my feet upon a rock and ordered my goings.”

We should pray that He Who is the unseen ruler of the human heart may vouchsafe to turn to the desire of virtue that will of ours, which is more readily inclined to vice either through want of knowledge of what is good, or through the delights of passion.

We read this in a verse in which the prophet sings very plainly: “Being pushed I was overturned that I might fall,” where the weakness of our free will is shown.

Yet he also sings “the Lord sustained me,” showing that the Lord’s help is always joined to our free will, and by this, that we may not be altogether destroyed by our free will.

When God sees that we have stumbled, He sustains and supports us, as it were by stretching out His hand.

[…] And again: “According to the multitude of the sorrows which I had in my heart,” which sprang most certainly from my free will, “Thy comforts have refreshed my soul.”

It is as if David were saying “Coming through Thy inspiration into my heart, and laying open the view of future blessings which Thou hast prepared for them who labour in Thy name, they not only removed all anxiety from my heart, but actually conferred upon it the greatest delight.”

And again David writes: “Had it not been that the Lord helped me, my soul had almost dwelt in hell.”

He certainly shows that through the depravity of this free will he would have dwelt in hell, had he not been saved by the assistance and protection of the Lord.

For “By the Lord,” and not by free-will, “are a man’s steps directed,” and “although the righteous fall” at least by free will, “he shall not be cast away.”

[…] None of the righteous are sufficient of themselves to acquire righteousness, unless every moment when they stumble and fall the Divine mercy supports them with His hands, that they may not utterly collapse and perish, when they have been cast down through the weakness of free will.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 13,12.