Sf-IoanCasian“And forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors.”

O unspeakable mercy of God,

which has given us a form of prayer

and taught us a system of life acceptable to Him,

and by the requirements of the form given, in which He charged us always to pray,

has torn up the roots of both anger and sorrow,

and also gives to those who pray an opportunity and reveals to them a way

by which they may move a merciful and kindly judgment of God to be pronounced over them

and which somehow gives us a power by which we can moderate the sentence of our Judge,

drawing Him to forgive our offences by the example of our forgiveness:

when we say to Him: “Forgive us as we also forgive.”

And so without anxiety and in confidence from this prayer a man may ask for pardon of his own offences, if he has been forgiving towards his own debtors, and not towards those of his Lord.

For some of us, which is very bad, are inclined to show ourselves calm and most merciful in regard to those things which are done to God’s detriment, however great the crimes may be,

but to be found most hard and inexorable exactors of debts to ourselves even in the case of the most trifling wrongs.

Whoever then does not from his heart forgive his brother who has offended him, by this prayer calls down upon himself not forgiveness but condemnation,

and by his own profession asks that he himself may be judged more severely, saying: Forgive me as I also have forgiven.

And if he is repaid according to his own request, what else will follow but that he will be punished after his own example with implacable wrath and a sentence that cannot be remitted?

And so if we want to be judged mercifully, we ought also to be merciful towards those who have sinned against us.

For only so much will be remitted to us, as we have remitted to those who have injured us however spitefully.

[…] For as He does not wish to be found harsh and inexorable towards them, He has marked out the manner of His judgment, that just as we desire to be judged by Him,

so we should also judge our brethren, if they have wronged us in anything, for “he shall have judgment without mercy who hath shown no mercy” (James 2:13).

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 9, 22 [slightly adapted].