John Cassian: There are three things which enable men to control their faults Saturday, Oct 8 2016 

Sf-IoanCasianThen the blessed Chæremon spoke:

There are, said he, three things which enable men to control their faults;

viz., either the fear of hell or of laws even now imposed;

or the hope and desire of the kingdom of heaven;

or a liking for goodness itself and the love of virtue.

For then we read that the fear of evil loathes contamination: “The fear of the Lord hateth evil” (Prov. 9:13).

Hope also shuts out the assaults of all faults: for “all who hope in Him shall not fail” (Ps. 33:23).

Love also fears no destruction from sins, for “love never faileth” (1 Cor. 13), and again “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8).

And therefore the blessed Apostle confines the whole sum of salvation in the attainment of those three virtues, saying “Now abideth faith, hope, love, these three” (1 Cor. 13:13).

For faith is what makes us shun the stains of sin from fear of future judgment and punishment;

hope is what withdraws our mind from present things, and despises all bodily pleasures from its expectation of heavenly rewards;

love is what inflames us with keenness of heart for the love of Christ and the fruit of spiritual goodness, and makes us hate with a perfect hatred whatever is opposed to these.

And these three things although they all seem to aim at one and the same end (for they incite us to abstain from things unlawful) yet they differ from each other greatly in the degrees of their excellence.

For the two former belong properly to those men who in their aim at goodness have not yet acquired the love of virtue, and the third belongs specially to God and to those who have received into themselves the image and likeness of God.

For He alone does the things that are good, with no fear and no thanks or reward to stir Him up, but simply from the love of goodness. For, as Solomon says, “The Lord hath made all things for Himself” (Prov. 16:4).

For under cover of His own goodness He bestows all the fulness of good things on the worthy and the unworthy because He cannot be wearied by wrongs, nor be moved by passions at the sins of men, as He ever remains perfect goodness and unchangeable in His nature.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 11, 6.

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John Cassian: To adapt ourselves to some likeness of that bliss which is promised hereafter to the saints… Monday, Feb 29 2016 

Sf-IoanCasianAccording to the measure of its purity…, each mind is both raised and moulded in its prayers if it forsakes the consideration of earthly and material things so far as the condition of its purity may carry it forward and enable it – with the inner eyes of the soul – to see Jesus either still in His humility and in the flesh, or glorified and coming in the glory of His Majesty.

For those cannot see Jesus coming in His Kingdom who…cannot say with the Apostle: “And if we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know Him so no more” (2 Cor. 5:16), but only those can look with purest eyes on His Godhead who rise with Him from low and earthly works and thoughts and go apart in the lofty mountain of solitude – which is free from the disturbance of all earthly thoughts and troubles, and secure from the interference of all sins, and which, being exalted by pure faith and the heights of virtue, reveals the glory of His Face and the image of His splendour to those who are able to look on Him with pure eyes of the soul.

But Jesus is seen as well by those who live in towns and villages and hamlets, i.e., who are occupied in practical affairs and works, but not with the same brightness with which He appeared to those who can go up with Him into the aforesaid mount of virtues, i.e., Peter, James, and John. For so in solitude He appeared to Moses and spoke with Elias.

And as our Lord wished to establish this and to leave us examples of perfect purity, although He Himself, the very fount of inviolable sanctity, had no need of external help and the assistance of solitude in order to secure it – for the fulness of purity could not be soiled by any stain from crowds, nor could He be contaminated by intercourse with men, who cleanses and sanctifies all things that are polluted – yet still He retired into the mountain alone to pray.

In this way He taught us by the example of His retirement that if we too wish to approach God with a pure and spotless affection of heart, we should also retire from all the disturbance and confusion of crowds, so that while still living in the body we may manage in some degree to adapt ourselves to some likeness of that bliss which is promised hereafter to the saints, and that “God may be” to us “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 10, 6 [slightly adapted].

John Cassian: “And forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors” Friday, Feb 12 2016 

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].

John Cassian: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…” Friday, Nov 20 2015 

Sf-IoanCasianContinued from here….

The second petition of the pure heart desires that the kingdom of its Father may come at once.

This can refer to that kingdom whereby Christ reigns day by day in the saints.

This comes to pass when the devil’s rule is cast out of our hearts by the destruction of foul sins, and God begins to hold sway over us by the sweet odour of virtues, and, fornication being overcome, charity reigns in our hearts together with tranquillity, when rage is conquered; and humility, when pride is trampled underfoot.

Or it can refer to that kingdom which is promised in due time to all who are perfect, and to all the sons of God, when it will be said to them by Christ: “Come ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34), as the heart with fixed and steadfast gaze, so to speak, yearns and longs for it and says to Him “Thy kingdom come.” For it knows by the witness of its own conscience that when He shall appear, it will presently share His lot.

[…] The third petition is that of sons: “Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth.”

There can now be no grander prayer than to wish that earthly things may be made equal with things heavenly: for what else is it to say “Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth,” than to ask that men may be like angels and that as God’s will is ever fulfilled by them in heaven, so also all those who are on earth may do not their own but His will?

This too no one could say from the heart but only one who believed that God disposes for our good all things which are seen, whether fortunate or unfortunate, and that He is more careful and provident for our good and salvation than we ourselves are for ourselves.

Or at any rate it may be taken in this way: The will of God is the salvation of all men, according to these words of the blessed Paul: “Who willeth all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Of this will also the prophet Isaiah says in the Person of God the Father: “And all Thy will shall be done” (Is. 46:10).

When we say then “Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth,” we pray in other words for this: that as those who are in heaven, so also may all those who dwell on earth be saved, O Father, by the knowledge of Thee.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 9, 19 & 20 [slightly adapted].

John Cassian: The mind, transporting and flinging itself into love for Him, addresses God most familiarly as its own Father Wednesday, Oct 28 2015 

Sf-IoanCasianContinued from here….

There follows after these different kinds of supplication a still more sublime and exalted condition.

This is brought about by the contemplation of God alone and by fervent love, by which the mind, transporting and flinging itself into love for Him, addresses God most familiarly as its own Father with a piety of its own.

And, that we ought earnestly to seek after this condition, the formula of the Lord’s prayer teaches us, saying “Our Father.”

When then we confess with our own mouths that the God and Lord of the universe is our Father, we profess forthwith that we have been called from our condition as slaves to the adoption of sons.

Next we add “Which art in heaven,” so that, by shunning with the utmost horror all lingering in the present life which we pass upon this earth as a pilgrimage and all that separates us by a great distance from our Father, we may the rather hasten with all eagerness to that country where we confess that our Father dwells.

[…] When we have advanced to this state and condition of sonship, we shall forthwith be inflamed with the piety which belongs to good sons, so that we shall bend all our energies to the advance not of our own profit, but of our Father’s glory.

Saying to Him: “Hallowed be Thy name,” we testify that our desire and our joy is His glory, and become imitators of Him who said: “He who speaks of himself seeks his own glory. But He who seeks the glory of Him who sent Him, the same is true and there is no unrighteousness in Him” (John 7:18)….

Being filled with this feeling, St Paul wished that he could be anathema from Christ (cf. Rom. 9:3), if only the people belonging to Him might be increased and multiplied, and the salvation of the whole nation of Israel accrue to the glory of His Father.

For with all assurance could he wish to die for Christ as he knew that no one perished for life. And again he says: “We rejoice when we are weak but ye are strong” (2 Cor. 13:9).

[…] But where it is said “Hallowed be Thy name,” it may also be very fairly taken in this way: “The hallowing of God is our perfection.”

And so when we say to Him “Hallowed be Thy name” we say in other words, make us, O Father, such that we may be able both to understand and take in what the hallowing of Thee is, or at any rate that Thou mayest be seen to be hallowed in our spiritual converse.

And this is effectually fulfilled in our case when “men see our good works, and glorify our Father Which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 9, 18 [slightly adapted].

John Cassian: These four kinds of supplication the Lord Himself by His own example vouchsafed to originate for us Thursday, Jul 23 2015 

Sf-IoanCasianContinued from here….

These four kinds of supplication the Lord Himself by His own example vouchsafed to originate for us, so that in this too He might fulfil that which was said of Him: “which Jesus began both to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1).

For He made use of the class of supplication when He said: “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me”;

or this which is chanted in His Person in the Psalm: “My God, My God, look upon Me, why hast Thou forsaken me” (Matt. 26:39; Ps. 21:2) and others like it.

It is prayer where He says: “I have magnified Thee upon the earth, I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do”;

and this: “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself that they also may be sanctified in the truth” (John 17:4, 19).

It is intercession when He says: “Father, those Whom Thou hast given me, I will that they also may be with Me that they may see My glory which Thou hast given Me”;

or when He says: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (John 17:24; Luke 23:34).

It is thanksgiving when He says: “I confess to Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight”;

or when He says: “Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me. But I knew that Thou hearest Me always” (Matt. 11:25-26; John 11:41-42).

But though our Lord made a distinction between these four kinds of prayers as to be offered separately and one by one according to the scheme which we know of, yet that they can all be embraced in a perfect prayer at one and the same time He showed by His own example in that prayer which at the close of S. John’s gospel we read that He offered up with such fulness.

[…] And the Apostle also in his Epistle to the Philippians has expressed the same meaning, by putting these four kinds of prayers in a slightly different order, and has shown that they ought sometimes to be offered together in the fervour of a single prayer, saying as follows:

“But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6). And by this he wanted us especially to understand that in prayer and supplication thanksgiving ought to be mingled with our requests.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 9, 17.

John Cassian: Dejection Monday, Apr 7 2014 

Sf-IoanCasianWe have to resist the pangs of gnawing dejection.

For if this, through separate attacks made at random, and by haphazard and casual changes, has secured an opportunity of gaining possession of our mind, it keeps us back at all times from all insight in divine contemplation, and utterly ruins and depresses the mind that has fallen away from its complete state of purity.

It does not allow it to say its prayers with its usual gladness of heart, nor permit it to rely on the comfort of reading the sacred writings, nor suffer it to be quiet and gentle with the brethren;

it makes it impatient and rough in all the duties of work and devotion: and, as all wholesome counsel is lost, and steadfastness of heart destroyed, it makes the feelings almost mad and drunk, and crushes and overwhelms them with penal despair.

Wherefore if we are anxious to exert ourselves lawfully in the struggle of our spiritual combat we ought with no less care to set about healing this malady also. For “as the moth injures the garment, and the worm the wood, so dejection the heart of man.”

With sufficient clearness and appropriateness has the Divine Spirit expressed the force of this dangerous and most injurious fault. For the garment that is moth-eaten has no longer any commercial value or good use to which it can be put; and in the same way the wood that is worm-eaten is no longer worth anything for ornamenting even an ordinary building, but is destined to be burnt in the fire.

So therefore the soul also which is a prey to the attacks of gnawing dejection will be useless for that priestly garment which, according to the prophecy of the holy David, the ointment of the Holy Spirit coming down from heaven, first on Aaron’s beard, then on his skirts, is wont to assume: as it is said, “It is like the ointment upon the head which ran down upon Aaron’s beard, which ran down to the skirts of his clothing.”

Nor can it have anything to do with the building or ornamentation of that spiritual temple of which Paul as a wise master builder laid the foundations, saying, “Ye are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you:” and what the beams of this are like the bride tells us in the Song of Songs: “Our rafters are of cypress: the beams of our houses are of cedar.”

And therefore those sorts of wood are chosen for the temple of God which are fragrant and not liable to rot, and which are not subject to decay from age nor to be worm-eaten.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Institutes 9, 1-3.

John Cassian: An incomprehensible and all-devouring flame… Thursday, Nov 7 2013 

Sf-IoanCasianSupplication is an imploring or petition concerning sins, in which one who is sorry for his present or past deeds asks for pardon….

Prayers are those by which we offer or vow something to God….

Intercessions we offer up for others….

Thanksgivings the mind in ineffable transports offers up to God.

[…] Supplication seems to belong more especially to beginners, who are still troubled by the stings and recollection of their sins.

Prayers belong to those who have already attained some loftiness of mind in their spiritual progress and the quest of virtue.

Intercessions belong to those who fulfil the completion of their vows by their works, and are so stimulated to intercede for others also through the consideration of their weakness, and the earnestness of their love.

Thanksgivings belong to those who have already torn from their hearts the guilty thorns of conscience.

Being now free from care, they can contemplate with a pure mind the beneficence of God and His compassions, which He has either granted in the past, or is giving in the present, or preparing for the future.

Thus they are borne onward with fervent hearts to that ardent prayer which cannot be embraced or expressed by the mouth of men.

Sometimes however the mind which is advancing to that perfect state of purity and which is already beginning to be established in it, will take in all these at one and the same time.

Like some incomprehensible and all-devouring flame, it will dart through them all and offer up to God inexpressible prayers of the purest force.

The Spirit Itself, intervening with groanings that cannot be uttered, while we ourselves understand not, pours forth these prayers to God, grasping at that hour and ineffably pouring forth in its supplications things so great that they cannot be uttered with the mouth nor even at any other time be recollected by the mind.

And thence it comes that in whatever degree any one stands, he is found sometimes to offer up pure and devout prayers.

Even in that first and lowly station which has to do with the recollection of future judgment, he who still remains under the punishment of terror and the fear of judgment is so smitten with sorrow for the time being that he is filled with no less keenness of spirit from the richness of his supplications than he who through the purity of his heart gazes on and considers the blessings of God and is overcome with ineffable joy and delight.

For, as the Lord Himself says, he begins to love the more, who knows that he has been forgiven the more.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 9, 11-15.

John Cassian: Delight in the law of God after the inner man Wednesday, Aug 28 2013 

Sf-IoanCasianSometimes holy men feel that they are oppressed by the weight of earthly thoughts and fall away from their loftiness of mind.

They are led away against their will or rather without knowing it, into the law of sin and death, and…are kept back by actions which…which are good and right though earthly, from the vision of God.

Then they have something to groan over constantly to the Lord. They have something for which indeed to humble themselves, and in their contrition to profess themselves not in words only but in heart, sinners.

And for this, while they continually ask of the Lord’s grace pardon for everything that day by day they commit when overcome by the weakness of the flesh, they should shed without ceasing true tears of penitence.

For they see that, being involved even to the very end of their life in the very same troubles, with continual sorrow for which they are tried, they cannot even offer their prayers without harassing thoughts.

They know by experience that through the hindrance of the burden of the flesh they cannot by human strength reach the desired end, nor be united according to their heart’s desire with that chief and highest good, but that they are led away from the vision of it captive to worldly things.

Therefore they betake themselves to the grace of God, “Who justifieth the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5) and cry out with St Paul: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 7:24-25).

For they feel that they cannot perform the good that they would, but are ever falling into the evil which they would not, and which they hate, i.e., wandering thoughts and care for carnal things.

[…] And they “delight” indeed “in the law of God after the inner man,” which soars above all visible things and ever strives to be united to God alone.

But they “see another law in their members,” i.e., implanted in their natural human condition, which “resisting the law of their mind” (Rom. 7:22-23), brings their thoughts into captivity to the forcible law of sin, compelling them to forsake that chief good and submit to earthly notions.

These, though they may appear necessary and useful when they are taken up in the interests of some religious want, yet when they are set against that good which fascinates the gaze of all the saints, are seen by them to be bad and such as should be avoided, because by them in some way or other and for a short time they are drawn away from the joy of that perfect bliss.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 23, 10-11.

John Cassian: The saints who keep a firm hold of the recollection of God may be compared to rope dancers Thursday, Aug 1 2013 

Sf-IoanCasianLittle children, love not the world, neither the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of God is not in him: for everything that is in the world is the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, which is not of the Father but of the world. And the world perisheth and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever (1 John 2:15-17).

The saints therefore scorn all those things on which the world exists, but it is impossible for them never to be carried away to them by a brief aberration of thoughts, and even now no man, except our Lord and Saviour, can keep his naturally wandering mind always fixed on the contemplation of God so as never to be carried away from it through the love of something in this world.

As Scripture says: “Even the stars are not clean in His sight,” and again: “If He puts no trust in His saints, and findeth iniquity in His angels,” or as the more correct translation has it: “Behold among His saints none is unchangeable, and the heavens are not pure in His sight.”

I should say then that the saints who keep a firm hold of the recollection of God and are borne along, as it were, with their steps suspended on a line stretched out on high, may be rightly compared to rope dancers, commonly called funambuli, who risk all their safety and life on the path of that very narrow rope.

[…] And while with marvellous skill they ply their airy steps through space, if they keep not their steps to that all too narrow path with careful and anxious regulation, the earth which is the natural base and the most solid and safest foundation for all, becomes to them an immediate and clear danger, not because its nature is changed, but because they fall headlong upon it by the weight of their bodies.

So also that unwearied goodness of God and His unchanging nature hurts no one indeed, but we ourselves by falling from on high and tending to the depths are the authors of our own death, or rather the very fall becomes death to the faller.

[…] Scripture says: “thine own wickedness shall reprove thee, and thy apostasy shall rebuke thee. Know thou and see that it is an evil and a bitter thing for thee to have left the Lord thy God;” for “every man is bound by the cords of his sins.” To whom this rebuke is aptly directed by the Lord: “Behold,” He says, “all you that kindle a fire, encompassed with flames, walk ye in the light of your fire and in the flames which you have kindled.”

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 23, 8-9.

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