April 17

You must make it your endeavor, if you wish to attain to true knowledge of the Scriptures, that first of all you acquire steadfast humility of heart to lead you to that knowledge which does not puff up, but enlightens, being made perfect in love. For it is impossible that an impure mind should acquire the gift of spiritual knowledge…

Next in every way must you strive to drive out every distraction and all earthly thoughts, and give yourself assiduously or rather constantly to sacred study until constant meditation imbues your mind and, so to say, forms you after its own likeness….wherefore the Scripture Lessons should be carefully committed to memory, and frequently repeated.

…those passages which we have run through with speedy repetition while trying to fix them in our memory, though at that time we cannot give proper attention to their meaning, afterwards when we are free from distractions of sight and of work, and especially in the quiet of our nocturnal meditations–we can see, as we think them over, their meaning more clearly, with the result that the sense of the most mysterious texts which when awake we cannot in any way understand, is revealed to us in the quiet of rest, and when we are, so to say, plunged into the depths of sleep.

And as our minds are strengthened by this kind of study, the Scriptures will present to us a new aspect, and the depth of their inner meaning will more and more be revealed to us.

~St John Cassian (Conference with Abbot Nesteros)

April 15

…he who has not been able to understand the things in his own heart, will be much less able to grasp what is outside him.

We must know however, that we are to toil with a twofold end in view, in casting out our faults and in acquiring virtue. And this we hold, not by any guess of our own, but are instructed by the word of Him Who alone knows what His handiwork is, and can do. “Behold,” He says, “I have set thee this day over the nations, and over kingdoms, to root up and to pull down, and to waste, and to destroy, and to build, and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:10). For, in casting out hurtful things He shows us four necessities–rooting out, pulling down, dispersing, and destroying; but in the practice of virtue and the attainment of what has to do with righteousness, we need only build and plant.

Hence it is very clear that it is more difficult for passions of body and soul which have become inveterate, to be torn up and rooted out, than for spiritual virtues to be reared and planted.

~St John Cassian (Conference with Abbot Nesteros)

April 14

In this world there are many different kinds of knowledge; their variety is as great as that of the Arts and Sciences. But while all of them are either completely useless, or are of advantage only with regard to the needs of this present life, yet there in none of them which does not have its own peculiar method and system of learning it, whereby it may be attained by those wishing to acquire it….how much more does the study and practice of our religion demand a proper order and plan, the religion that leads us to the contemplation of hidden and invisible mysteries, and aims not at present gain, but at eternal rewards.

The knowledge thereof is twofold; first the practical, which consists in amendment of living and extirpation of vices; and second, the theoretical, which is occupied with contemplation of divine truths, and the perception of all that is most sacred….the practical can indeed be possessed without the theoretical but without the practical the theoretical can never be grasped at all.

…he who does not free himself from the condition of sin strives in vain to reach the vision of God. “For the Holy Spirit of discipline will flee from the deceitful, and will withdraw Himself from thoughts that are without understanding, and He shall not abide where iniquity cometh in” (Wisdom of Solomon 1:4-5).

~St John Cassian (Conference with Abbot Nesteros)

April 9

It must needs be, as the Apostle reminds us, that a man either ‘renewed in the spirit of his mind’ (Ephesians 4:23), progresses day by day, ‘ever stretching forward to those things which are before’, or, if he be neglectful, the result will follow that he will go backwards and become daily worse and worse.

…the human mind cannot remain constant in one and the same state…of necessity, something is ever either being added…or taken away, and there will never be such perfection found in any creature that it will be wholly free from the danger of change.

…therefore we must with unflagging zeal and care give ourselves to the pursuit of virtue, and constantly occupy ourselves in its practice, lest at any time progress may cease, and regress immediately take its place.

…so then there is no virtue that can be possessed by man without possibility of change, but in order that he may constantly keep it when he has acquired it, he must guard it with the same carefulness and application wherewith it was first gained.

~St John Cassian  (Conference with Abbot Theodore)

April 2

The end of our journey is the Kingdom of God. But we ought diligently to inquire what our aim is to be, for, if it be not known and recognized, we shall only tire ourselves out in vain, since when a man knows not the way he is going, his journey is mere toil and not progress.

The end of our profession is, as we have said, the Kingdom of God…our immediate journey…is purity of heart, without which it is not possible for anyone to arrive at the end….Whatever, then, can guide our steps to this, namely, purity of heart, we must follow with all our powers, and what would draw us away from it we must avoid as deadly and evil. [Interview with Abba Moses.]

~St John Cassian

October 22

The contemplation of God is attained in many different ways. For God is known not only when we marvel at His incomprehensible substance, that which is still hidden in the hope of promise, but we see Him also in the greatness of His creation, or by pondering upon His justice, or helped by the though of His daily providence, or when we run over in sincerity of mind the things He has done for His saints generation after generation…

Many other subjects of contemplation are there of a similar kind which will rise up in our minds, according to the holiness of our lives and the purity of our hearts, whereby they of clean vision may see or lay hold upon God. These no man will constantly retain if in him any of the carnal appetites still subsist, for the Lord saith: ‘Thou canst not see My Face, for man shall not see Me and live’ (Exodus 33:20) that is, in this world, and amid earthly affections.

~St John Cassian (Conference I, 15 with Abbot Moses)

June 20

And so, without any faithless hesitation, we must persevere in our prayers, and never entertain a doubt that by our insistence in prayer we shall obtain all that we ask after God’s Will. For our Lord exhorts us, desiring to put before us those things which are eternal and heavenly that, in a sense, we should compel Him with our importunity, for He not only does not despise or repel the importunate, but rather encourages and praises them, and most graciously promises that He will grant them whatsoever they have with perseverance hoped to attain, saying, ‘Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you; for every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened (Matthew 7:7)…and so…let us at least be animated by persevering importunity, which is within the power of all who desire it, without any difficulty of merit or of labor.

                                                                                         ~St John Cassian