May 18

For bodily endeavor, united to contrition of the spirit, will offer to God the sacrifice best pleasing to Him, and a worthy dwelling-place for holiness where the inmost recesses are pure and clean. But if, while we observe bodily fasting, we are entangled in these most deadly vices of the soul, affliction of the flesh will naught avail us while the more precious part of us is defiled, for we are offending in that very part of our nature wherein we become the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit.

For it is not so much the corruptible flesh as the clean heart which is made the dwelling of God, and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. We must see, then, that while our outward man is fasting, the inner man must likewise keep himself from those evil meats of the soul; the inner man, I say, whom especially the blessed Apostle bids us present pure unto God, that he may be worthy to receive Christ in himself as his Guest.

~St John Cassian

May 17

It is not the enemy that is outside us whom we need to fear; there is an enemy in our very selves: daily within us an internal war is waged. When the enemy within is conquered, all our foes without are rendered feeble, and Christ’s soldier will find all things at peace, and all subdued. We shall have no external foe to fear if what is within is conquered, and subdued to the spirit.

~St John Cassian

May 16

Nor let us suppose that the outward fast from visible food will suffice to secure perfection of heart and purity of body, unless it have conjoined with it a fast of the soul as well. For the soul too has kinds of diet that do it harm, sated werewith–even without indulgence in material food–it can run down the steep places of licentiousness.

Slander is a food of the soul, and very sweet to its taste. And anger, too, though no mild one, feeding the soul for a moment with evil meat, and laying it low at the same time with its deadly savor. Envy is a food of the mind, corrupting it with poisonous juices, and ceasing not to torment it miserably with the thought of a neighbor’s happy success.

…vainglory can be its food, soothing it for a time with sweet meats, then leaving it empty, bereft of all virtues and bare, abandoning it barren of all spiritual fruits and void…all unruly desires and wanderings of an unquiet heart can be a kind of food for the soul which feeds it on poisoned meats, and then abandons it, never more to taste the Bread of Heaven or true nutriment.

~St John Cassian

May 15

We have to root out from the inner recesses of our souls the deadly poison of anger. For so long as anger remains in our hearts and blinds the eye of the mind with baleful darkness, we shall never be able either to acquire the judgment of prudence or the insight of right contemplation, or ripeness of counsel, nor can we participate in life, nor lay hold on justice, or even be able to receive spiritual and true light…we shall not, again, be able to share in wisdom, although we may appear to be held wise in all men’s estimation, for ‘anger rests in the bosom of a fool’ (Ecclesiastes 7:10)….

We have heard of some who attempt to excuse this most deadly disease of the soul…they say that anger does no harm if we are angry with erring brothers, alleging that God Himself is said to rage and be wrathful against those who refuse to know Him…not perceiving that, while they wish to allow to man the occasion of a deadly sin, they are introducing into the Divine immensity…the evil of a carnal passion…when we read of the anger or of the wrath of God, we must not understand [this] after the manner of our unworthy human passions, but in a sense worthy of God, Who is far removed from our unquiet passions.

~St John Cassian

May 13

Our last contest is against the spirit of pride. Albeit it is the last disease we have to fight and the closing member of the list, yet in time and origin it is first of all. It is a beast most savage, and fiercer than all the others: its worst temptations attack the perfect, and it devours with its most deadly bite those who have all but reached the crown and sum of all virtues.

Of this disease there are two kinds: one, which attacks the spiritual and the most advanced, and another, that throws its toils over even beginners and the carnal minded. And, although either kind of pride is induced by an evil spirit of arrogance, as well towards God as towards man, yet the first kind has specially to to with God, and the second is more properly referred to our fellow men.

There is no other vice which in this sort renders all the virtues of none effect, and so strips a man of every kind of justice and holiness as this disease of pride….it corrupts the whole man….gluttony corrupts the integrity of temperance, lust defiles chastity, anger ravages the virtue of patience…but this vice, when it has got a hold on the unhappy mind of its victim, like some wild and raging tyrant captures the topmost citadel of the virtues, and brings them to dust, and utterly lays low the whole edifice….it permits henceforth no single sign of liberty to remain in the soul that it has subdued.

~St John Cassian

 

May 10

And so it comes about that the desire of the flesh and of the spirit meeting in such a conflict and mutually contradictory, the will of the soul which is not prepared to surrender itself entirely to carnal desires nor yet to the toilsome labor of virtue, is moderated, so to say, by a just balance, while the struggle that goes on gives no place to that more dangerous free will of the soul, and puts a sort of equal weight into each of the scales which draws with accuracy a limit between flesh and spirit, and allows on the one hand the mind aflame with the spirit’s fire to have no greater weight, nor on the other the flesh stung with the goads of sin to prevail. And while this warfare is daily occurring in us for our good, we are compelled to approach that fourth thing of which we would have none, namely, that we should attain to purity of heart not by idleness of freedom from care, but by constant toil and contrition of spirit, and that we should retain chastity of the flesh by strict abstinence and fastings, temperance and watchfulness, and acquire again right purpose of heart by readings, vigils, constant prayer, and the loneliness of solitude, and get patience by endurance of hardships; that we should serve our Maker amid blasphemies and reproaches, and follow truth at the cost of the hatred of this world, and its hostility, if need be.

~St John Cassian (Conference with Abbot Daniel)

May 8

Between the two desires of the flesh and the spirit, the will of the soul stands in the middle position, not free from blame, nor delighted with the wickedness of sin, nor finding content in the pains of virtue. It seeks relief from fleshly passions, but only on the condition of not bearing the consequent pains without which it is impossible to possess what the spirit longs for. It would obtain chastity of body without punishment of the flesh, purity of heart without the toil of watchings, it would abound in spiritual virtues and yet retain fleshly ease, it would possess the grace of patience with no irksomeness of contention, practice the humility of Christ, but with no loss of worldly honor; combine the simplicity of the religious life with the following of secular ambition. It desires to serve Christ to the accompaniment of praise and the favor of men; to profess the narrow way of truth without even the least offense to anyone, in a word, its aim is so to pursue the award to come, as not to lose that which is here and now.

Such a will can never bring us on to reach true perfection,…for when yielding up our wills to this condition, we are ready to allow ourselves to fall away little by little to such remissness, at once the urging of impulses of the flesh rise up, and wounding us with their vices and passions, they refuse altogether to allow us to remain in that state of purity wherein we delight, but drag us along that cold and thorny path of pleasure which we dread.

~St John Cassian (Conference with Abbot Daniel)