The Lord gives an example of how the four aspects of prayer outlined by the Apostle Paul (supplication, intercession, prayer, and thanksgiving) are brought together in their perfection in the "Our Father." Our discussion turned to Abba Isaac's exquisite phrase by phrase exposition of the prayer. The group could not fail but to be struck by both the blessing and weighty challenge the prayer holds within it.
Germanus, Cassian's traveling companion, begins this section by talking about the mind's inconstancy and seeming inability to hold on to holy thoughts. He presses Abba Issac to move ahead with a discussion on how to pray without ceasing. But Abba Issac knows that there is work that must first be done in understanding the various aspects of prayer as outlined by the Apostle Paul and to see an example of the forms of prayer expressed perfectly and in unison by Jesus in the Our Father. No person's prayers are uniform and each is affected by their level of purity of heart.
Picking up with Cassian's Conference 9 on Prayer, we continue to focus on the necessary dispositions for unceasing and pure prayer. We must not let anything, worldly vices or concerns, weigh us down; nor can we underestimate the impact of the actions and thoughts we may consider beneficial or of little significance hinder us. In fact, it is often that which appears good or innocent that is most destructive to our spiritual life because we pay it no attention and so don't struggle to overcome it. Sometimes we have hidden anxieties about worldly things and seek to find our identity in them or a sense of self worth and value in the eyes of others.
Prayer is the subject of conferences 9 and 10 and its importance is underlined at the very beginning of the 9th: "The end of every monk and the perfection of his heart incline him to constant and uninterrupted perseverance in prayer." But this constant prayer demands, in turn, perfection of heart and the virtues that go with it. This ninth conference serves as a kind of preliminary, among other things establishing the conditions for prayer and the different possible characteristics of prayer.
Conferences of St. John Cassian - Conference Eight on Principalities Part III & Conference Nine On Prayer
Nov 13th, 2014 by philokalia
After a brief hiatus due to illness, the group picked up with the final few pages of Conference Eight which was Abba Serenus' response to Germanus' questions as to whether demons could have had intercourse with the daughters of men and whether the devil had a father, given the words of Jn 8:44 "he is a liar and the father of it." Serenus responds to the first be asserting that a spiritual being could not have had carnal relations with a corporeal being. He explain the account in Gn 6:2, instead, in terms of the reprehensible intermarriages between the offspring of Seth and that of Cain. When they mingled with the wicked daughters of Cain, Seth's sons "abandoned that true discipline of natural philosophy which was handed down to them by their forebears and which that first man, who was at once immersed in the study of all natural things, was able to grasp clearly and to pass on in unambiguous fashion to this descendants. In particular, the group focused on a brief digression on how the law forbidding intermarriages such as these would have applied, since it was promulgated after the event. The old man points out that the holy ones of the OT had a natural and spontaneous knowledge of the law.
Oct 24th, 2014 by philokalia
The group picked up with Abba Serenus' exposition of the nature and characteristics of demons - the fact that they occupy the airy void between heaven and earth, their hideous appearance, their mutual adversity (which is the result of their having befriended mutually opposed nations on earth), their titles, functions and hierarchy, and their assignment to individual human beings, such that each human being has a personal demon as well as a personal angel. It is fortunate that human beings cannot ordinarily see them, for otherwise they would either be horrified by their aspect or seek to imitate them in their wickedness. Finally , as aggressive as demons may be against humans, they may also obey them in one of two instances, either when rendered submissive by human holiness or when soothed by the sacrifices and incantations of the wicked.
Oct 16th, 2014 by philokalia
Conferences of St. John Cassian - Conference Seven on the Changeableness of the Soul and on Evil Spirits Part IV
Oct 13th, 2014 by philokalia
The group considered the closing sections of Conference Seven with Abba Serenus. The Divine Physician often will allow demons to afflict souls for the purposes of correction and at times that affliction will be severe; especially among the holy ones whose sin might seem slight in the eyes of the world but yet prevents the spiritual perfection to which God calls them. Serenus reminds Cassian and Germanus of the importance of praying ceaselessly for those who are afflicted and of encouraging frequent Communion as a means of spiritual healing.
Conferences of St. John Cassian - Conference Seven on the Changeableness of the Soul and on Evil Spirits Part III
Oct 2nd, 2014 by philokalia
Conferences of St. John Cassian - Conference Seven on the Changeableness of the Soul and on Evil Spirits Part II
Sep 27th, 2014 by philokalia
Germanus and Cassian continue to engage the elder Serenus about the action of evil spirits. Serenus with great patience and eloquence shows them that evil spirits only have the power to incite and that we as human beings remain capable of either rejecting or accepting their suggestions. We either choose to be deceived or fail quickly to oppose them. So called "possession" is only due to the weakening of the body that comes from the acceptance and embrace of sin; much akin to the effects of wine or fever on the human person. God alone is incorporeal and has access to the deepest part of our soul. Evil spirits, however, discern from bodily gestures and from perceptible movements whether temptation or suggestion has taken hold of the heart: for example, when a person has been silent, or sighing with a certain indignation, or his face pale or blush and thus they have a subtle knowledge of who is given to what vice.