Philokalia Ministries
Conferences of St. John Cassian - Conference Eight on Principalities Part III & Conference Nine On Prayer

Conferences of St. John Cassian - Conference Eight on Principalities Part III & Conference Nine On Prayer

November 13, 2014

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.

In response to Germanus's second question, Serenus says that God himself was the devil's father, for God created him.  This issue, though perhaps not as pertinent in our day, was of great interest in Cassian's time.  It had already been raised by heretics, who asserted that the devil was the offspring of a being other than God.
The group then moved on to Conference Nine which takes up the topic of prayer: the end of every monk (and of every Christan) and the perfection of his heart incline him to constant and uninterrupted perseverance in prayer.  This constant prayer, Cassian teaches, requires in turn perfection of heart and the the virtues that go with it.  
A rather lengthy discussion ensued about establishing such a clarity about the aims of the spiritual life and establishing not only the discipline but the simplicity of life that would foster such goals.  The pursuit of such simplicity would set a Christian apart in a culture that values and exalts busyness.  
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