As we sat at the feet of Abba Chaeremon with Cassian and Germanus, we continued this most important conference on Chastity. We began by considering the presence or absence of the other passions, especially anger, as a barometer of the depth of a person's chastity. The Lord must destroy all inner wars between the flesh and the spirit and no one will enjoy this virtue enduringly in whose flesh there still rages these battles. When the Lord has freed the person from every seething emotion and impulse, he shall attain to the state of purity. However, there can be no peace while the struggle continues. We must not boast, then, at some small measure or period of chastity. In fact, until a person arrives at the state of perfect purity he has to be trained frequently by enduring patiently inner discrepancies and until he acknowledges fully the truth that God alone can lift a person out of the pit of wretchedness.
Last evening we sat with Cassian and Germanus at the feet of Abba Chaeremon for a conference on Chastity - one of the most important of Cassian's entire work and discussing the virtue that is at the heart of the spiritual life and through which we grow in our capacity to love God and others. Chaeremon begins by reminding us that lust and impurity can be completely extinguished from the heart. We must let go of our tendency to cast it as something completely out of reach and rather understand that we are called to "Put to death the members of sin" within us (fornication, impurity, wantonness, evil desire and avarice) ; to destroy them as quickly as possible by a zeal for perfect holiness.
Conferences of St. John Cassian - Conference Eleven on Perfection Part II and Conference Twelve Intro.
Cassian and Germanus came to the end of their conference with Abba Chaeremon on Perfection discussing the various ranks of perfection that depend on an individual's virtue, will and ardor. We are challenged by God to go from the heights to sill higher places, driven by love. The greatest perfection is to share in the sonship of Christ; to be motivated by love in all things. The only fear we are to have is the fear that is a part of the nature and disposition of love itself - a fear of not doing the will of God or of losing a life a virtue through negligence. We must be preoccupied with a concerned devotion not only in every action but also in every word, lest our ardor become to the slightest extent lukewarm.
Cassian describes his initial travels to Egypt with Germanus and their first encounter with Abba Chaeremon, and man of great age and holiness and seek a word from him regarding the path to perfection. Acknowledging their desire for God, the old man agrees and settles down to speak of the three things that forestall vicious behavior, namely, fear of punishment, hope of reward, and love. To the three checks on evil there correspond three virtues - faith, hope and love. The virtues in question are all directed toward a good end, to be sure, but they are not all equally excellent, for they correspond in turn to three significantly different states: Fear belongs to the condition of a slave, hope to that of a hireling and love to that of a son. Only those who have attained to the image and likeness of God may be numbered in the third state, which is the noblest.