As we draw close to the end of the Conferences, the final pages follow Germanus and Cassian as they engage Abba Abraham on the theme of Mortification. Even after lengthy discussion, the two young monks continue to express their desire to return to their homeland to live there under the care of their relatives and in turn to attend to their spiritual needs. With great patience, Abraham confutes the laziness of his two young friends and the lukewarmness into which they have fallen. They must know, he tells them, that "in the world to come you will be joined in the fate of those with whom you partook in this life of either gain or loss, or joy or sorrow." Inevitably Cassian and Germanus will get tied into the earthly affairs and fate of those around them. They will be drawn into the drama of their relatives lives - good or bad it does not matter. Also, he warns them that in allowing others to do too much in support of them, they will lose formation that the hardship of the desert itself provides. Rather, in all things they should prefer deprivation and poverty. Such charity and care belongs to the weak alone. As those who have chosen the solitary life, they have foregone access to such generous resources as a matter of course. They should prefer the sands rough with natural bitterness and regions wasted by floods of salt water - regions, that is, that only allow them to live day to day and in reliance upon divine providence and the labor of their hands. Those who have an undisciplined heart and fall into distraction of mind because of it, lose whatever they seem to have acquired by the conversion of others put their profits in a bag of holes. Leaving the desert will deprive them of their own betterment and bring them most likely to ruination.
Their pathology is rooted in the reasonable part of the soul. They think somehow that they have the strength and constitution that matches the desert monks and that they no longer need their instruction. The only cure for this sickness is humility. Their souls have been hurt by their believing not only that they have already attained the heights of perfection but even that they are able to teach others. They have been seized by this errant conceit because of the swelling of vainglory that can only to be cut off immediately through humble contrition.
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