Cassian and Germanus now begin their discussion with Abba Theonas; the conference beginning with the story of Theonas' own conversion and which is meant to be the cypher through which the teachings that follow are meant to be interpreted. There is a higher ideal of the Gospel - one that urges a far greater abnegation of self than what is found the the fulfillment of the law. Furthermore, one is called, persuaded, to respond to the higher life of grace and is invited to assent through freedom of will and the desire for what is beautiful. The perfect who stand not under the law but under grace, remain ardent, and so attain to that state where they are not dominated by sin. They are not content to offer tithes but rather seek to offer themselves and their own souls to God, for which no exchange can be made by a human being. Christ forces no one to the highest reaches of virtue by the obligation of a precept but he moves by the power of a free will and inflames by salutary persuasion and by the desire for perfection.
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