Thursday May 19, 2016
Conferences of St. John Cassian - Conference Twenty Two On Nocturnal Illusions Part II
We pick up with Germanus and Cassian speaking with Abba Theonas about Nocturnal Illusions, or rather the emissions that sometimes occur at night, the causes of these emissions, and whether or not one should presume to receive the sacred and saving food from the altar or avoid do so when overcome by them.
Theonas begins making it clear that we should strive with all effort to maintain the purity of chastity unstained - particularly at the moment when we wish to stand at the holy altar and that we must be watchful lest the integrity of the flesh that we have protected be snatched away when we are preparing ourselves to receive Holy Communion.
If such emissions are produced through our sinfulness - negligence in spiritual practice or through a surfeit of food - then would should refrain. If it is produced through the onslaught of the devil simply to humilate a a soul yet without any feeling of wantonness then one should confidently approach the grace of the saving food.
Having said this, great care must be given to discern one's state before receiving the saving Mysteries; for if we do not discern the body and blood of the Lord and approach the altar with presumption, we eat and drink to our own condemnation. Theonas tells us that for "many who receive it unlawfully and abusively are weakened in faith and grow sickened by catching the diseases of the passions, and they fall asleep in the sleep of sinfulness, never rising from this mortal slumber" through lack of concern for their salvation.
A lengthy discussion ensued about the current state of Church and the frequency with which many approach the altar with seemingly no consideration of these realities and how this might be remedied. One must above all begin to live from communion to communion; that is, in a constant state of repentance, unceasing prayer, the avoidance of sin, frequent confession and the ascetic life. Only by simplicity - that is, only by having God as the focus of our lives and that which shapes our entire existence - will we overcome the current state of things. We must understand and embrace the fact that we live now "under grace" and seek to conform ourselves not to human but rather divine standards.
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