The Conferences Of John Cassian
by John Cassian, Trans. By Edgar C. S. Gibson
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During his visits to the Egyptian deserts John Cassian met with many of the most important spiritual fathers. The Conferences are the remembrances of these conversations and cover a wide range of spiritual topics. The fathers were from different backgrounds, and while some were able to communicate in Greek and had been born into wealthy families, others were required to use interpreters and had come from more humble origins. The topics covered in these conversations ranged from christian perfection, in the first conference of Abbot Moses, to that on penitence in the conversation with Abbot Pinufius.
The Conferences have been very popular ever since they were written, and were distributed widely in the West and the East. Benedict, the founder of organised monasticism in the West even ordained that the Conferences should be read after supper to the assembled brethren. They were so popular that almost every monastery library contained at least some portion of them.
John Cassian was suspected in the West of teaching in some measure the Semi-Pelagian heresy, but in fact his teachings were completely in accord with the Orthodox spiritual traditions of the East. If he has been sometimes doubtfully regarded in the West, he is most definitely venerated as a Saint in the East.
About the Author
John Cassian was born about the year 360 to wealthy and pious parents. While still young he left the opportunities for worldly success behind him and entered a monastery. He spent many years in the monasteries of Syria, but his greatest wish was to visit the monasteries of Egypt and speak with the spiritual fathers in the desert. During two lengthy journeys, of many years extent, with his spiritual friend Germanus, he was able to learn from experience the Egyptian monastic tradition. He was sent to Rome in about 404 with a letter for Pope Innocent, and spent the rest of his life in the West. He founded a monastery near Marseille which followed the Eastern monastic tradition and wrote his three great works there, the Institutes, the Conferences and On the Incarnation. He finally died in about 432.
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