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- About this Commemoration
John Cassian struggled with the problems of living the Christian life in a time when the world seemed to be falling apart. In so doing, he laid the foundations for what would be the spirituality of the Western Church.
Born Romania around 365, Cassian traveled as a young man to a monastery in Bethlehem and later moved to Egypt where he sought the tutelage of the great founders of the ascetic movement of the desert such as Antony and Macarius.
At the heart of desert monasticism was the idea that the image of God in each person, tarnished by sin but not destroyed, yearns to and has the capacity to love God with the purity of heart with which God loves us. Their aim was to rid themselves of the anxieties and distractions that called their attention away from loving God.
Cassian was initiated into this tradition before political pressures forced him to leave Egypt in about 399. He moved to southern Gaul and there founded a house for monks, and later a house for women religious. Though Cassian’s goal was, like his desert mentors, the perfection of the individual soul, he insisted that no one should embark on a monastic vocation alone. One should enter a house where other monks are pursuing the same goal, live according to a time-tested rule, and thereby gain the guidance and companionship of the community.
Though Cassian remained committed to the desert ideal of individual perfection, his insistence on the necessity of Christian community and loving moderation was the basis for Benedictine monasticism, which eventually became the basic spirituality of the Western Church. It was perhaps a paradox that only in community could the Christian: “lose sight of earthly things in proportion to the inspiration of its purity so that … with the inner gaze of the soul it sees the glorified Jesus coming in the splendor of His majesty.”
I Holy and Mighty One, whose beloved Son Jesus Christ blessed the pure in heart: We offer thanks for the life and teachings of John Cassian that draw us to a discipline of holy living for the sake of thy reign. Call us to turn the gaze of the eyes of our soul always toward thee, that we may abide in thy love, shown to us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit is one God, living and true, to the ages of ages. Amen.
II Holy and Mighty One, whose beloved Son Jesus Christ blessed the pure in heart: We give you thanks for the life and teachings of John Cassian that draw us to a discipline of holy living for the sake of your reign. Call us to turn the gaze of the eyes of our soul always toward you, that we may abide in your love, shown to us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit is one God, living and true, to the ages of ages. Amen.
2 Kings 2:9–15
1 John 3:1–3
Preface of Lent (1)
Text from Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
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We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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