Sunday, March 11, 2012

Met. Ephrem on St. John Cassian

The Feast of Saint Cassianus at the Monastery of Fervent Intercession, Wednesday February 29, 2012. The Arabic original can be found here.

Beloved, on this blessed evening we celebrate the commemoration of a great righteous saint, Saint Cassianus the Roman, and so we should mention something about this saint who is quite unknown in our country, even though he is considered one of the great saints who carved out a new tradition in the Church, since he set out from the east and evangelized in the west, following the tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church. For this reason, he is considered an important source, who studied with the ascetic fathers of the fourth century who preceded him, especially those who followed the tradition of the father Saint Macarius the Great, who lived in Scetis in Egypt.

He began his monastic life in Palestine, in Bethlehem, where he started to go between Palestine and Egypt, following the tradition of the ancient fathers of the desert. After that, we know that because of historical circumstances he went to Constantinople, and from Constantinople, also because of historical circumstances, he went to Rome. In Constantinople, he became the disciple of Saint John Chrysostom, from whom he received the Orthodox tradition of Antioch. After the persecution of Saint John Chrysostom, he went to Rome in order to participate in his defense, since as you know Saint John Chrysostom was persecuted and exiled time and again. He had the occasion to spend many years in Rome and to transmit this tradition, the tradition of our eastern ascetic fathers, as well as that of our Antiochian Church and that of the Cappadocian fathers. From Rome, he went to France, which at that time was called Gaul, and he settled there in the city of Marseille and established a large monastery for nuns and was the first to transmit the eastern monastic tradition to the west.

Sain Cassianus wrote works in which he expressed the principle of traditional monasticism. Among his famous sayings is that the monk is the one who, as you know, tries to apply the Gospel in its entirety. He said that the monk must first of all distance himself from the pleasures of this world. That is, he should start off in this spirit, the spirit of abstinence. After abstaining from the temptations of this world, he attaches himself to a monastery or to a hermitage in order to struggle there in contstant prayer, in order combat his personal passions.  That is, there is a stage of distancing oneself from the world and a deeper stage in distancing oneself from personal selfishness, from passions and lusts. Then, one can fight these evil spirits, one can control one's passions, one can approach what is called passionlessness. God's grace is active within you and you become holy, glorifying God in your life. This is a quick glance at Saint Cassianus, who wrote many works. We hope to publish these works in our Arabic language. Among the most famous of his works, which sets forth the rules for monks to live by, is the Cenobitic Institutes.

On this blessed feast, which is also the name's day of the abbot of this monastery, Archimandrite Cassianus, we pray that we might receive the intercession of this great saint, that he might bless this monastery and its monks so that they may continue and grow and become and remain a beacon in this environment and in this country. We call for the continuation and the development of monasticism because, beloved, if Christians in the world today or if the world in general does not have this ascetic spirit, , this emptying of the ego and renunciation of all the pleasures of this world, the world cannot continue and grow in truth, and man cannot grow and be glorified and become holy. We ask God to give us this power, so that we can continue in this mission, to the glory of His holy name. Amen.

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