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Conferences of John Cassian

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  218 ratings  ·  26 reviews
At the turn of the sixth century the Mediterranean world was witnessing the decline of Roman rule that had formed the bedrock of its civil order. During the chaos of those years, there arose in the deserts of Egypt and Syria monastic movements that offered men and women a radical God-centered alternative to the present society. Among the most eloquent interpreters of this ...more
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Published (first published 1950)
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Josh Wilhelm
This was the first book (of ten) which I am reading for a course on the “Classics of Christian Spirituality” at Regent College this term. John Cassian’s Conferences are a series of visits by Cassian and his partner Germanus to monks in the African desert in the form of a dialogue and entered on such “spiritual discussions” as “The Goal of the Monk,” “Prayer,” and “On Perfection.” Cassian and Germanus are somewhat of spiritual tourists examining the life of the Egyptian monk. In this edition, nin ...more
William Bies
Aug 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The decline and fall of the Roman empire, wandering Germanic tribes crossing the frontier and invading provinces that had witnessed settled government for centuries and wreaking havoc everywhere, a deluge of religious fanaticism, street fighting between rival political factions often culminating in assassination and the burning of libraries—sounds familiar? To thoughtful observers of the latter fourth and early fifth centuries, the world itself [orbis terrarum] seemed to be threatened with irrev ...more
Dec 07, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: church-history
John Cassian lived from 360-435 AD, during the life of Augustine of Hippo. The Conferences is his primary writing, a series of twenty-four dialogues (conferences) with various holy monks. The most interesting of these are conferences three and thirteen where we find discussion on free will and predestination. During Cassian's life the church was experiencing the debate between Augustine and Pelagius. Pelagius argued humans were born more or less in the same situation as our first parents, Adam a ...more
Dan Glover
There were things I did not like about this book, mainly because there are elements of the desert monastic tradition that I have serious problems with, but a charitable reading will find much rich treasure for the spiritual life in this book. This was more humane, pastoral and balanced than I expected, and, as C.S. Lewis has said in his preface to St. Athanasius' On the Incarnation, the errors and blind spots of the past are not our errors and blind spots and so old books like this have much to ...more
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I did not read the whole thing, as it is incredibly long. However, I was impressed that a 5th century ascetic classic is so accessible and readable.
May 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: church-fathers
"The perfect love with which God 'first loved us' (1 Jn 4:10) will come into our hearts, for our faith tells us that this prayer of our Savior will not be in vain. And these will be the signs of God being all that we love and all that we want. He will be all that we are zealous for, all that we strive for. He will be all that we think about, all our living, all that we talk about, our very breath. And that union of Father and Son, of Son and Father, will fill our senses and our minds. As God lov ...more
C Lucas
This books is simply a manual for those who would be monks, written by one who sought out advice from monastics in the Holy Land, Levant and Egypt. That's was its purpose, but its broader goal is instruction in prayer. It's basically a technical manual.

If one wants to understand how to pray (a task which might seem so simple that we'd wonder at the need for a technical manual), one must understand the pre-requisites of effective, earnest prayer. And herein is where this work, composed seventeen
Richard Fitzgerald
John Cassian’s conferences are an embarrassing riches of wisdom, theology, and spirituality. I imagine each of the twenty-four conferences could be meditated on for months at a time. One of the threads that jumped out at me was the conjunctive nature of much of Cassian’s theology. There was always a desire to find a middle way that embraces what on the surface appear to be conflicting priorities. The discussion of telos and scopos near the beginning, and lying as absolutely forbidden or not near ...more
Feb 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book to be read by anyone seeking to deepen their spiritual life. It is a book to be pondered upon and shared. I would suggest reading the Appendix first. It is the best insight into reading for spiritual formation. I am definitely going to use this in my work.
Zecchaeus Jensen
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think I finished it, but at least read most, I believe.
Fr. Jedidiah Tritle
Surprisingly practical for the contemporary spiritual life, St. John Cassian shares his wisdom concerning growth in the monastic spiritual life. It's important to separate his understanding of monasticism in the Eastern Church from that of the West. While the West is characterized by community life governed by a rule (Benedictines, Dominicans, etc.), the Eastern tradition gives the monk much more personal freedom to do with as he or she sees fit. Essentially, Cassian teaches the reader how to go ...more
Nov 23, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ideas
I read this many years ago and all I remember is really disliking the way his neck is distorted in the cover image. (I dislike most of the covers in this series, but this one the most.)

I just tried rereading it and it seemed boring. Shrug. I guess I'd recommend this more to those interested in the historical development of religious ideas than in theology per se. Cassian's writing is clear enough but not especially interesting or moving.
Aug 23, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lots of good material to consider for personal edification if you know enough history and philosophy to translate Cassian's worldview to our own. Often he struck me as dangerously close to espousing Gnostic views of the body and physical world, adhering a bit too stubbornly to some Neo-Platonisms less easily accommodated to orthodoxy than others. Passages on prayer and meditation on Scripture were superb and helpful.
Do your research before reading.
Mar 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I consider the reading of this book to be a watershed event in my life. I don't recommend reading it as a matter of curiosity or to gain some intellectual knowledge, however. Such approaches will obscure its benefits. ...more
Aug 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating read for anyone interested in the spiritual life or monasticism. I blogged on this here: ...more
Christian Proano
Lectura rapida, interesante exposición del Padre Nuestro que podría servir para catequizar/discipular.
Util también cuando recomienda que debemos preparar la mente antes de la oración.
Nov 23, 2010 marked it as reference  ·  review of another edition
Have had this on my shelves for years ... and meant to read it. Our parish youth minister, Frank, referred to it last November and it piqued my interest. Thanks Frank!
David Hain
Apr 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Want to understand the teachings of the desert fathers? Here is 700+ pages of first hand account of their thoughts, questions and teachings.
Jun 22, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I find most of these early monastic texts inspiring as they call me back to my roots, ask me to find a truly radical spirituality.
Dec 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked Cassian's value of moderation, discretion, and insight against self-delusion. ...more
Rob Petersen
Jul 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cassian's conferences are a series of interviews with various spiritual masters among the desert monastics, covering a wide array of topics. ...more
Jul 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: myth-religion
Heroic! Truly heroic! What an epic battle I am witnessing!
Feb 12, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
I liked this one. The typical anti-material bent of any Ancient Near Eastern spirituality notwithstanding, Cassian's work has a lot to offer even after 1500 years. ...more
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Saint John Cassian was a monk and theologian. Born in the region of Scythia Minor (today's Romania and Bulgaria). As a member of wealthy family he received a good classical education (he was bilingual, knew Latin and Greek). Died in Marseille in 435. Celebrated in both the Western and Eastern Churches for his mystical writings. Cassian is noted for bringing the ideas and practices of Egyptian mona ...more

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“when we gaze in unbounded admiration on that ineffable mercy of His, which with unwearied patience endures countless sins which are every moment being committed under His very eyes, or the call with which from no antecedent merits of ours, but by the free grace of His pity He receives us;” 1 likes
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