Saint John Cassian (ca. 360 – 435) was a Christian theologian celebrated in both the Western and Eastern Churches for his mystical writings. He is known both as one of the "Scythian monks" and as one of the "Desert Fathers."
Institutes of the Coenobia (c. 420 AD)
Our third conflict is against covetousness which we can describe as the love of money; a foreign warfare, and one outside of our nature. ... For the rest of the incitements to sin planted in human nature seem to have their commencement as it were congenital with us, and somehow being deeply rooted in our flesh, and almost cœval with our birth, anticipate our powers of discerning good and evil, and although in very early days they attack a man, yet they are overcome with a long struggle.
But this disease coming upon us at a later period, and approaching the soul from without, as it can be the more easily guarded against and resisted, so, if it is disregarded and once allowed to gain an entrance into the heart, is the more dangerous to every one, and with the greater difficulty expelled. For it becomes "a root of all evils" [1 Timothy 6:10] and gives rise to a multiplicity of incitements to sin.
- Book VII, "On the Spirit of Covetousness," Chapter I
- Some faults grow up without any natural occasion giving birth to them, but simply from the free choice of a corrupt and evil will, as envy and this very sin of covetousness; which are caught (so to speak) from without, having no origination in us from natural instincts. But these, in proportion as they are easily guarded against and readily avoided, just so do they make wretched the mind that they have got hold of and seized, and hardly do they suffer it to get at the remedies which would cure it.
- Book VII Chapter V
- Having laid the foundations badly, they [covetous souls] are unworthy to raise an edifice of virtue and reach the summit of perfection.
- Book VII Chapter V
- With the increase of wealth the mania of covetousness increases.
- Book VII Chapter VII
- Gold and the love of gain become to him his god, as the belly does to others. Wherefore the blessed Apostle, looking out on the deadly poison of this pest, not only says that it is a root of all kinds of evil, but also calls it the worship of idols, saying "And covetousness (which in Greek is called φιλαργυρία) which is the worship of idols." [Colossians 3:5] You see then to what a downfall this madness step by step leads, so that by the voice of the Apostle it is actually declared to be the worship of idols and false gods, because passing over the image and likeness of God (which one who serves God with devotion ought to preserve undefiled in himself), it chooses to love and care for images stamped on gold instead of God.
- Book VII Chapter VII
- It is an impossibility for him who, overcome in the matter of a small possession, has once admitted into his heart a root of evil desire, not to be inflamed presently with the heat of a still greater desire.
- Book VII Chapter XXI
- We must not only guard against the possession of money, but also must expel from our souls the desire for it. For we should not so much avoid the results of covetousness, as cut off by the roots all disposition towards it. For it will do no good not to possess money, if there exists in us the desire for getting it.
- Book VII Chapter XXI
- It is possible that those who are in no way pressed down with the weight of money may be condemned with the covetous in disposition and intent. For it was the opportunity of possessing which was wanting in their case, and not the will for it.
- Book VII Chapter XXII
- How will he see to cast out the mote from his brother's eye, who has the beam of anger in his own eye?
- Book VIII, Chapter V
- Wrath that is nursed in the heart, although it may not injure men who stand by, yet excludes the splendour of the radiance of the Holy Ghost, equally with wrath that is openly manifested.
- Book VIII, Chapter XII
Sometimes when we have been overcome by pride or impatience, and we want to improve our rough and bearish manners, we complain that we require solitude, as if we should find the virtue of patience there where nobody provokes us: and we apologize for our carelessness, and say that the reason of our disturbance does not spring from our own impatience, but from the fault of our brethren. And while we lay the blame of our fault on others, we shall never be able to reach the goal of patience and perfection.
The chief part then of our improvement and peace of mind must not be made to depend on another's will, which cannot possibly be subject to our authority, but it lies rather in our own control. And so the fact that we are not angry ought not to result from another's perfection, but from our own virtue, which is acquired, not by somebody else's patience, but by our own long-suffering.
- Book VIII, Chater XVI
Conferences of the Desert Fathers (c. 420 AD)
- It is inevitable that the mind which does not have a place to turn to or any stable base will undergo change from hour to hour and from minute to minute due to the variety of its distractions, and by the things that come to it from outside it will be continually transformed into whatever occurs to it at any given moment.
- Wherefore a monk's whole attention should thus be fixed on one point, and the rise and circle of all his thoughts be vigorously restricted to it; viz., to the recollection of God, as when a man, who is anxious to raise on high a vault of a round arch, must constantly draw a line round from its exact centre, and in accordance with the sure standard it gives discover by the laws of building all the evenness and roundness required....
- It is not without reason that this verse [Ps 70:1] has been chosen from the whole of Scripture as a device. It carries within it all the feelings of which human nature is capable.... 'Come to my help, O God; Lord, hurry to my rescue'.... The thought of this verse should be turning unceasingly in your heart. Never cease to recite it in whatever task or service or journey you find yourself. Think upon it as you sleep, as you eat, as you submit to the most basic demands of nature. This heartfelt thought will prove to be a formula of salvation for you. Not only will it protect you against all devilish attack, but it will purify you from the stain of all earthly sin, and will lead you on to the contemplation of the unseen and the heavenly and to that fiery urgency of prayer which is indescribable and which is experienced by very few. Sleep should come upon you as you meditate on this verse until as a result of your habit of resorting to its words you get in the habit of repeating them even in your slumbers.