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SKU: 978-1-945699-09-2 Categories: Books, St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery


The fourth-century monks of the desolate Egyptian desert! How did those ascetics live in that waterless, trackless land? What mere morsels did they eat during their austere fasts? With what scant clothing did those early Christian strugglers protect themselves against the elements, and what sacred meanings did their monastic garb mystically represent? What work occupied their hands while their lips con-

tinually sang the praises of God? And, especially, how did they pray ceaselessly to the Lord in their nightly vigils and pass their lives in the joyful mourning of holy repentance?

These were the questions posed by Bishop Castor of Gaul (modern-day France) to the monk John Cassian who had spent ten years in Skete and among communities of ascetics further up the Nile. Castor’s desire to found a monastery in his see prompted his questions to Saint John Cassian who responded by writing The Institutes and The Conferences – two of the most important Orthodox monastic charters. Saint Benedict of Nursia was greatly influenced by them, incorporating many of their principles into his monastic rule, and recommending to his own monks that they read the works of Cassian.

Beyond simply depicting the way of life adopted by the illustrious elders of the desert, Saint John Cassian systematically presents the order of combat against the leading passions – spiritual diseases dragging the soul to every sin and eventually into Gehenna. For as he describes, “It is not an external enemy we dread. Our foe is shut up within ourselves. An internal warfare is daily waged by us.” The Institutes, therefore, is a manual of transformation renewing the soul in God.