Prologue of Ohrid


February 29


John, this great spiritual man, was born in Rome of renowned parents. In his youth he studied all the secular sciences, especially philosophy and astronomy. After that, he devoted himself completely to the study of Holy Scripture. Striving to go from good to better and desiring even higher levels of perfection, Cassian traveled from Rome to Constantinople to personally hear and see St. John Chrysostom. Chrysostom instructed him and ordained him a deacon. Benefiting much from the wise Chrysostom, Cassian traveled farther east, to learn even more and become more perfected. He remained in Egypt, the longest time in Nitria, among the famous spiritual athletes, from whom he learned the art of every virtue. He finally returned to the west and settled in the town of Marseilles [French Seaport]. There he established two monastic communities--one for men and one for women. At the request of the monks, Cassian wrote many essays which are especially beneficial for the lovers of the spiritual life: "Eight Books on the Struggle Against the Eight Principle Passions" [Institutes of the Monastic Life and Conferences on the Egyptian Monks]. Of great importance is his essay against the heretic Nestorius. This essay was written at the request of Archdeacon Leo. He served our Lord faithfully and enriched many with his wisdom, and took up habitation in eternal life in the year 435 A.D. The relics of St. Cassian repose in Marseilles [France] even today.


Barsanuphius was born a pagan in Palestine. He was baptized in his eighteenth year and immediately was tonsured a monk, taking the name of John. When he became known for his virtuous life, Barsanuphius was elected Archbishop of Damascus. He did not remain long at this position. Yearning for the reclusive, ascetically spiritual life, he secretly left Damascus and went to the wilderness of Nitria. There he presented himself as the monk Barsanuphius.  Immediately he was assigned, as an obedience, to be a water-carrier for the monastery. The former archbishop accepted this obedience with joy. With his wise reflections, meekness and diligence, Barsanuphius soon became a model example to all the monks. Only before his death was it revealed to the monks who this Barsanuphius was. Thus this saint, by his example, served as a reproach to the proud and power-loving, and as a comfort to the humble and meek. He died peacefully and took up habitation with the Lord in the year 457 A.D.



Cassian numbered eight terrible passions,

And yet there is a ninth--impure thoughts.

In food and drink, Gluttony the first,

To the spirit and body, Promiscuity the second,

Avarice: shackles, which tie one to the metal,

Anger: of man's heart, the frost, which freezes and constricts.

Melancholy: which erodes the soul; the insatiable worm.

Slothfulness: drowsiness to a soul, which spins [weaves] death,

Vanity: a serpent; a many headed serpent,

It is everywhere and nowhere, the grass conceals it.

Pride: a double-edged sword that cuts and hews,

Both the young and old, mercilessly destroys:

The ones vigorous become proud because of their strength,

And the spiritual elders, to themselves, become dear.

Against all these passions, our defense God is,

By the prayers of the holy Saint Cassian.


St. John Cassian writes of the struggle with the spirit of lust in this manner: "Struggle with the spirit of lust is a bitter struggle, longer than other struggles, a daily struggle victoriously accomplished completely only by a small number of people. This struggle begins with the first mature growth and does not cease until all other passions are defeated. In this struggle, a two-fold weapon is necessary. For the achievement of this perfect and pure chastity, bodily fasting alone is not sufficient (although fasting, before everything else, is necessary). Along with this, meekness of the spirit and unremitting prayer are necessary against this most impure spirit [lust]. After that, continual study of Holy Scripture, together with prudent mental exercises, are necessary; and after that, physical labor and handiworks. All of which keep the heart from lusting and restore it to itself.  Above all, profound and true humility are needed, without which victory over any passion can never be achieved. Victory over this passion [lust] is conditional upon the perfect purification of the heart--the vessel from which, according to the words of the Lord, flows the poison of this sickness [lust]. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies (St. Matthew 15:19). One must have stable humility and patience in the heart, as well as careful protection of oneself from anger and other passions during the course of the day. For in as much as the fire of anger enters in us, afterward, so much easier does the ember of passions penetrate us." It is interesting that even many other great spiritual fathers draw a causal connection between the passion of anger and the passion of lustful desire. From this it follows that the most angry ones are the most lustful ones.


To contemplate the Lord Jesus as the vigilant Watchman over His Church: Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (St. Matthew 28:20):

1. How He watches over the entire created world and especially His Church acquired by His Blood;

2. How He watches over every baptized soul, as a gardener over His plantings;

3. How He, through serenity and through tempest, leads His Church, leading her [The Church] to ultimate victory;

4. How He watches even over my life, that it may grow and be built into His Eternal kingdom.


About the living presence of Christ

"I am with You always, even to the end of the ages" (St. Matthew 28:20).

Here is consolation beyond consolations!

Here is consolation for those whom the tempest broke! Let them only remember: There Christ is beside them, and let them not be afraid. He is the Helmsman.

Here is consolation for those who are sick! Let them know that Christ is there beside their bed, and let them not despair. He is the Physician.

Here is consolation for those who grow old! Let them not lose sight of the fact that Christ travels with them through time to all eternity, into eternal youth and let them be at peace.

Here is consolation for those who are tormented by men! Let them not think that they are abandoned, for Christ is with them in all suffering, at judgment and in prison, and let them rejoice. He is the Judge.

Here is consolation for those who are disturbed by evil spirits! Let them remember that Christ is the conqueror over evil spirits, that He is on their side, and let them be strengthened. He is the Victor.

Here is consolation for all who seek the light of justice and truth! Let them believe that Christ is closer to their souls than their eyes, and let them adhere to His leadership. He is Light.

O my brethren, in truth, Christ is constantly with us as light is constantly with eyes that see. But it is to our sorrow if the eyes of our souls are closed, for then in vain does the light labor to encounter the pupils of our eyes!  Oh, our sorrow and grief when we are not with Christ!

He goes out to meet us. Are we going out to meet Him? He wants to be with us. Do we want to be with Him? If we want consolation, we must be with Him every day, to the end of our lives

O Lord, our only Consolation, do not leave us!

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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