Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume XI/John Cassian/Conferences of John Cassian, Part I/Conference III/Chapter 10
That none can become perfect merely through the first grade of renunciation.
In leaving then these visible goods of the world we forsake not our own wealth, but that which is not ours, although we boast of it as either gained by our own exertions or inherited by us from our forefathers. For as I said nothing is our own, save this only which we possess with our heart, and which cleaves to our soul, and therefore cannot be taken away from us by any one. But Christ speaks in terms of censure of those visible riches, to those who clutch them as if they were their own, and refuse to share them with those in want. “If ye have not been faithful in what is another’s, who will give to you what is your own?” Plainly then it is not only daily
experience which teaches us that these riches are not our own, but this saying of our Lord also, by the very title which it gives them. But concerning visible and worthless riches Peter says to the Lord: “Lo, we have left all and followed thee. What shall we have therefore?” when it is clear that they had left nothing but their miserable broken nets. And unless this expression “all” is understood to refer to that renunciation of sins which is really great and important, we shall not find that the Apostles had left anything of any value, or that the Lord had any reason for bestowing on them the blessing of so great glory, that they were allowed to hear from Him that “in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” If then those, who have completely renounced their earthly and visible goods, cannot for sufficient reason attain to Apostolic charity, nor climb with readiness and vigour to that third stage of renunciation which is still higher and belongs to but few, what should those think of themselves, who do not even make that first step (which is very easy) a thorough one, but keep together with their old want of faith, their former sordid riches, and fancy that they can boast of the mere name of monks? The first renunciation then of which we spoke is of what is not our own, and therefore is not enough of itself to confer perfection on the renunciant, unless he advances to the second, which is really and truly a renunciation of what belongs to us. And when we have made sure of this by the expulsion of all our faults, we shall mount to the heights of the third renunciation also, whereby we rise above not merely all those things which are done in this world or specially belong to men, but even that whole universe around us which is esteemed so glorious, and shall with heart and soul look down upon it as subject to vanity and destined soon to pass away; as we look, as the Apostle says, “not on those things which are seen, but on those which are not seen: for the things that are seen, are temporal, and the things which are not seen are eternal;” that so we may be found worthy to hear that highest utterance, which was spoken to Abraham: “and come into a land which I will show thee,” which clearly shows that unless a man has made those three former renunciations with all earnestness of mind, he cannot attain to this fourth, which is granted as a reward and privilege to one whose renunciation is perfect, that he may be found worthy to enter the land of promise which no longer bears for him the thorns and thistles of sins; which after all the passions have been driven out is acquired by purity of heart even in the body, and which no good deeds or exertions of man’s efforts (can gain), but which the Lord Himself promises to show, saying “And come into the land which I will show to thee:” which clearly proves that the beginning of our salvation results from the call of the Lord, Who says “Get thee out from thy country,” and that the completion of perfection and purity is His gift in the same way, as He says “And come into the land which I will show thee,” i.e., not one you yourself can know or discover by your own efforts, but one which I will show not only to one who is ignorant of it, but even to one who is not looking for it. And from this we clearly gather that as we hasten to the way of salvation through being stirred up by the inspiration of the Lord, so too it is under the guidance of His direction and illumination that we attain to the perfection of the highest bliss.
- S. Luke xvi. 12.
- The mss. vary between visibilibus and invisibilibus.
- S. Matt. xix. 27.
- Ib. ver. 28.
- 2 Cor. iv. 18.
- Gen. xii. 1.