Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume XI/John Cassian/Conferences of John Cassian, Part I/Conference III/Chapter 4
An explanation of the three callings.
To make clear therefore the main differences between these three kinds of calling, the first is from God, the second comes through man, the third is from compulsion. And a calling is from God whenever some inspiration has taken possession of our heart, and even while we are asleep stirs in us at desire for eternal life and salvation, and bids us follow God and cleave to His commandments with life-giving contrition: as we read in Holy Scripture that Abraham was called by the voice of the Lord from his native country, and all his dear relations, and his father’s house; when the Lord said “Get thee out from thy country and from thy kinsfolk and from thy father’s house.” And in this way we have heard that the blessed Antony also was called, the occasion of whose conversion was received from God alone. For on entering a church he there heard in the Gospel the Lord saying: “Whoever hateth not father and mother and children and wife and lands, yea and his own soul also, cannot be my disciple;” and “if thou wilt be perfect, go sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me:” And with heartfelt contrition he took this charge of the Lord as if specially aimed at him, and at once gave up everything and followed Christ, without any incitement thereto from the advice and teaching of men. The second kind of calling is that which we said took place through man; viz., when we are stirred up by the example of some of the saints, and their advice, and thus inflamed with the desire of salvation: and by this we never forget that by the grace of the Lord we ourselves were summoned, as we were aroused by the advice and good example of the above-mentioned saint, to give ourselves up to this aim and calling; and in this way also we find in Holy Scripture that it was through Moses that the children of Israel were delivered from the Egyptian bondage. But the third kind of calling is that which comes from compulsion, when we have been involved in the riches and pleasures of this life, and temptations suddenly come upon us and either threaten us with peril of death, or smite us with the loss and confiscation of our goods, or strike us down with the death of those dear to us, and thus at length even against our will we are driven to turn to God whom we scorned to follow in the days of our wealth. And of this compulsory call we often find instances in Scripture, when we read that on account of their sins the children of Israel were given up by the Lord to their enemies; and that on account of their tyranny and savage cruelty they turned again, and cried to the Lord. And it says: “The Lord sent them a Saviour, called Ehud, the son of Gera, the son of Jemini, who used the left hand as well as the right:” and again we are told, “they cried unto the Lord, who raised them up a Saviour and delivered them, to wit, Othniel, the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother.” And it is of such that the Psalm speaks: “When He slew them, then they sought Him: and they returned and came to Him early in the morning: and they remembered
that God was their helper, and the most High God their redeemer.” And again: “And they cried unto the Lord when they were troubled, and He delivered them out of their distress.”
- Gen. xii. 1.
- The story, to which allusion is here made, is given in the Vita Antonii of Athanasius. We are there told that six months after the death of his parents Antony, then a young man of eighteen, chanced to enter a church just as the gospel for the day was being read: and hearing the words, “If thou wilt be perfect,” etc., he took them as addressed specially to himself, and at once proceeded to act upon them, selling all that he had except a small portion which he reserved for his sister’s maintenance. Shortly after, he was struck by the words, “Take no thought for the morrow,” which he heard in church, and acting upon this, made away with the little property which was left, committed his sister to the care of certain faithful virgins, and betook himself to the ascetic life.
- S. Luke xiv. 12; S. Matt. xix. 21.
- Judg. iii. 15, 9.
- Ps. lxxvii. (lxxviii.) 34, 35; cvi. (cvii.) 19.