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date: 31 October 2020


  • Philip Rousseau
  •  and Richard Goodrich


Born in c. 360 ce, Cassian was one of the principal conduits for the transmission of eastern ascetic practices to the west. A disciple of Evagrius of Pontus, he travelled through Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, making extensive contact with the masters of eastern *asceticism and gaining a thorough grounding in the theory of the ascetic life.With the Egyptian condemnation of *Origen (1) in 399, he enjoyed the protection of John *Chrysostom in Constantinople, together with many other exiled admirers of the *Alexandrian master. After a period of obscurity, Cassian re-emerged; he settled in southern Gaul (c.415) where he wrote two treatises, Institutes and Conferences, intended to restructure western monasticism along eastern lines. Cassian's audience included local bishops interested in the ascetic life as well as the monks of the nascent monastery at Lérins.The Institutes emphasized the practical elements of coenobitism: liturgical detail and the systematic treatment of the vices. The Conferences reported conversations with ascetics of northern Egypt and gave new Christian vigour to the dialogue form.


  • Early Christianity

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